Twelfth-century warlord Taira no Kiyomori worshipped at the Kamo Shinto shrine in Tatsuno, Hyogo. The shrine recreates in period costume a procession with Kiyomori and his wife Tokiko.
Archive for the ‘Shrines and Temples’ Category
Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Posted by ampontan on Thursday, December 20, 2012
The original text of the waka Kimi ga Yo, which became the lyrics of the Japanese national anthem. It was published in 905 in the Kokin Wakashu (Collected Waka of Ancient and Modern Times).
And here’s what the national anthem sounded like when it was first performed in 1870. This performance is by a band at the Myoko-ji Buddhist temple in Yokohama. This music was composed by John Fenton, an Irish military band director, in three weeks. It was replaced with the current music 10 years later because it was thought to lack solemnity.
It is performed annually at the temple because Fenton also served as a military band leader there, and it beats the heck out of me why a Buddhist temple hired a military band leader from Ireland.
Posted by ampontan on Friday, December 14, 2012
Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, December 12, 2012
The Narazuhiko Shinto shrine in Nara City repairs and rebuilds one of its three shrine pavilions every 20 years, and this year was one of those years. The focus this time was on roof repair. When the work was finished, the shrine presented a performance of okinamai. Designated an important intangible cultural treasure of the nation, okinamai is a “Shinto ritual and play of prayer) thought to be the origin of Noh.
This site provides a more detailed explanation, one part of which notes that the actors go through a period of “purifying abstention and fasting” before the performance because it is a Shinto ritual.
Here’s what the shrine’s performance looks like. The interesting part for me is the relatively casual behavior of the audience, despite the high seriousness of the performance itself. The audience is also as close to the performance as an audience can get.
Posted by ampontan on Sunday, December 2, 2012
A fashion show at the Fuki-ji Buddhist temple in Bungotakada, Oita. Established in 718, the temple is a national treasure and the oldest wooden structure in Kyushu. The show was presented by the students of vocational schools, junior colleges, and high schools in Oita. About 300 people attended. (Photo from the Nishinippon Shimbun)
Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, November 28, 2012
The annual cleaning of the Great Buddha of Takaoka, in Takaoka, Toyama. It is one of the three great Buddha statues in Japan, and required 25 men to clean.
Posted by ampontan on Monday, November 12, 2012
Posted by ampontan on Monday, October 29, 2012
Torii at the Donen Inari Shinto Shrine in the Namamugi district of Yokohama. The Namamugi Incident occurred near here in 1862.
Posted by ampontan on Sunday, October 14, 2012
The Byodo-in Buddhist temple in Uji, Kyoto. It was built in 998, and its most famous building is the Phoenix Hall, built in 1053. Last month, the priests conducted a ceremony, the Hakken-shiki, to temporarily place the spirit of the statue of the Buddha in that hall into a yellow sphere while the hall is being repaired. The work is scheduled to end in March 2014.
Though this is a Buddhist temple, the ceremony was Shinto. Gagaku, which is Shinto ceremonial music, is heard at the end of the video.
Posted by ampontan on Monday, October 8, 2012
RECORDS exist of a banquet Henry VIII of England gave on 25 February 1528 at Windsor Great Park. Here were some of the dainty dishes fit for a king:
The account includes beef, veal, bacon, oxen, calves, hens, kid goats and lambs and “conies” – an old word for rabbits. In addition to this, some unusual birds were ordered for the table, including 12 plovers, 48 pipers and no less than 96 larks. Two herons were also ordered. It was often the custom to roast birds whole, in some cases arranging the feathers back onto the bird after cooking to create a visual centrepiece for the table to amuse and impress the guests… the letter accounts for a total of 750 eggs, 90 dishes of butter and 5 gallons of cream. Along with these vast quantities of meat, this may help to explain Henry’s expanding waistline and later decline in health.
By expanding waistline, they refer to a suit of armor made for Henry in 1540 that measured 52 inches around the waist. The later decline in health is thought to have resulted from his dietary habits, and some people now think he had diabetes. Also, an ordinary person at the time consumed a gallon of ale daily, and historians assume Henry must have downed more — it’s good to be king, right? So some of that must have been a beer belly.
Records also exist of a meal eaten by the eighth Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Yoshimune, at Shakujo-ji, a Buddhist temple in what is now Kawaguchi, Saitama. Rather than a feast, it was a meal eaten while on the road for a 1728 visit to Nikko Tosho-gu, a Shinto shrine in Nikko, Tochigi. (Both of those institutions still exist. The temple was more than 250 years old when the Shogun ate lunch there, and the shrine more than 100 years old. The links will take you to photographs on Japanese-language websites.)
Looking for some PR, the city of Kawaguchi recreated the meal and served it for lunch last week to the man who would have been the 18th Tokugawa shogun, 72-year-old Tokugawa Tsunenari.
The temple records indicate only the foods that were served and not how they were prepared. Prof. Shimazaki Tomiko of the Kagawa Education Institute of Nutrition consulted some cookbooks from the Edo period and supervised the cooking at Ebiya Mikakumon, a local Japanese restaurant.
The meal they served the shogun is shown in the photo at the top. In addition to rice and miso soup, it included roasted tofu and steamed abalone. The desserts at Henry’s feast included a lot of sugar, but that was still a rarity in Japan at the time, so the food was lightly seasoned in soy sauce and (for the abalone) sake. Said Mr. Tokugawa:
“Lately, there’s a lot of food that’s much too sweet, but this was lightly seasoned and quite delicious.”
The Tokugawas don’t wear armor anymore, but he doesn’t need a suit with a 52-inch waist, either:
Modern epicures seldom have the opportunity to eat the plover, heron, or lark dishes favored by Henry and his wives, but if they’re in Kawaguchi in a party of five, they’ll be able to feast like a shogun for JPY 4,000 each at the same restaurant. The meal is called the Yoshimune Lunch on the menu. Would that be the red lacquer special?
Those who read Japanese and are interested in recreating Edo-period dishes themselves might try this cookbook . It was just reprinted as an affordable paperback.
I read two newspaper accounts of this meal in Japanese. One said there were 12 separate dishes in the meal, and the other said there were 14. Journalists!
Posted by ampontan on Monday, September 10, 2012
Photo from the Yamagata Shimbun
A group of women beginning a four-day, Shinto-related retreat on Mt. Haguro in Tsuruoka, Yamagata. It ends today. Here’s an excellent video of that neck of the woods.
Posted by ampontan on Monday, September 3, 2012
KODANSHA’S Illustrated Encyclopedia of Japan comes straight to the point:
“The concepts of clean and unclean, pure and impure, have been of cultural and social significance in Japan from ancient times to the present.”
These concepts are an integral part of the proto-religion of Shinto, as writings dating from as early as the 10th century reveal. Purification rituals are an essential and frequent activity in Shinto, so the shrines must also be clean and pure.
Most of them, anyway.
The Kabushima shrine in Hachinohe, Aomori, gets downright filthy from February to August. That’s because it’s located on the top of a hill which is one of the primary breeding grounds in Japan for the black-tailed gull. It looks nice and clean when seen from a distance, as in the above photo. But a clearer picture emerges when it’s viewed up close.
Gulls are good at spotting fish schools, and that makes it easier for the community fisherfolk to practice peaceful coexistence. That still requires some patience, however, because an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 gulls wing it this way every year. Notice the umbrella stand at the base of the torii in the photo. They’re provided for human visitors to use, and that’s not because it rains frequently. Reports say that the walkway and stairs can get so slippery, it’s difficult to maintain your footing.
Did the people who built the shrine not know of the potential problems with the local fauna? According to legend, it was established in 1269. The tutelary deities are Tagorihime, Ichikishimahime, and Tagitsuhime, three female kami created by the sun goddess Amaterasu. They were sea goddesses who protected ocean-going traffic. Did the gulls start coming sometime after the 13th century, or did the shrine’s founders not care?
Then again, birdwatchers who like to watch gulls like to visit for that reason. Nowhere else in Japan can these birds be observed at such close range. They’re very accustomed to people — they probably think they’re being magnanimous with the human interlopers — and supposedly have a taste for Kappa Ebisen. That’s a shrimp-flavored snack shaped like a French fry with the consistency of a solid potato chip.
The name Kabushima comes from the combination of kabu, the name for the rapeseed plant in the local dialect, and shima, or island. During the season, the hills are alive with gulls and rapeseed blossoms. It was originally an island, too, until the Navy connected it to the mainland by landfill in 1942.
Here’s a Youtube. Give Hitchcock credit for keeping his lens clean.
Posted by ampontan on Monday, August 27, 2012
Some of the 600 wind chimes at the Nyorin-ji Buddhist temple in Ogori, Fukuoka. The chief priest, Haraguchi Genshu, started hanging them five years ago. Worshippers pay JPY 500 and attach a written wish to the chime. They’re moved inside the temple at the end of September.
Photo from the Asahi Shimbun.
Posted by ampontan on Saturday, August 25, 2012
OF the many cultural treasures in South Korea, one of the finest is the Gyeongbok Palace in northern Seoul. Built in 1394 and rebuilt in 1867, it was the main palace of the Joseon dynasty. It’s really a complex rather than a single building, and it’s also the site of the National Folk Museum and National Palace Museum. Naturally, it’s a popular destination for tourists, both foreign and domestic. One of the attractions is the hourly changing of the guards, which is more frequent that the similar ceremony at Buckingham Palace. That’s a photo of the Gyeongbok Palace gate above.
Gyeongbokgung is accessible by Line #3 on the Seoul subway, which has a station nearby. Five years ago, the officials in charge of such things came up with the idea of using models of traditional Korean lanterns to light the corridor from the subway to Exit #5.
They used a design identical to that of the stone lantern in front of the Muryangsu Hall at the Buseok Buddhist temple in Yeoungju. The temple was built in 676 and has become another well-known tourist attraction. The stone lantern out front has been designated as National Treasure 17. This is it:
And here are the six models of National Treasure 17 lining the Seoul subway corridor on Line #3.
Aren’t they an attractive addition to the underground corridor? It’s an improvement over plain tile walls. But only photos of the lanterns remain, because the lanterns themselves aren’t there anymore. They were taken out in June.
A group of citizen-activists with the provisional name of The Search for the Location of Cultural Treasures (the actual name is clumsier) decided to get upset about the lantern installation five years after it happened because it reminded them of the stone lanterns that line the main pathway to Shinto shrines in Japan. Therefore, in South Korea, they fall under the category of ilje janjeh (日帝残滓), literally “detritus from the Japanese Empire”. The term is commonly used in the country’s news media.
The head of the group, a Buddhist priest named Hyemun, added that the Gyeongbok Palace is more closely associated with Confucianism than with Buddhism, so it was inappropriate to have Buddhist lanterns in the subway nearby.
The company operating the subway wanted to leave them in the corridor, but then the mass media got involved. That settled that. The company is wholly-owned by the city of Seoul, so they thought their only choice was to bend to public opinion. They weren’t happy about it, however, because the lanterns had to be dismantled by hand to be removed.
Others recalled that the same type of traditional Korean lantern which reminded some people of the detritus of the Japanese Empire also stood in front of the Changdeok Palace in Seoul. That’s another one of the Joseon Dynasty palaces, and this one dates from 1412. The lantern there stood outside, so it was easier to remove in February. At last report, the traditional Korean lantern Japanese Empire detritus at the Cheongwadae, or Blue House, the office and residence of the South Korean head of state, is still there.
Still, the Koreans had it a lot easier than the Japanese would if the same bee were to buzz in their bonnets. The latest expample of purifying their line of sight of the imperial detritus of centuries worth of Korean tradition involved only the removal of six elaborate light fixtures in the Seoul subway and a cultural relic at a palace. So far.
But Japan has more than 88,000 Shinto shrines nationwide, ranging from large facilities with more than a million visitors a year to plain neighborhood wooden structures smaller than the average house. Large or small, almost all of them have a pair of lion-like statues standing guard to ward off evil from the premises. Here’s a photo of one.
They’re called koma-inu, and the name literally means “Korean dog”. The word koma was used in ancient times for the Korean Peninsula.
The Japanese think they were of Indian Buddhist origin, but the models they used came from China through the Korean Peninsula. If Japan were to be seized by a detritus disposal spasm, it would take years to remove these Buddhist images at Shinto facilities that have Korea in their name. Their associations are closer to the unclean than the Korean lanterns.
Not all of the statuary at the 88,000 shrines would be removed. Some of them have foxes instead of koma-inu. And the Mimeguri Shinto shrine, in Tokyo’s Kuroda Ward, has the statue of a real lion.
No one knows when the Mimeguri shrine was founded, but it was definitely there in 1693. The tutelary deity of the shrine is Mitsui Takatoshi, the founder of the Tokyo store in 1673 that later became the Mitsukoshi department store. It was called Echigoya in those days, and it’s shown on the left in this Hiroshige print.
The modern Mitsukoshi was modeled after Harrods in London, and their main store in Tokyo has a statue of the same sort of lion on the first floor. That lion was copied from the beasts that surround the statue of Nelson in Trafalgar Square. The British Empire detritus at the Mimeguri shrine was once on the first floor of Mitsukoshi’s Ikebukuro store. The shrine asked for it when the store closed.
That’s not the only oddity at the shrine. Shinto shrines have a gate with two columns at the entrance called a torii. This shrine has a tori with three columns arranged in a triangular shape.
It was modeled after the torii at the Konoshima Shinto shrine in Kyoto, which has one of a handful of triple toriis in the country. The idea is that the third column connects the shrine to another shrine on the next lot. This one came from the Mitsui estate. In fact, the shrine’s name in Japanese (三囲) can also be read as Mitsui.
There are also stone lanterns of the traditional Japanese Empire detritus variety on the grounds, without any visible connection to the Mitsui family business.
They do look a bit like Korean National Treasure 17, but then the statue of the beast at the main gate of Gyeongbokgung also looks a bit like some of the Korean lions at Shinto shrines. Except those are really Chinese.
Isn’t East Asia fun?
And because it isn’t possible to have too much East Asian fun, let’s have some more! The Taiwanese duo in the video below was known as the King of Kinmen, and the style of music they’re playing is called nakashi. Here’s an explanation of its origin:
(A)ccording to Tsan Yi-cheng (詹益城), who was once one of Taiwan’s most recognized faces on the nakashi scene, the most credible of these stories gives credit to Japanese sailors during the early 1900s for inventing this primitive form of pub rock.
“Nakashi originated in port towns such Tamsui and Keelung. Japanese sailors would come ashore and, being sailors, frequent bars. Of course there were no tape or CD players, so the sailors had to make their own entertainment,” Tsan said. “So they performed music which took on aspects of enka, or Japanese country music and filled it with lyrics about roaming the world and having a girl in every port.”
According to Tsan, the result of this odd musical coupling was unlike anything people in Taiwan had ever seen or heard before. Until the Japanese sailors came along, local pub and teahouse bands were still using traditional Chinese classical instruments rather than western ones.
“With their guitars, accordions and appetite for good times, Japanese sailors revolutionized bar and teahouse music in Taiwan,” the Peitou-based nakashi star said. “They enthralled crowds in teahouses and bars and, of course, drove the women wild with their contemporary musical style.” As Japan’s colonization of Taiwan continued, nakashi slowly became the music of choice for both the occupying forces as well as the Taiwanese.
As more locals began to pick up accordions and guitars, however, nakashi slowly became localized. Instead of drawing on enka for inspiration, Taiwan’s nakashi players added elements of Fujienese and Taiwanese folk to the tunes.
Instead of forming disposal squads of purity inspectors, the Taiwanese turned their detritus of Imperial Japan into a golden good time.
Nagashi with a g, by the way, is the word for the practice in Japan of singers and musicians going from bar to bar at night to perform for tips. That’s probably the origin of the Taiwanese term. When I first arrived in Japan, I knew one old nagashi singer who accompanied himself with an acoustic guitar, but I haven’t seen him or anyone else do it in quite a while.
Here’s what it looked and sounded like in Taiwan during a nagashi renaissance.