Thursday, November 30, 2006

Japanese culture

When I first started writing this blog I thought of it as a good way to let my family know what was happening in the garden here without having to write the same thing over and over to many different people. What I have since discovered is that there are many people now reading it who are interested in the Japanese lifestyle etc. a lot more than the gardening. So, while my cousin is here I will try and introduce some of the things that we are seeing each day. Of course we need to do a little work in the garden each day before our sightseeing adventures - today was the planting of what felt like zillions of lettuce seedlings and red onions........
After our active morning we took a trip to "Usa Shrine", which is only about 10 minutes from my house and has a history of over a thousand years. It is one of the largest shrines in the area and when there are no bus tours etc. it is a really nice place to just wander around. In very general terms there are two forms of religion in Japan - shinto (related to the shrines) and buddhism (related to the temples). Before I go any further I would just like to say that I am not an expert on Japanese religion etc. so don't ever quote what I have written as a fact..... but, as far as I understand ... outside every shrine is a "tori gate" - the gate at this shrine is unusual in that it has black rings around the top of the vertical pillars. This is to symbolise that both the shinto and buddist gods are present in this area - something which is very unusual in Japan. In effect it means that originally there was a temple and shrine on the same site (this is a fact as told to me by a local man wearing no shoes today).
As you enter any shrine you will find a place to wash your hands and cleanse your mouth (if you feel the need...). Although not everyone does it - I think it is a sign of respect to follow this tradition before entering the shrine area.

When you finally reach the main shrine (there are quite a few steps to go up first...) there are areas where you can throw money and then pray for happiness, good health etc. In fact there are many different areas where you can do this - I'm not sure if your luck increases if you pray at them all.... The Japanese have no problem at all with people from other religions etc. coming to their shrines etc. and are very happy to talk about what they are doing.

After praying you can check out your fortune by buying a "fortune slip" which gives you a ranking - after reading it you should not take it away with you as that will bring bad luck. Fortunately they have places for you to tie it on to. I think in the past most people just tied it onto the closest tree branch, but the trees began to protest....

Anyway, that is a very brief explanation of Usa shrine - for more details come and visit it in person......

1 comment:

  1. Yay for Hannah who is a star on the famous blog! Keep up the gardening! All looks great fun and very interesting! xx