June 19, 2011

Spiritual Japan

When you are in Japan you can't help but feel the spirit of the place. In the past when I traveled I either visited churches, cathedrals, temples or shrines because of their architectural beauty, or to view gardens which are also very beautiful. This time I actually wanted to visit some shrines and temples in Japan to pray and make wishes. 

I visited many temples and shrines on this trip. When I entered these sacred places I just let myself relax and let all my senses absorb everything around me. As a visitor you want to do the right thing. A few things you must do is wash hands before you pray.  To enter you would have to remove your shoes. In some places they provide you with a clean plastic bag to put your shoes in. You carry it with you so that your shoes do not get mixed up with others. Also if you want to exit from another door you would have your shoes with you ready to exit. 

The entrance of Nezu Shrine in East Tokyo. A 300 year old Shinto shrine built using the Gongen-style architecture. You can read more about it here

There are usually bridges outside the gate of a shrine. This bridge was just outside of the gate of Nezu shrine above. Notice the beautiful garden beyond. In the water there are goldfish and baby turtles. My friend Ayako was sure there were plastic turtles until one decided to jumped from the rock!

These red Torii gates are the famous symbols of the Nezu shrine. Red means good luck in Japan so walking through these red Torii should brings us a lot of luck!


The big Buddha at Kamakura, the seaside town South of Tokyo. Kamakura is the home of our tour guide Hirata-San. It was an optional visit after the tour ended. I'm glad I went because the little town of Kamakura was really cute and of course to see the big Buddha was special. 

The cloud was part of the base of the big Buddha. It is made of copper. You will see a lot of cloud images used in Japan. 

The red bride was also from Kamakura. This red is a special red, if I remember it is called Chinese red (why not Japanese red!). You will see this red used in most temples or shrines in Japan.

This shrine was the local shrine where my friend and her family visit. It was only a few minutes drive from their home.  She goes there every time she is back in Japan. 

These are wishing tablets. You can purchase them in a small shop in every shrine or temple for only small amount. I think this one is a marriage wishing tablet. If I'm wrong please let me know...!

More of the wishing tablets are left at the shrine. My friend told me that they are like  fortune cards. If it doesn't turn out well you leave them behind. I will check with her on Monday and will update this if I'm wrong.

You can also find these in every shrine and temple too. These are sake barrels. The Japanese need sake or rice wine for their ceremonies and festivals. Each barrel contains about 20 liters of sake. They are big!

Chozuya, water scoops are in every shrine and temple. You have to wash your hands when you enter shrines. You wash from left hand to right outside of the well. Just before you finish fill the scoop and wash the handle before you put it back in place. You can drink the water from the well too. Chozuya comes in many shapes and styles. These one made of copper. They normally have long handles on them.  

This one is interesting. I only saw it once at my friend's local shrine. It translates as "bad luck board". It is located at the entrance of the shrine. If your age is displayed on there you have to enter the shrine and pray. You also need to get yourself something colourful to wear. If your parents found your age on this board they would give you something colourful. The board changes at the beginning of each year. My age is not on there- guess I'm lucky! 

The view from the outside of  the red Torii gates at Nezu shrine. I hope you enjoy reading about different aspects of shrines in Japan. It might not mean much to you now, but if you do visit Japan one day (I hope you do) you would know what to look for. Before my first visit to Japan last year I read many blogs and websites and indeed it helped me a lot. I even found the textile market in Tokyo! I went back there again this time too. Will show what I got from there in a later post.


deanna7trees said...

such interesting stories you tell. don't think i'll ever get to Japan, but love hearing all about it.

Needled Mom said...

Beautiful pictures, Nat. Those Torii gates are really stunning. It sounds like such a wonderful trip.

I did not see my age either!!!

Jeannie said...

What a beautiful post. I love the red gates and bridges. The Buddha is so impressive and beautiful. Your new blog header is gorgeous. Thanks so much for educating me and sharing your trip.

Kim said...

Oh I hope I get to go one day. this summer we will travel to the Canadian Rockies in July and in August we will travel to Chile. Sept. we have a wedding to attend in NH,A grandbaby to visit in Michigan and November on the beach with friends in NC and Dec. in Detroit. Time will pass very quickly this year! It's all fun.

I can't wait to learn more about your trip.

Happy Sewing

Anne-Lise at Rag, Tag, Bobtail said...

I find this very interesting, thanks for sharing! The gates and the giant Buddha are amazing. Glad my age wasn't on the board, either :0)

Lis said...

Oh dear my age is on that board! I'd better get some bright fabric to work with do you think?! Thank you for all this information about the shrines. We visited the Nezu shrine when we stayed in Japan (our ryokan was just along the road) but it was Golden Week and very, very crowded, quite a different atmosphere. The gardens were in bloom though, wonderful azaleas which were a sight to behold.

ria vogelzang said...

Thanks Nat, for your beautiful report! I love the history!
Looking forward to your next post!!
Love, Ria.

kaiteM said...

Beautiful photos Nat, and so informative.

Queen Of The Armchair aka Dzintra Stitcheries said...

Thanks Nat for this...have thoroughly enjoyed reading about the shrines...and especially seeing the Big Budha...looking forward to reading more...Love Dzintra

Nancy said...

Thank you for all of the information and beautiful photos. I am now looking at red a bit differently! Also, I was so glad to see my age was not there either! I have not felt too lucky lately, so maybe it is just some bad luck passing! Ha!

Astrid said...

Lovely photos from the shrines.Very interesting. I like the idea they offer plastic bags to take your shoes along... I don't know if that is allowed in Hindu temples, where all shoes are left outside.

judy martin said...

This was such an educational and beautiful post. Thank you for taking the time to post it.

Michele Pacey said...

So many cool things to see and participate in. The shrines, with their bridges and gates and gardens are quite special. I could see why you'd want to just relax and let the spirit of these places fill you. The "Chinese" red of the gate and fence is a luscious, warm red, isn't it? Beautiful!

My age is on the board as well, unlucky me. I need to think good thoughts and put on something colourful RIGHT NOW!

woman with wings said...

Nat, so great -- I enjoy reading about your time there, your photos turned out wonderfully, didn't they? -- and I love your new banner!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post!! I was twice in Japan last year, and I fall in love with this country!! I miss the fabric market in Tokyo: where is it??
Catherine (from France)

Anonymous said...

Hi Nats,
I love your Japan journal and photos. Yas :)

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