Soma Nakamura Shrine Part2

Friday, January 30th, 2009

According to some newspapere reports, there is a boom in visiting shrines. The article says that’s because many people are worried about their future.

Do you know how to pray for good luck ?

1. Bow once

2. Ring the big bell if there is one.

3. Put some coins or even a bill or bills into the box in front of you.

4. Bow twice.

5. Clap your hands twice. This means ” Gods, please listen to me.”

6. Then you say quietly as follows: My name is (            ). I live in (           ). I was born in (            ). I always appreciate your help. I wish I will be able to (            ). Thank you.

7. Bow once.

A friend of mine asked me if Japanese gods understand foreign languages. So I said that I believe gods are multilingual. And when your succeed in doing something, be sure to visit again to say thank you. Then the gods will support you more in the future.

In this shrine, Amenominakanushi-no-kami and historic figure Tairano Masakado are enshrined. According to the chronicle myths, Amenominakanusi was one of the first three gods. This god is often compared to the polar star. Or this god is said to have some relationship to Taoism. Tairano Masakado was very powerful samurai. There are some interesting stories about him.

Sake brewery

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

We went to Takasago brewery in Fujinomiya City in Shizuoka. This brewery was founded in 1830. That means that they have been making sake for 178 years! I really like the building. Isn’t it cool ? At the door you can see a cedar ball. ( I’m pointing at it.) This ball means that sake is ready. Also cedar can work as a disinfectant. This time of the year we can enjoy new sake and can see sake being fermented.

They showed us the room where they keep sake and we even had a look inside of the tank. It smells really good. I saw sake fermentation going on for the first time. I wish I were a better photographer. Can you see small bubbles popping ? It was someting exciting and I felt that sake is a kind of living thing. We were covered with mild and gentle air and felt so good without even drinking anything.

Making sake is hard work but sake plays a very important role in Japanese culture. I hope we can maintain this tradition. In this area Mt.Fuji’s undercurrent is used to make sake. For making sake the quality of water matters very much as well as rice. They take advantage of good water to produce mild and smooth sake.

At night we enjoyed dry sake . I’d like to introduce small dishes using sakekasu( leavings ) in an entry sometime.

Chozudokoro

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Here we are at Soma Nakamura Shrine again. Have you seen this kind of basin at a shrine ? This is called “Chozudokoro”. We wash our hands and rinse our mouth here. Someone drank the water. They must have been really thirsty. It is drinkable though not for drinking. We do this as a simple form of purification before facing the gods at the shrine.

Then here we see “Torii” or gate. Inside the gate is considered to be a sacret zone. When we walk the path, I was told not to walk on the middle of it because it is the place where gods walk. So I usually walk on either the right or left part of the path.

The number of visitors to shrines all over Japan on New Year’s Day was very large this year. It is said that when the economy is weak, more people visit shrines. I like shrines when it is not too crowded so I went there on 3rd.

Tenjin Shrine

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

On 3rd of January I went to Soma Nakamura Shrine. It has a Tenjin Shrine within its precincts. There are many Tenjin Shrines all over Japan. Sugawarano Michizane was a distinguished scholar in 9th century. Since he was very intelligent and a good calligrapher, he is enshrined as a god of study at each Tenjin Shrine. Many students take entrace examination from January to March, so we see lot of students praying for success.

Here we can see many wooden tablets called “ema”. “e” means pictures and “ma” means horses. Those who want to make their wishes write them down, for example: ” May I pass the entrance exam for ABC University” People know that just praying to the god doesn’t help, but probably they encourage themselves or strengthen their vow to succeed by doing this in front of the god so that the god gives them energy. The wooden tablets usually have pictures of horses on them. Do you know why ?

Long time ago some people who made wishes donated horses to the shrines. But it has not been easy for many people to do that so they drew pictures of horses on the tablets and write their wishes on them.

Both Soma Nakamura Shrine and Tenjin Shrine ( Kitano Tenmangu) have many interesting stories. I’d like to write about them sometime soon.

Kimono part2

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Another beautiful lady came to English lesson in kimono. She looks great . According to her, this kimono was made by a person who usually makes cloth worn by sumo wrestlers. Cherry blossoms are depicted on this kimono.You may think it’s too early but for kimono wearing something forthcoming is good as good as something already in season.

My husband asked me ” Why do you have so many beautiful people around you ? I replied, ” Well, it’s not my fault, but birds of a feather flock together, you know.”

Visiting the photographer again

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

We visited the photographer at the foot of Mt. Fuji again.

He showed us some big black and white photos of American National parks.

He’s going to send them to President Obama soon.

As well as taking photographs but he also makes furniture and has even built a house.

On our way home, Fuji looked beautiful in the rays of the setting sun.

Kimono

Friday, January 9th, 2009

She came to our English class in wearing kimono. She is very beautiful and so is the kimono. She did everything all by herself, doing up her hair and putting on the kimono. In fact, not many Japanese people can manage to put on kimono all by themselves.

After English class she is going to visit a shrine with her friends. It’s January 8th. Dates that include the figure eight, such as 8th,18th,28th are good ones to visit shrines. Also, dates with repeated numbers, like 1/1, 2/2 etc, are also good.

By the way, how much do you think this kimono cost ?

I was very surprised to hear the kimono was only 4,000 yen . The sash cost 1,500 yen. The pair of tabi ( socks ) was 500 yen. These tabi are not traditional. Traditional ones are white, but this type of tabi is getting popular among young people.

Why was this kimono so inexpensive ? Because it is a recycled one. Moreover, she can wear it almost anytime ( except summer). It’s very cold today but the kimono keeps her warm. Since it isn’t expensive she can wear it for daily use. When we wear kimono our posture becomes straight. There are many other good points about kimono. I’m thinking of learning how to dress in kimono once more.

Nanakusa

Friday, January 9th, 2009

I cooked Nanakusa rice glue on 7th of January. There are seven ( nana) wild vegetables ( kusa) to be cooked. This time of the year we can find some newly grown green things in the field. They survive in cold weather so they taste good and smell good.

If you don’t know anywhere suitable to find such things or don’t have the time to pick them, they are available at supermarkets.

Around New Year’s Day some people drink or eat too much so this time our stomachs need some rest.

Some wild vegetables or harbs work as medicine.

Going on a hike

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Since New Year’s Eve we have been staying at my parents’ in Fukushima. It’s much colder than Shizuoka.

When it’s cold we tend to stay inside and I don’t like it very much. So we chose to go on a hike to Mt. Kunimi. It’s as high as 563 meters.

From the top we had a great view of the Pacific Ocean and my hometown.

This mountain has a really nice path for hiking. The ground is very soft so it doesn’t give any strong impact to our knees. Besides the path is gradual enough for novice hikers like me. Near it’s peak it’s pretty steep, though. I heard in spring this area is covered with many wild flowers and feel like visiting that time.

Kakizome

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Children usually have calligraphy homework during their winter break. 2nd of January is the day for “Kakizome “, which means the first day of calligraphy of the year. Those who do kakizome are supposed to face the year’s lucky direction and write some words with a brush and Sumi ink.

Sometimes children are pressed for finishing their homework but this year they had already done it in December so that they can take it easy. I’m not good at doing this and every year a lady who is very good at it teaches them and I’m always thankful to her.