A bonfire event after New Year’s Day

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

On our way to Hatsugama, or the first tea gathering of the year, we saw a bunch of local people who had got together and stopped over at this place.

This festival is called “ Donto Yaki “. People bring New Year’s decorations, wooden daruma dolls or the first calligraphy of the year to burn them.

 In Japanese, “Yaki“ means burn and “ Donto “ sounds like “ don’t “ in English. However we burn many things.

Here you can see some red dolls called “ daruma “. This doll represents Bodhidharma, the Zen founder born in India in 6th century. It is said that he sat in silent meditation for nine years, facing the wall of a room at the Shorinji Temple in China to attain enlightenment !

 Some people buy these daruma dolls. When they buy them, the dolls’ eyes aren’t painted but when the doll owner’s wishes came true, they paint in the eyes. In Fuji city, we have a daruma festival in the beginning of February called “ Bishamon festival “. At that festival, many kinds of daruma dolls are available. Every year some people buy new daruma dolls for their New Year’s resolution. To give thanks and to wish for another successful year, they burn the previous year’s dolls.

We have the proverb, “ If you fall down seven times, get up eight “ in Japanese “ nanakorobi yaoki”. That means never give up.

 Some people burn the first calligraphy of the year. If the calligraphy goes up

carried by the wind, the person’s calligraphy might improve.

 

The Year of the Dragon 2012

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

 

 

A happy New Year !  I wish all of you health and happiness this year!

This year 2012 is a year of the dragon. This dragon comes from the Chinese zodiac. According to this zodiac, each year a different animal plays a role as a symbol of the year. Last year, a rabbit was the symbol. According to my father, rabbit years often bring big changes or upheavals I remember my father mumbled this on New Year’s Day and we had a big disaster last year. My father isn’t a fortune teller but he simply said what he had heard from his parents or grandparents.

 I think it’s very important to listen to older people or learn from history or folk tales. I also believe Japanese old belief that what you say will occur.

For example, if you keep telling good things these lucky incidents are sure to happen and if you keep telling negative things these unlucky things may occur.

 Now this year’s symbol, the dragon, is an imaginary animal as you know.

It is said that this animal brings us the blessing of water. Water is very important for us but we sometimes miss giving thanks for it. Japanese have considered nature as a group of gods but these days we sometime forget about it.

 I sometimes visit this shrine deep in the mountain. Some people say this place is a so-called power spot. I know some people train themselves under the icy waterfalls. (not for me though . I heard an interesting story from a person who takes care of this shrine. We are supposed not to catch and eat the fish in the river since it belongs to gods of this place. But someone caught a fish and ate it. Then he had a terrible stomachache. He apologized for his wrong doing many times, then the pain went away. This waterfall and river is such a mysterious place.

 Even on hot summer days, this place is very cool. But in winter it’s not as cold as I expected. This area is surrounded by mountains and looks like being protected by them. In fact, even after a typhoon passed by this area wasn’t messed up much.

 I can get very good water from this shrine. The quality of the water is very good so I can make delicious tea or coffee. I also can cook tasty rice or miso soup with this water. Another good thing is that this water doesn’t go bad for a long time. So I keep this water in the tank for emergency.

 Of course I always make sure to thank the gods at this shrine. This year I specially begged the gods to protect us from natural disasters.