A guide to New Year traditions in Japan

Japan Today (by Ran Matsugi):

While New Year’s Eve is a time for parties and fireworks in many countries, in Japan, it is usually a somber time when people return to their hometowns to enjoy a few days together with their extended families – not unlike Christmas in the West.

However, the lack of parties does not mean Japan is a boring place during the New Year holiday period. This time of year is rich in tradition and culture, and if you have never experienced New Year in Japan, you’re missing something.

Here is a guide to some New Year traditions and what they mean.

Omisoka (大晦日)

Why is New Year’s Eve called “omisoka” in Japanese? In the old calendar, the last day of each month used to be called “misoka”. “Miso” can mean 30 in Japanese, and “ka” means day. Although not every month has just 30 days, the tradition of calling the last day of the month “misoka” remained, and the last day of the year became “omisoka” (great last day of the month). After the new calendar was adopted, all the other “misokas” became less popular, but “omisoka” remained.

Osoji (大掃除)

This refers to the end-of-year cleaning which takes place in offices and homes. It is believed that by cleaning your house, you can purify your residence and welcome the “Toshigami-sama” (god of the coming New Year).

Kadomatsu (門松)

As soon as Christmas Day is over, the Christmas trees and decorations come down and New Year decorations go up. “Kadomatsu” are made of three cut bamboo sticks and pine tree branches and are put up in the entrances of buildings or houses. The bamboo shoots, which represent heaven, earth and humanity, are believed to attract the gods. The gods dwell in the pine until Jan 7, after which time the decorations are taken to a shrine to be burnt, releasing the spirits back to their realm.

Toshikoshi Soba (年越し蕎麦)

People eat soba at around midnight to ward off evil spirits before the New Year comes. Some also wish for a long life, or long-lasting connection with families by eating soba. Rakuten research reports that 67.5% of people surveyed are planning to eat “toshikoshi soba” this year.

Joya no Kane (除夜の鐘)

“Joya no Kane” or purification bells are important at New Year Buddhist ceremonies in which the priest rings the bell 108 times. According to Buddhist beliefs, the number 108 corresponds to the number of evil desires that we suffer from. It is believed that by listening to or ringing the bell 108 times, you can get rid yourself of those evil desires. Many temples allow people to participate in ringing the bell.

Ganjitsu (元日) and Gantan (元旦)

Why are there two words meaning New Year’s Day? “Gantan” generally refers to the morning or sunrise on Jan 1, while “Ganjitsu” refers to the first “day” of the New Year.

Nengajo (年賀状)

On New Year’s Day, you’ll see legions of Japan Post employees whizzing along on scooters delivering New Year greeting cards. Though the custom has lost some of its popularity in recent years – young people tend to avoid sending the cards, while others design their own cards and send them by email – “nengajo” are still important for businesses and the older generation for expressing appreciation and best wishes for the New Year. “Nengajo,” many of which are hand-written, also have lottery numbers on them.

Hatsumode (初詣)

The most popular activity on New Year’s Day is “hatsumode” or first visit to the shrine. The bigger shrines like Meiji in Tokyo, Kawasaki Taishi in Kawasaki and Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto are packed with hundreds of thousands of people from early morning throughout New Year’s Day. Many people go to smaller shrines in their neighborhoods. If you go, you’ll see burning incense sticks. The smoke itself is called “zuko,” and shrine visitors wave it over their heads to purify spirits and their bodies for the New Year.

Hamaya (破魔矢)

You’ll often see people leaving shrines, holding wooden arrows. These are given to shrine visitors to put somewhere in their homes to ward off evil spirits. The point of the arrow isn’t sharp; it’s just a decoration.

Osechi ryori (おせち料理)

This refers to special New Year delicacies traditionally made before New Year’s Day, and meant to last for seven days without refrigeration. The original reason for needing it to last for seven days is because there is a seven-day period of non-cooking to appease the fire god, Kohji. He would get upset and cause a natural hazard if you made fire so early in the year. In later years, this non-cooking period has changed to give housewives a rest during the New Year holidays since they worked so hard until New Year’s Eve. The food often comes in an elaborate bento box.

Kagami-mochi (鏡餅)

This decoration consists of two round rice cakes and a mandarin (mikan) on top. Traditionally, the cakes were adorned with a different citrus fruit known as “daidai,” which were considered auspicious as the meaning of the word can be translated to “generation after generation”, representing the family’s wish for a long and prosperous bloodline. The rice cakes are supposed to be an homage to the mirror of the sun goddess Amaterasu. With its round, mirror-like shape, “kagami-mochi” symbolizes the renewal of light and energy at the start of a new year.

Otoshidama (お年玉)

On New Year’s Day, children aged 22 and under receive monetary gifts from their parents and grandparents in specially decorated envelopes called “Pochi Bukuro” (Pochi bag). According to the Allabout questionnaire, the popular amounts of “otoshidama” are 1,000 yen for children younger than 6, 3,000 to 5,000 yen for children aged 6 to 17, and 10,000 yen for 18 to 20+ students.

Fukubukuro (福袋)

Many department stores and other retailers now open on New Year’s Day, giving children a chance to spend their “otoshidama” as well as tempting other shoppers with these lucky bags. Some people hit store after store and emerge with an armful of “fukubukuro.” The bags contain various items with a total value of twice the price of the bag.

First Lady Michelle Obama goes on adventures in Japan

Japan Today:

First lady Michelle Obama wrapped up her visit to Japan Friday with a taste of traditional culture in Kyoto.

Mrs Obama visited Kiyomizu-dera, a Buddhist temple founded in 780 on a forested hill overlooking the city, and viewed a Noh performance by local college students. The classical Japanese musical drama employs elaborate costumes and stylized masks to symbolize roles of women, ghosts and other characters.

Kiyomizu-dera is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Kyoto’s most famous vistas. Mrs Obama also visited the 1,300-year-old Fushimi Inari shrine, a place of worship for Japan’s other major religion, Shinto. There are 30,000 such shrines in Japan that venerate the guardian god of abundant harvests, prosperity and family safety.

Students staged a performance of taiko drumming at the shrine with Mrs Obama.

This is Mrs Obama’s first visit to Japan, as she did not accompany the president on his state visit last year. The visit is seen partly as a way of making up for her absence then, and as a sign of closeness between the close allies.

Many of Japan’s 16 UNESCO World Heritage sites fly under the radar

RocketNews 24:

Did you know that Japan has 16 locations on the list of UNESCO World Heritages? Could you name them all with any sum of money on the line?

Survey Research Center, Co. Ltd. conducted a survey that showed that most people could not. When asked whether they were interested in Japan’s world heritages, 67.8% of those surveyed responded affirmatively. However, only 4% of respondents knew all 16 Japanese sites.

See how many you can name before looking at the list below:

1. Yakushima [Kagoshima Prefecture]

2. Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) [Hiroshima Prefecture]

3. Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Ryukyu Islands [Okinawa Prefecture]

4. Itsukushima Shinto Shrine [Hiroshima Prefecture]

5. Shiretoko [Hokkaido Prefecture]

6. Hiraizumi – Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land [Iwate Prefecture]

7. Ogasawara Islands [Tokyo Metropolis]

8. Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama [Gifu Prefecture]

9. Himeji-jo [Hyogo Prefecture]

10. Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape [Shimane Prefecture]

11. Shirakami-Sanchi [Akita and Aomori Prefectures]

12. Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area [Nara Prefecture]

13. Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) [Kyoto Prefecture]

14. Shrines and Temples of Nikko [Tochigi Prefecture]

15. Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara [Nara Prefecture]

16. Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range [Nara, Wakayama and Mie Prefectures]

How did you do? You might have noticed that both natural locations and manmade structures can qualify as world heritages.

The survey also showed that over half of Japanese tourists add the option of visiting a world heritage site when they take a tour on vacation.

Find out more about world heritage sites by watching “The World Heritage” on TBS at 6 a.m. on Sunday, November 27. The first program will focus on natural heritages, and the program that airs on Sunday, December 4 will deal with cultural assets.

Watching these shows and learning more about world heritages will surely enrich your mind and deepen your appreciation of Japanese history, and they may even give you some ideas for your next trip within Japan.

Source: TBS “The World Heritage”

Strapped for cash, 1,400-year-old Kyoto shrine leasing part of its grounds for condo development

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RocketNews 24:

One of the things that makes Japan such a compelling place is the country’s long cultural history. The upkeep of centuries-old buildings can be extremely expensive, however, especially since traditional Japanese architecture is mainly wood, reed, and paper, which aren’t exactly the sturdiest building materials.

As we’ve seen before, sometimes even sites of historical significance can struggle to make ends meet, and Kyoto’s famous Shimogamo Shrine is no exception. That’s why in order to raise the funds it needs, the institution, which was founded some 1,400 years ago, is planning to lease a section of its grounds for the construction of a complex.

Although it’s been around in some form since the 6th century, the Shimogamo Shrine has gotten a number of publicity boosts in the modern era. The shrine was designated a UNESCO world Heritage Site in 1994, and much of the surrounding forest is part of the Tadasu no Mori, an old growth nature preserve that’s listed as a national historical site.

In even more recent years, the shrine was depicted in in the 2013 Kyoto-set anime The Eccentric Family, and the shrine remains one of the most important Shinto sites in Kyoto, beloved for its fall colors and host of the Aoi Matsuri festival, held every year on May 15.

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This year, however, the shrine’s finances are looking bleak. Like many shrines, Shimogamo periodically takes part in a ritual called Shikinen Sengu, wherein new shrine buildings are constructed to replace the old ones as the homes of the gods. Shimogamo Shrine does this once every 21 years, and with Shikinen Sengu scheduled to happen in 2015, expects to incur related expenses of some three billion yen(US$25.2 million).

Government funding should provide about 800 million yen, and, like many shrines in Japan, Shimogamo is also likely to receive donations from major business entities. However, two months into the year, donations are not projected to be nearly enough to cover the necessary costs. In response, Shimogamo Shrine announced earlier this week that it is planning to lease out a section of its shrine grounds for the construction of a condominium complex.

Head Priest Naoto Araki said that the ordinary monetary offerings the shrine receives over the course of a year are applied to ordinary administration and maintenance costs, but points out that the latter are rising every year. Faced with the additional burden of finding a way to pay for 2015’s Shikinen Sengu, he has come to the conclusion that there is no other choice that will enable him to preserve the shrine for future generations but to build the condos. The 50-year lease is expected to bring in about 80 million yen annually for the shrine.

▼ A map of Shimogamo Shrine

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Conservationists will be partially relieved to know that the proposed construction site, while still on the shrine grounds, lies outside the World Heritage Site and national historic site boundaries. The 9,650-square meter (2.4-acre) plot, which borders the Mikage-dori road, was formerly the site of housing for the shrine’s priests. Following World War II, the area was repurposed as a golf driving range because of financial difficulties, and in the early 1980s became a parking lot, which saw less and less use as other lots were built in the area.

In keeping with Kyoto’s reverence for its past, any development will have to comply with a number of regulations meant to preserve the city’s traditional beauty, and the developers are currently in the middle of preliminary talks with Kyoto’s Municipal Beautification Council. The proposed 107-unit complex would be spread among eight buildings, each a modest three-stories tall and no more than 10 meters high so as not to mar the surrounding views, with traditional Japanese tile roofs. Within the complex, the same type of elms as those which grow in the Tadasu no Mori woodlands are scheduled to be planted.

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Despite these concessions, many online commenters still weren’t happy about the news.

“I was really surprised to hear about this. I don’t mind if they charge admission to the shrine, but I want them to call off the condo construction. It’ll ruin the scenery.”

“At first I thought, ‘That’s just wrong,’ but it looks like there’s no other way for them to get the funds they need, so it can’t be helped.”

“Even if they’re a World Heritage Site, is this the only way for them to survive?”

“Ah man…are they still going to be able to film samurai TV shows there?”

If approval processes go smoothly, construction is expected to start in November, with completion of the complex estimated in spring of 2017.

Kyoto’s beautiful Kinkakuji temple under a blanket of snow

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Over the past few days Japan has been battered by nonstop snowstorms. Parts of Niigata have gotten over two meters (6.5ft) of snowfall, with surrounding prefectures getting nearly just as much, extending as far north as Hokkaido and south as Kyoto. This has unfortunately already resulted in eleven deaths and hundreds of canceled flights, and even more snow is expected over the next several days.

But always one to look on the bright side, Japan has recently been reveling in just how darn pretty the famous Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto looks with freshly fallen snow.

For the uninitiated, Kinkakuji (literally “golden pavilion temple”) is the name of a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto that’s been around since the 14th century (give or take burning down a couple times). It gets its name from the gold leaf covering the top two stories, which create a dazzling reflection in the “mirror pond” surrounding it. Not only is Kinkakuji a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s one of the most popular buildings in all of Japan, bringing in six million visitors each year – beating out both the Sistine Chapel and Mecca. Impressive.

This marks the first snowfall at Kinkakuji this year, so it was bound to become big news. What’s more, the snow is such a blanketing, pure white that Japanese people refer to it as yukigeshou, or “snow makeup,” as if the temple woke up this morning and thought “yeah, I think some snow would really bring out the gold in my eyes today.”

As silly as it sounds, some of the pictures make it seem like that’s exactly what happened.

Of course with such a picturesque scene ripe for photographing, fans of Kinkakuji, snow makeup, and pretty scenes in general turned out in droves to record the spectacle on their favorite image-capturing devices. This caused massive lines, and some patrons had to wait fifteen minutes or more to get inside the temple grounds – quite a long time considering you can usually just buy your ticket and waltz right in.

While we hope that everyone stays safe during this crazy weather, getting amazing pictures like these is one perk of Mother Nature getting a little too excited over the Christmas season.

Artist Profile: Sayaka Ganz’s thrift store sculptures

 

Juxtapoz:

 

Artist Sayaka Ganz creates her sculptures using thrift store plastics. Both her Japanese roots and the Japanese Shinto belief that ‘all objects and organisms have spirits’ heavily influence Sayaka.

With those as her starting point, she feels that art arise ‘from the passion for fitting odd shapes together and a sympathy toward discarded objects.’

 

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Nara’s deer continue their summertime tradition of occupying one of the city’s streets

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RocketNews 24:

 

Although it’s often overshadowed by Kyoto, the city of Nara can also count itself among the pre-Tokyo capitals of Japan. As a matter of fact, Nara was to be the country’s first permanent capital, challenging the beliefs of the day that the death of an emperor contaminated the area and necessitated moving the base of power.

Nara no longer represents the same lofty political authority it once did, but the city is still the site of several important temples, as well as the impressive Nara Daibutsu, a bronze Buddha statue nearly 15 meters (49 feet) tall.

And yet, the first thing most people think of when they hear Nara is deer, since over 1,000 of the animals live inside Nara Park. But even with roughly 500 hectares (1,235 acres) of space to run around in, sometimes the deer like to stray outside the park’s boundaries, such as they do each July when they occupy this sidewalk and stretch of road.

Although they’re technically wild animals, Nara’s deer are remarkably calm. Held to be messengers of the gods under Shinto belief, the animals are neither caged nor penned, but instead allowed to roam free around the sprawling expanses of Nara Park. As the park is one of the largest tourist attractions in the city, travelers often stop to pose for pictures with them, as well as feed them special deer treats sold by vendors inside the park.

On July 22, though, Twitter user Mojizuri was startled to see a herd of deer occupying a sidewalk, as well as spilling out into the road itself.

 

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I’ve lived here for 10 years, and I’ve never seen them do this sort of thing before!” Mojizuri tweeted.

 

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Like most of the world, we’re not used to seeing deer chilling in the middle of the street, and had we been in Mojizuri’s shoes, we’d probably have reacted in the same way. However, it looks like it’s possible that even in his decade as a Nara resident, he just never happened to walk down this exact street at this particular time of year.

The uploader, who goes by the screen name Blue Bells 9999, says that this is a regular occurrence in late July, with the deer strolling out of the park to “enjoy the coolness of the street.” 

Given that the concrete sidewalk and asphalt road surface would ordinarily retain heat during the summertime, we’re guessing that the surrounding cityscape and topography creates either a cooling wind tunnel or an inviting patch of shade.

Whatever the reason, motorists seem to be used to the phenomena, as we don’t see a single car swerving or horn honking in the video. A sign cautions drivers about deer crossing, and most seem to have extended that courtesy to keeping an eye out for deer sitting as well.

 

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Japan’s Top 3 Rock “Power Spots”

Meotoiwa rocks

RocketNews 24:

 

The Japanese have long had a fascination with rocks. In fact, rock worship is an integral part of Shinto, Japan’s original religion. Iwakura (sacred rocks) can be found all over Japan. Rocks can be found in any Japanese garden, whether as stepping stones or objects of admiration themselves in dry landscape gardens or Zen rock gardens. One thing is for sure: Rocks are an integral part of the Japanese psyche.

So it’s no wonder that sacred rocks are popular among the Japanese as power spots. By harnessing the energy of these rocks, the Japanese are rediscovering their roots and the power of nature. But before we tell you about the three top rock power spots in Japan, we investigate how these monoliths and boulders gained their rock star status. Our rockin’ reporter uncovers the history and folklore of iwakura in Japan and gives suggestions on how to access the power of these rocks!

Rocks have always had a place in the everyday lives of the Japanese. Look around anywhere in Japan and you’ll see:

Stone steps leading up to shrines,

stone stairs

stone lanterns,

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and stone deities,

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many of which are hundreds of years old.

 

The Seto Inland Sea area is known for its rock, both natural and mined. Where I live, on Shiraishi Island, the name shiraishi means “white rock,” and refers to its huge granite reserves, some of which manifests itself  in some pretty frightening ways:

 

▼Below this rock is, believe it or not, a road.

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As a result of the ubiquitous outcroppings, and perhaps as a way to tame it, rock mining has been a part of the fabric of this small Seto Inland Sea community for over 100 years.

You can find many relics of Japan’s past here:

 

▼A grinding stone for grinding buckwheat to make soba noodles.

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▼Every house on the island still has a mochi-pounding rice vessel, called an usu, for hammering out rice cakes

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People continue to use many rock implements even today.

 

▼These rocks were used as weights for fishing nets

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▼They’re still used to hold things down.

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▼That old grinding wheel is used these days to coax bonsai to grow in favored directions.

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And mined rock is still used for more modern applications. Polished rock surfaces, for example, make great maintenance-free signs–as long as you never want to move them.

 

▼This one says Seto Inland Sea National Park, Shiraishi Island Beach

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 ▼They also make great tablets for displaying tanka poems

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Monoliths fit the Japanese vertical writing system perfectly.

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Large rocks make impressive weather-proof information boards for national heritage sites. This one explains the Shiraishi Bon Dance, a national intangible cultural property.

 

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But why stop there?

 

▼Granite picnic tables have been installed along the hiking course on the island

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This is what happens when you live among stone masons!

 

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While wood has traditionally been used for Japanese housing, stone has been the material of choice for more permanent structures such as ports and some modern shrines.

 

▼Kompira Shrine for fishermen

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The original Shiraishi Port was constructed with rock in the Edo Period (1603 -1868) and is over 400 years old. But this newer pier was built in the Meiji Era (1868 – 1912).

 

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▼The stone still looks new

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▼The fishermen tied up their boats to the pier and climbed up these stone stairs.

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▼They even used rock bollards to tie their boats up to.

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Rock has always been important in the lives of the communities living in the Seto Inland Sea. Before they started mining the natural resource, they used it for worship. Such evidence can be found everywhere on the island.

 

▼In the lower left area of this rock is an 800-year-old magaibutsu stone carving of the deity Fudo-myo-o which is believed to protect the port.

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▼ The okuno-in of Kairyuji Temple is located under a huge overhanging rock.

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If you don’t know how to get to the temple, no problem. Ancient stone markers will show you the way from the port all the way up to the temple.

 

▼A hand with an index finger pointing in the proper direction to the temple.

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Shiraishi Island is full of large boulders. And everywhere there is a rock, there is sure to be a stone deity to worship nearby…

 

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either underneath the rock…

 

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…or sometimes on top of it.

 

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No rock is left unworshipped.

 

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Most major rocks have names. Rocks that are exposed to the rays of both the rising and setting sun are said to hold a special spiritual energy. Their power can last forever, as long as the area is well preserved and clean.

 

▼This boulder is named “Bikuni”

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▼The boulder sticking up out of the top of the small island to the right is “Mei-ishi.” But it only gets the rays of the setting sun.

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Having such a close relationship with nature, it’s not surprising that the Japanese people felt rocks were sacred.

Originally, people offered prayers to the rock which acted as a vehicle of communication between the people and the kami (gods). These days, however, Shrine buildings have been erected to designate Shinto shrines. In his book, “The Essence of Shinto: Japan’s Spiritual Heart,” Motohisa Yamakage says the purpose of a shrine is “to create a pervasive sense of reverence and awe and so enable us to access the spiritual dimension.”

 

▼This shrine wouldn’t have been built here had it not been for the presence of these sacred rocks.

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And surely this well would not have been considered sacred had it not been located under a large rock:

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▼The Meotoiwa rocks, connected by a shimenawa rope, celebrate the union in marriage of man and woman. The male rock is on the left.

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Shinto priests are especially adept at telling if a kami is present in a rock. You can make a judgement yourself by touching a rock to see if you can feel its energy. You will find there are some rocks where almost everyone can feel its energy, and others where only some people can feel it. Women are said to be especially sensitive to feeling the power of rocks. Rock on ladies!

I wondered what the top rock power spots in Japan were. To find out, I interviewed Shinto expert John Dougill, who lives in Kyoto, a veritable kingdom of power spots. He writes a blog called Green Shinto and has written several books on Japan. John also traveled the length of Japan visiting sacred sites from Okinawa to Hokkaido to write his book “Japan’s World Heritage Sites.”

I asked if John would share with RocketNews24 readers what he considers the top three rock power spots in Japan. It didn’t take him long to come up with this list! 

 

1) Kamikura Shrine at Shingu, Wakayama

Kamikura Jinja is part of Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine in Shingu (Wakayama Prefecture), a World Heritage Site. People come here to worship the Kamikura rock as a god. As you can see, this shrine is located under a large boulder onto which the kamiare believed to have descended from Heaven.

The shrine now guards and protects the town of Shingu below it. 

 

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The best way to feel the energy of this rock is to enter it.

 

▼A power spot practitioner meditates and plays a flute inside the Kamikura rock
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2) Seifa Utaki, Okinawan Nature Shrine (World Heritage Site)

 

▼The rock altar at Seifa Utaki

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▼This sacred rock opening leads into the most holy area of Seifa Utaki. Offerings are prepared here.

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▼This triangular opening leads to the place where prayers are made.

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 3) Koshikiiwa Shrine in Nishinomiya (Hyogo Prefecture)

 

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▼ This megalith is 10 meters tall with a circumference of 40 meters.

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The Koshikiiwa rock promotes pregnancy and protects childbirth, so many couples visit the rock to pray to it and feel its energy. The tradition is to walk around the rock in a clockwise direction.

So now you have all the tools you need to go out and start harnessing the power of sacred rocks. You’ll be in good company too, as the Japanese power-spot craze has taken the country by storm. 

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Artist Profile: Kazuki Takamatsu’s “Spiral Of Emotions” exhibit at the Corey Helford Gallery (Los Angeles)

 

Juxtapoz:

 

On Saturday, June 21, 2014, CHG Circa will present Kazuki Takamatsu’s (featured in Juxtapoz Magazine, May, 2013) “Spiral of Emotions”, including 12 new pieces and giclee prints that will show for the first time in North America. Kazuki’s beautiful depth map paintings read like misty x-rays of anime fantasies. Always on a jet black background, these graphic spiritual essences leap off their surfaces, created in part with a 3D computer program, but painted by hand in a painstakingly detailed layering process. Each graduating spiral that emerges is perhaps a Shinto variant of Dante’s Inferno, the emotional age rings of Kazuki’s adolescent, ethereal figures. The abstract creative forces of nature are integral to Kazuki’s work. Kinetic energy rendered in gouache as hair, sound waves, and pools of water connect his compositions. In this way, Kazuki depicts the young people of Japanese society, who he believes is a generation lost in compliance with its elders.

Each graduation from surface to depth represents distance where there is no light and shadow,” explains Kazuki. “Black and white are metaphors for good and evil, race and religion. I use CG (digital) and painting (analog) to make work in which technology and nature coexist.

The opening reception for Kazuki Takamatsu will be hosted Saturday, June 21, 2014, from 7-10pm at CHG Circa. The reception is open to the public, and the exhibition is on view through July 12, 2014.

Kazuki Takamatsu was born in Sendai, Miyagi in 1978. Influenced by media and subculture growing up, he attended the Department of Oil Painting at Tohoku University of Art & Design and graduated in 2001. Takamatsu’s haunting black and white imagery explores narratives of death and society, through a unique depth-mapping technique that he developed, in which classic mediums such as drawing, airbrush and gouache painting are combined with computer graphics.

 

Kazuki Takamatsu “Spiral of Emotions”
Corey Helford Gallery, Culver City

June 21st – July 12th, 2014

 

Check out this link:

Artist Profile: Kazuki Takamatsu’s “Spiral Of Emotions” exhibit at the Corey Helford Gallery

Spiral Something to Believe In

Link

Japan’s 30 best travel destinations, as chosen by overseas visitors

 

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RocketNews 24:

 

It’s time once again for travel website Trip Advisor’s list of the best places in Japan, as chosen by overseas visitors to the country. One of the things that makes Japan such a fascinated place to travel is its extreme mix of historical and modern attractions, both of which are represented in the top 30 which includes shrines, sharks, and super-sized robots.

 

30. Shinsaibashi – Osaka

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Starting things off, Osaka’s Shinsaibashi shopping district has something for just about everyone (as you can see by this photo that shows what appears to be everyone in the city browsing along its covered pedestrian walkway).

 

29. Nishiki Market – Kyoto

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Also known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” you might not find much in the way of souvenirs here, but it’s a great place to pick up ingredients for dinner or soak up the local atmosphere.

 

28. Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology – Aichi

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We suppose they could have just called it the “Toyota Museum,” but then people might think the focus is just on cars, and not the broader theme of technology and innovation in general.

 

27. Video Game Bar Space Station – Osaka

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There’s a certain simple, pure fun to hanging out with some friends, sitting on your couch, and knocking back a couple of cold ones as you play some old school games. Unless your couch is old and lumpy, you sold off your old consoles, or you’re out of beer. Thankfully, this Osaka bar is here to help.

 

26. Kaiyukan – Osaka

TA 5

Rather not kill time in Osaka by killing zombies? The local aquarium, the Kaiyukan, is an awesome way to spend an afternoon. Don’t miss feeding time for the facility’s massive yet tranquil whale shark.

 

25. Sensoji – Tokyo

TA 6

Tokyo’s most famous temple, located in the Asakusa neighborhood, remains one of the best ways to see Japan’s traditional side while staying in the capital.

 

24. Centar Gai – Tokyo

TA 7

Sensoji too sedate for you? The collection of shops and restaurants known as Center Gai, right across the street from the famous Shibuya Scramble intersection, is a chance to experience Tokyo’s cacophony at its most colorful.

 

23. Dotonbori – Osaka

TA 8

Osaka’s foremost entertainment district is at its most dazzling after dark, where the light from the towering walls of neon signage reflect off the canal and enwraps you in its glow from all angles.

 

22. Nara Park – Nara

TA 9

The spacious Nara Park is one of two places in Japan where visitors can mingle with freely roaming packs of deer (the other being Hiroshima Prefecture’s Miyajima Island).

 

21. Jigokudani Yean Park – Nagano

TA 10

It’s important to read things all the way through. For example, Jigokudani (Hell Valley) sounds like a terrible place to visit. Tack Yaen (wild monkey) on the end though, and you’ve got Trip Advisor’s 21st most popular destination.

 

20. Meiji Shrine – Tokyo

TA 11

The Shinto counterpart to Buddhist Sensoji, the structure itself may not be the most impressive shrine in Japan, but the gorgeous forest path that leads up to it will make you forget just how close you are to the heart of the busiest city in the world.

 

19. Mori Art Museum – Tokyo

TA 12

Even if you’re got only a passing interest in high art, the vires from the attached observation deck, high above the Roppongi Hills entertainment complex, is a great way to get a grasp of the massive scale of Tokyo.

 

18. Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum – Nagasaki

TA 13

As the second city to be devastated by a nuclear bomb, Nagasaki’s Atomic Bomb Museum is a grim reminder of the horrors of war.

 

17. Nijo Castle – Kyoto

TA 14

Instead of for protection, this Kyoto landmark was created to show the wealth and power of the shogun, and as such has a lower structure and more expansive gardens than other castles in Japan.

 

16. Robot Restaurant – Tokyo

TA 15

Modern decadence, on the other hand, is perhaps best encapsulated at this Shinjuku eatery where food is delivered to your table by bikini-clad waitresses piloting bikini-clad giant robots.

 

15. Kenrokuen Garden – Ishikawa

TA 16

Decidedly more refined is Kenrokuen, long considered one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan.

 

14. Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama – Kyoto

TA 17

We’re not sure why Iwatayama ranked higher than Jigokudani Yaen, but we’re guessing it might have something to do with its closer proximity to the already attractive tourist destination of Japan’s previous capital. Whatever the reason, though, can you ever really have too many monkey parks?

 

13. Sanjusangendo Temple – Kyoto

TA 18

Too hyped up from the monkey park? This temple, with its one thousand statues of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, ought to calm you down.

 

12. Matsumoto Castle – Nagano

TA 19

One of Japan’s most impressive original wooden fortresses, Matsumoto Castle’s location in the middle of Matsumoto City makes it an easy visit for those also looking to hike in the mountains of nearby Kamikochi.

 

11. Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium – Okinawa

TA 20

More whale sharks also means more votes for tropical Okinawa’s showcase of aquatic life.

 

10. Shinshoji Temple / Naritasan – Chiba

TA 21

We’re happy to see Naritsan make the list, since we’re big fans ourselves.

 

9. Hakone Open-Air Museum – Kanagawa

TA 22

This outdoor collection of sculpture also happens to be near some of Japan’s finest hot springs and most beautiful views of Mt. Fuji.

 

8. Shinjuku Gyoen Park – Tokyo

TA 23

One more reason why you shouldn’t believe people who tell you, “There’s no greenery in central Tokyo!”

 

7. Kiyomizu Temple – Kyoto

TA 24

Some people complain about this hillside temple being crowded. It is, but that’s only because of how incredibly beautiful and awesome it is.

 

6. Mt. Takao / Okunoin Temple – Tokyo

TA 25

With hiking courses, beautiful foliage, and tales of tengu raven spirits, Mt. Takao is worth a visit for anyone into fitness, nature, or folklore.

 

5. Todaiji Temple – Nara

TA 26

In contrast to the cute deer running around outside in Nara Park, Todaiji houses the solemn 15-meter (49-foot) Great Buddha.

 

4. Kinkakuji – Kyoto

TA 27

Kyoto’s famous Golden Pavilion continues to attract visitors year-round.

 

3. Miyajima Island / Itsukushima Shrine – Hiroshima

TA 28

Miyajima’s torii gate rising out of the sea is something you’ll only see in Japan, and is the reason why it’s been gracing the covers of travel guides for decades. Add in the appeal of the deer that wander around town, the hiking trails that lead to the top of the island’s Mt. Misen, and the amazing views one you get there, and you’ve got Trip Advisor’s number-three choice.

 

2. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum / Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

TA 29

Less than an hour away from Miyajima, Peace Memorial Park includes the A-Bomb Dome, Children’s Peace Monument, and the Peace Flame.

 

1. Fushimi Inari Shrine – Kyoto

TA 30

The top spot went to Fushimi Inari Shrine, and the seemingly endless tunnels of torii gates that cover the hillside it’s built on. Long overlooked due to its distance from other Kyoto attractions it’s still just a short train ride away from Kyoto Station, and one of the most unique experiences travelers can have in Japan.

 

TA 31

 

Source: Trip AdvisorIT Media

 

Check out this link:

 Japan’s 30 best travel destinations, as chosen by overseas visitors