Saturday, April 26, 2014

Ink and Traces (This week's Photo Hunt themes)

Despite being not all that religious, I've been to and in more than my fair share of religious establishments.  Especially during my childhood, I would be brought there by relatives.  Other times, it's been on the invitation of friends -- who do so not to try to convert me but, rather, to share something they hold dear with me. More often than not in my adulthood, it's been because I realize that many of these places are steeped in culture, and contain -- as well as in themselves are -- veritable works of art. 

Over the course of my visits to Japan (which already have supplied photos more than one entry for Sandi's and Gattina's Photo Hunts ;b), I've been to parts of the country whose primary attractions are temples and shrines.  These include Dazaifu, Nikko, Kamakura and the granddaddy of them all, Kyoto -- home to literally thousands of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, including Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji, Ryoanji and -- my personal favorite -- Fushimi Inari.

I have to confess that early on I had difficulties distinguishing between Japan's Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines (this not least because a number of Buddhist temples house Shinto shrines within their grounds or nearby -- as is the case with Kyoto's (Buddhist) Kiyomizudera and (Shinto) Jishu Shrine). But I've come to realize that, among other things, it's the Shinto shrines that have the photogenic torii gates and ema (wooden plates on which people ink down their wishes, in the hope that the kami (Shinto gods) will make them come true, and leave out in the open -- thereby leaving traces of themselves within the shrine grounds long after they've taken their leave from them).

Still, while ema aren't offered up in Buddhist temples, there nonetheless appear to exist outlets for making wishes and offering up in similar ways.  For example, at the Ryozen Kannon Temple in Kyoto, I came across rows of colorful objects that resemble toy windmills with little tags with inked writing on them.  I hope I'm not being blasphemous in suggesting this -- but I see traces of Shintoism in this practice!  At the very least, it shows that making wishes in this way is something that has seeped deep into Japanese culture and consequently crosses religious lines!! 


magiceye said...


Photo Cache said...

it must have been fantastic experience to immerse oneself not only in the culture but also the religion of the place one is visiting.

frankly my dear

Gattina said...

That's very true, the architectural work and sculptures on these temples are amazing !

betty-NZ said...

It does a person good to know what goes on around them. The temples are gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

Great post. The ink pictures were perfect for this week's theme. Well done - it was a hard one.

Have a great weekend.

YTSL said...

Hi magiceye --

So you felt you learnt something? ;b

Hi Photo Cache --

Well, I wouldn't say I immersed myself in the religion of the place -- but it was interesting visiting the places of worship!

Hi Gattina --

The Shinto temples can seem on the architecturally modest side -- but I do love their torii and lots of other "extras"!

Hi bettyl-NZ --

I agree -- for me, it'd be weird to travel to a foreign land and not bother to try to see and understand some of its culture. :)

Hi JDeQ --

I agree that this week's Photo Hunt was on the challenging side -- especially when trying to combine the two themes chosen by Gattina and Sandi!

Susan Demeter said...

I think that is such a neat custom to leave a part of yourself and your wishes through writing them down. So cool :)

Trekcapri said...

Hi YTSL, wonderful photos from your visit to Japan. It's very cool that people can write down their wishes on those plaques.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Carver said...

Very interesting post and great shots. You always do such a good job both writing and illustrating your posts.

Anne said...

Beautiful photos and story. I love your line "not to try to convert me but, rather, to share something they hold dear with me"...that is how I express my faith around my friends, not to convert, simply to share. Thanks for this thoughtful post!

eastcoastlife said...

You intend to travel the whole country of Japan in your lifetime? There are so many beautiful places which I want to visit in Japan and there are the courteous Japanese. I have several good Japanese friends. Hope to visit them soon.

YTSL said...

Hi Sue --

At the risk of sounding crass: it's a great way for the shrines to make money too! At one of the shrines, I saw that an ema costs 1,000 Yen!

Hi Trekcapri --

Something I find interesting is that many non-Japanese (or, at least, people who prefer to write in other languages besides Japanese) also have taken up this practice when they visit the Shinto shrines... ;b

Hi Carver --

Thanks, as ever, for reading as well as looking -- and I'm happy to learn that you find the post interesting. :)

Hi Anne --

I'm glad you have a similar attitude as my friends. Thanks to them, I've been to a synagogue in New York, a Jaian temple in Nairobi, a Catholic church in Iringa (Tanzania), and more! :b

Hi EastCoastLife --

Teehee -- it can seem like it, right? Actually, there are parts of Japan I'm *not* that interested to check out (including onsen towns... ;b) -- but definitely many that I would like to go visit (and sometimes re-visit)!

The thing about Japan is that it's so easy to travel around by oneself. Great public transportation, amazingly courteous people, super low crime rate... and, of course, wonderful food (and yes, I often visit places because of their food specialties... ;b)!