The Temples of Japan

Trip Start Jul 29, 2006
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Trip End Ongoing


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Monday, February 5, 2007

One of the most amazing parts of my trip last month was getting to visit some of Japan's temples and shrines.  They are everywhere in Japan.  But what's interesting is, that for a country peppered with temples and shrines throughout the land, there is a gaping hole in the culture where any sort of religion or spirituality would be.   (Just an aside, temples in Japan are of the Buddhist tradition, whereas shrines are part of the Shintoist tradition.)

There are many traditional aspects of the cutlure that still center around temples and shrines.  However, these traditions are more like customs that have been passed down through the generations and have lost their original meaning along the way.  Many of these customs are rooted in seemingly superstitious beliefs. For example, on New Year's Eve, my family and I visited one shrine here in Shizuoka and took part in a traditional Japanese New Year's Eve ceremony.  A far cry from what we were used to, in fact.  No countdown, no ball drop, no bottles of champagnes, blow horns, confetti, or party hats...  Instead, at the stroke of midnight (which we weren't prepared for without the usual countdown), bells in the shrine began ringing 108 times... aligned with the Buddhist belief that there are 108 evils within ourself we must overcome.  And people threw coins into the temple coin box to make a wish for the New Year.   Then, many Japanese people purchase a one dollar paper fortune from the temple (it's written on a small slip of paper; almost like what we might pull out of a fortune cookie.)  After reading it, they tie the fortune up to these strings of fortunes that decorate a small wooden structure near the temple in the hopes that this will bring good luck. 

Just this past weekend, all across Japan, shrines around the country hosted another Japanese ceremony- the Setsubun.  It is a bean throwing ceremony.  From what I understand, according to Japanese folklore, on February 3rd, little goblins come out and come to the houses of any little boy or girl who has been bad to take them away.  So, to chase away these goblins, people throw beans around their houses and, at the Shrines, a whole ceremony is made out of the bean throwing.  Now, I'm not sure why these goblins that come out would be terrified by beans- perhaps it's the protein- but this is just another example of the type of ritualistic customs and traditions that have replaced spiritual religion here in Japan.  The same can even be said for some of our sense of spiritual religion in the west as well.  Consider the Christian traditions of celebrating Christmas with Santa and Easter with the Easter Bunny, for example.

Even so, Japanese temples often provide a very tranquil and beautiful atmosphere and are definitely worth visiting.  I, many times, find myself walking away with an unmistakable feeling of peacefulness from these temples.  Anyhow, I've attached pictures to this entry of many of the temples and shrines I visited while my family was here in Japan.   They're really worth taking a look at; some of these places were quite astounding.
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Comments

denniss
denniss on

Heyy
Interesting again! Cool pics, especialy the Budha.. I Like :)
Very nice to read you're doing good there.. I check your blogs like every week so keep up the cool stories..!

Take care..

x Dennis
Holland

calliroi
calliroi on

Re: Heyy
Hey Dennis,

So glad you have been keeping up and enjoying the blogs. I'll try to keep 'em coming :-) Hope all is well in Holland!

Talk to ya soon,

Carrie

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