Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
The wooden sticks in the foreground are Japanese prayer sticks. The petitioner stands in a line with other petitioners in front of a table with monks seated in their orange robes. The petitioner then tells the monk what prayer they want on the prayer stick and the monk inscribes the prayer offering onto the prayer stick. The sticks are accumulated and at the high point of the celebration of the holy day, they are offered up to heaven in the form of sacred flame. There are different ways of offering prayers and this is one of them.
This doll set is a fertility symbol and also a gift given to women who are expecting a birth of a child (on the day the child is born). It protects the new born infant from evil for a year. The doll has a history tied to Matsuyama and Dogo Onsen. If you're interested in the story, just follow the link.
Hime Daruma Doll Link
Friday, September 26, 2008
I think sitting on a heated toilet is a bit unsettling at first. Oh yes, the seats are heated, not too warm but they have heating elements in them. The modern Japanese toilet has pretty much everything you could want. It combines a bidet with the function of a flush toilet. Most Japanese homes have the modern toilet. Some even have cloth covers if the seat isn't electronically warmed.
More often than not, when out in Japan you will encounter the traditional squat toilet. Have no fear, they work well. It may seem awkward at first but after a few times you'll feel right at home. I've seen both traditional and modern side by side in larger establishments but in smaller places you have one toilet and this is it. No men's room or ladies room, just one traditional toilet. It is efficient, after you flush the toilet the water from the tank above comes out and you can wash your hands while the water replenishes itself.
Welcome to Japan. Don't expect to find paper towels in public restrooms. In fact, you better bring along a hand towel of your own if you want to wash your hands when you are out. Paper towels are a luxury in Japan. Some hotels have them but most dining establishments don't. This is an efficient air drying system found in Matsuyama airport. It blows the water off your hands very fast.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Japan is a country that takes pride in its appearance. You don't see litter on the street and the store fronts are tidy. I was asked one time by a taxi driver in Japan if American's have overhead cables like you have in Japan. The answer is yes and no. Newer developments in the USA have all the cables underground. The reason Japan doesn't is primarily due to the fact that the country is earth quake prone. Pretty much every place you go you see overhead cables but they do put them underground on the main thoroughfairs.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
This is the Seto inland sea which separates Shikoku island from the Japanese main island of Honshu. It wasn't until a tragic ferry accident in the 1980's that Japan undertook the massive task of establishing bridges from the main island to Shikoku island. Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge (shown) it is the first example of three linked suspension bridges in the world. They span the 4-km wide Kurushima Strait. The area around the bridge has several ship building facilities. The bridges are an engineering marvel. I've included this link to the bridge authority's web site.
Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Expressway Company Limited
Street cars were once mainstream in Japanese cities. There are still several cities that have them, including Matsuyama. They are convenient modes of getting around. They are on time and clean. In the autumn, they clean the tracks of leaves that get wet and would impair the efficiency of the street car.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Daifuku is a type of mochi made in preparation of the new years holiday. It is stuffed with a sweet red bean paste and put in trays to dry. It is also eaten as a snack before it dries. The rice cakes are very popular around the holiday and also given out as presents and gifts at temple celebrations. They are grilled and eaten. The bottom picture shows a boys first new years celebration. The sack on his back contains a large mochi and it is part of celebrating a first son's first new years.
If you're at a holy temple during a celebration, you most likely will encounter these demons. They are not there to scare you, they are there to scare bad fortune out of you. If their presence isn't scary enough, they will also beat the bad fortune out of you. I enjoy the amused look on the face of the woman in the lower picture. She looks like it is working. While they 'beat' you up with their sticks, they chant phrases to entice the bad fortune to flee this person.
This temple (Ishite-ji) is a Buddhist temple but the demons are not Buddhist but Shinto. Japan's native religion is Shinto but Buddhism came to Japan via China long ago. The two have combined and co-existed ever since. Buddhist temples are big and imposing. Shinto shrines tend to blend in with nature more. It is not uncommon to see a Shinto shrine and a Buddhist temple sit side by side or combined into one building with an entrance for the Shinto shrine and an entrance for the Buddist temple.
A Kaiten-zushi restaurant features a revolving belt that carries dishes of different varieties of sushi and sashimi to choose from. The hot dog sushi shown is intended for children although some adults enjoy it as well. These restaurants are popular in Japan because they require little staff. One waitress to seat you and 2 or three chefs to prepare the food and place on the belts. The bill is calculated by the number of color coded plates the customer accumulates. The shops became popular because they brought high quality sushi to the people who normally wouldn't get it. There are approximately 3,000 Kaiten Sushi shops in Japan today.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Dogo Onsen is the oldest hot spring in Japan. They say it is 2,000 years old but some say it is 3,000 years old. It is an interesting place to visit. The bottom photo is that of the Imperial entrance. It is to be used by the Imperial family only but visitors may enter for a tour. The inside is interesting and there is a throne for the Emperor to relax at as well as Imperial baths. It was last used by Emperor Hirohito. This building is from 1893. It is funky on the inside and it is usually crowded and busy. Inside there are narrow passages and even narrower stair cases that go floor to floor. There is a room dedicated to Soseki Natsume called Botchan's room, after his famous novel and he boarded there.
Sairin-ji Temple is 48th of the 88 sacred temples of Shikoku. There is a legend regarding a pond west of this temple, which is known as "Jo-no-fuchi' (Depths of the Staff). Long ago when people were suffering from a drought, Kobo-Daishi prayed at sunrise, and thrust his staff into the ground, this caused water to gush into the air. That spring flows constantly and has been designated as one of Japan's 100 famous bodies of water.
The traditional walk up Matsuyama castle hill. I must admit it is steeper than it looks. There are switchbacks every so often. It is a beautiful walk but it is designed to fatigue any invading army before they reach the top and I can attest to that. There is no safety side railing so if you were close to the edge and not careful, well, it is a steep decline. The walk way is well maintained by people attending to the castle grounds.
At the base of Matsuyama Castle stands the old garrison. There used to be a middle school there but that has been replaced due to the restoration work done. What stands now is a recreation of the original garrison and inside the area where it used to stand is a park representing the original compound layout. The park is used for summer concerts. The day I visited there was a wedding party being prepared.
Restoration work on Matsuyama Castle. You could not go in and walk around the Castle proper during restoration in 2005-2006. It has since be completed and the castle is beautiful. Matsuyama Castle is considered one of the best castles in Japan and it is one of the few situated on top of a hill that is still standing.