Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hachiman Shinto Shrine - Kamakura

Kamakura's most important shrine, it was founded in 1063. It was relocated in 1180 by Japan's first Shogun under the Kamakura government, Minamoto Yoritomo. These pictures were taken in January of 1995.

Japan Guide to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hasedera Temple - Kamakura

These pictures was taken in January, 1995. The Temple is quite striking as it is situated on a hill. As part of the compound, there is a cave, that according to legend, was dug out by Kobo Daishi himself (in seclusion). The Temple thrived in the 13th century and has ties to a sister temple in Nara.

Temple Guide in English

A link to the sacred Kannon

Sanmon (Temple Gate)


Yakuyoke (Protector from Evil Spirits) Amida Buddha, located in Amida-do Hall

Temple cave, as told in legend, to have been dug out by Kobo Daishi himself

Temple grounds - the entrance to the cave is on the right, beneath the small stone pagoda

Scenic lookout view of Sagami Bay

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Imperial Palace - Tokyo

The Japanese Imperial Palace is only open to visitors 2 days a year, January 2nd and December 23 (the Emperor's birthday). These pictures were taken in January of 1995.

Tokyo Station (located in the Marunouchi business district), a ten minute walk to the Imperial Palace, located in the heart of Tokyo. It is said to be modeled after Amsterdam Central Station. It is currently being renovated with completion expected by 2012. It was built in the Meiji Period.

Castle moat, walls and guard tower.
Japan Guide to Imperial Palace (compare their picture with the one above)

As was explained to me by a Japanese gentleman who was my guide, this is the spot where hundreds of Japanese committed jisatsu after the Emperor renounced his divinity at the conclusion of World War II. He pointed to the ground we were standing on and said it was covered in blood.

Nijubashi Bridge

The Imperial East Gardens

The foundation of the former castle tower. It was completed in 1638 and was destroyed in 1657 in a fire that swept through Edo. It was never rebuilt. It should noted that this was a palace of the Tokugawa shogun who resided in Edo at that time. The true home of the Imperial Family resides in Kyoto.

Although it does not show in the photograph, there were (most probably still are) cranes on top of the office buildings. The Marunouchi District is the most prestigious area of Tokyo for businesses to be located at.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kotoku-in (The Great Buddha)

These pictures are taken from a visit to Kamakura in 1995. The Great Buddha was originally built of wood, then destroyed, it was constructed again in bronze sometime in the 13th century, although the date is not exact. It was originally housed in a building but the building was destroyed by storms, war and floods (it was rebuilt after the first collapse).

The electric rail line that takes you to the Great Buddha. Notice the truck grill on the front? The ride is only about a half an hour in length. The ride itself is charming. You pass peoples backyards along the way. There are small crossing gates for pedestrian safety.

The approach is deceiving, the Buddha is much larger as you get closer.

Incense offerings.

Only when you stand directly beneath the Buddha do you see that the eyes are not closed but looking directly at you.

Behind the Great Buddha.

Inside the Great Buddha.

A Guide to Kotoku-in

Kamakura City's Official Website

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Metropolitan Museum Japanese Exhibition

At the entrance of the exhibit.

Perfectly flat sculpture with water flowing evenly over the surface from the center.

Morning Glories, Edo period (1615–1868), 19th century
Suzuki Kiitsu (Japanese, 1796–1858)
Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on gilded paper
Suzuki Kiitsu from the Met

Metropolitan Museam of Art - Japanese Exhibition

From the department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Shinto and Buddhist Art

Shinto, which translates literally as the "Way of the Gods," is a religious system rooted in the Japanese culture's traditional sense of intimacy with nature and in its reverence for the divine ancestry of the land and its rulers. Shinto deities, called kami, are envisaged as spirits embodied by forms ranging from rocks, mountains, and waterfalls to mirrors, icons, and other objects. Certain mythical and historical figures were also regarded as kami and were represented as ancient court nobility.

Shinto emerged in response to Buddhism, which had been practiced in India for nearly one thousand years before it first came to Japan in the mid-sixth century. Buddhism is based on the teaching that life is sorrowful, because all beings are bound to an endless cycle of reincarnations. To attain release, earthly passions must be overcome through meditation and rigorous moral conduct. Buddhism spread throughout Asia in two major traditions; Theravada, stressing the achievement of spiritual enlightenment through meditation, took hold mainly in South and Southeast Asia, while a later tradition called Mahayana prevailed in Central and East Asia. Mahayana emphasized faith in Buddha and a reliance on the compassionate intercession of bodhisattvas, enlightened beings who postponed their own entrances into nirvana in order to help others achieve Buddhahood.

In 552 A.D. an envoy from Korea introduced to the Japanese court this "doctrine amongst all doctrines most excellent, but hard to explain and comprehend." Although initially opposed by the hereditary clans in charge of the shamanistic rituals of the state, Buddhism is said to have finally taken root in Japan through the efforts of Prince Shotoku (573-621).

In the ninth century, Kukai (774-835) introduced Chinese Esoteric Buddhism, with its systematic icons and elaborate doctrines centered on the Supreme Buddha Dainich (Sanskrit: Mahavairochana). During the Heian period (794-1185), Esoteric Buddhism obtained the strong patronage of both the imperial court and influential aristocrats. During the late Heian period, the doctrine of compassion accelerated the development of Pure Land Buddhism.

By the eleventh century, an assimilation of native and foreign religions had taken place, and Shinto gods were regarded as manifestations of Buddhist deities. This integration characterized Japan's later religious history and profoundly affected its art. It was not until the restoration of the imperial rule under Emperor Meiji (1852-1912) in the mid-nineteenth century that Shinto was formally separated from Buddhism.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Matsuyama Castle

The castle grounds are a popular spot in spring for Sakura festivals. It is also a popular spot for special events such as weddings and other celebrations.