Photo Friday Challenge: Rare
Japan is full of things that are fascinating and rare to the Western world, so for the Photo Friday Challenge “Rare” I could have picked many things. For this challenge, I picked hydrangeas or ajisai アジサイ. While hydrangeas themselves are not rare, the season in which hydrangeas bloom is relatively short. And while hydrangeas are blooming, people make trips to view hydrangeas. This is similar to the tradition of flower viewing or hanami 花見 for cherry blossoms or sakura 桜. The tradition of viewing flowers that are in season is very Japanese.
Hydrangeas bloom during the rainy season, or tsuyu 梅雨, which is literally translated to plum rain because plums come into season during tsuyu. The rains are strong and last for as long as two months. This year I was in Tokyo just prior to the start of the rainy season, which started the day I left. In the week leading up to tsuyu it was hot and humid because it wasn’t raining, but it gave a cloudy grey backdrop to make the beautiful blue and purple hues of the hydrangeas pop.
What kind of seasonal traditions does your hometown or country have? Let me know in the comments!
Photo Friday Challenge: Details
This week’s Photo Friday Challenge is about the Details. Taking a moment to observe the details is important in daily life, rather than always focusing on the big picture. Last month when I was in Kamakura 鎌倉 in Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan, I took some time to look at the details. I found some very interesting details in the many small, stone Buddhist statues found on the Buddhist temple grounds of Hasedera 長谷寺. These are the sentai-jizo 千躰地蔵, the one thousand bodies of Jizo. These surround a main Jizo figure, and are used to gain the attention of the Jizo, who often looks after the health of children (among other things). Paying attention to the small statues made an interesting photo!
Bonus Photo! The sentai-jizo 千躰地蔵 at Hasedera in Kamakura.
What details are you most observant of? Let me know in the comments!
Photo Friday Challenge: Pure
For the theme of Pure, I immediately thought of the Japanese temizuya 手水舎, or water purification fountain that is found at the entrance to Japanese Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. This particular fountain is found at Hasedera 長谷寺, a Buddhist temple in Kamakura 鎌倉, in Kanagawa Prefecture 神奈川県. I was there two weeks ago, during a visit to my husband’s family, and viewed the ajisai アジサイ or hydrangea blooms.
The water at the purification fountain temizuya is clear and pure, and the ladles almost invite you to drink it, but this is not a place to drink water. Rather, you perform a purification ritual called misogi 禊 prior to entering the temple. The idea is to purify your body and mind with water before you stand before the deity. The ritual involves rinsing your hands and mouth.
First, you scoop the water with the ladle in your right hand and pour the water over your left hand. Then, you hold the ladle in your left hand and pour the water over your right hand. Finally, you pour some of the remaining water in the ladle into your left hand and rinse your mouth. This should all be done with one ladle of water, and the ladle should never directly touch your mouth. Many people skip the mouth rinsing step, and I imagine this is because you don’t usually want to spit in front of other people and you aren’t supposed to consume the water.
The idea is to rinse away the impurities in your heart and in your physical being. You then are able to approach the deity within the shrine or temple. You are not required to observe this ritual, but I usually do. This image of the temizuya evokes for me the image of pure. What is your image of pure? Let me know in the comments!
K is for Kamakura for the A to Z Challenge. Kamakura 鎌倉市 is a coastal town in Kanagawa Prefecture 神奈川県, Japan, less than an hour from Tokyo and Enoshima.
Kamakura has a number of temples and shrines, and is famous for the Great Buddha or Kamakura Daibutsu (鎌倉大仏). This large, bronze Amida Buddha is located at the Koutoku-in Temple 高徳院. The Daibutsu is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan at 13.35 m. (Remember my last Amida Buddha post?)
Great Buddha at Kotoku-in at Kamakura – photo by kei
Another famous temple is Hasedera 長谷寺, a temple famous for its large statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. You can’t take photos of the giant wooden statue within Kannon-do Hall, but at over 9 m and gilded in gold it is spectacular. There is also a small cave called Benten-kutsu 弁天窟 which has several smaller deities enshrined within.
Hasedera (temple) at Kamakura – photo by kei
The view from Hasedera overlooking Kamakura and the nearby beach at Enoshima is beautiful. The walk between Kotoku-in and Hasedera is partially forested, making a beautiful (~10 minute) passage between the two temples.
View of Enoshima from Kamakura – photo by kei
Have you had the opportunity to visit Kamakura? Or another Buddha statue? Let me know in the comments!