Friday, 16 April 2010

NEW!! Shrine of the Week (The Fox shrine, Sanda)

We have decided to share one of our new off time favourites, exploring the many shinto shrines (Jinja) of Japan. The country is literally littered with these charming and often ancient sacred sites set up to venerate certain spirits or energies that the Japanese call Kami. Almost everything has a Jinja set up to venerate the many kami that seem to inhabit all things in existance. Miniature wayside shrines called hokora which honour individual kami can occasionally be found at the side of streets. While large shrines can contain many kami veneration sites called sessha or massha within. This need to create shrines all over Japan was spurned from their native religious belief that nature embodies spiritual creative forces that take on many manifestations. These manifestations can be anything from a mountain to a tree to an idea.
But all this religious definition aside, these places are amazing examples of the traditional Japanese wooden architecture and a balance between built structures and natural landscape which seeks to embody balance rather than the modern bent of destroying the site to build upon it. This week we went to a great shrine in the mountains ten minutes outside of our house. This was an archers shrine that venerates the spirit of archery and a few tree spirits. The place was fantastically old and featured a strange design where you enter beneath the main hall of archery while climbing up a picturesque mountainside. All in all I would have to say this is my favourite of local Jinjas! Enjoy

This is a pretty standard entrance to a jinja, they are called Torii gates and they are meant to purify entrants and ward off evil spirits from the shrine.

Jackie and these stone beasts also do well warding off the evil.

Very unique entrance which passes under an archery hall all made of dry stonework, ie no mortar!

The Main hall in the mists of a post rainy morning.

This tree seems to be important to the shrine in that it has been marked with the sacred rope of shinto which honours kami.

So Jackie hugged it.

For all those who do not know this is how we are to properly address the kami when you approach the shrine, First bow, clap twice, then bow twice but they forget the best parts, you can always ring the bell of the shrine to wake the kami and then throw in a coin to honour and give the kami a little more convincing for your prayers.

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