A Humble Offering

The simplest of gifts are sometimes the most meaningful and sincere. I spotted this carefully arranged offering of chestnuts placed before a statue at the gate of a very old Buddhist temple in the mountains of central Japan. The offering is before a statue of one of the temple guardians. These figures are called Nio which means Benevolent Kings and their images are thought to represent the cycles of life and death. Their fierce appearance is thought to intimidate and ward away evil forces. The gate where the statues are posted is called the Nio-gate.

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Baseball Cap Jizo – Japan Buddhist Bodhisattva

I encountered this interesting collection of Jizo statues while bicycling towards downtown Shizuoka along Japan’s famous Old Tokaido highway (as in the 53 stages of the Tokaido woodblock print series). I was delighted to discover two of these statues wearing children’s baseball-style caps which I had never before seen on such statues (though many Jizo statues are given red-colored woven cloth caps to wear). These particular statues are situated near a very old section of Shizuoka and did likely once stand at a crossroads or perhaps at the entrance of a Buddhist temple (there is no longer any temple nearby). Jizo statues are a very common sight in Japan and a constant reminder to pedestrians and cyclists that they are indeed in a very old country, with a long and interesting history. These statues appear to be cared for by a farming family leaving immediately behind the statues. Please read below to learn more about Jizo.

More About Jizo Bodhisattva
If you take a stroll along nearly any road in Japan you are likely to periodically spot small stone statues set along the roadside, especially at highway intersections and at the boundaries of small towns and villages. These statues frequently represent the Buddhist divinity Jizo who is the patron god of travelers and pilgrims as well as expectant mothers, children, and even firemen. Jizo is a Bodhisattva or one who has achieved enlightenment yet has remained behind to help others along the spiritual path. There are several types of Jizo with perhaps the most common in Japan being the Mizuko Jizo (mizuko means “water baby”). Mizuko Jizo is often portrayed in the company of children and babies and is thought to act on their behalf. Mizuko Jizo is also believed to intervene when children are in danger and in the afterlife will even hide little ones within the sleeves of his robe when roving demons are on the prowl. Jizo has long been a very popular figure in Japanese Buddhism where he is described as “a friend to all” and “never frightening, even to children”. Though of Indian origin and originally female, Jizo did first appear in Japan during the Nara period (710-94) where her popularity quickly grew and she was soon regarded as the deity of the common people. For various reasons Jizo did eventually transform into a male figure in Japan. However, the divinity’s feminine roots are still evident in the translation of his name which can mean either “womb of the earth” or “earth treasure”. In fact, Jizo is still sometimes found in Japan in female form especially as the Koyasu (child-giving) Jizo. Roadside images of Jizo are often found alone or in groupings of six. The number six being representative of the six realms of reincarnation which encompass all beings trapped within the wheel of life. We can imagine then that to travelers of old Japan the sight of a roadside Jizo must have been a comforting reminder of the deity’s promise to look after and protect any and all on the road to enlightenment.

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Moon Stone

I discovered this wonderful stone positioned near the residence door of a Buddhist temple near Shimizu, Japan. The hole is larger in back for receipt of a candle or other illuminating device.

Shinto is one of the two major religions of Japan (the other is Buddhism).  Shinto is often considered to be the native religion of Japan, and is as old as Japan itself.  The name Shinto means “the way of the gods.”  Shinto is a pantheistic religion, in which many thousands of major and minor gods are thought to exist.  The Japanese have built thousands of shrines (jinja) throughout the country to honor and worship these gods.  Some shrines are huge and are devoted to important deities.  Other shrines are small and may be easily missed when strolling along roads in the countryside.

Shinto gods are called kamiKami are thought to have influence on human affairs, and for this reason many Japanese make regular pilgrimage to community shrines in order to offer prayers to local kami.  The act of prayer involves approaching the shrine structure, passing through the gate-like torii, cleansing the hands and mouth with water and possibly ascending stairs to the main entrance of the shrine.  Usually without entering the shrine the worshipper will throw some coins into a stone or wooden collection box and then rattle the suzu bell which is at the top of a long hemp rope.  The worshiper grabs hold of the rope and shakes it back and forth causing the copper bell at the top to rattle.  This is thought to get the attention of the shrine god.  The worshipper then bows twice, claps his or her hands twice and then bows again.  In addition, the worshipper may clasp their hands together in silent prayer.  Shintoism and Buddhism have managed to find a comfortable coexistence in Japan.  Evidence of this harmonious relationship is found in the fact that that most Japanese are married in a Shinto shrine, but buried by a Buddhist priest.

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A Moment’s Clarity

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Lonely Evening Japan Shrine – Part 3

Shinto is one of the two major religions of Japan (the other is Buddhism).  Shinto is often considered to be the native religion of Japan, and is as old as Japan itself.  The name Shinto means “the way of the gods.”  Shinto is a pantheistic religion, in which many thousands of major and minor gods are thought to exist.  The Japanese have built thousands of shrines (jinja) throughout the country to honor and worship these gods.  Some shrines are huge and are devoted to important deities.  Other shrines are small and may be easily missed when strolling along roads in the countryside.

Shinto gods are called kamiKami are thought to have influence on human affairs, and for this reason many Japanese make regular pilgrimage to community shrines in order to offer prayers to local kami.  The act of prayer involves approaching the shrine structure, passing through the gate-like torii, cleansing the hands and mouth with water and possibly ascending stairs to the main entrance of the shrine.  Usually without entering the shrine the worshipper will throw some coins into a stone or wooden collection box and then rattle the suzu bell which is at the top of a long hemp rope.  The worshiper grabs hold of the rope and shakes it back and forth causing the copper bell at the top to rattle.  This is thought to get the attention of the shrine god.  The worshipper then bows twice, claps his or her hands twice and then bows again.  In addition, the worshipper may clasp their hands together in silent prayer.  Shintoism and Buddhism have managed to find a comfortable coexistence in Japan.  Evidence of this harmonious relationship is found in the fact that that most Japanese are married in a Shinto shrine, but buried by a Buddhist priest.

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Welcome to the the Japan Shrine and Temples blog. Exploring Japan’s spiritual infrastructure.

Find us on YouTube at the following URL:
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What’s God’s Name?

Shinto is one of the two major religions of Japan (the other is Buddhism).  Shinto is often considered to be the native religion of Japan, and is as old as Japan itself.  The name Shinto means “the way of the gods.”  Shinto is a pantheistic religion, in which many thousands of major and minor gods are thought to exist.  The Japanese have built thousands of shrines (jinja) throughout the country to honor and worship these gods.  Some shrines are huge and are devoted to important deities.  Other shrines are small and may be easily missed when strolling along roads in the countryside.

Shinto gods are called kamiKami are thought to have influence on human affairs, and for this reason many Japanese make regular pilgrimage to community shrines in order to offer prayers to local kami.  The act of prayer involves approaching the shrine structure, passing through the gate-like torii, cleansing the hands and mouth with water and possibly ascending stairs to the main entrance of the shrine.  Usually without entering the shrine the worshipper will throw some coins into a stone or wooden collection box and then rattle the suzu bell which is at the top of a long hemp rope.  The worshiper grabs hold of the rope and shakes it back and forth causing the copper bell at the top to rattle.  This is thought to get the attention of the shrine god.  The worshipper then bows twice, claps his or her hands twice and then bows again.  In addition, the worshipper may clasp their hands together in silent prayer.  Shintoism and Buddhism have managed to find a comfortable coexistence in Japan.  Evidence of this harmonious relationship is found in the fact that that most Japanese are married in a Shinto shrine, but buried by a Buddhist priest.

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Welcome to the the Japan Shrine and Temples blog. Exploring Japan’s spiritual infrastructure.

Find us on YouTube at the following URL:
http://www.youtube.com/user/ShrinesandTemples

Please visit our blog at the following URL:
https://shrinesandtemples.wordpress.com

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Interested in talking with others about Japan?
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Lonely Evening Japan Shrine – Part 2

Shinto is one of the two major religions of Japan (the other is Buddhism).  Shinto is often considered to be the native religion of Japan, and is as old as Japan itself.  The name Shinto means “the way of the gods.”  Shinto is a pantheistic religion, in which many thousands of major and minor gods are thought to exist.  The Japanese have built thousands of shrines (jinja) throughout the country to honor and worship these gods.  Some shrines are huge and are devoted to important deities.  Other shrines are small and may be easily missed when strolling along roads in the countryside.

Shinto gods are called kamiKami are thought to have influence on human affairs, and for this reason many Japanese make regular pilgrimage to community shrines in order to offer prayers to local kami.  The act of prayer involves approaching the shrine structure, passing through the gate-like torii, cleansing the hands and mouth with water and possibly ascending stairs to the main entrance of the shrine.  Usually without entering the shrine the worshipper will throw some coins into a stone or wooden collection box and then rattle the suzu bell which is at the top of a long hemp rope.  The worshiper grabs hold of the rope and shakes it back and forth causing the copper bell at the top to rattle.  This is thought to get the attention of the shrine god.  The worshipper then bows twice, claps his or her hands twice and then bows again.  In addition, the worshipper may clasp their hands together in silent prayer.  Shintoism and Buddhism have managed to find a comfortable coexistence in Japan.  Evidence of this harmonious relationship is found in the fact that that most Japanese are married in a Shinto shrine, but buried by a Buddhist priest.

—-

Welcome to the the Japan Shrine and Temples blog. Exploring Japan’s spiritual infrastructure.

Find us on YouTube at the following URL:
http://www.youtube.com/user/ShrinesandTemples

Please visit our blog at the following URL:
https://shrinesandtemples.wordpress.com

Follow us on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/#!/ShrinesTemples

Interested in talking with others about Japan?
Please visit our forum at: http://softypapa.net