Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Visit to Nagoya in Central Japan

Nagoya doesn't seem to be on most visitor's wish list in visiting Japan, outside of making train connections to various places of interest within the region. In fact, I was just doing that and making a one day/evening excursion before I head out to the foothills around the Japanese Alps.

Surprisingly, there is alot to see in Nagoya. I had a very tight schedule of places to visit in just one  day including the local shinto shrine at Atsuta, just outside of the main downtown area.  Shinto, which is the indigenous religion of Japan followed beliefs of sacred spirits forming from organic and natural representations of rain, wind, mountains, rivers and other organic matter. In adhering to these principles, the areas around the shrines are also organic and utilize wood, stone and other natural materials for building structures, walkways and their gardens.

(Beautiful walkways and bridges passing multiple streams and rivers along the
route to the main temple)

The approach to this shrine is similar to most Shinto shrines with long and contemplative gravel paths leading to the main shrine and other adjunct buildings. Old trees are revered here especially the ancient cypress trees that rare in these environments and were used in building the temples. The large tree below is wrapped in heavy cord and paper to symbolize entering a holy and spritual place. Large casks of sake sometimes made around the shrines or donated by local groups are assembled and displayed as offerings to the shrine.

At the main Asuta shrine, various activities are practised daily outside of personal visits to the shrine. Fortunately on the Sunday I was there, a wedding was in progress and there were families visiting with their children dressed in elaborate costumes of beautiful geishas and little shogun lords. 

Large ornate lanterns are found throughout the shrine area for illumination at twilight and night time. This huge lantern along the pathway leading to the main shrine is over twenty foot tall, one of the largest lanterns I've seen on my journey.

I was able to photograph this happy couple posing for a special moment next to the shrine with their elaborate and gorgeous wedding outfits. ( I happened to be standing right next to the official photographer so the timing was perfect!)

I happened upon another special celebrations occuring that Sunday, a Japanese tradition with families bringing their young girls between 5 and seven, and young boys between three and five to have their young children blessed and attend special ceremonies at the shrines. The children are dressed in colorful outfits for the blessing ceremony at the temple, and of course alot of picture taking. Japanese people are not shy about taking pictures and allowing others to take pictures of their children unlike other cultures that do not like photographs being taken of their children.
Entire families come regularly for pilgrimage to the shrine and receive blessings and good luck from religious practitioners at the shrine.
What an excellent visit, this last photo shows a sweet girl who wanted to sing me a little song which I couldn't understand but still enjoyed.
I enjoyed my visit to the shrine at Atsuta along with a buddist temple and a visit to a reconstructed castle in the center of the city, alot to see in one day. I wish I had more time to see some of the other attractions that were on my list, but the timeframe was limited to places I had already planned out for my intinerary.  For a very limited timeframe, Nagoya is a perfect place to visit and see some amazing sites only to be found in this region.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Konichiwaaaaah, Japan Here I come

Konichiwa.....A Plant Fantatic is going to be on a short hiatus for an autumn vacation to Japan.
Its going to be a fun explorating the ancient capitals seeing all the amazing sites in Japan. I'm really looking forward to the autumn colors and festivals that maybe occuring along my journey, not to mention all the beautiful gardens that will be in their primary fall colors. (Although I keep reading that peak fall throughout Japan happens in the mid-November timeframe - so we shall see)

Stay tuned for some amazing updates from Japan. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with an authentic tea ceremony  performed at our local tea house in the Queen Liliuokalani gardens at Hilo.


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