Aug 31, 2012

Aoba Jinja

 I edged up as close as I could get to the entrance and leaned over the fence to take this picture of the altar inside the main room. The object in the middle appeared to be a large mirror. These are common in shrines because one of the main gods, Amaterasu-oo-mikami, was a sun god. The statue is probably a man named Date (pronounced da-tay) who was an extremely powerful ruler in this area. He was so strong that he even establish fortified trading posts to the south of Tokyo. The first I heard of Date, out side of a history book, was when I lived in Shizuoka prefecture, near Hamamatsu. One day I was exploring and found a small shrine on the inland side of some large rice paddies. Beside the shrine entrance there was a sign explaining that around the year 1600 the rice paddies were a large saltwater pond with open access to the sea. Date had build a port and trading center here. Also a couple of kilometers away, he had build a small castle. He controlled the area with his large number of ships that sailed down from Sendai.
 Beside the main building were two flags, with the shrine name and pictures of Date. At the far end of the fenced walkway I noticed a torii, so I walked down to see why it was there.
 This is a close up of the torii in the above picture.
 I passed through and discovered a small shrine on the far side of an artificial pond.
 Inside the shrine there was another shrine. Whatever is enshrined here, a mirror, a statue, or something, is inside the smaller shrine but the doors were closed so I could not see.
The pond was muddy but some very pretty flowers were flowing down from the banks, making me glad I walked over to see this place.

Aug 30, 2012

At Aoba Jinja

 This appears to be a Buddhist pagoda but it seems to be on the grounds of the Shinto shrine. Over the years, especially just before and during WW2, Buddhism and Shinto became mixed. The priests will even substitute for each other in cases where a shrine or a temple has no one to look after it.
 These are little, about 10 cm wide, pieces of wood on which people will write their wishes. They are then left for the gods of the shrine, who hopefully will help make them come true. They are called ema, or picture horse, in Japanese. I used to know the derivation of the name but it escapes me at the moment.
 The ema are tied to horizontal boards under a roof. Here on the right, people have left the white sheets of paper that contain their fortune. You buy these from the shrine for 50 to 200 yen, and after looking at them, you tie them to a tree or often a specially construction of ropes tied between to poles. The idea is that the local gods will help a god fortune actually come about and, if you have a bad prediction, the gods will help keep it from being actualized.
 Under this roof is a fountain where you can purify yourself before approaching the shrine building. The bulletin board on the right contains instructions for doing this. You always wash your hands and sometimes you also rinse your mouth and maybe even wash your face.
 The water outlet is almost always in the form of a dragon. This is the one from the above picture.
This is the bell rope, in the middle with the colored cloth, and beyond it stairs up to the entrance to the building. In the front is a large box for coins, gifts for the gods. People seldom give more than 100 yen and even 1 yen coins are common. I guess the point is that the gods are not physical so they really have no use for money. It is the thought that counts. As  you can see onright, the stairs were blocked by a fence so I was unable to get much closer.

Aug 29, 2012

At Aoba Jinja

 Beside the stairs going from the street to the shrine, the first thing I saw was some unrepaired damage from the earthquakes.
 Compared to the Buddhist temples the vegetation along the sides of the stairs was almost wild, looking completely untended.
 At the top of the stairs was a typical lion to guard the entrance.
 Off to the right about 20 meters from the stairs was this structure. I am not sure whether it was a lamp or the representation of a house for one of the gods. Turning right I found another flight of stairs.
 When I reached the top of the stairs, I could see the shrine buildings.
There was also another protector lion between the stairs and the buildings.

Aug 28, 2012

From Toshoji to Aoba Jinja

 I was not at all sure when the grounds of Toshoji ended and those of Aoba Jinja started. but I found I could go no farther west along the hill top but had to go down a flight of stairs leading in the direction of the road.
 The sides of these stairs contained very overgrown yards around what appeared to be deserted residential buildings that were probably homes for the priests in the past.
 These steps seemed to lead to nowhere. Maybe the lead to the Buddhist idea of emptiness.
 At the bottom of the hill, there was a place to wash your  hands before entering the grounds.
 At the intersection of the stairs and the street, there was a small building containing a Buddhist statue so I assumed that I was still on the grounds of Toshoji.
This was actually confirmed when I went out onto the street and continued west for a few tens of meters. I found a stele that marked the entrance to Aoba Jinja. Aoba means green leaf or green leaves in Japanese. One of the main festivals in Sendai is called the Aoba Festival.

Aug 27, 2012


 I passed through the graveyard and found some roads on the other side. I could not tell whether the building were still part of Komyoji or the next temple in the line, Toshoji.
 I finally reached what appeared to be the main building of Toshoji, which by the way means the prospering East temple.
 This stele seemed to be part of Toshoji
 At last a gate that was obviously the official entrance to Toshoji. As I understand it the larger, main gate is for religious visitor and the smaller door on the right is for people with business at the temple, tradesmen, delivery people, etc.
 My guess was confirmed on the other side of the gate, where I found a sign with the temple name written on it.
There are a number of styles for writing kanji. It is sort of like printing and long hand in English. This is called grass writing, but I can not remember the actual term in Japanese. Much of the calligraphy that we see is written in this style. It is flowing and often very artistic, however, even Japanese sometimes can not understand it since it is no longer used in daily life. I believe that the light blue character on the right is the same as the top one in the above picture and the light blue character in the middle of the sign is the same as the middle one above. The line of writing on the left is completely opaque to me. Even though I usually can not read them I like these wooden signs with the characters carved into them.

Aug 26, 2012

At Komyoji

 After reaching the top of the stairs one of the first things I saw was this statue and the stele beside it.
 There was a fence across the entrance gate, but you could enter from the side.
 Inside the grounds I found gardeners trimming the trees. This is done at least twice a year and is very expensive.
 This is the main building of the temple. I thought it was quite nice and considered sitting there for a while but I knew that it was getting hot and I wanted to visit a number of other temples and shrines.
 This is the entrance to the graveyard associated with the temple. The site on the near right still has some earthquake damage on the far corner.
This is another part of the graveyard. It was quite big and very well kept up. Most of the damage from the earthquake has been repaired.

Aug 25, 2012

The beginning of a very long, but interesting, day

 Ian and I made plans to meet at Kita Sendai and the walk in Shinrin Koen before going to Mr Donuts for coffee, donuts, and chat. As I walked along the levee on my way to the subway, I found this interesting plant. The strange looking flowers only last for a few days before some one cut down all the plants alone the sides of the path. The plants were leaning over the path so that on rainy days you got wet.
 After Ian left for work, I started to think about walking home, but changed my mind. Kita Sendai, the train and subway stations, is on the southern side of a east / west running row of hills. In the past these hills marked the very outskirts of the city of Sendai, so they were an ideal place for temples and shrines. I decided that I would walk west and visit each of the shrines and temples along the hill tops. As I walked from the station to the first shrine, I passed this sign. The top line is the phonetic representation of the English phrase mental health.The next line says Kita Sendai Clinic. From the details on the rest of the sign, the clinic specializes in mental health but also has a number of other specialties.
 At the first place where the hills come down to the road, there is an old house. I could not see any way to get to it so many the entrance is from the other side of the hills.
 Just a little further on I came to this old building.
 After passing a few houses, I came to a sign say that this was the entrance to Komyoji, where ji means temple and komyo means glory, hope or right future.
Going up the first short flight of stairs, I found a longer flight, flanked by flowering bushes.

Aug 24, 2012

 On my walk home I saw many buildings that were under construction or re-construction. As I walked it got hotter and hotter. It was so hot that I put my camera in my pocket and did not think about taking any more pictures. Even though I had a map, I still was unable to find the subway stations and got completely lost twice. I kept going in a generally northern direction and eventually found a place that I recognized. It was almost as far to the subway as it was to home, so I just kept walking.
 As I crossed the last bridge and turned down the path along the levee, I saw these two kids in a rubber boat. Except for the fire department practicing river rescues, I had never seen a boat here before. I have on a number of occasions wished that I had a canoe or a kayak.
After leaving the kids to their fun, I went home and collapse, resting for the rest of the day.

Aug 23, 2012

As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to visit the shrine, Yamamkami Jinja, that was shown on my map but I could not find it. I wander around for a long time and finally decided to give up. But as I started up a road that would take me toward home, I found a sign.

 This sign was on the side of a fence and referred to the shrine. However, the fence paralleled what appeared to be a driveway. At the end was a flight of stairs. When I climbed the stairs I found a locked gate, but over the top I could see the shrine in the distance. It was obvious that the gate led to private property because there was another gateless fence in front of the shrine.
Finally, I realized that it was possible to go around the left side of that private property on a very narrow and overgrown path. This is a picture looking back down the path toward the road.
 I finally reached the torii and could see the small shrine building just behind it.
 On the right side there was a small model shrine that appeared to be very old. Inside the door was a small statue of a god, who probably has something to do with mountains since the name of the shrine, Yamakami, means mountain god.
Looking closer at the god inside the shrine, it appeared to be a fox, which is a common representation of a god at Japanese shrines.

 I next looked inside the main building. The building enshrined a large stone. I wished that there was someone around who could tell me the story of this rock, but there was no one there and there was no place for a priest to live.

 On the left side it was possible to see some gravestones and part of the graveyard at the temple, Zen'oji. Even further to the left there was a small stone stele.

After a very long walk, getting lost, and searching for the shrine, I was very tired so I decided that it was time to head for home. Since I now knew where I was, I looked at my map to determine the best route. I decided that I would head northwest and go to a subway station and ride part way home. However, the best laid plans of mice and men ...........