Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sacred Destinations in Japan

My second post of the day about relatives and religion. 😀 

This past summer I wrote about some of the Japanese shrines and temples that my wife Beth and I visited with our daughter as she spends a year there. She always loved anime and manga but the story Hakuouki, a video game and anime series based on the Shinsengumi, inspired her to study the language and culture more deeply. We're so proud of her!  

We visited her again during Christmas week. She bought us bullet train tickets down to Kyoto (450 km from Tokyo), where we visited the Higashi Honganji, one of the two head temples of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Pure Land Buddhism, the most popular form of Buddhism in Japan. This sect is similar to Nichiren Buddhism in that the essential teachings of Buddhism are distilled into a repeated affirmation, in this case, “namu amida butsu,” “Praise to Amida Buddha." I look forward to sharing some of these adventures with students the next time I teach world religions. 

Our daughter also took us to the Fushimi Inari Taisha, a Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto dedicated to Inari, the god of rice. The fox statues represent Inari's messengers. Thousands of vermilion torii gates  line the trails that eventually lead to the top of the mountain. 

I wish the U.S. had something like the Shinkansen, the high-speed railway lines. I'd never fly domestically again, LOL. We even got a clear view of Mt. Fuji on the train back to Tokyo. As this the following site indicates, Fuji-san) is the highest mountain in Japan, is the holiest of Japan's "Three Holy Mountains," and is named for the the Buddhist fire goddess Fuchi. The mountain is also sacred to the Shinto goddess Sengen-Sama, whose shrine is located at the summit.

We spent Christmas Day at Tokyo Disneyland! It was the first Disney park built outside the U.S. Christmas is interesting in Japan, with many decorations, decorated trees, Christmas hymns and carols in public, Christmas cakes and family meals with fried chicken. But it has no religious aspects in Japan, where 1% or less of the population are Christian, and in many ways the holiday centers around Christmas Eve, a very romantic holiday for couples. Emily says that Christmas cakes are really popular for the holiday--small sponge cakes that are delicious. She got me this one in advance of my birthday!

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