Our last day in Japan (but, due to my rearranging things a bit, not my last blog post), took us to Hiroshima, where the tourism, not surprisingly, centred around the city being the first one in history to get nuked.( Read more... )
Today's blog post takes us to what was for aviva_m undoubtedly the highlight of our time in Japan: the small island of Okunoshima in the Inland Sea, home to over eight hundred rabbits, all wild but sufficiently accustomed to visiting rabbit fans that they might as well be tame.( Prepare for an overdose of cute )
Today's blog post takes us, on a daytrip from Kyoto, to Nara, capital of Japan in the eighth century, and today famous for (amongst other things) the deer roaming Nara Park. Wikipedia tells me that "according to the legendary history of Kasuga Shrine, the god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijō-kyō; since then the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the country."( Read more... )
Today we're going to go on a trip to Nikkō,* a town in the mountains quite some distance north of Tokyo. Nikkō is famous for its imperial shrine and temple complex, which is extremely sumptuous, and was for me the highlight (along with the fireflies I saw in Kyoto) of my holiday in Japan; many of these photos are worth clicking through to the high resolution versions.( Read more... ) lethargic_man's Japan blog posts
Before we head off to Tokyo, one last photo from Atami, which I forgot to put into the first trip report. In the UK, all hotel rooms come with tea, coffee and the wherewithal to prepare them; in Germany, much to the horror of a stereotype-fulfilling Brit such as myself, they do not. In Japan, I was pleased to see, the situation is more like that in the UK, only, of course, the tea on offer is green, not black.
( View piccy )
Which segues, tangentially, into something I noticed during my time in Japan. When I went to South Africa, I was, in much of the country, in a small minority having white skin. I felt a sense of insecurity as a result, which might be summed up as 'my good treatment in this country is entirely dependent upon the favourable attitude of the ethnic majority' (leaving alone the fact I'm not sure there is an ethnic majority in South Africa). I expected to feel something similar in Japan, where the native word for non-Japanese, gaijin, carries, as I understand it, the same pejorative overtones as goy or gadje. To my surprise, I didn't feel any such insecurity (and indeed never heard the word gaijin during my time there, or at least not knowingly). I'm at a slight loss to explain this. Maybe it's because in the city where I grew up there were plenty of people of oriental and Hindustani ethnic origin, but few blacks, leaving me conditioned not to feel the former as exotic.
Although Japan, as I said beforehand, adopted western culture wholesale in the wake of the Meiji revolution, there were a number of people in traditional costume visible on the streets. Some of them were tourists, others, as our tour guides pointed out, were simply not knowledgeable enough to be wearing appropriate combinations of clothing, but some were. In particular, anyone serving in a temple or shrine in a religious role would invariably be wearing traditional clothing, along with servers in teahouses traditional enough to have a tea ceremony, and in our ryokan (on which more when I get to it).
And so, on to Tokyo. Tokyo is, as I discovered to my surprise, the largest city in the world, numbering forty million people. (I expected this to be somewhere in the Third World.) Maybe due to this, it didn't really seem to have one centre, but many.
Here's a few view from halfway up the Tokyo Skytree, which is the tallest building in the world, saving only the Burj Dubai:( Read more... )
Some general impressions of Japan this time, before we move on to Tokyo. They drive on the left there; if you're not used to it, be careful to look both ways before crossing the road:( Read more... )
Also for a country with lots of high technology, we saw a surprising number of people doing fairly menial jobs one would have expected to have been at least partially automated, for example acting as a tram conductor, or sweeping the street using not just a broom but indeed the old-fashioned kind consisting of a bundle of twigs, rather than street-sweeping vehicles.
We saw a lot of people doing their jobs in a public context, for example traffic police, wore white gloves. I suspect this owes something to nineteenth-century England, though how, I'm not quite sure.
There are lots of people in Japan wearing surgical masks; apparently something like one in four of the population suffer from hayfever.
There are a lot of USAn fast food chains to be found in Japan; I saw there chains, like Denny's or Wendy's, which I hadn't seen since my last time in the States in 1990.
And lastly, for today, the ecological niche which is filled in the UK by seagulls (black-backed gulls and herring gulls) is filled in central Japan (I didn't see this when we went further west), instead by black kites. It was quite something to see these great big birds of prey swooping low over beaches. Sadly, I didn't have a camera with me when I got to see them really close up; and when I did later have a camera, I didn't get to see any close enough up to get a decent photo of.
This is Atami castle. (Again, all images are clickable through for mostly higher-resolution versions.)( View piccies )
It's twentieth-century, but built to resemble an Edo-period castle. (Japan has few old buildings, due to a combination of having built in flammable materials, non-earthquake-proof construction, and heavy bombing during the War (with the notable exception of Kyoto, the "city of ten thousand shrines", which was spared).)
The castle contains a number of small museums.( Read more... )
Many of the tourist sites we saw in Japan were Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples. Japan has the, to western sensibilities, odd situation in which most people adhere to two religions. People go to Shinto shrines for happy events, such as births and weddings, but Buddhist temples for sad ones such as funerals. This state of affairs seems to have come about because Shinto worship consists entirely of venerating local deities; there's no code of ethics around which to structure one's life, and Theraveda Buddhism appears to have moved in to fill that gap.
This state of affairs with regard to Shintoism also means the religion has no holy books, which made aviva_m question where the rituals that we saw came from, then. Presumably they were all transmitted through oral tradition.
Actually, most people in Japan today are fairly secular (this may be because some of the great Buddhist temple complexes supported revolts against the shogunal government a few centuries ago, and the shogun responded by breaking their power in the land). Quite a few, seeing western-style church weddings in films, decide they want one themselves, so join a church a few weeks before their wedding in order to be able to achieve this—leading to the crazy situation of their having three religions at once.
Shinto shrines are to be distinguished from Buddhist temples in two ways. One is that before making an invocation to the enshrined deity, one claps one's hands twice, presumably to get the deity's attention, then bows; the other is that the approach to every Shinto shrine is marked by the presence of at least one Torii gate, usually, though not always, of red-painted wood, marking this as holy ground.
At the start of our holiday, Andrea and I spent a few days recovering from the jet lag in the beach resort of Atami, less than fifty miles from Tokyo. There we encountered our first shrine, called Kinomiya Jinja.( Read more... )
You'll be getting to see plenty more shrines and temples here in due course.