Thursday, August 10, 2006

Inuyama and Atsuta with Shinya

After Bradley returned to Nagoya for work, Shinya and I continued on through Inuyama and afterward went to Atsuta Shrine (blogged about in an earlier entry).

A back view of Inuyama Castle from the Kiso river (famous for its cormorant fishing).

Next we stumbled upon a practice sumo ring set up in a barn-like structure in the woods. The ring is made of the sameknotted rope that you see wrapped around sacred trees and other artififacts at Shrinto shrines and designates a sacred space or place in which a kami (god-spirit) is thought to dwell.

Salt to sprinkle on the ring before a match.

At a small Tendai temple near the sumo ring, we saw real pomegranites ripening on a tree.

And at another little Rinzai temple, ume (plums) set out to dry in the sun before pickling.

Back along the river, a traditional boat moving towards the shoreline that marks the boundary between Gifu and Nagoya.

When we arrived at Atsuta a very excited woman in her mid-forties pointed out this enromous white snakeskin on Atsuta's most sacred tree. The snake, she said, had been discovered the day before and by all estimates was some 3 meters long. Because Atsuta is famous as the keeping grounds for the Excalibur-like "snake sword" (a gift of the Sun Godddess to her grandson in order to kill a giant snake) the appearence of the creature seems to be particularly auspicious.

The keepers of the shrine even left fresh chicken eggs out as an offering to the snake...

On the way out we watched people feeding the turtles and koi bits of rice and bread.

Tagata "Thingy" Shrine

Our friend Shinya stayed with us on his way back from the the 2006 World Conference Against Nuclear Weapons in Hiroshima. He wanted to visit a couple of famous Shinto shrines in Nagoya, so we went with him to Tagata Shrine on Wed. morning. We didn't know till we got there that Tagata is a fertility shrine featuring some startling representations of the male member--so if you're viewing with the younger members of your household you may want to send them to bed before scrolling down or you'll have some 'splainin to do. Here's Caitlin and Shinya in front of the main shrine building. The stacked up barrels are rice barrels symbolizing abundance.

Here's the main float from this years festival parade. Every March there is a huge (thousands of people) festival at this shrine and a six foot long, 600 pound thingy is carried by rotating shifts of 60 or so men through the city. They make a fresh one every year from a single hinoki tree. Click here for an interesting, scholarly write up on the history and symbolism of the festival.

Here's Shinya getting some good luck for the coming year.

Me and Caitlin in front of the main altar.

From the article at the link above: "In the past, the shrine often lended these phalluses to those in need, for example a couple wishing to conceive, an individual searching for a suitable spouse, or to cure childhood illnesses. The objects were returned with interest, for after the desired result was obtained the borrowed phallus was returned to the shrine, along with a new object donated in gratitude."

Where we were standing in the shot above.
Another natural stone phallus.

And, of course, just across the street we have "Bronco Billy's Family Steak Restaurant"--only in Japan.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Summer Festival at Osu

Last weekend we went to the summer festival (matsuri) in the Osu Kannon area of Nagoya and had an interesting time. It was rainy earlier in the day. Here's a cute family dressed up in their summer kimonos (yukata) and visiting a temple. Lots of people wear yukatas to summer festivals.
Here's a crew setting up the fireworks that were to be set off later that night. We had to go home before they went off, though, and missed them.
Here's a picture Caitlin took while nearly being ploughed over by a parade float. How do you say "Get out of the way!!" again?
A squad of Taiko drummers doing their thing.
A stuffed bear in front of one of the shops.
A man dressed up as a blue fairy being interviewed by the media--yes, that's right. The world Cosplayers convention was in town and there was a parade. Cosplay is a Japanese word that is short of "costume play"--it is people who dress up like their favorite comic book or animation characters. I was actually sitting in the first and only Mexican resturaunt we've ever seen in Japan, enjoying a very tasty burrito when the cosplayers parade went by. The crowd trapped us in the resturaunt but we were able to snap the following bizarre shots...

The international language of: "Duuude!"

That's all folks!

King of Beetles

We were taking an evening walk because it's cooler at night now and we came across this kabutomushi --a giant Japanese beetle... School kids keep them as pets sometimes. You can even buy the larvae and raise them!
A black & white close-up.
In this one you can see his red eye.
Here's a shot with him next to the bill of my baseball hat for scale. You can also see that he's missing part of his left hind leg.
One with Caitlin's hand for scale.