Friday, November 4, 2016

Fushimi-Inari(6): Omokaru Stone: A source of good fortune

Why not try your hand at some fortune-telling in Okusha Hohaisho? 

You will see a pair of stone lanterns on the right side at the back; these have stones placed upon them, known as the Omokaru Stones, meaning “heavy or light stones.”

 If you find a stone lighter than you had expected upon lifting it, this is a sign of good luck and it is believed that your wishes will come true. 

If, on the other hand, the stone feels unexpectedly heavy, console yourself with the thought that at least you tried your best!

Here is a special tip. As you stand in front of a stone, try to imagine the heaviest stone you possibly can in your mind before attempting to guess the weight. 

And if you visit this place with friends, let them try first: many people will underestimate the weight of this stone, so while waiting your turn, you can watch your friends trying and failing to guess the weight. 

If you still think it feels heavier, why not visit and try again sometime next year? 

You may find that it feels lighter the second time, meaning that you’ll have more luck!

Fushimi-Inari(5): “A Thousand Torii Gates” stretching all the way to Okusha Hohaisho

The whole of the 232-meter elevation of Mt. Inari serves as the sanctuary of Fushimi Inari. 

After reaching the main hall, move on to the foot trails that begin from the back of the right side of the sanctuary. 

This is the starting point of the “Thousand Torii Gates.” 

From here to the location of Okusha Hohaisho, meaning “the house of worship at the back,” there are many torii gates lined a foot or two apart.  

This trail is the so-called Senbon Torii path, meaning “a thousand torii gates.” 

You may notice people counting the number of torii gates along this path. In fact, the torii gates of Fushimi Inari continue up the mountain path which leads to the summit of Mt. Inari, beyond Okusha Hohaisho, and many people try to count the number of torii gates from the start to the summit. 

As the slope becomes steeper, you may start to find it hard to catch your breath, and some hikers may give up their attempt to climb the trail. 

Beyond the gates, many more torii gates still wait—over 10 times the number that people have already counted up to this point. If your time or physical fitness are limited, it might be a good idea to turn back after reaching Okusha Hohaisho. After turning back here, you will reach the entrance in about 40 minutes.

Fushimi-Inari(4): How torii gates are infused with the wishes of their dedicators

Another question many ask about Fushimi Inari is: why are there so many torii gates? 

A torii gate is intended to divide the human world and world of the gods into two; in other words, it is the gateway to the world where the gods live. 

In this way, torii gates stand as a symbol of Shinto shrines.

 The number of torii gates in Fushimi Inari has increased since the seventeenth century, as the people that have come here to pray to the god of the land have popularized the custom of having torii gates in front of shrines. 

By fusing the concept of “passing under the torii gates” with that of “reaching our goals,” worshippers express gratitude to God.

 In fact, new torii gates are still being built every day.

 Each torii gate is inscribed with the dedicator’s names and the time when it was created. Why not take a closer look at a torii gate in its brilliant vermillion, and see when it was made?

Fushimi-Inari(3): Why are the torii gates painted in vermillion red?

Why are the torii gates painted in their brilliant shade of vermillion? 

This particular shade of vermillion used for the tori gates—neither a bright red like a ripe tomato, nor the orange color of a ripe orange—gives off a most interesting impression.

 In fact, since ancient times in Japan, it has been believed that the vermillion color can counteract evil magic. 

For this reason, we often see buildings that have been painted with vermillion in ancient palaces, shrines and temples. 

This magical color of the torii gates is believed to represent the power of God in the shrine. 

Another more practical reason for the vermillion shade used for torii gates is to maintain them for longer. 

Vermillion is made from mercury, and mercury has been used as a wood preservative from olden days. 

So, this mysterious color is used not only to fight against evil, but also used to preserve the torii gates themselves.

 For ancient people, this vermillion-dyed wood which does not rot must have seemed like an embodiment of forces that stand against dark magic.

Fushimi-Inari(2): The countless torii gates of the shrine

For most people, the name “Fushimi Inari” conjures up an image of countless torii gates. 

Fushimi Inari is lined with about 10,000 of these gates painted in brilliant vermillion red, stretching out before the visitor to the top of the mountain. 

Passing through the hundreds and hundreds of torii gates, one feels as though the gates will continue on without end. 

Don’t be tempted to try to count how many there are—there are far too many gates to enumerate.

 You will see spider webs, caterpillars and mushrooms around you as you pass through the gates. Relax in the serenity of the forest as you walk down the deep forest paths.  

Fushimi-Inari(1): Torii gates that lead you into the world of the divine

The ancient capital of Kyoto with its history of over 1,200 years features countless special attractions, but if a visitor to Kyoto is asked what the most impressive sites in this city are, he or she will surely name Fushimi Inari-Taisha as one of them. 

The history of this place stretches back even longer than 1,300 years, having attracted people even before the imperial capital of Heian-kyo was established. 

Indeed, one could even say that the presence and renown of Fushimi-Inari transcend the history of the ancient capital of Kyoto. 

Through the trees of the lush forest surrounding this spot, you can glimpse the brilliant red torii gates lining the path to the huge shrine, looking somehow as though they have been there forever. 

The 4km trail continues until you reach the top of the mountain, but as you walk along it you will feel that you are indeed being led into another world.

 If you visit Fushimi Inari, you will realize that the myriad of torii, which appear at first glance to be the main part of the shrine, in fact play only a supporting role leading up to the shrine itself. 

No visitor can afford to miss this place where people have practiced their faith for hundreds of years, and where spirituality can be sensed in every part of the landscape. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Kiyomizu-dera(6): Jishu-jinja: a place to win good fortune in love

After you have taken in the atmosphere of the main hall and the veranda, move on to the left-hand side of the grounds. 

You will see a shrine called Jishu-jinja, meaning “landlord shrine.” 

This shrine has a long history, and is reported to have been founded more than 2,000 years ago.

 As the god of this shrine is known as the god of matchmaking and marriage, young women and couples visit this shrine in large numbers. 

In the grounds, two large stones—the “stones of love fortune-telling”—lie at a distance of 18 meters apart. 

It is said that if you manage to walk from one stone to the other with your eyes closed, you will experience good fortune in your love life. 

When the shrine is crowded, walking between the two stones alone can be very difficult, so if you would like to take up this challenge, it is a good idea to walk with the help of a friend. 

Other visitors may bump into you—be careful you don’t fall in love with one another!