Thursday, April 01, 2021

Japan Trip 2021 - Part II | 2021年日本旅 ー その2

This is my series of blog posts on Arisa and my trip to Japan in spring of 2021. The first one is here. We are here for two reasons, 1) Arisa's father's funeral and 2) to start the discussions over the will and related inheritance that stem from his death. However, since that is personal I won't be discussing that I'll just be talking about the other aspects of the trip.

In the first post I talked about the experience of arriving at Narita Airport. Once you have cleared all of that, all inbound travelers need to quarantine for 14 days. In two days I'll be half way through. At that point I'll be able to go anywhere in Japan that our little hearts desire. Right now we're basically limiting ourselves to the local area and really only for exercise or grocery shopping.

Yesterday we really enjoyed checking out the various grocery stores near Elly. First off Japanese grocery stores are just smaller than the warehouse size of grocery stores in the U.S. Portions of food etc are also much smaller. I'll try to get a picture to add to this post but a perfect example of this is Hakusai, or Napa Cabbage. In the U.S., or at least the grocery stores I've been to they only sell the whole cabbage, maybe half. Invariably this is too much for us to eat even though hakusai stores relatively well compared to other vegetables. In Japan, not only do they have the half hakusai, they have packages of 1/4th and 1/8th. That size is perfect for Arisa and I - we simply aren't making that much so nothing goes to waste with these sizes.

Part of the smaller sizes is cultural. The Japanese buy groceries much more frequently, often daily. This facet of Japanese life is partially due to the fact that their living space for most is significantly smaller than the U.S. Large refrigerator or freezers in the garage like you often see in the U.S. are just not feasible, so there is less storage space. Also, Japanese are very focused on freshness and buying daily means your getting them and using them often within an hour or two.

Yoyogi Hachiman Shrine

I've been getting up around 5:30, maybe a bit earlier over the last couple of days. It is partially jet-lag I'm sure, but it is also light at 5:30 in the morning. So I've been getting up and taking a walk for an hour or more. Each morning about half way through, I meditate for about 20 minutes. I then walk the rest headed home. I change my route each morning so I can learn more about the area. This morning I discovered Yoyogi Hachiman Shrine (代々木八幡神社)A shrine indicates a Shinto Shrine, Shinto(wikipedia) being the "religion" in Japan prior to the arrival of Buddhism around 300CE. Shinto is a pantheistic "religion" that revolves around "kami" or gods and spirits, a naturalist religion. Shrines around the country worship specific gods or spirits for that area. With the arrival of Buddhism Shinto gods were merged and became part of the Buddhist world. Similar to how Christians took over pagan rituals and called it Christmas.

In this case, Hachiman is the kami and is considered the god of war but also worshipped by farmers and fishermen.

Since ancient times Hachiman has been worshiped by farmers as the god of agriculture and by fishermen, who hoped that he would fill their nets with many fish.

source: wikipedia

Hachiman is the tutelary god of warriors and related to the Imperial House and by extension protector of Japan and the Japanese. There are many Hachiman shrines around Japan with the main one being Usa Jingu (宇佐神宮) in Oita Prefecture. Check out the Shinto page on Wikipedia for more details, it is very interesting.

To add further twist to this specific Shinto Hachiman Shrine, in 1950 an archelogical find was made, ruins or remains of an ancient village. Apparently, the village ruins dated back 4500 years! 4500!! On the grounds of the Yoyogi Hachiman Jinja is a replica of what a house would have looked like. Well, at least what they think it looked like.

Also there appears to be a Buddhist Temple on the same grounds. Fukusenji (福泉寺)is a Tendai Buddhist temple. Tendai refers to that branch of Buddhism that revers the Lotus Sutra and is the first tradition or branch that did was created in China not India the birthplace of Buddhism. Note, again that it was in the Kofun Period, the period directly after the Yayoi Period where Buddhism entered Japan and became merged with Shinto. Hachiman being a perfect example of a kami that became part of the Buddhist cosmology in Japan.

I did a lot of reading related to all of this as I wrote this post. I've learned alot about Shinto, Hachiman and other Japanese history that I probably was aware of at one point in college as an East Asian Studies major. I'll admit though none of it stuck but it will now.

I'll take Elly and Arisa back this afternoon to see Hachiman Jinja and the temple.

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