Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Japan -- Part IV

One of the weekend days we were in Yokohama, K, the Japanese professor with whom my husband was making the exchange, offered to take us to Kamakura, a coastal town less than one hour south of Tokyo by train.
At the end of the twelfth century the shogun of the time, Minimoto Yoritomo made Kamakura the centre of his government, since it was his home town and it remained the capital of Japan until the fourteenth century when the centre of power moved to Kyoto.

Today Kamakura attracts many visitors since it is filled with a wonderful collection of Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and historical monuments and in fact, that day, there were many Japanese tourists.

Probably the most famous of the monuments there is the Great Buddha or Daibutsu, a bronze statue standing almost 15 metres high and the second largest statue of Buddha in Japan. Cast in 1252 AD, it remains in its original form, however it was formerly housed inside the large temple hall of the Kotokuin Temple. This hall was washed away by a tsunami at the end of the fifteenth century and since then the Daibutsu has remained in the open air.

Shinto and Buddhism are Japan's two major religions and they coexist harmoniously, actually complimenting each other. Many Japanese weddings are held in the Shinto style while most funerals are celebrated Buddhist style.


Above you see the Hachimangu Shinto Shrine at the top of the steps, with the two scientists posing reluctantly at the bottom

A standing in an interesting courtyard at Kamakura

In the gardens, I found this small covered statue, surrounded by four bronze soldiers


One of the soldiers close up

A scene wandering around the temple grounds, with wonderful fall colour on the Japanese maples


The above photo has a very interesting story to go with it. Jizo is the Buddhist god who is the guardian of the stillborn, miscarried and aborted foetuses in Japan. These little statues of Jizo, called Mizuko Jizo, are placed either in the homes or at the temple to represent that lost child and as you can see they are often fully dressed, or with a little hat, or wear a red bib and some even have little umbrellas to shield them from the rain. Usually the stones have a kaimyo, or name given to a person after death, inscribed on them. The ceremony, Mizuko Kuyo, is a modern one and came about after the Second World War. Japan has one of the highest abortion rates in the world but this ceremony shows that it is not taken lightly and many women visit the Mizuko Jizos and pray before them. You see these little statues all over Japan in temples and even on street corners and I found them very moving.


When next I write about Japan, I'll tell you about the day I spent around and about Tokyo with K's wife.

33 comments:

Ellee said...

What an interesting story, especially about Jizo. You are so lucky to have experienced these wonderful travels. My husband isn't very adventurous and prefers to holiday in the UK, I do wish I could visit Japan one day.

Voyager said...

Can I retire and travel with you please? I'll carry your bags, promise.
V.

Donnetta Lee said...

Oh, oh, oh. These lovely photos. I had to go back and read the previous post to catch up! How fortunate you are to have seen these wonderful things!
Donnetta

lady macleod said...

Great fun and wonderful photographs! I learn something every time I come over here.

I have wanted to see that statue of the Buddha in Japan but I never seem to make it down there from Tokyo. Some day I shall have to take you to Norbalinka in Northern India. My favorite statue of the Buddha is in the temple there. The artist have capture His compassion and knowledge so wonderfully, He looks like He is about to burst into quiet laughter. When I was wee I thought He looked like He knew just what I'd been up to...

You have really had some delightful travels. It is so wonderful to read when someone enjoys all that the world has to offer. Thank you for sharing.

Josie said...

What beautiful photographs. I clicked on them to enlarge them, and I felt as I could step right into them. Wonderful!

I find the ceremony of the Mizuko Kuyo very interesting and beautiful.

Josie

jmb said...

Hi Ellee,
I couldn't resist the opportunity to go to Japan when it was presented to me. I found it a very interesting place indeed.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi voyager,
I'm afraid I haven't made any of the big trips for a while, but hope to soon while I'm still fit enough.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Donnetta Lee,
I am indeed fortunate to have been to Japan. Looking at my photos makes me remember how interesting it was.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Lady Mac,
I'm sure my travels are very tame in comparison to yours. But I have enjoyed them and love to learn about different places by experiencing them.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Josie,
Thank you, this place was very interesting, I had many interesting photos to choose from.
At first I couldn't understand all these little statues in the temples everywhere until someone explained it to me.
regards
jmb

Marquis de Straf-Guernica said...

...At the end of the twelfth century the shogun of the time, Minimoto Yoritomo made Kamakura the centre of his government...

Sigh. It's another world, isn't it? Imagine living in those times.

Eurodog said...

Fascinating post again, jmb.
Beautiful photos and moving.

Comte de Straf-Huguenots said...

JMB, if you don't join us at BP, we shall die. Colin, Ellee, Liz, Crushed, myself - we could go on and on. We want you there and we want you now!!! :)

Don't forget, political animals are only political animals with otrher political animals.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Very interestting again and wonderful photos. That first statue is amazing. I, too, was very moved to learn about the little statues of the stillborn or aborted children. I'm sure this must help the women to mourn them properly, a need which is not always acknowledged in the west.
Btw, jmb, Liz says you are thinking about joining blogpower: I can tell you it's been very good for me and my blog and I feel like I have a little "family" in fellow-members. Not all members are political and they WILL read you, whether they are or not, because they will read well-written, interesting blogs. Do come on board - we need you!

Comte de Straf-Huguenots said...

JMB, you really must read the comments [not necessarily the post itself]on [name change]. It speaks to you.

jmb said...

Well James,
I'm sure they were interesting times for the men anyway,but I wouldn't want to go back to any time where health care was as primitive as those days. I can do without a lot of things but I would not be happy to have to stand by and watch my children die or even be at risk for death in childbirth. I also don't do subservience very well.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Eurodog,
These little Jizo statues were very moving. I was quite shocked when I found out what they were, but then I thought that it was a wonderful idea.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Lord Jim, Comte Jacques, Marquis de straf-whatever you are today,
Political animals are only political with other political animals, but usually that's who they want to chat to or argue with or read.
Anyway I'll email you.
jmb

jmb said...

Hi WCLC,
Well of course the Mizuko Jizo ceremony was initiated by women who I am sure did mourn the aborted children. Do you know they didn't make the pill legal in Japan until 2000? Can you believe it?
I'm thinking seriously about Blogpower.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi James,
I did read them. I didn't realize Miss Liz would spill the beans everywhere, although perhaps I did. Who knows?
regards
jmb

Janice Thomson said...

How bizarre; deciding to have an abortion and then making such a big deal after the fact. Wouldn't it be better to not have an abortion period? I had a therapeutic abortion years and years ago when I had a severe infection and our lives were at risk...and that choice was a hard one to swallow - but to actually just decide to end a life, because um it would interfere with your education or job or you have too many already or whatever reasons are used, seems a tad bit morally wrong but then hey that's just my own opinion. Love the statues Jmb and would love to visit a temple and a shrine of another culture. Wonderful post as usual Jmb!

jmb said...

Hi Janice,
It does seem a bit bizarre but abortion is very accepted in Japan and as I said above the pill was only made legal in 2000.
I'm sure you will never forget your experience and I think mourning is a very big part of it, especially as it was not a choice but a necessity to save life. At least there is a way for Japanese women to mourn if they wish.
regards
jmb

Smalltown RN said...

Oh thank you so much...I found it all so interesting and your pictures are fabulous...and I found the story about Jizo very interesting....thank you

Liz said...

I noticed a beautiful colour tree.

But what is the soldier standing on? He looks very scary.

The memorials to the lost babies are very touching.

Liz said...

So, are you convinced about Blogpower yet, jmb?!

jmb said...

HI Smalltown rn,
I'm glad you are enjoying my trip with me.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Liz,
I was in Japan at the right time for the fall colours on the Japanese maples and the ginkgos.
I applied for membership today Liz. After you told everyone what choice did I have?
regards
jmb

Donnetta Lee said...

jmb: Well, James Goodman just tagged me with a meme. I am tagging you in return. Please run over and read my blog. Then, do whatever you want to!! (thank you)
Donnetta

ipanema said...

Thanks for this informative and interesting post jmb.

I love Japanese garden!

Jizo has a sad story indeed.

Lee said...

Very interesting as usual, jmb...once again thank you for taking me along with you on your travels. :)

jmb said...

Hi Donnetta Lee,
I ran over and left a comment there.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Ipanema,
I thought the little statues were very sad. At first I was told they were for babies who had died but then I got the full explanation later.
regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Lee,
Still more to come, next one coming soon.
regards
jmb