February 26, 2011

Reflections・・・Who Are You?

Who are you?
I'm a beautiful woman from the 10th century. 

 Who are you?
I'm a handsome man from the 10th century. 

 Who are you?
I'm their servant from the 10th century. 

Who are you?
We are their furniture from the 10th century.

Who are you?
I'm Snowwhite's  mobile phone in the 21st century.

While I was displaying the miniature furniture, household goods and  folding screens of my Hina dolls, I found the interesting reflections of the screens on the miniature mirror stand. Drawings on the screens depict  noble people in the 10th century celebrating  New Year's Day. And I was playing with them for a while.

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Without Hina Dolls

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February 22, 2011

Without Hina Dolls・・・

 a pair of folding screens of  my Hina dolls
 My Hina dolls are not at home any more but under a stone monument at a temple. I had a simple set of Hina dolls, consisting of the emperor , empress, their furniture, household goods and a pair of folding screens .  They came to my house, being  handed from the elder sister of my mother when I was born. They were crafted around 1900. More than fifteen  years ago, my pretty empress had a deep scar  on the face accidentally.  I asked my mother if she knew a good craftsman to cure my empress. She told me it was about time for her to sleep in peace and advised me to take my dolls to a temple where every autumn they would perform the  memorial service for dolls , set the dolls on fire(a kind of cremation) and place their ashes under the stone monument . At last I decided to take them to the temple. How I loved their adorable faces! How I loved the elaborate and delicate crown of the empress!  Since then, their  miniature furniture and other items in the wooden boxes had been kept in  the closet.

My mother's friend's empress, 100 years old

There is a custom in Japan that parents give their daughter a set of Hina dolls at birth or on her first birthday, and  celebrate her growth  wishing for her happiness and health.The set of the Hina dolls with the  miniature furniture, household goods and other items are displayed for a several days before Hina Doll Festival held on March 3rd. Some sets are very gorgeous and others are very simple. Hina dolls are very special for girls and  more than the dolls. Even though the dolls are broken or soil  over the years, we never throw them away like garbage.
 I remembered them as Hina Doll Festival was coming. I decided to celebrate Hina Doll Festival 
 by displaying their belongings once more.

Let's me show you some of them・・・the miniature furniture, household goods
 and a pair of folding screens of my Hina dolls.  Without their masters, they look lonesome.
All of them are almost 100 years old and I feel very sorry for them
 because I have not taken care of them carefully to preserve them.

table service 

lunch box 

sowing set

charcoal brazier

Japanese-style chest

wooden boxes for Kimono, Japanese national dress 

 side table 

Among them, I especially love  a pair of folding screens.
Drawings on the screens depict  noble people in the 10th century celebrating  New Year's Day.
In those days, the beautiful women had to have long inky hair, slit eyes and plump cheeks.
Don't you think the standard of the beauty differs from time to time??
They are three happy trees,  pine, bamboo and Ume -Japanese apricot. 

For your reference.
Compare them with my cellular phone, so you will know how big they are.

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February 19, 2011

Subtle and Transient

One day after the snowfall,  there were many puddles near the five-story pagoda of Kofuku-ji Temple, Nara.  As the five-story pagoda was lit up, its reflection dimly appeared on some puddles. Scarcely people noticed  the subtle and trancient beauty of the reflection.

This pagoda is the symbol of Nara and the second tallest  at 50 meters in Japan.  In spite of their height, no five-story pagodas have been reported to have collapsed in earthquakes. The pagodas were built flexibly. During the earthquakes, each floor moves independently. Some shake from left to right and others shake right to left  as if the pagodas performed a snake dance. The flexibility of the pagodas help absorb and spread out the fierce energy of the earthquakes. Don't you think it is amazing  the ancient builders had already known this earthquake-suppression technology? Today's modern high-rise buildings are built based on the same technology used in the ancient pagodas!

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Entrance to Great Buddha's World

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February 15, 2011

Sound of Silence

In your language  how is snow falling described?  In Japanese it is mentioned like this  - Snow is falling " shin shin to". " Shin shin to" is onomatopoeia , meaning silently.  This expression "Shin shin to" makes us imagine the world blanketed with snow without sound -  totally silent and tranquil world.

 In Kabuki plays,  the quiet sound of a small drum is used to depict the silence of snow falling.  It sounds gently  "ton ton ton ton・・・・・".

It might seem to be contradictory that silence has onomatopoeia or the sound - sound of silence.  But the sound of silence  expresses  the depth of silence more eloquently.

           Sow is falling shin shin to on the five-storied pagoda of Kofuku-ji Temple,the symbol of Nara .

Snow is falling shin shin to on Ume, Japanese apricot blossoms.

Snow is falling shin shin to on Great Buddha Hall of Todaiji Temple.

Snow is falling shin shin to on the deer .

Some of them are taking shelter under a big tree.

 She is bowing to beg deer crackers.

And some of them are running and playing.

Some of them are searching for some chocolate for Valentine Day.
Most eye-catching thing about the deer in Nara Park  is  they practice Japanese custom
- bowing to people as we bow when we greet.
There live about 1100 deer. All of them are wild animals
and considered as holy messengers of Kasuga Shinto god.

Sow is falling shin shin to on the neighborhood
This is a lovely  lane lined with cherry trees . Now they look like bearing white flowers.

In spring, they will be in full bloom.

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  Horn gather antlers

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February 12, 2011

Entrance to Great Buddha's Wlorld

On February 11th, Nara had more than 10cm fall of snow  for the first time in tree years.  I grabbed my camera and rushed to Todai-ji Temple.

This is Great Buddha Hall of Todai-ji Temple, the largest wooden building in the world,  where the lagest bronze Buddha statue(Great Buddha) is enshrined. Designated as a World Heritage Site. 

                         Going  through the main gate,  the gentle deer always welcome you.
                  Over there you will see Great Buddha Hall, the main hall of  Todai-ji Temple.

Snow made the silent black and white world.

I saw the subtle reflection of Great Buddha Hall on its approach.  Even though I  had visited this place
many, many times, I had never found this reflection.  What a transient and dim image like mirage!!
This is the entrance to Great Buddha's World.

           On the way back, I found crimson Japanese apricot blossoms blanketed with pure snow.
 They looked like crimson flowers in white blossoms.

According to the myth, Feb 11th is Birthday of Japan  when the first Emperor Jinmu established the Imperial Government about two thousand seven hundred years ago.

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 Fire for Purification

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February 07, 2011

What Is Evil?

Think about  this. What do you use, when you fight against evil  or devils to vanquish them?? Swards, spears, arrows? In Japan we use tiny tiny things - roasted soy beans!!
According to an old lunar calender, spring starts on February 4th. One day before the beginning of spring,  February 3rd,  "Bean Throwing Ceremony"  is held all over Japan  to drive away devils or evil.  February 3rd is called Setsubun ( 節分) ,meaning parting of seasons, winter and spring.

This ceremony is held not only in temples or shrines but also in homes. To practice this ritual is very easy. Just throw roasted soy beans shouting "Devils out, Good luck in !".

                                                         at Kofuku-ji Temple

Kofuku-ji Temple is famous for "Driving Away Devils Ceremony" , part of "Bean Throwing Ceremony" held on February 3rd .  Six devils appear on the terrace of  East Main Hall of Kofuku-ji Temple and run noisily,scaring people by wielding  torches and weapons.

Eventually Buddhist deity(毘沙門天) races in  and vanquishes devils.

Now they are running away!

Interestingly enough, six devils are family members of three generations. According to Kofuku-ji Temple' explanation, they are grandfather, father, mother and three children. Oh,poor devils! 

                                                     He is the youngest one.
Mother and son

These are the masks used in "Driving Away Devils Ceremony" in Kofuku-ji Temple.

                   After the ceremony, the temple gives  people a small paper packet of roasted soy beans.

This is another charm to drive away devils-  a twig of holly with the head of sardine
Pointy leaves of holly hurt evil.
Devils hate the fishy smell of sardine. 
People put this charm by the entrance of a house.

In olden days, people believed that bad things, such as disease, natural disasters, bad weather, fires and more, were brought by evil or devils.  Thanks to science development, we  need to be less afraid of many of them. While watching the devils rampaging on the terrace of East Main Hall, I thought they would symbolize also our inner evil.  Maybe the last evil to be driven away is our foul heart.

 By the way, did you eat roasted soy beans, the same number of your age? I ate them and got full!


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