January 15, 2012

Blow away stagnation with bamboo branches!

Now who  is needed the most  all over the world? It must be him, Ebisu who is the deity of flourishing business.
 Smile , smile, smile, smiling Ebisu!

A beckoning cat is inviting a good luck!

The 10th of January is the festival of Ebisu, the deity of the prosperous business.  A number of  people rush to Ebisu shrine to get Ebisu's lucky bamboo branches which are believed to invite financial luck and drive away stagnation. All over Japan, there are a lot of Ebisul shrines.

Here is Imamiya Ebisu Shrine (今宮戎神社) in Osaka,
one of the biggest Ebisu shrines in Japan. 

People  throw some  money as offering.
 People are waiting in line to buy  auspicious ornaments to attach to the bamboo branches 
from 福むすめ or  Fuku-musume, meaning  lucky maidens.
Fuku-musume are temporary shrine maidens to bless visitors.. 

 As it is very honourable to be chosen as Fukumusume, every year there are a number of surging candidates.  And 40 among them are chosen besides 5 foreign students. They are the most important icons of the festival!

The auspicious ornaments are money pouches, oval gold coins, portable fans, sea breams, straw bags for rice and so on.
It is a fun to choose lucky ornaments with advices of Fuku-musume who attach them to the bamboo branches.
Let's rake up good luck with this rake!

Why are they dabbing a round place?? This is one of two  which symbolise the ears of Ebisu. According to one theory, Ebisu  is hard of hearing. People want to make sure to let Ebisu know their visiting to pray to him for prosperous business. Some of them even attach
 the name cards or stickers of their companies. I am sure Ebisu  grands their wishes very soon.

Let's go home with a great luck!

For your reference:
Bamboo branches are called 福笹, lucky bamboo made of branches of "Moso" bamboo but not of bush bamboo. Moso bamboo has enormous energy to grow. It is said that overnight it grows more than 90cm.
Since ancient days, bamboo has been mentioned in the literature, art, poems and used  for traditional handicrafts. People have even believed that divinity resides in bamboo trees because of their purity, constancy, patience, energy of life, fertility and more which they possess. "The story of Princess Kaguya" or "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter"  is said to have been created based on the mysterious power of the bamboo trees.

January 09, 2012

Lying Dragon and Swimming Dragon

2012 is the year of the dragon.  Each year has each animal name based on  the twelve animal zodiac signs introduced from China. The twelve animals are mouse, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, cock, dog and wild boar. I wonder why the eleven animals are real, but only the dragon is imaginary.

These are some of New Year's cards sent by my friends. Which dragon do you like?

Dragons in Japan are divine. They are the deities of water which gather clouds and give blessed  rain to farmers. They never breathe out fire  like many of the dragons in western countries nor are doomed to be vanquished by dragon slayers. Also a green or blue dragon is a directional guardian of east .

 In the grounds of a temple or a shrine, there is a dragon on a water basin. 
Water is pouring out of the mouth, and people wash their hands and rinse their mouths 
to purify themselves before praying.

There are many objects whose names have the Chinese character "龍" meaning a dragon in them.  Especially many of the temples and ponds  contain 龍 or dragon  in their names.
 This is a pond in Shugakuin Imperial Villa in Kyoto.  The island in the pond looks like a swimming dragon. So this pond is called Yokuryu-chi pond "浴龍池"meaning "Swimming Dragon" pond.

It is believed that  people have different destiny and character according to what year of  the animal sign they were born in. The people who were born in the year of the dragon, are said to be very assertive, idealistic, proud, intelligent and have strong  belief, and more. Do you believe it? If you were born in 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952, 1940, 1928, 1916・・・・・, you are the person of the dragon sign.

On 7th January,  I went to a botanical garden in Kasuga Grand Shrine to pay homage to the tree nicknamed  Garyuu"臥龍" which means "Lying Dragon".  The tree is a  gigantic Ichii-gashi ( a kind of an oak tree) on a small island in a pond of the botanical garden.

The tree was blown down by the heavy wind, but  it never gave up growing.  For me it looks like it has a strong will to live. With the lying trunk covered with moss, it has continued to grow up to the sky.  As the shape of the tree looks like the lying dragon, people have called the tree "lying Dragon" oak. This tree is also a guardian of the garden. I am always amazed with this powerful energy of the tree and look at it with awe.  No wonder, people see the divinity in the tree.

It was a fair winter day. I walked around the garden where there was  no visitors but me. The garden was only for me!

Let's walk for a while.

In the pond, there are a lot of Koi carps which usually beg food noisily,
but now they are very quiet. They are half-hibernating.

Dry leaves look like butterflies!
An auspicious mushroom.

Ornamental cabbages  look like peony flowers. They are popular as New Year's decorations along with bamboo, pine and Japanese apricot. 

Melia azedarac.  I love their delicate purple flowers in May as well as their fruits in winter.
On the left Melia azedarach flowers are in full bloom.( Photo was taken in May, 2011)

Oh, harbingers of spring!


Fruits of Rosa multiflora

My related blog to this botanical garden :
                       Paradise Flowers Come Out of 2000-Year Sleep.

Near the botanical garden is a Japanese restaurant where I ate lunch. This is rice porridge cooked with seven wild herbs of spring.  We eat the rice porridge with seven spring herbs to give a rest to the stomach as well as pray for our health on January 7th. We ate a lot of delicious food and rice cakes during New Year's holidays. So, the stomach is tired.

Falkor, the luckdragon with Bastian on the back appears in the sky!

A cup of cappuccino has a  dragon.