Sunday, May 6, 2012

Flat Stanley Visits a Shrine and a Temple

This is a torii (TO-REE), a gate that marks the entrance to a Shinto shrine.  I saw lots of torii today.  The Shinto religion is the ancient native religion of Japan.
We spotted another torii after we walked down a long path lined with cherry trees and azalea bushes.  Ryan's friends said this looked even prettier last month when the cherry trees were covered in pink blossoms.

We could see the shrine on the hill ahead of us through the second torii.

All the shrine buildings were painted an orange-red color. They looked pretty against the blue sky. (I think I was wrong about the Rainy Season starting early this year.)

There are a lot of steps in Japan.  I can't wait to run up these.

What are those people doing over there?  Can you see me?
Those people were rinsing their hands before going up to the shrine to pray.  I watched what they did and then picked up one of the ladles lying over the well, filled it with water from the well, and rinsed both my hands.  One man used his hand like a cup and rinsed his mouth and then spit the water out next to the fountain.  This is because you are not supposed to drink the water directly from the ladle.
Bad fortunes
Some people were buying fortunes at a little shop near the fountain. The ones who bought fortunes that predicted bad luck, like getting sick or failing a test, tied the fortune to one of these ropes or a tree branch so the bad luck could not follow them home.

Another thing you can do at a Shinto shrine is buy a wooden tablet, called an ema (EH-MAH), and write a prayer on it. There is a big rack where you can hang your prayer. I wonder what the person who drew the cartoon is praying for.

There is a picture on the front side of every ema. Most of the ema I saw had pictures of dragons because 2012 is the Year of the Dragon here.

Someone picked an ema with a picture of a horse.

Which would you choose, a dragon or a horse?

There is a smaller shrine next to the big shrine.

Not all torii are made of wood and painted that orange-red color. Some are made of stone, some are made of metal, and this one is made of concrete.
We passed through a different type of gate when we entered a Buddhist temple later in the day. Buddhism came to Japan from China almost two thousand years ago. I think I heard someone say this kind of gate is called roumon (ROH-OH-MOHN).

We did not wash our hands at the Buddhist temple. Instead, people lit sticks of incense, stuck them in a big pot filled with sand, and waved the smoke around. We had to take off our shoes to enter the temple so I'm glad I wore nice socks.

Visiting a shrine and temple was a nice way to spend the day. Lots of people were strolling around the gardens at both places. I saw children feeding turtles, three herons resting on an island, and plastic food in a restaurant window. You can look at those pictures tomorrow while I pack my things to come home.

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