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Learning about Shrines

2010 February 16

I’m staying home from calligraphy to do some much-needed relaxation today, so in the meantime, I might as well update the blog. 🙂

I’ve spent most of my free time today looking through Ojisan Jake’s blog. I’m sure I’ve linked him before – he lives out in the wilds of Iwami and takes beautiful photographs of less-appreciated aspects of Japan. Today I noticed he has a listing of shrines he’s visited, many of which are in Iwami, if not Hamada itself, if not my neighborhood! Some of them are places I pass quite often on the way to and from work and have wondered about visiting, so it’s nice that someone else has pioneered the way. Shinto mythology is expansive, complex, and hard to study outside of Japan, and shrines are some of the most beautiful locations. I’ve now got a list of places I want to explore in Hamada once the weather gets a little warmer. 🙂

Incidentally, browsing Ojisan Jake’s descriptions of these shrines revealed one story of how the Iwami region got its name. I’ve been complaining to people that the western half of Shimane, Iwami (石見 “stone-looking”), has a much less cool name than the eastern half, Izumo (出雲 “rising/exiting (from the) clouds”). It’s somewhat comforting to see that Iwami might have more to it than the obvious.

And speaking of shrines, I finally paid a visit to the biggest shrine in the region, Izumo Taisha, during last Thursday’s national holiday! Izumo Taisha is dedicated to Ookuninushi-no-mikoto, creator of Japan, who ruled the islands from Izumo until he granted his country to the grandson of Amaterasu the sun goddess. Izumo Taisha is one of the most significant Shinto shrines; it was originally the largest wooden building in Japan, larger even than the Great Buddha’s Toudaiji, before revisions shrunk it to the current size. The main building that serves as Ookuninushi’s house is currently under reconstruction, as most major shrines are rebuilt on a 60-year cycle.

I received a fantastic fortune at the shrine, promising me success in anything I choose to undertake provided that I honor my ancestors. 🙂 It’s the best fortune I’ve gotten at a shrine so far. Considering Ookuninushi is also enshrined at Jishu-jinja in Kiyomizudera, which I visited earlier this year, I think I’m developing a positive relationship with a very important kami. I’ll make a point of visiting shrines of his in the future, as well as shrines to Susanoo-no-mikoto, hero of the Orochi story, who is apparently Ookuninushi’s father-in-law!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennifer Berman permalink
    2010 March 6 4:43 am

    Hi Mara,

    My name is Jennifer and I got your name from a friend of mine. I just relocated to Saipan and love it so far. I have only been living and working here for four days. It takes time to get used to a tropical climate and new society, languages, etc. I thought we could keep in touch and maybe if you and I hit it off, “host me” when I come to Japan. I know that’s a bit presumptious, so we will have to see. I was only in Japan for a few hours, Nagoya, on my way to Saipan.


    PS. I am a teacher of the visually impaired. I loved reading your blogs, so professionally written. Are you a journalist?

    • 2010 March 7 10:31 pm

      Hi Jennifer! It’s great to meet you. I edited your comment just a little bit before it got posted, but thanks for the contact info; I’ll get in touch with you via email. 🙂 Thanks for the nice words on my blog; I’m not any kind of professional, just picky about my writing, which is maybe why I don’t update very often. How about you, are you doing any blogging about Saipan? I’d definitely be happy to host you should you want to come to Japan, especially if you’re interested in seeing the Hiroshima area.

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