Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Torii, Torii, Torii

I talked another teacher into playing tourist with me today (it didn't take a lot of convincing), and we went to the Fushimi Inari Shrine. It's one of the most famous shrines in Japan, and especially famous for its thousands of torii (the bright orange gate structures you see, that serve as an entry from the physical world to the spiritual, or so I'm told).

I feel a fair bit of pressure to get out and do things, even on cold or nasty weather days, because I only have a few months here. The folks who are here longer, naturally feel less pressure. I've chatted with a few, and some have expressed interest in coming along on adventures and seeing touristy things.

When I'm in the Northwoods, I don't do many touristy things unless someone comes to visit or something, and that doesn't happen often. I think that's true for lots of people, even those in areas with lots more touristy stuff than the Northwoods. (I'm not knocking the Northwoods, but cities tend to have more touristy stuff, or national parks. It's just the way it is.) Being more aware of my time limits here makes me think about getting out and seeing more of my own area when I get back. It's important to remember to appreciate one's own area, I think.

But today was torii on the hills, up and down. Lots of steps. I felt a little out of shape, but I'm going to make the excuse that we walked between 2-3 hours up and down steps on hills.

I'm fascinated at shrines and such by the juxtaposition of old and new. Today, for example, we walked by lots of stone structure things, little altars, or little family areas? Some of the stones looked very weathered and old, and yet there would be new aprons on the stones or figures, or fresh flowers, or incense burning. So people are still actively using these areas to remember loved ones, ask for help, or whatever. I suppose this is no different from churches being both tourist/pilgrimage places and parishes, but I didn't grow up in an area where there were lots of old churches to visit, or something (and the ones we went to visit on field trips and such were mostly not used anymore as parishes, but were state park sorts of things).

I was frustrated again today by my illiteracy. Even my colleague who can make out lots more kanji, has difficulty comprehending a sentence at shrines.

1 comment:

  1. I was just wandering a cemetery in DC, and what struck me was that families had put up brand new shiny re-carved tombstones for people who died in 1899 or before. It was kinda neat, since it was unlikely that they had been put up by people who actually knew the people memorialized.

    My (private, hippie) elementary school did a field trip to the cemetery every year.