Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year In Japan

People clean the house before the New Year – oosouji, the big cleaning at the end of the year. Everything is squeaking clean in Japan, anyway. This cleaning may be just a symbol of purification. Then, ladies prepare the New Year’s dishes, osechi. As for the New Year, at midnight, the bells ring at the temples 108 times. It is called joya no kane. Buddhism says that human beings have 108 flaws, and each sound of the bell removes one such flaw. Children receive money from parents, otoshidama, in special envelopes. This is one example of otoshidama-bukuro.

The first dream of the New Year is very important. It is called hatsuyume, and the best dreams one could have are: Mt Fuji, a hawk or an eggplant. These are auspicious dreams.

Yoi otoshi wo omukae kudasai. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Seven Lucky Gods And Lots Of Good Wishes

I started posting photos for a handful of friends, and I am glad that people from 86 countries view my blog now. Some even daily. Thank you for reading my posts. You all are the reason I keep posting.

Probably most of you have heard of the Seven Lucky Gods in Japan – Shichi Fukujin. Each of them has an attribute. For example, Hotei – presented in the post on 20 July – is a symbol of abundance and health. Daikoku is the god of wealth and trade, Fukurokuju brings happiness and longevity, Benten-sama is the goddess of knowledge. I wish you all this: health, happiness, longevity, wisdom, abundance, and wealth. I hope 2013 will be a very good year for you. And these are some photos taken at Byakugoji, a temple in Tanba City dating since 705.

Benzaiten or Benten-sama is my favourite. She is a replica of the Hindu goddess Saraswati, who holds a veena. Benzaiten holds the Japanese lute called biwa. She is the goddess of knowledge, of words, music and art. And water. Things I appreciate in life, so she is dear to me.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dragons In Japan

Japanese dragons – tatsu or ryuu – are creatures from mythology and folklore. Some stories were surely imported from China and India in the past, and others are typically Japanese. Dragons are associated mainly with water. Indian stories of snakes and dragons reached Japan via Buddhism, and some myths mention dragons living in the waters near Buddhist temples in Japan. Sometimes, even the temple name refers to the dragon. For example, I visited Tenryuu-ji, the Temple of Heavenly Dragon. Sometimes princesses or women transform into dragons. This feminine feature appears in the Studio Ghibli’s Gedo Senki – Tales from Earthsea. That little girl transforms into a terrifying dragon at some point. And there is such an interesting comment on dragons in this animation film: “Long ago, dragons and men were one. Those who coveted possessions chose the land and the sea, and became men. Those who wanted freedom, chose wind and fire, and became dragons. Since then, men and dragons have been separated.
Anyway, 2012 has been the year of the dragon, so I will show you some photos of dragons today, since the year draws toward its end.

A bridge in Bikan Chiku, Kurashiki City:


Friday, December 28, 2012

Japanese Room, Kangetsuen Hotel, Hokkaido

Since I mentioned Kangetsuen Ryokan Tokachigawa Hotel in Hokkaido in my previous post, and some of you have never seen a Japanese room, I will post some photos of a room there. Japanese room is called washitsu or nihonma and it means floor covered with tatami, sitting on cushions called zabuton, sleeping on mattresses called futon.

The "chair" is without legs, with just a cushion and a back rest.

The bedding - futon - is folded away during the day.

A dramatic sky from the window: 

Tatami flooring, a mat traditionally made of rice straw and in standard sizes:

Slippers are available everywhere, since the footwear must be taken off at the door quite everywhere in Japan. Though, four pairs for two ladies? Plus one pair inside the toilet, of course. That is always separate.

Tea and some cakes are always waiting in hotel rooms. This cake is filled with bean paste. Delicious! A dessert with bean paste may sound strange. Azuki are red beans used as a filling for Japanese sweets.

And this is the futon. I love sleeping in the traditional way, it is very comfortable.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Meal At Kangetsuen Ryokan Tokachigawa Hokkaido

Kangetsuen Ryokan Tokachigawa Hotel in Hokkaido has 104 rooms in Japanese style, with tatami and futon, with spa and natural onsen - hot spring. Rooms are from 234 dollars per night. It was renovated last year, and staying there can be so pleasant. This is a meal taken at this hotel.