Sunday, March 21, 2010

Day 2 - Tsuragaoka Hachiman-gu (Kamakura)

Bridge Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu in Kamakura1st February 2003 -Arrived at Kamakura. Once you get off the train, you're almost immediately assailed by the local tourist-seeking rickshaw operators. We were holiday-happy enough to say yes to "Eiji" the very talkative guy who promised he'd show us all the old residences in Kamakura. He did too - if by that you took it to mean showing us all the out of the way places.

Actually, we had fun, and ended up on the main road towards Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu (the main temple in Kamakura). On the approach is an arched bridge which was said to only be for the Shogun's use (and it's easy to see why, as it's now blocked off from pedestrian traffic).

Tsuragaoka Hachiman-gu
Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu in KamakuraThis shinto shrine was established by the Minamoto clan, and contains many of the aspects that you will find across Japan for these shrines. Firstly there is the wash basin (chozuya) which are used to purify yourself with water prior to approaching the shrine. Ladels are used to rinse off your hands - and no, it's not for drinking. On approaching the main worshipping hall which is generally known as the haiden (not where the God is meant to reside - the honden - that's not accessible to the public), you will find an alter of such, generally with a coin tray (saisen-bako) infront. Make a coin offering (it can be whatever value you wish), ring the bell twice (or strike gong), bow twice and then clap twice and then pray to the God (Kami); finish up by bowing once again. It's like pressing send on a celestial email. Each shrine may be slightly different, and there is also meaning to how the clapping is done, and the depth of the bows. Too much information!

There are also (like most of shrines) places where you can buy an assortment of charms and prayers (including ema, which are used to write your prayers on - more of that later). You can also see sacred ropes, or shimenawa, that establish a boundary to the sacred parts of the temple. Other features associated with Shinto shrines include the bright red torii gates, and the pair of stone lions, komainu.

A Shinto rite is performed...

A nearby lake and bridge.

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