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    What Does Sanzu as in Sanzu River Mean? Why Do We Need Rokumonsen? What is Ishizumi (Stone Piling)?

    2019/9/29  

      It is said that, after we die, we cross the Sanzunokawa (the Sanzu River, the Buddhist equivalent of the River Styx) to go to the other world. They say that we need rokumonsen, six coins of one-mon (a unit of a small amount of money used in the Edo period), to cross the river.  Why do we need them? Can we not cross the Sanzu River if we do not have money? Where do people go if they cannot cross the river? This time, I would like to take a look at the Sanzu River, which all of us ...

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    What is komainu (lion-dog)? What is the word origin “A n (un) no kokyuu (Well-synchronized motion or behavior like breathing together)”?

    2019/9/29  

      There are many people who saw komainu (lion- dog, 狛犬) at the entrance of Shinto Shrine in Japan. Do you know what it is? Also, there is a Japanese idiom, “A n (un) no kokyuu (阿吽の呼吸)”. This idiom describes well-synchronized motion or behavior between two like they are breathing together. What does this expression mean? Let’s look into the origin and meanings of komainu and “A n (un) no kokyuu”. What is komainu? Komainu is like a lion and dog shape animal and is dedicated to the Shinto shrine which is also believed to be an imaginary creature. The ...

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    January Uncategorized

    What is the meaning and origin of shishi-mai? Why does the shishi-mai bite your head?

    2019/9/29  

      Shishi-mai (獅子舞) or lion dance is performed on various occasions such as New Year celebrations, festivals, and other celebrations, but probably not many of you know what is the meaning and origin of shishi-mai. Shishi-mai lions bite heads of a crowd around, and many kids start to cry in fear. Why does shishi-mai bite people on the head? Let’s find out the meaning and origin of shishi-mai  this time.   What is the meaning and origin of shishi-mai? The purpose of Shishi-mai is to drive away evil spirits, famines and plagues. Shishi-mai is thought to have been introduced from ...

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    December January Winter events

    What is “kadomatsu”? When is the decorating period of the “kadomatsu”? How should it be done away with?

    2019/9/29  

      Among the many new year decorations, there is the “kadomatsu”. As you prepare for the new year, there might be questions such as “when shall the kadomatsu be put out?” or “how should it been done away with?”. We hope our findings on the meaning, origin, how to put it out, and how to do away with the “kadomatsu” be helpful for your new year preparations.   What are the meanings and origins of the “kadomatsu”? “Kadomatsu” is one of the new year decorations made out of bamboo and pine. It is put in front of the house gate. ...

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    How many torii gates are there in Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, and what are the history and meaning of torii? How much is one torii?

    2019/9/29  

    There are many torii (鳥居) gates in Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) shrine in Kyoto. The highlight of Fushimi Inari Taisha is its famous "senbon torii (千本鳥居)", the row of countless torii, and it is a big tourist attraction. But do you know how many torii are there? Let's find out details about torii of Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine this time! What is Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine?   Fushimi Inari Taisha is sohonsha (総本社) or sohongu (総本宮),  the head of 30,000 inari (稲荷) shrines nationwide. Inari shrine refers to a Shinto shrine to worship inarishin or inari no kami (稲荷神), the ...

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    What is the origin of Japanese rising sun flag? When did it become a national flag of Japan?

    2019/9/29  

      When we think about “hinomaru”, literally meaning is “rising sun”, it is the Japanese national flag. The Japanese flag, the red in white, is very simply design compared with other nations’ flag. However, each element such as color and shape conveys many meanings. The Japanese have been using this design for many years. Let’s look into why people start using this design and when it became national flag.   The origin of ‘hinomaru”.   People call the Japanese flag as ‘hinomaru”, in general; however, it is called as “Nissyoki”, the flag of the rising sun officially. The red circle ...

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    What would Ojizo-san (Jizo statues) do? Why do they wear a red bib and/or a red cap?

    2019/9/29  

        You see Jizo statues called “Ojizo-san” all over Japan. Although you can see them at various places including along streets or near waterfalls, why do they stand there? Let’s look into the derivation and meaning of Jizo this time. What would Jizo statues do? Jizo statues are usually made of stone. People call them “Ojizo-san” or “Ojizo-sama” in a friendly manner. They are formally known as Jizo Bosatsu (Ksitigarbha), one of Bosatsu (Boddisattava) statues and an object of worship in Buddhism. In Buddhism, Bosatsu(Boddisattava) are trainers who aspire to enlightenment. Even they are trainers, they became an object ...

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    November Uncategorized

    History and Origin of “Kotatsu” When Do We Get “Kotatsu” Out?

    2020/10/11    

      When it gets cold, we miss kotatsu, don’t we?  (A kotatsu is a traditional Japanese table with an electric heater attached to the underside.) Many of you may have an experience of eating mandarin oranges in kotatsu and, there being so comfortable, lying down there for a while and falling asleep before realizing…… Not only human beings but also cats love kotatsu—as we sing in the lyrics of “Snow”, a famous Japanese nursery rhyme: “cats curl up in kotatsu”.  We should not get kotatsu out just because it has become cold; rather, there seems to be a day when ...

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    What is the difference between Ise Jingu and Izumo Taisha? What is “Sengu”?

    2019/9/29  

      Although there is a lot of shrines in Japan, the ones which represent Japanese shrine the most are Ise Jingu and Izumo Taisha. What is the difference between these two shrines? I will tell you the origin and the difference of these two shrines. I also would like to show you what “Sengu” is.   What is Ise Jingu? The biggest difference between Ise Jingu and Izumo Taisha is that they deify different “Gosaijin”. “Gosaijin” is Japanese word for the god who is deified at its shrine. Ise Jingu consists of two main shrines, “Naiku” and “Geku”.  Each of ...

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    October November

    What are the differences between kan’namesai and niinamesai? -Their Meanings and Origin-

    2019/9/29  

    Among the imperial court rituals performed in autumn (rituals performed by the Emperor, who is at the center of Shinto rituals, to pray for the peace, security, and prosperity of the nation and people and enshrine spirits and ancestors) are the festivals called kan’namesai and niinamesai.   Kan’namesai is also called “kan’namenomatsuri (kan’name festival)” or “kan’nienomatsuri (kan’nie festival)”. Niinamesai is also called “shinjosai” or “niinamenomatsuri (niiname festival)”. What are each of these two festivals that are extremely similar in appearance when written?  Are there any connection and differences between them? This time, we would like to take a look at ...

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    What is the history and meaning of Kokeshi? Is it true that Kokeshi was derived from ko (child) and keshi (erase)?

    2019/9/29  

      Kokeshi dolls are one of traditional wooden crafts that have been made since ancient times in Japan. They are especially popular among young women. Many people from abroad display these dolls as a home ornament. Therefore, it is said that they will be sold out quickly after being restocked… However, a little scary theory regarding the derivation of such Kokeshi dolls has been appearing mostly online. Let’s look into the derivation of Kokeshi including this scary theory this time! What are Kokeshi? Kokeshi are one of toy figures mainly made of wood. They usually have a simple figure with ...

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    When did origami (paper folding) start? How has origami been developed? What do 1,000 folded cranes named “Senbazuru” represent?

    2020/10/12  

      Have you ever made 1,000 cranes with origami paper before? I think some made them together with their classmates for their friend who were in hospital and other did with their team members to achieve good results. In the first place, why do people make Senbazuru (1,000 cranes)? Let’s look into the origin and history of origami (paper folding) and Senbazuru this time!    When did origami start? How has origami been developed? Although there are some theories about the origin of origami such as it was originated in China or Spain, all of them don't have any clear ...

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