Tag Archives: Japan

Symbols #36: Shou

Shou is the Chinese character for “longevity” and can be spotted on jewelry, art, textiles, furniture, and architecture all throughout China. In Chinese tradition and folklore, longevity is considered one of the five blessings that form the foundation for a good life. The other blessings are health, wealth, virtue, and a peaceful death. In Chinese, the word for “blessings” sounds the same as the word for “bat”. For this reason, the five blessings are commonly depicted as bats, and the shou character is often accompanied by drawings of bats.

Symbols #35: Pagoda

Pagodas are tower-like structures often characterized by multiple eaves stacked on top of another. Seen throughout Asia, pagodas are adaptations of India’s Buddhist stupas, which were initially built to house the remains and relics of the Buddha. As Buddhism spread throughout Asia, stupas became a vital feature of Buddhist temples and their traditional dome shape slowly evolved into what we now know as a pagoda. Similar to stupas, pagodas were initially used to hold Buddhist relics, though many have since lost this function. The number of eaves on a pagoda sometimes has a symbolic meaning. In Japan, for example, it’s common to see pagodas built with five different tiers. These represent nature’s five elements: earth, fire, water, wind, and space.

Instruments #9: Harmonica

“There are various accounts of who invented the harmonica. One candidate is Christian Friedrich Buschmann, an instrument maker from Berlin.

In 1821, when Buschmann was 16 years old, he created a flute with an iron reed for tuning organs, and he apparently showed off his invention wherever he went by playing melodies on it. It is said that various people tried their hand at altering the structure of this flute, which gradually took the form of today’s harmonica.

The harmonica was first imported to Japan from Germany in 1896. At the time, it was referred to as a “Western transverse flute.” Later, the instrument was known by such names as the “mouth organ” and the “mouth harp.” Around 1900, the modern term, “harmonica” gained currency.

Actually, when German people say the word “Harmonica,” they apparently could be referring either what they call a harmonica in Japan or an accordion. The accordion, which produces sound by pushing and pulling air through bellows, is another type of reed instrument.”

Source: https://www.yamaha.com/en/musical_instrument_guide/harmonica/structure/

Symbols #28: Jizo

Jizo is a Bodhisattva in Japanese Mahayana Buddhism, originally known in Sanskrit as Ksitigarbha. He is worshipped primarily in East Asia, where statues of his likeness can be spotted on roadsides. He is often depicted as a shaven-headed monk with child-like features and a large cloak.

Revered for his self-sacrifice, Jizo is said to have delayed nirvana in order to help others. He is a guardian of travelers and firefighters. He keeps watch over the souls of children, especially those who pass away before their parents.

What Is Haiku Poetry?

Haiku is a type of short form poetry originally from Japan. Traditional Japanese haiku consist of three phrases that contain a kireji, or “cutting word”, 17 on in a 5, 7, 5 pattern, and a kigo, or seasonal reference. Similar poems that do not adhere to these rules are generally classified as senryū.

I’m going to get going with a new project surrounding Haiku’s..

Symbols #6: Zen Circle

Zen Circle is a symbol originated in Zen Buddhism that symbolizes effortlessness and enlightenment. The beauty with which is drawn itself is a replica of the message. The effortless brushstroke teaches us to just be.

Also known as Enso or the Infinity Circle, the Zen Circle conveys some of the most primary concepts of Zen Buddhism that is, enlightenment, effortlessness, and imperfection. It is drawn with a fluid elegance, which evokes peace and a sense of wholeness among the viewers.

Religion #10: Shinto

The essence of Shinto is the Japanese devotion to invisible spiritual beings and powers called kami, to shrines, and to various rituals.

Shinto is not a way of explaining the world. What matters are rituals that enable human beings to communicate with kami.

Kami are not God or gods. They are spirits that are concerned with human beings – they appreciate our interest in them and want us to be happy – and if they are treated properly they will intervene in our lives to bring benefits like health, business success, and good exam results.

Shinto is a very local religion, in which devotees are likely to be concerned with their local shrine rather than the religion as a whole. Many Japanese will have a tiny shrine-altar in their homes.

However, it is also an unofficial national religion with shrines that draw visitors from across the country. Because ritual rather than belief is at the heart of Shinto, Japanese people don’t usually think of Shinto specifically as a religion – it’s simply an aspect of Japanese life. This has enabled Shinto to coexist happily with Buddhism for centuries.

The name Shinto comes from Chinese characters for Shen (‘divine being’), and Tao (‘way’) and means ‘Way of the Spirits’.

Shrine visiting and taking part in festivals play a great part in binding local communities together.

Shrine visiting at New Year is the most popular shared national event in Japan.
Because Shinto is focussed on the land of Japan it is clearly an ethnic religion. Therefore Shinto is little interested in missionary work, and rarely practised outside its country of origin.

Shinto sees human beings as basically good and has no concept of original sin, or of humanity as ‘fallen’.

Everything, including the spiritual, is experienced as part of this world.

Shinto has no place for any transcendental other world.

Shinto has no canonical scriptures.

Shinto teaches important ethical principles but has no commandments.

Shinto has no founder.

Shinto has no God.

Shinto does not require adherents to follow it as their only religion.”

Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/shinto/ataglance/glance.shtml

Forest Bathing

Forest bathing or ‘shinrin-yoku’ was first developed in Japan in the 1980s, following scientific studies conducted by the government. The results showed that two hours of mindful exploration in a forest could reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels and improve concentration and memory. They also found that trees releases chemicals called phytoncides, which have an anti-microbial effect on human bodies, boosting the immune system. As a result of this research, the Japanese government introduced ‘shinrin-yoku’ as a national health programme.

Tenrikyo

Teaching of Divine Reason, also known as Tenriism). A religion of Japanese Shinto origin with some Buddhist influence. It was founded by a female peasant, Nakayama Miki, who underwent a revelatory experience from 1838 onwards. After this date she is referred to as Oyasama (lit. Honoured Parent) by followers. Tenrikyo is estimated to have about 2 million followers worldwide with 1.5 million of those in Japan.