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The first attraction my friends bring me to is a shrine called Fushimi-Inari Taisha. It’s more far outside and we need some time in the train to get there. The big red gate, which is called torii, indicates a border between the mortal world and the spiritual world. After entering the latter we walked across the area of shrines. The traditional houses with the well known curved roofs cover little holy altars.
Lesson 8: Everyone can pray at a shinto shrine
Before you approach an altar to make a prayer you have to go to one of the water fountains and take a wooden spoon and fill out with water. Symbolically, you wash your right hand, your left hand and your mouth. Then you may step in front of the shrine. You ring a gong or ring a bell there to wake up the spirit. You clap twice, bow, make your wish, and finally bow again before you leave. It’s easy.
Lesson 9: Shintoism is not a religion
Japanese people later explain me that these shrines are build on places with some powerful nature landmark, like a mountain, waterfall or spring. They build a shrine to make wishes to a local spirit and of respect to their ancestors. If you ask them for a religion they tell you they don’t have any. Even, if they pray everyday. There is no god and no obligation in Shintoism. It’s more about the traditional way people always have had these places of meditation and contemplation. That’s why no Japanese tells you to stay away from there shrines. They are for everyone. Buddhism arrived later to the Japanese islands and fit perfectly to the current traditions. In many shinto shrines there are as well Buddha statues and there is no difference between Buddhist and Shinto shrines.
Lesson 10: What does the fox say?
In Kyoto they have a popular figure all over the place. The fox is a holy animal in the area and statues show foxes with a key in their mouth. The key leads to the rice cashes and the animals helped the people by eating the mice which ate the rice. The more foxes the better for the food supply of the people.
This place is famous for there number of red gates that cover the paths of the mountain. Rich families or companies donate money to erase a red gate between the others as a symbol of their power. It is incredible to walk through these tunnels of gates.
It’s very common to rent kimono and yukata for a day like this when you go with your family or friends to a park and the shrines to make stylish photos. I wasn’t too shy to ask for a picture, too.
Japanese for very beginners:
Hello – konnichiwa
Goodbye – sayonara
Thank you – arigato
Thank you very much – Domo arigato
Thank you so, so really very much, your honor – Domo arigato go sai mas
U r welcome – douitashimashite
Please – kudasai
Excuse me – sumimasen
Sorry – go men nasai
How r u? – o gen ki des ka
Fine, how r u? – ego ga hanasemas ka
I don’t understand – wakarimasen
Tea – oja
Yes – hai
No – I e
1 – I chi
2 – ni
3 – san
4 – shi
5 – go
6 – ro ku
7 – shi chi
8 – ha chi
9 – ku
10 – ju
Continue to Introduction to Japan (III) – Kyoto at night