On the New Year's eve, the temple bells ring 108 times all around Japan. Humans are supposed to have 108 evil minds and the tolling of bells is believed to remove them. The Myoshinji bell in Kyoto is the oldest built in 698 but it is no longer used since some cracks were found inside. Its tone is of Ojiki-cho in Gagaku equivalent to A (440Hz). It is believed to be the most pleasant sound, so described in one of Japan's major journals Tsurezure-gusa (Yoshida Kenko, 1331-35). On New Year's eve, it is customery to eat buckwheat noodle that symbolises healthy long life. The New Year is full of symbolism for health, happiness and prosperity expressed in food, colour and shape. Next year is the year of cow/ox, when slow steady steps are encouraged. With the last sunset of the year over Mt Fuji, I wish you all a very happy 2009.
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 17:05
Ryu, dragon, is a legendary animal that in Zen Buddhism is believed to be one of the eight deities that help following Dharma, one’s righteous duties or virtuous path. Being a water deity who prevents a fire, dragon is often drawn on the ceiling of a preaching hall, which also facilitates the teaching “fall like rain on all those who listen”.
Unryu-zu, a picture of a dragon in the cloud, painted on the ceiling of a Hatto Preaching Hall of the Myoshin-ji temple is stunning in many ways (http://www.rinnou.net/exhibition/ex_06.html). The 12.5 diameter painting is on the hanging ceiling up 13m high. The structure is supported by 44 large cypress pillars, 18 of which are inside the building. They are so called “shin-sari-zai” (the top of the trunk is removed to avoid possible break and distortion). The paining was completed over five years by artist Kano Tanyu when the Hall was built in 1615 to celebrate the temple’s 300th anniversary. All paints used were of natural materials- white (shells), black (soot ink), red and green (plants) and blue (rock) mixed with nikawa gelatin, which has not faded in its 350 year’s history.
The Dragon is almost like an Escher's illusionary structure – seen from the East, it looks ascending but descending seen from the West; its eyes follow you wherever you stand, thus the dragon is called "happo-nirami (glaring into 8 directions)". Looking up for a while, I was dazzled with a sensation of being flown up into the air, falling from the sky next minute and being nearly grabbed by the large craws of this incredibly dynamic figure. You could almost hear its flying with the swirling wind around - in Gagaku Japanese ancient music, ryuteki, a dragon flute, represents the sound of a dragon flying across the sky. It is one of the three wind instruments that represent the sound of the Universe: sho that represents “the sound of the light coming through the heaven” and hichiriki, the “sound of human voices”. Imagining as you stand in the middle of the Hall, you could float in the Universe.
You can feel the Universe in the famed Stone Garden of Ryoanji (1450), one of the many branches of Myoshinji, a square karesansui garden with 15 bolders placed in five spots. It is said to have been designed so that only 14 bolders are visible wherever you stand (except for one spot). Many theories exist regarding the design of this garden, including axis-symmetry with its center coinciding with the centre of the main structure. The essence of this garden, however, is the space of serenity, imagination and humbleness. Its pure simplicity allows a deep meditation that resonates with the philosophy expressed in the inscription carved on the edge of a tsukubai washbasin just around the corner: 吾唯足知 what one has is all one needs.
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 6:17
Lights-off events are gaining its popularity around the world. Earth Hour initiated in Sydney in 2007 now expects over 370 cities and 50 million people participating in 2009; Japan’s own One million people’s Candle Night is held every year on Toji (winter solstice) night (www.earthhour.org; www.candle-night.org). The town of Yuasa has its own lights-off nights, actually many nights, twice a year: Lantern Nights and Fireflies Nights, both initiated by a passionate community leader Mr Mitsumura, who also lead the promotion of this town as a living museum (see first blog entry). Yuasa, where Japan’s original variety of shoyu (soy source) was developed during the 13c, has maintained its historic townscape and cultural properties related to its distinct industry - shoyu and miso-making, the ultimate Slow Food. Mr Mitsumura founded a Green Society 18 years ago to promote caring for Yuasa, ultimately because he loves “watching people’s face brighten up when they enjoy themselves and feel moved by something. I'd like to offer the best possible hospitality to the visitors who come all the way to visit our town”.
On the Lantern Nights, hand-made andon (paper lantern) are displayed around the town. The occasion is also a design competition with prizes for the winners. Contributions are called for widely from all over Japan with some specifications for size, weight and materials but most importantly “be suitable to the traditional townscape”. In its 3rd year of running, over 500 entries are expected for the 2009 event (15-19 April, http://lepo.fool.jp/green/andon), which is becoming a major art event that the whole community supports and participate. Andon (行灯, lit. portable light) is a lantern made mostly of wood or bamboo with Japanese paper shades. Now andon refer to the fixed varieties inside or outside, and chochin is used for the portable ones. Fish oil was used initially, then vegetable oil and candles. Andon-making classes are organised for the community by Mr Tsuura, who taught himself the art of andon-making and created a number of detailed works. He now also works as a volunteer manager for the Koji Museum (photo, koji is used for fermentation procedss of shoyu, miso, sake, and is registered as Japan’s native variety of mold, Aspergillus oryzae).
Another lights-off event is the Fireflies Nights. Fireflies（hotaru, luciola cruciata) start to appear late May for a month or so in the local creeks. Hotaru are known as an environmental indicator for their sensitivity particularly to the cleanliness of the fresh water in which its larva spends about 9 months. Primary school students participate in conservation projects, also lead by the Green Society.
With these lights-off events, Yuasa can be called a City of Light（光の町), not where a brightly-lit night views are seen, but where we can enjoy the night as the night should be – dark, quiet and restful, and lit only by natural gentle lights and not flooded by unnecessary disturbing lights. These Slow Nights and the Slow Food make Yuasa an attractive town of Creative Conservation where tradition is alive and enjoyed by the today's community. Some poems on night, light and fireflies that let us imagine the dark gentle night.
(The star lights reflected on the clear water of the marshland, they really are fireflies flying as the night falls, by Fujiwara Yoshitsune, Goshui-Waka-Shu 1075-86, No. 217)
(The fireflies burn their heart in silence, they are more expressive than the insects who voices their feelings, by Minamotono Shigeyuki, Goshui-Waka-Shu 1075-86, No. 216)
夏は夜 月のころはさらなり、やみもなほ、 ほたるの多く飛びちがひたる また、ただ一つ二つなど、ほのかにうち光りて 行くもをかし
(The best time of the day, in summer it is the night, particularly when the moon is out. The total darkness is also beautiful when fireflies fly in mass or one or two, their subtle lights flying across, The Pillow Book, c.996)
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 20:50
Mokujiki (木食, lit. eating plant) is a name given to a Shingon sect Buddhist monk who has gone through an ascetic practice of restricted diet for 100 days, excluding all grains: “5 grains” (rice, wheat, variety of millets) or “10 grains” (5 grains + corn, buckwheat, soy, azuki and black beans) and only eat uncooked mountain vegetable and nuts. Mokujiki (木喰), however today, commonly refers to a particular monk (1718-1810) who made peregrinate journeys through Japan and carved over 1,000 Buddhist statutes for the poor communities. Mokujiki was inspired by the saw statues by a monk “Enku” when he was abut 56. He started curving statues himself around the age of 61 and set out to travel around Japan. He eventually came back to his hometown at the age of 83 but set out again after two years, saying “there is still so much work to be done”. His last work was made in 1808 shortly before his death at the age of 93.
Mokujiki’s work was not discovered until 1924 when an art historian/ethnologist Yanagi Yoshimune (1989-1961) found three of Mokujiki statues in a private household. Known as “smiling Buddha”, Mokujiki’s Buddha are distinct for their warm smiling round faces. They look as if they are inviting you to come and talk. Some of them look even cheeky as if they know the funny and silly side of our lives. They were really made for ordinary people to be part of their everyday lives. It is moving to learn that many statues have scratches, some large holes and scars - they are the marks made when children used them to play – eg swimming buoy, snow sleigh and simply a companion, and scratches were made when people fell ill but had no money for medicines - they scratched off the wood dust to take as medicine. His work gave a considerable influence to Artist Munakata Shiko, most well known for his woodblock prints (http://www.lantecweb.net/shikokan/ )
Seigen-ji Temple is in Yagi, Kyoto is known to have Mokujiki’s rare “16 Rakan” (arhat, spiritual practitioner who bared the burden for all), one of them believed to be his 1,000th work. I went to “meet” this “16 rakan” kept in the temple's treasure house, which proved to be a most moving experience. The 14 statues (two kept in private household) have the warmest smile (except the two who are hiding their face with their robe!). I particularly liked the one who winks at you as if to share an evil secret with you. They are made of keyaki cypress and to avoid further deterioration (eg insects) kept in glass-sealed cabinets. Cultural properties need to be cared and preserved as much as possible, and wood works require a particular kind of care. Mokujiki’s stories and his works should be appreciated by the future generations. At the same time, however, I wished that these Mokujiki statues could live with people to share their ordinary everyday life. As I left the temple room, in my mind I said good-bye to each of them by shaking their hands, stroking the smiling round cheeks, winking back to the cheeky one, and bowing to them all. I felt I heard them saying “come again anytime". （Photo - Mokujiki roadsign as photographibg statues is not allowed).
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 20:38
Tea ceremony in Japan was developed with considerable Christianity influences, explains a tea master prof Takehana Keiko. The current style of tea ceremony that uses grinded green tea power maccha is unique to Japan and its style - a wabi-cha style was developed by a tea master Rikyu (1522-91). Wabi-cha values the ultimate simplicity and is the origin of wabi-sabi considered to be the essence of Japanese aesthetics. Sharing of tea by a group of guests served by a tea master and a small piece of sweet given to each guest are similar to the communion. The style of tea ceremony houses is also believed to have Christianity symbolism – Roji is a road leading to a sacred place; Tobi-ishi, stepping stones, are placed so that only one person can walk through at a time; Tsukubai, a wash basin, is where you cleans yourself before entering, and the Njiri-guchi, a narrow entrance, is where you “enter through a narrow gate”. Christianity was introduced to Japan by a Navarrese missionary Francisco de Xavier (Societus Iesu) in 1549 when he arrived in Kagoshima, Kyushu. Christianity was promoted by influential figures eg the first Christian Daimyo Omura (1564) and one of the most famed Daimyo Nobunaga (1534-82), tea ceremony was one of the highly valued and practices for those educated then. Five of the seven tea masters who followe Rikyu were Christian. The support dinishes around 1958 and then eventually banned by Ieyasu in 1614. The Christian population was estimated to be about 650,000 (now about 450,000).
The Christmas tea ceremony designed by a Tokyo-based architect Hirooka and run by tourism students of Wakayama University had another dimension – environmental ly responsible festive event. The Tea House was built with 505 cardboard boxes made of 80% recycled materials, and after use collected and recycled by the local manufacture. Having a “slow-life activity” tea ceremony with the recyclable materials on a Christian occasion Christmas certainly created an interesting cross-cultural occasion.
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 21:00
A fresh vegetable stall opens everyday late in the afternoon as the sushi chef Hide gets ready to open his cozy restaurant. By the front entrance of Hideya, the stall is now piled with winter vegetables (eg daikon-raddish, kabu-turnips) and fruits (mikan–mandarins, and kaki-perssimons) grown by farming families in Kimino-cho, Hide's hometown 1.5hrs north-east of Wakayama. Hide reminds me that “Tomorrow is Toji, the winter solstice day” and slips a couple of yuzu oranges in my backpack. On Toji, it is customary to soak in a hot bath with yuzu pieces, which is believed to be warming for the body, helping circulation and removing aches and pains caused by winter chills. On Toji, also recommended are warming dishes such as red bean rice porridge and stewed pumpkin. Toji (冬至, lit. reaching winter) is one of the 24 solar terms in Japan when the day is nearly the shortest for the year. The 24 terms mark seasonal changes in temperature and weather. More detailed descriptions are given in the 72 terms such as "the time when swallows leave, cherries start to blossom and frogs start calling”. Both sets of terms were adopted from Chinese solar calendar, and many of the seasonal words (kigo), including Toji and yuzu, are used in haiku. Accurate but subtle seasonal descriptions are the haiku specialty. With the increasingly obvious seasonal irregularities, however, haiku poets today would have hard time choosing seasonal terms that are traditionally accepted and also match today's changing climate.
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 23:35
夕日のさして山のはいとちこうなりたるに（in the dusk light the mountain ridges come closer) is in the well-known beginning passage of a famed 11c literature Pillow Book, describing the best time of the day in each season. In autumn, it is the dusk when the light gives a particular glow and shades of colour. In Japan, autumn is the time when colouring of leaves are enjoyed as momiji-gari (autumn leave viewing), a major seasonal outing like its spring counterpart hanami (cherry blossom viewing). Various deciduous trees including maples (kaede, momiji) and ginko (icho) display spectacular range of red, orange and yellow. Leaves start to colour when the minimum temperature drops below 8℃ and the colouring accelerates with temperature below 5℃, reaching its peak in about 25 days. Without good sunlight, water and temperature gap, leaves do not colour well or fall without colouring. The Japan Meteorological Agency issues “Leave colouring forecasts” with a chart of “colouring front” across the country so that people can plan their viewing trip at the locations of their choice. Similar forecasts are given for cherry blossoms, the first sighting of cabbage butterflies and the first hearing of a spring-announcing bird uguisu nightingale. This year, the colourig peak in Tokyo was 28 November. In the last 50 years, maple colouring has been delayed by 15.6 days and ginko 10.7days (JMA). As well as the delay in timing, with the warmer night temperature and the smaller gap in day-night temperature, the colours today are not so striking. Crimson or burning red maples are becoming rare. Among the numerous seasonal terms used in haiku, 山装う (yama-yosoou, mountains dress up) symbolizes autumn. In spring the mountain laughs, in summer it becomes lush and in winter it sleeps. The autumn dress is meant to be like nishiki weaving of many colours but with the climate change, mountains may stop dressing up in their special colourful garments (Photo: Simon Wearne).
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 11:22
Kinokawa, an icon of Wakayama running through the northern part of the city, flows some 130km from the pristine mountain range of Odaigahara, Nara to the Wakayama Bay. Nara section of Kinokawa is called Yoshino-gawa. Small branches of Kinokawa, Wakagawa, Wadagawa, provide attractive canals in the city center. Kinokawa, like many other rivers around the world, is not only the valuable water source but also provides the community a place of everyday living - farming, transport, recreation. Crossing the Kitajima Bridge in the morning, we can see early workers attending their vegetable fields on the wide riverbeds, joggers and cyclists.
A local writer Ariyoshi Sawako (1931-84) wrote "Kinokawa" (1959), a novel dipicting the life of women of a Wakayama family over three generations. Ariyoshi wrote a number of historical novels, centering around women's life but also books on social justice, one of the most well known "Fukugo Osen (Multiple pollution, 1975)". The book, that questioned the heavy use of pestcides and other chemicals, raised further environmental concerns following the cases of four major enviornmental diseases (Yokkaichi, Itai Itai, Minamata) that occurred during 50s-70s. Fukugo-osen, in this sense, is Japan's "Silent Spring" (Rachel Carson, 1962). Ariyoshi also wrote widely on issues such as racial descrimination, ageing, gender and religion.
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 17:21
"Silk kimono" a Higashiyama-sanjo Kimono seller tells us, "are meant to last up to 100 years if kept in a good condition. Anything beyond then are antique items too fragile to wear. Our kimono and fabrics here are from early Showa (1926-89) or Taisho (1912-26) era. Those from Meiji (1868-1912) are rare." Silk was the main reason Japan's early trades with China started and continued during the seclusion period (early 17C-1858). Today, various types of silk are used as the kimono material as well as the strings for the Japanese musical instruments (eg koto, shamisen). "There has been some reviving interest in old kimono but because they are not suited to today's lifestyle, it is difficult to maintain young generation's interest. Many families still have kimono in their kura (store houses), but the maintenance is difficult and many become wasted". Kimono materials are also used for furoshiki (wrapping cloth) that can be used to carry items of various sizes and shapes. "Eco-bags" are being promoted and many supermarkets are stopping to supply plastic bags. Gift-giving, including gift-wrapping, is an important aspect of socialisation in Japan. Use of old shilk materials in various forms, including furoshiki, may offer one way of creatively conserving this Japanese culture.
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 8:42
Kifune or Kibune Shrine (sacred ship) originated in 7c is a shrine of water celebrating Takaokami deity. Kifune Mountain is the water source for the Kyoto's major river Kamogawa. The origin of Kifune is said to be a yellow ship (ki-fune) a deity Tamayoribime appeared in, but the Shinto belief interprets kifune as 'a mountain' or 'a tree root' where ki rises from. Ki is the flow of energy and spirituality. This Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) is Kifune's sacred tree (go-shinki) estimated to be over 400 years old. The rope with white hanging paper (shimenawa) marks the sacred site. Water, as the origin of life, Kifune is worshiped for all human life enddavour, including love and good relationships. There are a trail and a river of love based on a Heian period poet Izumi Shikibu's love poem.
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 0:47
Kojino-mori (forests of ancient heritage) was initiated jointly by the Forestry Agency and Association for the Shrines and Temples in 2003. Initially ten forests were designated as Kojino-mori, which aimed to ensure the timber supplies for future restoration of shrines and temples around Japan, including 727 nominated as Important Cultural Properties. The first Kojino-mori was established within the Kurama and Kifune National Parks, northern Kyoto, for the future restoration of the wooden structures of the Kurama Temple and Kifune Shrine, each dating back to 770 and 666. The main timber used are of cypress Hinoki and cedar Sugi. Hiwada, cypress barks, are also used for roofing, which can be harvested every 8-10 years from the cypress over 80 years of age. The room normally lasts for 30-40 years. At least 350,000 trees are required for the on-going supply of Hiwada just for the cultural property-listed buildings. Some of the major shrines and temples, including Koya-san, has their own Kojino-mori.
Kifune, Kurama: 30 min by Keihan Train, Kyoto. Pleasant mountain hike between the two.
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 23:10
This Kominka (traditional house) was restored by a quilt artist Kuroda Machiko seven years ago. The 100-some year old house "came as part of the 2000-tsubo land I purchased". The was bought back to life with her hard work as well as the help from those who support her passion. The thatch for the adjacent shed was brought virtually 'one by one' from local riverbed. The house has abundant supply of natural spring water shared by 17 households. Her garden is now filled with daikon, radish and up the slope, she also has a shiitake farm. Kuroda-san is an active environmental advocate who has mobilised many community movements, including the on-going wind-farm building in the area.
In many parts of Japan, minka are left unkept and forgotten as families move on. Being quite a wet region, once left, these houses deteriorate quickly. I think these houses would make a fantastic "in-residence" for artists, musicians and writers" who has an interest in environment & culture of Japan. Also a collaborative restoration across culture for architectural student, builders, carpenters and community members would be great.
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 14:17
Koya-san is a mountaibn range with a temple town as a cente. It is the headquater of the Shingon Esoteric Buddhism established by Kukai (Kobo Daishi) in 816. Today 23 national treasures and 187 important cultural properties are houses in the 117 temples. Koyasan is part of the "Kii Sacred Mountains and Pilgrimage Route" nominated for the UNESCO World Heritage (2004). The major pilgrimage route leading up to Koyasan is "Cho-ishi michi", a 24km mountain trail marked with 180 stone pillar marker (Cho-ishi) every cho (109m). The pillar symbolises Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Sky. Surrounding Koya town is a Sanzai route (3 Sacred Mountains - Mt Mani, Yoryu, Tenjiku, 8.7km) and also Nyonin-do (Women's route, 6.9km), which was used by women pilgrims, who were not officially allowed in Koya before 1873. Walking thorugh the mountains gives us a glimpse of the belief of Sanchu takai ("entering the other world through the mountains"). (photo: Jison-in at the beginning of the Cho-ishi route (No. 180), which also celebrates Kukai's mother who was unable to visit Koya herself).
At the end of Koya town is Okuno-in, a graveyard in a dense ceder forest, leading up to Gobyo, where Kukai is worshiped. Koya is a spiritual place, where the human spirituality is found in nature, and the nature sharpens the human sensibility. Today Koyasan has its own forest "Kojino-mori" to ensure the supply of timber materials for the future restoration of wooden structures that may be requried in 300-400 year's time. There are also plantation of koya-maki (umbrella pine, cciadoptys verticillata), whose brahcnes are the main offering in Koyasan.
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 12:49
Wakayama's main river Kinokawa has a number of branches flowing through the city. Canals with many small bridges are one attractive feature of this city - we can often seen herons hunting for fish, water is clean and we don 't see much rubbish. Due to the high precipitation of the region (around 1300mm/ann), the canals are important for flood mitigation and not for recreational purposes. Still, we can see small gardens created along. Cycling, walking along and canoeing the canals would be a great way of seeing this quiet & gentle Wakayama downtown.
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 12:34
The Plumwood Forest is where an environmental philosopher Val Plumwood lived for nearly 30 years. Sadly we lost her early 2008. We understand how Val was part of this forest that accommodates a wide range of animals and birds, including the very shy singer lyrebirds. I visited the forest to walk the forest with Val and record the lyrebird songs, which according to Val included a song for her. Lyrebirds are known for their ability to sing "other species' songs and sounds", which Val refused to describe as "mimic". Lyrebirds are, Val believed, "multi- cultural and multi-lingual, who can understand, interpret and liaise between different species." She often witnessed lyrebirds "breaking up the fights between different species, telling them off for being nasty to each other and helping to reach a amicable solution". Such observation is only possible for people like Val as one of the forest inhabitants. The snake goddess is at the entrance to Val's house and garden and I hope we, as creative conservationists, can carry even a small piece of her legacy.
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 12:21
Koonya, on the way to Port Arthur, Tasman Peninsula, is the home for environmentalists Helen Gee and Bob Graham. Surrounding their property is a natural sculpture garden where we can find amazing range of colours and patterns. The serenity of the scenery is quite moving and we can experience truly timeless time there.
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 12:11
Taiji is known as a birthplace of Japan's traditional community/shore-based whaling. Wada and five other fishing clans started shore-based whaling and later developed a method so-called Net-Whaling around 1675. This continued almost 200 years until a whaling accident more than 100 village's young male (1878). The cause of the accident is believed to be the greed that underestimated the warning signs for the disastrous weather. This disaster triggered search for works outside of Japan and many Taiji fishers went to Australia (Thursday Island, Broom) as well as San Francisco as shell divers. Today Taiji is a sister city of Broom (since 1981), now also known for its Shinju (Pearl) Festival initiated by Taiji divers in 1968. In 2008 six Taiji Junior High school students visited Broom as the first reciprocal exchange.
For environmentalists, Taiji is known for its dolphin chase. 24 fishers on 12 licensed boats operate the hunt as a team during the season (Sept-March until they reach the quota). There has been a number of conflicts between the fishers and the protesters, who often take confrontational approach. Taiji has a number of important whaling-related cultural heritage (whale festival, boat/craft making, rituals and ceremonies) that inform us a sustainable human-nature relationship. Cultural activities - It is easy to condemn the cruel nature of the hunt, for which alternatives would evolve certainly but gradually.
Taiji: 2.5hrs from Wakayama by express (Kuroshio) on JR Kiihonsen
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 11:08
Yuasa, where a particular kind of shoyu (soy source) originated, is a living museum of historic townscape. The town, originally established to provide accommodation for pilgrims to Kumano Shrines, flourished as a commercial center with fishing port, mandarin orchards and the particular kind of Shoyu (invented from Kinji-miso around 17c). Today traditional houses are well preserved and stylishly presented. At the front of houses, a variety of small treasures are displayed in wooden frames - combs, toys, doctor's equipments. These frames (seiro) are the trays used for fermentation process of miso making. As well as soy source makers, soy bean growers, tool manufactures make this town a good example of eco or living-museum. The town was nominated as an Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Traditional Buildings" (2006, Agency of Cultural Affairs). Yuasa town holds a Toro night, when traditional street lanterns adorn this historic town. An evening stroll in the soft lantern light would create a beautiful Slow Night.
Yuasa: from Wakayama, 40 min on JR Kinokuni Line. http://www.town.yuasa.wakayama.jp/
投稿者 環境文化交流会 時刻: 0:57