Let me set the scene. A Shinto priest waves his1 haraegushi, a staff topped with thin strips of paper that somewhat resembles a mop, in the forecourt of Gokoku-jinja. The onlookers watch a ritual that is clearly pre-modern, a sequence of moves which has been practiced and perfected over time. On other days, the priest might bless the union of a young couple, or pray for the long life and happiness of a child. But not today. Today, a new car is parked within on the forecourt of the shrine. The man of God(s) is spiritually purifying its oily innards. Continue reading “I Do Not Yet Understand”
This week, I took a short trip to Shimane Prefecture. I stayed for two nights and planned to document it all in a single blog. But then I went to an original, sengoku-era Japanese castle, and there’s no way I’m summing that up in a couple of paragraphs1. Therefore, I’ve taken the unspeakably decadent step of splitting my travelogue into two parts. So here it is- my first double album. (Apologies for the filler: Keith insisted we put his track with the stupid clarinet solo on there.) Continue reading “The Far Coast, Part 1: Izumo”
Hiroshima has a castle. Perched atop a musha-gaeshi (the Japanese equivalent of a motte) and surrounded by an network of enclosed maru (courtyards, or baileys in European castle-speak), the castle tower is an impressive sight. In the grounds, the ruins of the Imperial War Headquarters lurk; the emperor stayed here in the 1890s, during the first Sino-Japanese War. Attendants sweep the paved terraces clear of leaves. The yagura (guard tower) keeps a watchful eye on guests. Crows alight from stone lanterns, and you’re instantly drawn back into a world of samurai, closed castle towns, and men in straw hats carrying water.
I thought I’d do something different this week. And so, I give you an abridged guide to Hiroshima’s most celebrated tourist trap. Miyajima is a UNESCO world heritage site, home to many of Japan’s most venerable shrines and temples as well as the most spectacular sea views I’ve ever witnessed. It’s overrun by cuddly sika deer, there’s stone lanterns everywhere you look, and a gate to another world is out in the bay. Enjoy.
So here I am, three weeks into my adventure. I’ll probably write about an aspect of teaching sometime soon, as I’ve been in the job for long enough to share a few thoughts. But this week, I’m just going to talk about exploring the local area.