A life of courage, joy and independence.
Those who have visited Shinto (native religion of Japan) shrines in Japan may recall passing beneath one or more large gates (mon) at the entrance to the shrine complex. These distinctive structures are called torii in Japanese and are thought to mark the boundary between the secular world and the sanctified grounds of the shrine. In passing beneath a torii one is, in fact, making his or her initial approach towards the inner sanctuary, and accordingly many Japanese will first bow before stepping under the gate. Shinto shrines may include multiple gates, and paths within the shrine may be lined with dozens of closely set torii which together create the effect of a long, enclosed corridor. Believers may use their walk through such passages as an aid in helping to clear their mind of worldly distractions and in preparation for making an appearance before the enshrined deity. Torii gates are traditionally made of wood though it is not uncommon to see gates made of metal, concrete, stone or other durable material. Many wooden torii are unpainted and over time will take on a beautiful weathered appearance much in keeping with the shrine’s natural-looking landscape. Torii are often produced using local timber and therefore shrines which are located in high mountain forests may feature torii constructed simply from a few rough cut conifers. Such torii blend in nicely with the surrounding forest and are emblematic of the Japanese love of nature. Though the torii has become a symbol of Japan as a country it is nevertheless a very unique and important part of the Shinto religious tradition.
Shinto is one of the two major religions of Japan (the other is Buddhism). Shinto is often considered to be the native religion of Japan, and is as old as Japan itself. The name Shinto means “the way of the gods.” Shinto is a pantheistic religion, in which many thousands of major and minor gods are thought to exist. The Japanese have built thousands of shrines (jinja) throughout the country to honor and worship these gods. Some shrines are huge and are devoted to important deities. Other shrines are small and may be easily missed when strolling along roads in the countryside.
Shinto gods are called kami. Kami are thought to have influence on human affairs, and for this reason many Japanese make regular pilgrimage to community shrines in order to offer prayers to local kami. The act of prayer involves approaching the shrine structure, passing through the gate-like torii, cleansing the hands and mouth with water and possibly ascending stairs to the main entrance of the shrine. Usually without entering the shrine the worshipper will throw some coins into a stone or wooden collection box and then rattle the suzu bell which is at the top of a long hemp rope. The worshiper grabs hold of the rope and shakes it back and forth causing the copper bell at the top to rattle. This is thought to get the attention of the shrine god. The worshipper then bows twice, claps his or her hands twice and then bows again. In addition, the worshipper may clasp their hands together in silent prayer. Shintoism and Buddhism have managed to find a comfortable coexistence in Japan. Evidence of this harmonious relationship is found in the fact that that most Japanese are married in a Shinto shrine, but buried by a Buddhist priest.
Welcome to the softypapa blog. My name is Kurt Bell and I am delighted that you have chosen to walk awhile with me. I’m available on Facebook and Google+ if you have questions or just want to chat and say hi. I can also be found at the JVLOG forum with other Japan-related content creators. All links are listed below. I look forward to meeting you on-line. Have a great day!
The Path of Wildness is an answer and response to a prescribed way of life which may leave some individuals with a sense that their living is little more than a series of pre-determined, step-like episodes between birth and death. The stages of living between these events: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, parenthood and senior are themselves natural and in accord with the needs of the species and most individuals. Many find their satisfaction in living this course and to these individuals I have little or nothing to say. Others though long for something more; something innate, genetic and seemingly calling. Adventure and change can give a degree of satisfaction and relief yet even these may seem too tame. To those who feel drawn to something beyond the entertainment and stimulation of senses I offer a walk along The Path of Wildness. Don’t bother penciling the event in your schedule, preparing a pack with goodies and supplies or even inviting a friend along, for this experience is along the course of your first inclination and you must surely always go alone.
The Path of Wildness Resources
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“Japanese Falls” image included in this video is by the artist Lane Brown. See more of Mr. Brown’s work at the following URL:
Channel Theme Music “Song For Kurt” used with permission by Nowherians. Discover more about the artist and their music at the URL below. Be sure to check out their “Rome Pays Off” recordings.
Channel homepage image “Leaf” by photographer Moyan Brenn.
See more of Mr. Brenn’s photos on Flickr at the link below.