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Taiyuin

In Japanese History, Japanese Shrines & Temples, Tokugawa Shogun Graves on May 30, 2013 at 1:58 am

大猷院
Taiyūin
(Divine Prince Who Built Up the Great Government)
三大将軍徳川家光公
2nd Shōgun, Lord Tokugawa Iemitsu
Nikkō

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Honden (main hall) of Taiyūin. It's built in the same Gongen-zukuri style as Daitokuin's honden. You can see the Nakamon (middle gate) and sukibei (latticework fence).

Honden (main hall) of Taiyūin. It’s built in the same Gongen-zukuri style as Daitokuin honden. You can see the Nakamon (middle gate) and sukibei (latticework fence).

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Yesterday’s post was a monster. But it was a real labor of love. For the first time, I was able to really visualize the size and grandeur of the Daitokuin funerary complex. I had never seen photos of all of those buildings and the maps together in the same place before (definitely not in English), so I felt like I really succeeded in resurrecting the temple. I hope everyone else felt like that too. So far, that may be the article I’m the most proud of.

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Sukibei (latticework fence) around the the honden (main hall).

Sukibei (latticework fence) around the the honden (main hall).

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Compared to that, today’s post may be a little disappointing. The reason is that Nikkō Tōshō-gū and Nikkō Taiyūin are both so well known. There are volumes written about them online and in books in every major language. The sites are wonderfully preserved and can be enjoyed year round. I don’t want to just repeat what everyone else says about this mausoleum, so I’m having difficulty coming up with unique information.

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This gate is called the Nitenmon (2 heaven gate), but if you notice the plaque with kanji on it, you'll understand that this is the second gate to the temple and that it is essentially a chokugakumon (imperial scroll gate). The characters say Taiyuuin and were supposedly written by the emperor before being incorporated into the architecture.

This gate is called the Nitenmon (2 heaven gate), but if you notice the plaque with kanji on it, you’ll understand that this is the second gate to the temple and that it is essentially an imperial scroll gate.
The characters say Taiyūin and were supposedly written by the emperor before being incorporated into the architecture.
I’ve heard it’s the biggest gate at Nikkō… but I’ve never measured it. If ya know what I mean…

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Well, anyways, let’s start at the beginning.

Iemitsu was the first shōgun born since the establishment of the Tokugawa shōgunate. As such, he was the first heir to be groomed from childhood to be shōgun[i]. He established, or at least codified the sankin-kōtai system, which increased the size and population of Edo, thus transforming it into a sprawling metropolis with an unprecedented concentration of samurai elite. His father began restricting travel and trade with other countries, but Iemitsu is the one who essential closed off Japan from the outside world[ii]. Furthering his father and grandfather’s policies against the irritating Christians missionaries and their converts, Iemitsu set about de-christianizing Japan. He expanded Tōshō-gū in Nikkō to its current size and he is said to have visited the site about 10 times. It’s said that he lavished so much money on embellishing Tōshō-gū that some advisors feared he would bankrupt the shōgunate. But the early Edo Period was a booming time economically, so it all worked out in the end.

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A ridiculously ornate suibansha (water basin). It's used for ritual cleaning of your hands and mouth before entering a shrine. Usually they're not very interesting, but when we go back to the Edo-Tōkyō buildings, you'll find that in some cases these are all we have left.

A ridiculously ornate suibansha (water basin). It’s used for ritual cleaning of your hands and mouth before entering a shrine. Usually they’re not very interesting, but when we go back to the Edo-Tōkyō buildings, you’ll find that in some cases these are all we have left.

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According to his wishes, his body kept for a while at Kan’ei-ji – establishing an alternating policy of burial between the two Tokugawa funerary temples. After preparations had been made at Rin’nō-ji in Nikkō, his body was transported there[iii]. Then his son, the 4th shōgun, Ietsuna, began constructing a lavish mausoleum. Iemitsu had ordered that no mausoleum ever surpass that of Ieyasu’s, so Taiyūin was made with darker colors, less adornment, and the size is smaller than Tōshō-gū. Actually, I think it’s the more beautiful of the two. Oh, the buildings face Tōshō-gū out of respect.

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Copper lamps at Taiyūin. Love this shot because the mist reminds me of Nikkō and the ghostly B/W shots of Daitokuin.

Copper lamps at Taiyūin.
Love this shot because the mist reminds me of Nikkō and the ghostly B/W shots of Daitokuin.

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Tōshō-gū is extremely ostentatious. And while Taiyūin has much in common with it on the surface and in terms of size and craftsmanship, I think it really is reflecting a mode of architecture closer to that of some of the early Tokugawa shōgun mausolea in Edo. Unfortunately, the Edo buildings were destroyed and we can’t get a feel for how they interacted with the terrain. But the Taiyūin structures definitely work with the lay of the land for dramatic effect. Judging by the map of Daitokuin we saw yesterday, it’s obvious the architects of Edo were also incorporating their masterpieces into the natural curvature of the land.

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I don’t have anything more to say on the topic of Taiyūin, except that it is a masterpiece of Japanese art and architecture of its day. If you have the chance to see it, you should. I guarantee you’ll love it.

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Edo Period engineering built this.Freaking amazing!

Edo Period engineering built this.Freaking amazing!

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For More Information About Nikkō Tōshō-gū

Nikkō Tourist Association:
http://www.nikko-jp.org/english/taiyuin/index.html
(Notice the list of buildings they mention. You’ll notice the same ones at Daitokuin and every other funerary temple.)

This woman has a nice piece on Taiyūin:
http://en.japantourist.jp/view/nikko-s-taiyu-in-mausoleum

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[i] Remember, both Ieyasu and Hidetada were products of the Sengoku Period.

[ii] Since the bakumatsu (1850’s-1860’s), the Japanese have used the term 鎖国 sakoku closed country (literally, “locked” or “chained”). Recent scholarship of the Edo Period has come to favor the term 海禁 kaikin maritime restrictions. While I’m cool with both words, the average Japanese person still uses the term sakoku to describe this isolationist policy. I’ll leave this one to the scholars…

[iii] Rin’nō-ji still oversees Taiyūin to this day.

Free Wifi for Travelers in Japan

In Japan, Japanese iPhone, Travel in Japan on April 22, 2013 at 6:03 am

I learned this tip from Zooming Japan, so much appreciation to her for sharing. I want to share with my readers too.

Free WIFI Hotspots in Tokyo and Free WIFI Hotspots in Japan for Tourists & Travelers.

IT’S FREEEEEEEEE!

So you’re planning a trip to Japan. You have a smartphone or PC and you’re worried about only having wifi in your hotel room. Flets will give you access to their hotspots around Tokyo (and some other cities). It might not be perfect, but it’s better than nothing. And it’s FREE!

You can use it for 14 days.

Here’s how to get it: http://flets.com/freewifi/service.html

 

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Japanese Manners (part 3)

In Japanese Manners on February 11, 2013 at 12:10 pm

In my commute back from work today, I thought of some more Japanese manners that I hadn’t mentioned before.

If you haven’t seen parts 1 and 2 yet, please take a look:

PART ONE – 4 manners that you absolutely must know when visiting Japan.
PART TWO – 4 more manners that will help you enjoy the culture experience of Japan more.

Today’s manners are little things that you may or may not know, some might seem trivial to non-Japanese.

Using Chopsticks

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chopsticks may be kawaii, but only if you have good manners.

I’m going to assume you know how to use these already, if not, get 2 pencils and check out some videos on YouTube.
However, there is some etiquette which may or may not be self-evident.

1Don’t play air drums with your chopsticks
2Don’t tap your chopsticks together to make noise
3Don’t hover your chopsticks over food while deciding what to choose. Choose what you want first, and then pick it up.

Those three are all considered childish and uncouth. These next 2 manners are actually taboos relating to the dead and can be extremely offensive or off-putting and as such you should avoid them at all costs.

1Two people shouldn’t touch the same item at the same time with chopsticks. (At a Japanese funeral, after cremation, the small bone fragments are gathered from the ashes in this manner. The bones are then brought to the family grave. If you do this people will be aghast!)
2Don’t stick your chopsticks into the rice. Always set them on the side of the bowl or dish. (In Japanese cemeteries, rice bowls with chopsticks stuck in them are left as ceremonial offerings for the dead.)

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pleeeease don’t be THAT guy!

 

Visiting Shrines and Temples

Japan has a kind of syncretic polytheistic religious history. The native religion of the Japanese isles is Shintō. It’s polytheistic in that there are many 神 (kami – usually translated as “gods” or “spirits”) who reside in various special spots all over the country. See a beautiful mountain? There is a special kami there. See a funky looking tree? There is probably a kami there too. A nice vista from the side of a hill? Most like there’s a kami living there too. And so on.

Kami are enshrined in… um, shrines. A shrine can be identified by a torī (you can think of it as the entrance to the sacred space), relatively plain, wooden architecture and a fountain for purifying your hands.

Shinto_Shrine_at_Sanju-sangen-do_Temple_Kyoto

shrine on you crazy diamond!

Early in Japanese history, Buddhism was imported to Japan. Buddhism doesn’t have kami, rather it focuses on the examples of real people who have reached enlightenment. Before the Meiji Period (let’s say industrialized Japan), there was a syncretism (blending) of Shintō and Buddhism. Nikkō Tōshōgū is a prime example of this mixed style. It’s essentially a shrine, but it houses the enlightened spirit of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was very much a real person.

A temple can be identified by a large wooden gate (or sometimes just a fence), “heavy” architecture, usually with much more decoration than a shrine. There is often a large incense burner in front of the building.

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note there’s no torii, there is an lamp-like looking incense burner. you can’t see the main gate, but this temple has one, but it blocks the main hall’s view.

 

SO HOW DO I DO IT?

Visiting a Shrine

1Walk through the torī.
2 From here on in, be respectful. No shouting, no smoking. Taking pictures is probably OK, but be aware that some particularly important shrines may have no flash/picture rules in some areas, keep your eyes open.
3Go to the fountain. (I think it’s usually on the left side of the entrance… but maybe they have in other places).  Pick up the ladle.  Pour the water over your left hand. Make sure your hands are outside of the fountain, don’t put “dirty” water back into the pool. Then repeat with the other hand. Put the ladle away. (Just a quick note, on cold days, most people totally skip this part because… it’s cold. Know what I mean?)
4Go up the stairs to the main hall.
5If there is a hanging bell or gong thingy, ring it a few times to get the kami’s attention.
5Throw a coin into the offering box (10 yen is the norm, but you can do whatever).
6Bow 45° twice.
7Clap your hands twice.
8Bow deeply again once and when you come up, put your hands together, palm-to-palm and pray… or if you’re an atheist like me, stand there silently and pretend.
9You’re done!

Visiting a Temples

Much easier than a shrine – cuz it’s not Japanese. lol

0 – After entering the temple grounds, be respectful and quiet.
1If there is a large incense burner, go up to it and with cupped hands, pull some of the smoke on your body (in particular, the parts you think need a little “help”).  If there isn’t much smoke coming out of there, go buy some first from the temple girls and light it and put it in the burner before trying to hog all the smoke for yourself.
2Go up the stairs to view the temple treasures and sacred objects.
3Toss a coin or two into the offering box.
4 – There are no kami in Buddhism, so it would be stupid to bow at a bunch of stuff, however Japan is pretty much an atheistic country and a lot of people don’t actually know the difference between shrine etiquette and temple etiquette, so you WILL see people bowing and doing shrine stuff. Normal. But basically, the correct etiquette is to throw the coin and, without bowing, pray with your palms together, then leave.

As always, thanks for reading. Also, if there are any topics you’d like me to cover in the future, please let me know. I’m all ears.

More to come soon!

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