The second day in Shiga was much like the first. The only differences were we didn’t see a castle, but instead we saw shrines and temples. Oh, it rained, too. The trip to each shrine was no easy trip either. It can properly be labeled as a hike.
Both castles and temples are very different parts of Japan’s past, but both are extremely interesting if you’re into history. Modern day Japan also shows much respect for their temples and shrines. Although Japanese people do not consider themselves very religious, they follow certain rituals and beliefs that are imbedded into their culture through Shinto and Buddhist means.
On our way up to the first shrine we found an area not yet covered by leaves. Rather than there being grass, there was a special moss that enveloped the ground.
It continued to lightly rain as we worked our way up, but nobody seemed to be phased by it. Everyone continued to take in the scenery while searching for the best angle to photograph. As I was taking pictures, I noticed that my camera was clearly insignificant in comparison to others. The reason is because many professional photographers and hobbyists had come to capture the images that are shown this time of year.
Statues also play a role in the scenery around a temple. Buddha statues are commonly seen, but I had the impression that the other statues were major figures in building or growing the temples into what they became today. I’m not sure of each statues specific purpose, but I think they are used much like Christians pray to patrons and saints.
There appeared to be orange juice, lemonade, fanta, candy, and other offerings to this Buddha. They are offerings similar to when we give flowers to someone that died. It’s a way of showing respect to the guardian deity and offering your condolences, or prayers. If anyone has anymore information regarding this I’d love to know. I’m no expert so please fill me in with any insight so I can update it further.
On our approach to the final steps to the temple we saw this sign next to two older trees that had been inches apart from each other. The sign says that initially the two trees had been apart from one another, but as time passed their roots intertwined and they began to grow as one tree. The symbolism is that they have become husband and wife. Through these two trees other smaller trees seem to flourish around them. They are seen as children of the married trees. For people that are having trouble making a family, they can come to these trees, say a prayer, and touch these two trees in an attempt to receive some of their power. Their name, 夫婦杉Meiotosugi, is literally translated into “Cedar Couple”.
Arriving at the first temple.
Bells also play a role in Shintoism. They come in many forms, but in my experience bells typically resemble the one below. It is said that you may ring the bell if you use proper etiquette. Ring the bell, bow twice, clap your hands twice, bow once more, make a prayer, then throw some coins into the donation/offering box. Etiquette may vary, but this is the way I have observed.
As we entered the path to the second temple, Kongourinji-temple, a large lantern shaped ball was hanging from the gate. The meaning is complex for even the average Japanese person. Therefore, the translation is difficult unless you are familiar with the Chinese character combinations commonly used at shrines. Also, you may notice the stickers at the top of the gate. They are the names of the people worshiping at that temple and can be placed by anyone. Their significance began to show the multiple shrines one visited which started a pilgrimage-like trend hundreds of years ago. Originally the names were written on wooden boards and nailed to the gates with bamboo. When posting a sticker it is custom to say a prayer along with it.
First we arrived at the main garden which was breathtaking especially at this time of year.
After a few minutes of observing the grounds we made our way uphill to the temple at the top. Along the way were hundreds upon hundreds of these miniature statues with what looks like a bib tied around their neck. Their significance to the temple is said that they protect young children or care for those that have died early or unexpectedly. Their name is お地蔵様, Ojizousama.
After what seemed like climbing a mountain, we made it to the top of the last shrine. It was made in memory of all the children in the world that are killed or die before birth. Preceding the entrance was a hut with incense burning underneath. Giving ￥50 gave you three sticks to burn. Adjacent to the incense hut was another tsukubai; a place to wash and cleanse yourself of any evil.
Finally, to the left of the large temple was a three-story pagoda of unique architecture. It had survived through many wars that took place in Japan over the years, but was finally destroyed in sometime during the 1860’s. Later in 1978 it was reconstructed to resemble what it once appeared to be.
I wasn’t exactly sure what I should expect from Shiga before going, but it turned out to be an amazing trip. Although I originally thought we were going to Kyoto, Shiga turned out to be a lucky twist. I highly recommend going during the fall, but I’m sure any time of the year would be equally beautiful.
Sorry this one’s kind of long, I had so many pictures I wasn’t sure what to leave out. I hope you enjoy the read and as always any comments/questions are welcome.