SteveMcCarty , to histodons
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The Shintō shrine Jōnangū (城南宮) in Kyōto, was a palace of Emperors from the beginning of the Period in 794. It has from different periods since then, and a patch of pink and white blossoms around a big stone lantern is a most stunning sight to behold. Several years ago the head priest showed me around and explained the history in Japanese. Jōnangū is not well known to tourists, but it draws many reverent Japanese.

The third photo is of a teahouse and a reddish variety of plum blossoms. The last photo shows what my American friend whom I guided got: a seal written in by the shrine maiden (o-miko-san). Jōnangū is written down the center, with yesterday's date down the left side. The right side is what the shrine especially offers: houyoke - a to avoid obstacles or worries, such as with one's family. There is a great demand for such nowadays.


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Rear view of the Jōnangū shrine plum blossoms and stone lantern
Teahouse and red plum blossoms
The American friend whom I guided got a stamp book and seal written in calligraphy by a shrine maiden (o-miko-san). Jōnangū is written down the center, with yesterday's date down the left side. The right side is what the shrine especially offers: houyoke - a prayer to avoid obstacles or worries, such as with one's family. There is great demand for such blessings nowadays.

SteveMcCarty , to histodons
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Kitano Tenmangū (北野天満宮) is a major Kyōto shrine dedicated to the scholarly aristocrat Sugawara no Michizane in 947. Similar to the exiled Emperor Sutoku, after he was wronged, disasters befell the Heian Period capital, so his believed-to-be vengeful ghost was propitiated, and he was deified into the Shintō kami Tenjin. This deity of learning attracts worshippers to thousands of subsidiary shrines nationwide, such as students wishing to pass entrance exams. Kitano Tenmangū is one of the best places for plum blossom viewing, with its national treasure architecture.

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Dark pink and white plum blossoms, and a row of vermillion torii gates in the lower right.
White plum blossoms in the shrine.
Pink plum blossoms at the shrine.

SteveMcCarty , to histodons
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Deeper and deeper into and people, I went into the Imperial Palace for a special performance of (雅楽), imperial court and of mainland origin that have been performed there since the Heian Period over a thousand years ago. An acquaintance who is a Shintō priestess (see photo) from Nara played two types of traditional flutes that sustain an eerie or higher-worldly atmosphere. The relatively slow and deliberate movements of the mostly male dancers in many-layered gorgeous contumes stand in contrast with the frenetic tempo of modern . We experience as the pace of transformation, and that brief time transfixed with the Gagaku performance was but an interlude from an ancient era in a workday preparing for university classes and a keynote address. Photos will have to suffice to evoke the special atmosphere.

Publications on Japan: https://japanned.hcommons.org/japanology

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Gagaku performance
The author with a Shintō priestess acquaintance, and other Gagaku performers in the background
Another Gagaku scene

SteveMcCarty , to religion
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I've been surrounded by people of and Asian heritage since my 20s in , so it's an odd feeling to see mostly foreign tourists in on a weekday. They seem to be fanning out to places I go for walks but are less spectacular than the famous temples you pay to enter. In the future I think much of could be like Hawaii, with tourism and immigrants like myself attracted to the relatively well-preserved culture and nature.

On a typical spur-of-the-moment walk, I spent no money except on a short train ride and walked through the tourist street past Gion, through Yasaka Shrine and Maruyama Park to the temple Chion-In. It's a headquarters of a major Pure Land sect with numerous parishioners, some tending to their ancestors, unlike either the open air museum type of temples or Zen centers.

I slipped into Kyōto and back home just before an explosive thunderstorm. Limited to four photos and captions, here is a bit of the flavor of Chion-In.


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Pagoda of Chion-In.
Pond of summer-blossoming giant lotuses, while leaves are starting to change to autumn colors.
Sect founder Saint Hōnen (法然上人).

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