The benign expression is what floored me. The souvenir porcelain called “Shigaraki Yaki Tanuki’ good luck charm which I found in souvenir shops on way to Kiyomizu-dera temple, Kyoto. A bearer of Eight lucky omens, the hat is for protection from unexpected disasters, the smiling face for affability, the big bold eyes for seeing the world for what it is and the big belly for being bold. No wonder I saw a larger version in a Japanese restaurant in Houston, Texas, USA.
‘ Another luminous example of antiquity is the Golden Pavilion or Kinkauji from the period when there were no cameras to capture its golden glory reflected in the still waters of the Magic Pond or Kyoko-chi. The tourist pictures do little justice to the real structure and a visitor can just gawk at the play of colors, burnt amber, fiery reds, vivid yellows, amidst the surrounding foliage of Kinugasa-yama Mountains in the background. The eight different sized islands or famous rocks in the Pond personify the Buddhist scriptures ‘Land of Happiness’ and for the harried visitor a natural stress buster. Hayashi Yoken, a recalcitrant monk, had burnt down the Pavilion in 1950 and the present Golden Pavilion is a replica of the original, with extra gold added to the two floors.
I walked around the Japanese Garden, retained in its original form, with natural springs, moss gardens, waterfalls and bridges, the Dadoniji Stones, try plunking coins in the stone bowls for luck, the Sekka-tei tea house and the Fudo Myo, a mini temple in honor of the god of fire and wisdom. The bushes around the temple, ornamented with tiny pieces of paper containing wish-fulfillment messages, are the links between past and present.’
The red-crowned crane or Tancho in Japan, are known to dance their elegant dance of dips and jumps in pairs, and watching the green pair I expected them to spread out their wings and twirl, choreographed by the mountain breeze. The birds have a perfect setting, surrounded by roses and multicolored flowers and greenery all around with spectacular views of sunset over Burrard Inlet, and at a distance the Indian Arm, the North Shore mountains and downtown Vancouver.
The metal eco-sculptures are filled with soil and covered with porous landscaping fabric. Plants are then inserted through the holes, made in the fabric, to hide the frame for a near perfect replica of the real cranes.
Tancho cranes carry a heavy esoteric burden as symbols of luck, longevity and fidelity. At traditional Japanese marriages 1000 paper origami cranes are included to wish 1000 years of happiness and posterity on the couple. To the Chinese and Vietnamese the crane is a carrier of spirits to heavenly shores.
The ‘hot’ of Owakudani or the Great Boiling valley with its active smoking sulphur vents is intimidating as we made our way down to the vents. Adding to environmental hazard is presence of sulphur in the air and still the place is inundated with tourists walking down the valley, tasting the sulphur boiled Kuro-tamago or black eggs said to add years to life. The blackness can be a put off but eating one egg adds seven years to life. The thought of extra years tests your greediness but it is advisable to stick to two and hope for longevity.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hakone_black_egg_dsc05310.jpg
Owakudani is a result of eruption of Mount Hakone nearly 3000 years ago, and the area is still fuming. It is a declared volcanic zone and till future eruptions a place to enjoy hot springs and hot rivers along with added bonus of the shimmering placid Lake Ashi and the elusive snow-capped Fuji-San.
Indra Chopra writes a guest blog about her introduction to the Japanese style of bathing. Originally from India, she is now based in Hong Kong with her husband. Indra’s own travel blog – Trails is about journeys, the constant and unexpected, of encounters with the known and unknown. The journeys are on foot, train and air and each has a special place in the blog-sphere. [Read… [Read more]