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Monday, September 18

Off The Path In Zushi

The heavy rains ceased around 1:30 pm. I quickly grabbed my shoes and headed for the door, remembering an umbrella as it most certainly was not done for the day. I walked up the main street cutting through Zushi and done the shopping street. I had seen an antique shop and a pottery store some time ago that I had been wanting to visit. I also needed to pick up something to make for dinner while I was out, making the trip not only fun but productive lest anyone think I’m not working hard enough. I went to the shops and found many beautiful things. Not surprisingly, everything was very expensive and it ended up to be a window shopping trip only. (See, I really have improved!)

As I left the shops behind and headed back towards the butcher, I recalled that there was a shrine not far away that I had yet to visit. Altering courses, I headed in the direction I knew would find a rather large Shinto shrine.

To enter a shrine in Japan, one passes under a torii gate which designates that you have crossed onto holy ground… from the physical world to the spiritual world. The gate is sometimes the only indicator that you have entered a shrine.

I passed under the torii and found myself in a quiet, park-like area. There was a man on the path ahead sweeping up the fruits of the trees that had fallen but otherwise the area was empty. I slowly walked around, snapping pictures of the scene and noted that a few more people came into the shrine but all passed quickly out the other side, using it as a shortcut and barely noticing the beauty to their left and right. One man came in carrying his tiny, baby daughter, climbed the steps to the shrine, rang the bell and said a very quick prayer before leaving again.

As I walked around the park, the man who was sweeping came up to me and asked if I spoke Japanese. I of course cannot but he announced that his English was very bad in almost perfect English (they are always so modest). He told me that the last time he studied English was 60 years ago. He also shared that this was his favorite shrine and he visits there every day at 5:30 a.m. and then again in the evening to sweep and clean the area. I’m thinking that he is not a paid employee but really just loves this shrine and does it out of the good of his heart. How amazing.

He shared that the name of the shrine was Kameca Oka Hachiman and when I asked that he spell it, he used a stick and wrote it in the dirt. So the spelling may be off slightly as I tired to copy down quickly what was already drying and disappearing at my feet. I learned that the shrine was built about 1925 and it is a shrine to the hero of the turtle. Flanking the shrine steps are two turtles of which I can’t remember what the Japanese word he shared with me. He also showed me two statues and called them kami inu. Inu means dog and I thought I understood kami to mean Korean but now I am thinking he meant the god-like figure of the Shinto religion. Either way, it was lovely to have someone take the time to work at explaining the beauty around me and not just avoiding me because of his concern for his English speaking skills. I hope to see him again some day soon.

Unfortunately, I had an appointment with a butcher and had to be on my way and leave this spiritual place behind.

I simply cannot explain the beauty of having these shrines sprinkled throughout the cities here in Japan. If one can’t find serenity here, you just aren’t keeping your eyes open.

1 comment:

Alex said...

Hey Girl,
I came across your blog via your comment on Italian blog, funny eh.
But I have to say that I’ve just spent the last 2 hours reading….
Great work, please keep going. For the last hours I learn a lot more that ever before for Japan.
Thats it I got you in my daily plan now:)))