Our faces are not symmetrical, and that’s probably why some selfie lovers spend hours on end getting into odd poses and taking shot after shot in order to find their best angle. Some of us might have entertained the thought of perfecting our appearances to be like dolls or sculptures so that we’d look perfect from every angle. But lo and behold, sculptures have their “photogenic” angles too!
Oct 26, 2014
Moriyama-ku is an unassuming suburb of Nagoya city, backed by mountains and surrounded by forest park, which has in its midst an extraordinary hidden gem: a Tibetan Buddhist temple!
The female chief priest at Chambalin temple was trained at the sacred Jokhang monastery in Lhasa, Tibet, and she also holds the unusual honour of being the first Japanese woman to be ordained as a Tibetan chief priest.
Hearing this, our widely-travelled writer Mr. Kurosawa grabbed his reporter’s notebook and camera and headed down to take a look at this unique cultural property – and its adjoining Tibetan café.
In the previous article The Marathon Monks of Mt. Hiei: Better than Olympic Athletes? Part I, I explain the sennichi kaihogyo, or 1,000 Day Challenge, in which the Tendai Buddhist monks of Mt. Hiei, sometimes referred to as the “marathon monks,” walk the equivalent of one time around the earth–at the end of which they become living Buddhas.
In Part II, I trace the monks’ steps on the 30 km pilgrimage route, or gyoja michi, which passes through the sacred mountains and forests near the temple complex of Enryakuji. It’s a rigorous course that winds through the mountains, down into the town of Sakamoto, taking them past more than 250 spiritual places. This is the route they circumambulate for days on end over a seven-year period. For tips on the meaning behind the route, be sure to read Part I before continuing!
Rather than walking the course, I decided to run it. Running pilgrimages is a hobby of mine and I find it is a great way to combine the physical with the metaphysical. It brings joy to my runs and this fulfillment keeps the challenge. If you’re a skier, you’re always looking for more mountains. Sky divers jump at different locations. Runners look for new paths and new trails give running purpose. Leave it to your RocketNews24 running reporter to tackle the famed gyoja michi and reveal its intricacies.
I figured that running the 30-km course through the mountains would take the better part of a day. There is no map and from what I have read, Mt. Hiei can be fickle weather-wise. It has snow much of the winter and spring and there are bears. In June, when the weather was perfect, I set out with a small backpack fitted with a water bladder, some medical accoutrements and an extra pair of socks inside (for those inevitable foot and toe problems), plus an ultra light sleeping bag, just in case I got lost and had to spend the night in the forest (been there, done that!).
Mt. Hiei, which straddles Kyoto and Shiga prefectures, is home to a huge temple complex called Enryakuji. The foothills of Mt. Hiei border Kyoto City’s northeast. This group of Buddhist temples is home to an eclectic group of Tendai-shu monks, dubbed the “marathon monks” for their amazing physical feats. Not all Enryakuji monks take part, mind you, as one must get special permission to engage in what is called one of the most rigorous athletic and spiritual challenges on the planet.
During the sennichi kaihogyo, or Thousand Day Challenge, the monks venerate Fudo-myo-o, the god at the center of worship in the Tendai sect. Over a seven-year training period, the monk, called a gyoja, makes a pilgrimage to over 250 sites on Mt. Hiei, one of the top three sacred spots in Japan. At the end of the challenge, he will have walked far enough to have circled the globe once. As if this were not enough to please their god, he also takes part in a fast for nine days in which he can not eat, drink or sleep. So arduous is the sennichi kaihogyo that just over 5o monks have accomplished the challenge since records started being kept back in 1585. Indeed, many monks have died en route to this ultimate quest for enlightenment.
Scott R Dixon
May 6, 2014
2014 marks the 1,200th year since Buddhist monk Kukai made his holy journey to 88 temples on the southern Japanese island of Shikoku. The Shikoku Pilgrimage now attracts people from all over Japan as well as the world to visit the same temples along the 1,200 km-route.
Now, a new TV series, Ohenro, is out to appeal to a new generation of religious travelers and features three female pilgrims stylized in the ever popular moe fashion of super-cute anime characters.
But Japanese netizens, eager to soak up all things moe, are wondering if they will have to make their own “holy trip” since only four broadcasters are airing the show!
It’s quite common in the United States for churches to post weekly messages on the signs standing on their front lawns. The public texts can run from deeply religious sentiments to pleas for more tolerance, though it’s also not uncommon for a careless mistake to lead to messages with multiple meanings–hilarious or unfortunate, depending on your perspective.
While Japan certainly does have its fair share of churches–perhaps more than one might expect–it is primarily the Buddhist temples that fill the role of making public, semi-religious proclamations. Like their Western counterparts, these messages can leave passers-by nodding their heads thoughtfully–or perhaps just chuckling. Check out these 12 posters that left a big impact on Japanese netizens! We never knew Buddhist Monks took so much notice of what Western celebrities had to say…
At any amusement park run by the “big two” – Disney or Universal Studios – you can be whisked away to a picturesque fairytale castle, or live out scenes from your favourite movies. But what if what you really want is to ride through the depths of hell and then go alligator fishing? Suoi Tien Cultural Amusement Park, located on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, is a mammoth of a theme park that delights and baffles in equal measure. Read on for our eight reasons not to miss out!
We’re all for the inherent beauty of your typical Japanese shrine or temple, but ask any expat or tourist who has made the rounds enough times and you’ll start to hear a similar refrain: “Yeah, they’re nice and all, but they all start to look the same after a while.”
Throw in the fact that many temples, especially the most well-known ones, nickel and dime tourists with entrance fees at multiple locations on the premises, sell souvenirs incongruous with anti-materialist Buddhist teachings and promote fortune raffles with a heavy, gossip magazine-esque emphasis on love and romance, and it’s easy to forget why the temples were built in the first place.
So, here we’ve put together a list of some of Japan’s most “Zen” temples: religious facilities that maintain a strong focus on doctrine, while allowing guests (obviously, for a small fee) to transcribe sutras for themselves, experience meditation classes and more:
Jul 17, 2013
While religions of all stripes have something to offer in terms of support and advice, they also share a common detriment: they’re all really, really old. While age brings with it wisdom and experience, if religion can’t relate to modern society it runs the risk of getting left behind.
To help prevent this, several monks across Japan have been adopting new technology and trends or have tried simply reaching out to people differently, in less orthodox and more human ways.
Nov 16, 2012
LEGO reconstructions of famous structures, while certainly impressive, are nothing new. Japanese LEGO artisan Talapz, however, brings his miniature brick models to a whole new level by turning them into fantastic colorful pop-up books.
Check out a video of his latest creation, the famous Japanese Buddhist temple complex, Todai-ji, below.
Oct 17, 2012
What do you think of when you hear the word Zen? For most people, “organized religion” probably isn’t a phrase that pops up immediately. This can be a bit of a predicament for Zen Buddhist missionaries working in places like Europe and North America.
The word, which comes from a Japanese translation of the Chinese word chán, literally means meditation, and has developed a romantic sense of being purely in the moment and devoid of all thought. This concept has been focused on by various artists in Western culture like Jack Kerouac, with a diminished emphasis on the less sexy doctrines and worshiping of Buddha that are very much a part of the whole religion.
This image dichotomy is something that the Headquarters of Missionary Work for the Soto School of Buddhism in Europe has to deal with all the time.
Excite News Japan recently went to interview them on the state of modern Soto Zen Buddhism abroad. Check our rundown of their findings below!
Most people go to Shinto shrines several times a year, like for New Years or to make a special wish or prayer, like before a job interview. But with Buddhist temples, it’s usually just for tourism and funerals – not that frequently, basically. But wait! Temples are transforming these days, more and more using their halls for activities such as yoga classes, group date venues (‘gou-kon‘ in Japanese – group dinners with single men and women, seeking potential mates), and even as concert venues!
May 25, 2012
Well Dubstep, you had a good run but it’s time to drop out and make way for a new genre of dance music straight from the Buddhist temples of Japan: Dubsutra.
Okay, so maybe I just made that word up, but it is a real thing thanks to Tariki Echo, a musical unit fronted by two Japanese, bike helmet-wearing monks who have turned the Buddhist sutra into dance music.
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- New Evangelion short film now streaming on animation studio’s website2
- Ready to tie the anime knot? Company offers marriage certificate for you and your 2D waifu3
- Man parks over sidewalk guide for the blind, gets lesson in manners from Okinawan fourth-grader4
- Mythbusters: We drive a car over our smartphone to test the protective film5
- Love dolls, strippers, jacuzzis and drugs: The Philippines’ largest prison gets raided by police6
- Blogger offers four pieces of advice for foreign women looking for love with a Japanese guy7
- Korean illustrator gives Western fairy tales a whimsical Eastern makeover【Pics】8
- 20 crazy facts about North Korea9
- Artist magically transforms Sailor Moon characters into black women10
- Self-taught Singaporean artist creates unbelievably realistic art on plywood1
- Korean illustrator gives Western fairy tales a whimsical Eastern makeover【Pics】2
- Character images of new Digimon Adventure series released, expected to air in spring 20153
- Chinese dude bags super hot Ukrainian wife, generates major envy online4
- Life imitates (Sword) Art (Online) as Japanese gamers find they can’t log out of online RPG5
- Japan’s cutest rodent commuters take the high-road【Video】6
- Artist magically transforms Sailor Moon characters into black women7
- Our hero Ladybeard shows us and the world how to properly wear the much-talked about boob shirt8
- 39 looks at the lighter side of Asia9
- Evacuation orders issued as town in northern Japan is flooded by rising tidewaters10
- Self-taught Singaporean artist creates unbelievably realistic art on plywood1
- Buyers’ remorse in China: After a record-breaking day of online shopping, the angry selfies begin2
- Tiny town in northern Japan creates gorgeous, gigantic artwork out of rice paddies 【Video】3
- 1,200 Japanese workers convert above-ground train to subway line in a matter of hours4
- How to say “I love you” in Japanese – 47 different ways 【Videos】5
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- A Ghibli mystery solved — the identity of exotic looking food in Spirited Away revealed!8
- Korean illustrator gives Western fairy tales a whimsical Eastern makeover【Pics】9
- Hayao Miyazaki comments on Chihiro’s final test scene in Spirited Away10
- “No one sleeps in her class!” Internet goes gaga for gorgeous Chinese science teacher1
- Hayao Miyazaki working on new project, says “I’m going to continue making anime until I die”2
- Mickey and friends in human form are more charming than we had imagined! 【Pics】3
- A sad turn of events at a butterfly exhibition in China4
- Self-taught Singaporean artist creates unbelievably realistic art on plywood5
- Buyers’ remorse in China: After a record-breaking day of online shopping, the angry selfies begin6
- Chinese cat with unfortunate dark patch of fur tired of people asking why it’s shocked7
- 61 more images of cosmetic surgery from South Korea8
- 1,200 Japanese workers convert above-ground train to subway line in a matter of hours9
- Tiny town in northern Japan creates gorgeous, gigantic artwork out of rice paddies 【Video】10
- Love dolls, strippers, jacuzzis and drugs: The Philippines’ largest prison gets raided by police
- Blogger offers four pieces of advice for foreign women looking for love with a Japanese guy
- Korean illustrator gives Western fairy tales a whimsical Eastern makeover【Pics】
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- Artist magically transforms Sailor Moon characters into black women
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- Rock band KISS collaborating with Sailor Moon Crystal’s Momoiro Clover Z
- Model and TV star Kayo Police went to Singapore to wish you a hot Christmas from the beach
- This amazing Weipa recipe tastes every bit like fried rice without frying rice
- How humanity ends: Virtual reality headset hooked up to Tenga love cup for men 【Video】
- Commercial reminds Japan’s tired commuters about the drawbacks of living far away from work
- Cotton Wife and Cotton Husband aren’t huggy pillows, they’re life partners for the lonely!
- Chinese dude bags super hot Ukrainian wife, generates major envy online