shrine

Visiting a maximum security shrine at the foot of the Narita airport runway

Flying into Narita International Airport, many travelers are surprised to learn they are almost 60 km outside of Tokyo and need to take an hour train ride to get into the city. Its location in rural Chiba Prefecture was chosen in the 1960s when the government realized the smaller Haneda airport could not keep up with the booming postwar air traffic in and out of Tokyo. Many locals protested the new airport that bulldozed over their formerly quiet lives and the bitter fight left the area with some very odd landmarks, such as a heavily secured and monitored shrine that sits almost directly in front of one of the runways.

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New ‘Shrine Cafe’ in Tokyo offers fortune-telling and counseling services with your tea

Hey everyone, how has 2014 treated you? Did you finally get that dream job you wanted? Or maybe you moved, or found a significant other?

With only a little over two months left in the year, you might find yourself already looking forward to what the new year has to offer. If you’re especially eager to get a ‘sneak-peak’ of what 2015 has in store for you, then this new Shrine Cafe located in Tokyo’s Takadanobaba neighborhood may just be the perfect place for you. It only opened its doors on the 14th of this month, but it already promises to fill a niche in Japan’s already abundant and eclectic cafe scene.

But wait–just what the heck is a shrine cafe??

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Serial Tree Killer on the Loose in Western Japan, 14 “Sacred Trees” Poisoned So Far

Scattered across the landscape of Japan are Shinto shrines of various shapes and sizes.  In many of the larger shrines you’ll find one or more especially old trees known as Goshinboku which means “sacred tree.”

Sacred trees are usually massive in size and centuries old with some reportedly over 1,000 years old.  You can usually tell them from the shimenawa wrapped around their trunks. A shimenawa is an extremely thick rope which encloses something holy and wards off evil from outside.

These age-old trees are beautiful specimens of nature’s strength and longevity and add an extra level of serenity to their shrines.  However, in the past month someone or some group has been killing off these sacred trees of shrines in 5 separate prefectures in Japan’s mid-west.

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Our Reporter Learns a Thing or Two about Buying Good Luck Charms in Japan…

Tori no Ichi is an open-air market festival held in Japan on the day of the Rooster in November, as determined by the Chinese calendar. At the festivals, markets are set up in front of or near to Shinto shrines, and charms- most often decorated bamboo rakes called kumade- that are said to bring the owner good fortune in the coming year are sold to visitors.

Kumade literally means “bear hand”, since, when you think about them, rakes are shaped rather like a large hand with claws. Rakes were chosen generations ago as a sign of good luck since they can be used to draw things– in this case wealth and good fortune– towards us, and the practice of buying ornamental rakes has been common in Japan since the Edo period (1600-1867).

Wanting to check out the lively festival and ask for continued success for the website next year, our reporter Mr. Sato headed over to the famous Hanazono shrine in Shinjuku to purchase a kumade on behalf of RocketNews24.

However, having never purchased one of the charms before, he discovered that he had more than a couple of things to learn…

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We Visit the Shrine of the Dolls, Where Creepiness Turns to Inspiration and a Doll Has Hair that Grows

Awashima Shrine is known as the shrine of “memorial dolls” (dolls given as offerings to the shrine) because of the countless dolls and figures that surround the main building and the grounds.  It stands apart from the other shrines of Japan in the otherworldly atmosphere it gives off.  Some say it has a psychic energy to it.

At the shrine there is said to be a doll with hair that grows.  Who knows if there are really ghosts in the world, but you certainly get the sense there is something “present” when confronted with these eerie yet peaceful guardians.

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