|Various photos I took on my travels.......|
|A page from my Pilgrimage book...|
When I was in Japan, I spent a lot of time travelling around the countryside visiting Shinto Shrines. It was something that I had not thought of doing prior to visiting (I was more interested in shopping if I am absolutely honest!) however from the moment I caught a glimpse of my first Shrine and stepped through the gates into the grounds I was struck by sacred space.
The delightful Jizō statues with their little red hats and bibs greeted me along meandering paths leading me to enormous old trees and small forests planted hundreds of years ago. The great feeling of tranquility within these grounds was so nourishing that even as I write, I remember the feeling.
Shinto shrines are the dwellings of the kami, the Shinto "gods". Kami are gods or spirits that represent objects or concepts like trees, rivers, the sun, rocks, food, and fertility.
This resonates with me as in the Maori tradition - Mana is the term used to describe the presence of spirits in nature and its phenomena. Mountains, forests, rain, wind, lightning and sometimes animals were thought to be charged with spiritual power, a power whose worldly manifestations were worshiped.
There are a lot of rituals involved when visiting temples and shrines in Japan. Mainly I remember cleansing my hands and mouth, lighting incense sticks and directing the smoke towards me, taking my shoes off when going inside, offering a donation, and taking a few moments to really be there.
Somewhere along my travels I purchased a pilgrimage book. Once you have one of these books, anytime you visit a famous temple or shrine, you will find a small office that will stamp your book and write some calligraphy on a page. The stamps are almost always red, and feature a design unique to the temple. I have collected 11 stamps in my book. I am looking forward to the day when I can visit Japan again and collect some more.