I’ve been out of the loop for a bit now, busy with the business of writing etc. For those following my book’s progress, it is pretty much decided that the local middle school is using my novel, LEGENDS OF THE HENGEYOKAI, BOOK ONE TENGU PRINCE as curriculum next April. I’ve been doing fine tune editing to make sure the book is ready for a teacher to read and teach to a class full of sixth graders. This is so exciting!
TENGU PRINCE has a new cover that I hope projects the theme of the story a bit better than the first one did. Also, I am fine-tune-editing book two in the series: CHERRY JEWEL. I hope to have it ready by this October, but a lot is happening now withTENGU PRINCE so not sure if I will find the needed time to spend on CHERRY JEWEL just now. It will be ready by April of next year at the very latest.
I am looking for an agent and plan to attend the Austin Film Festival next month. I have gone twice before and find it an exciting place to meet other writers as well as movers and shakers in the film industry.
Hope all of you are having a fantastic September! I wish all the best for you.
In Goto city in Nagasaki, on the morning of the 15th day of the Obon festival of the dead, it was said that an evil wind blew. Anyone who felt the caress of this evil wind would fall sick and collapse. This day also happened to be the traditional day for visiting the graves of ancestors. It was believed that the souls of the unworshiped dead flew on the winds.
Since olden times, the people of Japan believed in and feared the unworshiped dead, called muenbotoke ( 無縁仏). Farmers blamed everything from droughts, to strong winds, to infestations of insects on these unhappy spirits. And so, during the Obon festival of the dead, along with the usual offerings of rice and sake to the ancestor spirits of the family, they would try to calm the spirits of the muenbotoke and the Buddhist hungry ghosts, so…
Dragons are big news in Japan and have been so for a very long time. The most ancient of them all is Watasumi Sanjin, also known as Ryujin, who ruled the upper, middle and lower sea. Named the “Great Watatsumi (sea) god” in the Kojiki, the oldest chronicle of Japanese myths and compared to the mountain god, Ohoyamatsumi. The deity, Izanagi–who escaped from Yomi, the underworld created Watasumi along with the Sun and the Moon and nine other gods in Japanese mythology.
In a nutshell, the warring states period actually began eleven years before with the Onin War, 1467 to 1477, and lasted to the beginning of the 17th century. The conflict began in Kyoto, the capital city of Japan from 794 until 1868, and was between two powerful families, the Hosokawa family in the “west “and the Yamana clan in the “east” over shogunal succession. The “Kyoto” war spilled over into the outlying provinces and led to the bloody civil war, labeled” Sengoku”, by historians when the social and political upheaval evolved into a constant military clash between the lesser warlords that pitted samurai against samurai. The conflict ended after the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, when Tokukawa Ieyasu defeated the followers of Toyotomi Hideyori. The unification of Japan finally came about when Emperor Go-Yozei appointed Ieyasu as military leader with the title of Shogun, or bakufu (tent officer) in 1603.
Also called the “Way of Tea“,where matcha, powdered green tea, is presented in a ritualistic fashion. In Japan, the ceremony is called chanoyu or chadō, also pronounced sadō. The the art of the performance is called otemae . The primary influence for the ceremony is Zen Buddhism.
Tea gatherings fall into two classifications: ochakai or chaji . Chakai is a used when simple hospitality is called upon, and consists of serving sweets such as cookies or pastries, thin tea or usucha, and sometimes a light meal. Chaji is the more formal ceremony where a full-course meal, kaiseki, is served, followed by dessert, thick tea, koicha, and thin tea. An chaji lasts for at least four hours or more.
In China, tea was first drank for medicinal purposes. It was later to be used also for pleasure. In the 9th century, Chinese author Lu Yu wrote The Classic of Tea, that focused on the cultivation and preparation of tea. Lu Yu’s life was influenced by the Zen Buddhism school of Zen–Chán. Needless to say, his ideas had a strong influence in the development of the Japanese tea ceremony.
In the 9th century, tea was brought to Japan by the Buddhist monk Eichū, who had visited China and brought tea seeds back with him. In the Nihon Kōki, Eichū is listed as personally preparing and serving sencha, which is unground Japanese green tea, to Emperor Saga, while on excursion in Karasaki, which is present day, Shiga Prefecture. This occurred in the year 815 ad. The next year, Emperor Saga gave an imperial order that tea plantations be cultivated in the Kinki region of Japan.
It was near the 12th century when the style of tea preparation called “tencha” became popular. In this ceremony, matcha was placed in a bowl with hot water poured over it. The water and ground tea were then whipped together.
By the 13th century, the Kamakura Shogunate, the ruling class of samurai warriors, used tea as a kind of status symbol. Tea-tasting, tōcha, parties became popular where contestants could win extravagant prizes by guessing the best quality tea. This tea was grown in Kyoto from offspring of the seeds that Eisai brought from China.
During the Muromachi Period, that centered around the gorgeous cultural world of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the formation of what was to become the traditional Japanese culture of today came to be, where the Japanese tea ceremony evolves to aesthetic practice of”Wabi-sabi“. “Wabi” represents the inner, or spiritual, experiences. “Sabi” represents the outer, or material of life. By the 16th century, tea drinking had spread to all levels of society in Japan.
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia: Japanese tea ceremony
This is one of those anime that I could not stop watching until I had gotten a hold of every single episode. It is a long series, but still I was sucked in and waiting anxiously for each and every Netflix disk to arrive in the mail. The story has the type of heroes that most of us cannot get enough of. The sweet boy trapped inside the body of a robot, a feisty older brother who makes up for what he lacks in height with true grit and magic, to boot.
“Fullmetal Alchemist (鋼の錬金術師Hagane no Renkinjutsushi?, literally “Alchemist of Steel”), is a Japanese manga series (and anime) written and illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa. The world of Fullmetal Alchemist is styled after the European Industrial Revolution. Set in a fictional universein which alchemy is one of the most advanced scientific techniques known to man, the story follows the brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric, who want to restore their bodies after a disastrous failed attempt to bring their mother back to life through alchemy.”
Living in modern Tokyo, one can be forgiven for doubting that anybody wants to undergo serious ascetic training. Perilous hikes on sheer mountain slopes, food and sleep deprivation, solitary meditation, prayers and other religious rituals are distant and exotic adventures. Yet only a half-day’s journey from the metropolis, followers of the ancient Japanese religionShugendo continue to practice “the way of training and testing.” Their goal is nothing less than enlightenment in this very lifetime.
These are the “yamabushi” (“one who lies in the mountains”), and modern mortals can still follow their pilgrimage in Dewa Sanzan– the three mountains of Dewa–one of two main centers in Japan where “shugenja” (followers of Shugendo) still practice and keep the tradition alive.
Dewa is the name of an old Japanese province that is now part of Yamagata Prefecture in northern Honshu. Three mountains — Mt Haguro, Mt Gassan and Mt Yudono — are considered sacred by the “shugenja” who go there once a year on a pilgrimage to practice their faith.
Travel there in the right season and you can follow the alpenhorn-like sound of the conch shell, blown by “yamabushi” masters decked out in esoteric outfits, as they lead rows of white-clad pilgrims up the mountains. New Age is short lived in comparison to this syncretistic folk religion based on mountain worship, incorporating elements of Shinto, Buddhism and Taoism that dates back over 1,400 years.
Traditionally, the pilgrimage route starts at Toge, a small village at the foot of Mt Haguro. Pilgrims walk up a 1.7-km-long stone path, the Ishi-dan, set amongst a forest of 350- to 500-year-old Cryptomeria trees, before reaching the summit where they pray to three deities, one for each mountain peak, at the Sanjin Gosaiden shrine.
In the old days people walked, but many modern-day pilgrims can’t resist the shortcut of catching a bus that takes them from Mt Haguro to Mt Gassan. Some slopes of the 2,000 meter-high Gassan are covered in snow even in mid-summer, providing an unusual sight. Yudono shrine is not located on the summit of Mt Yudono but in a valley with a descent so steep that steel ladders and ropes must be used by pilgrims and adventurers alike.
Historically, women were forbidden to worship at the shrine. They were only allowed as near as Dainichibo, a temple at the foot of Mt Yudono. It is said to have been established by Kobodaishi (774-835), the founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism and probably Japan’s best known saint.
Legend has it that after coming back from China where he underwent Buddhist training, Kobodaishi petitioned the ruler at the time to build a temple. Baffled about where the location should be, he threw two ritual objects used in Buddhist ceremonies into the air. The first hit a cedar tree standing near Dainichibo, and the second hit a pine tree on Mt Koya. He promptly established a temple at each site, both of which are still places of worship, as are the trees that still stand there today.
The main attraction at Dainichibo, however, is a fellow named Daijuku Bosatsu Shinnyokai Shonin. He is one of a number of so-called “Living Buddhas” that can be found in temples in the Yamagata area. They appear much like mummies in priest’s robes. However, unlike their famous counterparts in Egypt, they were not mummified after death. They self-mummified themselves while still alive by following a severe ascetic routine as part of their Buddhist religious training.
While ascetic exercises are not for everyone, mere mortals can simply meditate in the superb mountain scenery of the Dewa Sanzan area. Enjoy your own spiritual awakening: catch a glimpse of some fascinating esoteric traditions that reveal the mystical side of Japan so often forgotten in the urban jungle of Tokyo.
The five story pagoda near the base of Mount Haguro