An­cient JA­PAN

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - TRAVEL -

in the sum­mer, many French tourists stop by his shop on the way to the tem­ple, and that he had many or­ders from Amer­i­can cus­tomers for larger sized getas.

At the top of the hill, lines are long for the var­i­ous shrines, where coins are tossed into of­fer­ing boxes, enor­mous bells on gi­ant col­or­ful ropes are sounded, and prayers are made.

Near the fire god shrine, the largest there, stands a gi­ant dish of in­cense. Wor­ship­pers fan the scented smoke from it into their faces and hair.

Else­where sits a bronze Bud­dhist statue that vis­i­tor af­ter vis­i­tor touches for good luck.

The line is like­wise long for the god of com­merce, while fewer seem to seek out the Kan­jin-shi shrine to the god of eyes, in the rear part of the com­plex, where peo­ple suf­fer­ing from eye trou­bles are said to have been cured by wash­ing their eyes from a nearby spring.

The Go­gyushin-do en­shrines the de­ity of pro­tec­tion of oxen, an im­por­tant farm an­i­mal in an­cient times.

At the wa­ter god shrine, known as Mizukake Kan­non, wor­ship­pers splash wooden la­dles of foun­tain wa­ter up to­ward a statue of the de­ity.

Peo­ple make one wish to this god, which is be­lieved to make this wish come true.

Af­ter the prayers have been made and new charms and wooden shrines pur­chased, shop­ping bags tucked away and street food en­joyed, the last of the crowded buses heads out of the park­ing lot at the base of the hill around sun­set each day un­til early Fe­bru­ary.

In the many mod­ern homes with­out a ded­i­cated al­cove for a Shinto shrine, the small wooden struc­tures — about a foot (a third of a me­ter) tall — are of­ten care­fully placed atop the fridge, along­side can­dles, in­cense and sprigs of green­ery, where the god of the hearth can help pro­tect the house­hold for another year.

Im­por­tant cer­e­monies and enor­mous cherry trees also at­tract visi­tors to the com­plex dur­ing cherry blos­som sea­son in the spring, when Bud­dhist prayer ser­vices are held to re­mem­ber those killed in wars or nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. The shrine and tem­ple com­plex, with its koi pond, Ja­panese maples and sea­sonal fes­tiv­i­ties, is open to visi­tors through­out the year.

KATHER­INE KONO / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Visi­tors fan them­selves with scented smoke from in­cense burned near the fire god shrine at the Kiyoshiko­jin Se­i­cho-ji tem­ple

com­plex north of Osaka, Ja­pan. Top right, tai-yaki is a sweet azuki bean-filled pan­cake in the shape of sea bream fish.

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