Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Shrine Hopping (Parts 2 & 3)

Part 2: Azusamiten Shrine (aka Cat Shrine)

So, I finally found the correct shrine last Sunday, May 10, 2015. Which is a bit nearer to the hotel than the other one.

As shown in their website, the shrine houses 2 major deities, and have at least a handful of subordinate shrines. Its main sanctuary is the oldest structure in Tachikawa City. It is a designated municipal tangible cultural property because of its high value.

Purification Pavilion

It was called a Cat Shrine because a lot of people used to come and pray for the health and safety of their pet cats. Also, people in silkworm business pray to the cat guardian so that their products will not be destroyed by mice. For all that reasons, I was expecting a lot of cat statues, but I saw only 2 statues:

But I did find the ema with cat pictures and they are as wonderful as in the internet. There were a lot of families coming to pray. There was a little prayer room near the information center, so the families can buy prayer materials and lucky charms and then go into the room and perform a little ceremony. Tourists are not allowed inside unless they are going to pray the traditional way.

Prayer hall and Information Center
There were also small shrines (sessha) aside from the main Honden. Visitors can come and pray at the main hall, then visit the smaller ones as well. At the far side, there is one quite outstanding building because of its pure wood color. It reflects the sunlight so the entire area looks like it's glowing in warm light.

Hall of the Sacred Dances

I finally had the courage to ask the information center for some map to other shrines. Good thing I did too, because I wouldn't have thought there were many so near Tachikawa station. The shrine lady (sorry, don't know what to call her) gave me a map and highlighted the other shrines I could visit.

I just hoped that I could visit all before closing time. :)

Part 3: Tachikawa Kumano Shrine

I have to be quite specific in giving the name because there are a lot, and I mean A LOT, of Kumano Shrines all over Japan. This particular one is not so far from my current location. I could actually walk from the office to the shrine!

I even got a little lost from the monorail station. I, once again, made a mistake in my GPS so I walked a little farther that I would like. But at least I saw a colorful building on my way to the shrine.

i think it's a school.. 
The actual shrine was a little different than what I imagined. According to my map guide, it was supposedly a place for a lot of festivities, but the place was too quiet. I guess it's only during holidays that the place is brighten up.


dog guardian 1
dog guardian 2
So, thats 2 more on my shrine hopping list. I'll post the last one on the next part. See you! :)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Shrine Hopping (Part 1)

It's official, I am a GEEK. I am the type of girl who likes to curl up in a corner and read books on weekends rather than go out and have parties. So, it's no wonder that when I got the opportunity to go to Japan for work, I had a little troubling planning my weekends.

On one hand, I really want to explore this beautiful country, on the other, I am terrified of too many people. Maybe that's why I didn't enjoy Akihabara so much and just went to find a peaceful adventure. So with that dilemma, I found the perfect solution via Virtual Tourist. I got a map and decided to do a little shrine hopping.

Part 1: Azusamiten Shrine

Last Saturday, May 9, 2015, I planned to visit the Azusamiten Shrine which I found in the Virtual Tourist. It showed a small but cheerful shrine with cat statues and cute ema with cat pictures. So, I typed in the name in my google maps, and traveled on my own for 1 1/2 hours.

I had fun on the way - it was my first time going by that road. Even last time, we haven't tried to travel this part of Tachikawa. First bad luck was that I missed the bus from Hakonegasaki Station. It takes another 30 minutes before the next bus, but it's ok, my map showed that I can walk to the shrine in less than 20 minutes. So I walk and did a little sight seeing - I even saw a small shrine by the side of the road. :)

When I arrived to the shrine, I was a bit disappointed. It was dark, and a little sad. There were no people praying and no cat statues anywhere. That's when I realized my second bad luck: I got lost. It was the correct address, and correct name. It's just that there were 2 shrines in Tachikawa of the same name, but different kanji spelling. Yeah, so I guess, learning to read kanji is really important.

But I was already there, so I might as well take pictures. It was still beautiful, in a melancholy sort of way. The details were definitely traditional Japanese architecture. I did have a horror film kind of vibes, but it's ok. It was still early, so I was not that afraid (sort of).

As I was going down the shrine steps, I heard an old lady calling. I thought she was talking to someone behind me, which actually gave me the shivers since I was alone. It turns out that she was talking to me, only she was referring to me as Nana-chan. When I finally approached her, she realized her mistake. She mistook me for her granddaughter (I think), :)

We chat (as best as we could - with language barrier and all) and she and her husband invited me in their house for tea. It was my first time to enter an almost traditional Japanese house. We sat in the Japanese room, and warmed ourselves with the kotatsu. :) We had ocha (green tea) and manju bread (with red bean paste). I saw a picture of Nana-chan, and I did look like her from afar. Her eyes are definitely smaller, and her skin paler, but her facial structure was very similar to mine. I did not take a picture, that would be too weird.
Sahoda Family

After that, I went home, which was good timing too. It rained just after I arrived at the hotel. So, I just had quick dinner and searched the web for the other Azusamiten Shrine. I found another address, and I went last Sunday, May 10, 2015, and to at least 2 more shrines. :)

So this part has been too long, I will continue this adventure on to the next part. See you! :)