The children here are arriving at a shrine in late October for the celebration of Shichigosan -- Seven - five - three Day. On this day, girls who are seven or three years old and boys who are five are brought to their shrine in their best dress or in traditional dress for prayers for their well being, for a blessing. -- This particular Shichigosan celebration was on October 28, 2000, and was at the Hachiman Shrine in Morioka. The Hachiman Shrine is the primary Shinto shrine of Morioka, which is in Iwate Prefecture, on the Pacific side of northern most Honshu.
When an infant is one month old, it is taken by its parents to the local shrine for miyamairi, a birth ritual. By this ritual, the infant becomes a member of the shrine and is placing under the protection of the kami, the guardian spirit of the shrine. Traditionally, this is an infant's first trip out of its home.
On a first level, there is some gentle humour in the discovery that, as illustrated by this map, not all of the world regards North America as being the center of the world. -- More important, however, are the clocks above the map showing, of course, the time at various other locations around the world. There is, in this, concrete expression of an international awareness on the part of the Japanese. This international awareness characterizes much of Japanese culture today, just as it has at important junctures in the history of the Japanese. -- The map and clock, in fact, are located in a building in Morioka that is the International Center of Morioka, devoted to the development of international ties and understanding. Morioka is a medium-sized city, by Japanese standards, with perhaps 300,000 residents, and it is located in Iwate prefecture, in far northern Honshu. Yet, even there, one finds a conscious effort to encourage an international perspective. Perhaps not coincidentally, many foreign students, especially students from the third world, come to Morioka to study at Iwate University, the prefectural university, which is renowned for it experimental work and leadership in the area of rice horticulture.
All middle school students are required to participate in after -school activity clubs at the school. They are free to select which clubs they wish to join, but participation is mandatory. The clubs, of course, are group activities, an important part of education in Japan. Many of the clubs focus on areas of traditional Japanese culture, such as tea ceremony or ikebana. This photo shows the wooden swords - kendo sticks - of students belonging to the club that learns and practices the traditional art of kendo.
This image shows another of the floats from the fall festival celebration of the Hachiman Shrine in Morioka. The figure presented on this float may very well be a representation of Yoshitsune, the younger brother of Minamoto no Yoritomo, founder of the Kamakura Shogunate. As described in relation to image ecasia000021, the legendary figures Yoshitsune and his retainer, Benkei, were betrayed and came to their end at Hiraizumi, in southern Iwate Prefecture.
This is a photograph of a typical shopping arcade; such arcades are fairly common in Japanese cities. The arcade is three or four blocks long, is covered by the roof the entire length of the arcade, and, of course, is open only to foot traffic and bicycles. The variety of shops in the arcade is great and includes, in the instance of this specific arcade, the following shops, as well as others --hard ware store, fish market, fruit and vegetable shops, pharmacy / variety store, McDonald's restaurant, beauty shop, clothing stores, tea ware gallery, pachinko parlor, bread bakery shop, Mister Donut shop, and a 100-Yen store (a bargain store). [other images in this colletion will show some of these individual shops]
As described in image 000058, this young boy has been brought to the Hachiman Shrine in Morioka, for the celebration of Shichigosan, Seven-five-three Day, when prayers are offered for the good fortune of girls who are seven or three years old and for boys who are five years old. This young lad, hoping that his father takes the photo quickly, because the sun in his eyes is bright, is dressed in his best formal traditional dress.
This is the computer classroom in a middle school in Japan. The computers are used to complete assignments from other classes, as well as for instruction in computer class, per se, so that the students are learning to employ computers across the curriculum.
These are folded pieces of paper with printed fortunes or prayers on them, obtained at the local shrine. They are tied here and left at the Shinto shrine in the hope that the kami of the shrine will help to make the fortune come true or help to fulfill the prayer.
This section of the magazine rack in a new super-store features offerings for female adolescents. Interestingly, a number of the titles are in English, including magazines titled, Wink Up, Kitty Goods, and Ego system. The color schemes employed in the magazine covers are interesting, also, as reflections of colors seen elsewhere in contemporary Japanese culture.
This is a view of the interior of a new store in Japan. It is the type of store that would be referred to as a "super store" or "super center" in the U.S. I.e., it carries groceries, drug store items and sundries, stationary, books and magazines, household items, etc. The emergence of this style of retailing is relatively recent in Japan.