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  • Thumbnail for School -- Teachers' room in a middle school
    School -- Teachers' room in a middle school

    This is the teachers' room in a new middle school in Japan. Teachers in Japan do not have individual offices or spaces connected with their classrooms. Rather, all of the teachers on one floor of a school building have individual desks and class preparation space together in one large room, where they work after the school day and during free class periods during the day.

  • Thumbnail for Printed fortunes and prayers, omikuji, at Shinto shrine
    Printed fortunes and prayers, omikuji, at Shinto shrine

    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.

  • Thumbnail for Motsuji, pond garden, Hiraizumi, view 1.
    Motsuji, pond garden, Hiraizumi, view 1.

    In 1117, Fujiwara Motohira was granted permission to construct a major temple, Motsuji, at Hiraizumi, in Iwate Prefecture. Motsuji burned in the late 12th century and was not rebuilt, although the foundation stones are still visible and the garden pond that was built in front of the temple is still there. The pond had been silted up over the millennium since its building, but it has been cleared over the past several decades and restored to a very close approximation of its original appearance. The garden pond is fairly large, measuring nearly 200 yards long along the east-west axis, and nearly 100 yards wide north to south, in front of the temple, which was south facing at the northwestern side of the pond. This image shows a formation of craggy rocks that jut into the pond in its southeastern corner, with the vertical rock creating a strong contrast with the pond, itself.

  • Thumbnail for Motsuji, pond garden, Hiraizumi, view 3
    Motsuji, pond garden, Hiraizumi, view 3

    View across the pond of the garden at the site of the Heian temple at Hiraizumi, Motsuji. This view is from the east - southeast bank of the pond, looking across the spit of land that curls out into the pond. The pond is, of course, artificial, i.e., it is a manmade construction. From that point of view, this peninsula of earth reaching out into the pond becomes as an interesting, deliberate sculptural form and, perhaps, invites comparison with other forms of earthworks created by artists at various times and places in human history.

  • Thumbnail for Motsuji, pond garden, Hiraizumi, view 4
    Motsuji, pond garden, Hiraizumi, view 4

    View across the pond of the garden at the site of the Heian temple at Hiraizumi, Motsuji This view is from the north side of the pond, looking south across the pond. Across the pond, on the south side, is the group of rocks seen in view 1., including the small island with its strong vertical rock element.

  • Thumbnail for Byodoin, Hoodo, the Phoenix  Hall,  front exterior
    Byodoin, Hoodo, the Phoenix Hall, front exterior

    This photo of the Phoenix Hall at Byodoin shows the front of the hall, seen from across the pond in front of the hall. A gray day in early December with a light drizzle falling, the photo may not reveal much of the architectural detail on the hall, but it does capture a sense of the feeling of time and place in late autumn. On the right side on the photo is a bridge painted with brilliant vermillion, in stark constrast to the weathered paint of the Hoodo, proper. The bridge was, at the time of the photograph (December, 2000), a very recent construction, having been completed sometime during the fall, 2000, part of an attempt to reconstruct all elements of the compound with historical accuracy.. The Hoodo was completed in 1053, during the Heian period. It was built by Fujiwara Yorimichi, a major figure in the powerful Fujiwara clan.

  • Thumbnail for Shinto shrine, Yamagishi neighborhood, small shrine on the side of a street
    Shinto shrine, Yamagishi neighborhood, small shrine on the side of a street

    The torii gate on the left in this image marks the presence of a shrine and its kami. Such shrines by the side of a street or a road (or in the middle of a field, or elsewhere) are common in Japan. This particular one is on a quiet back street in the Yamagishi neighborhood of Morioka. Throughout the day, passing residents stop at the shrine, bowing twice and clapping their hands twice, to summon the attention of the kami, then standing quietly with clasped hands and head bowed in prayer or in thanksgiving. -- The stone torii on the right marks the path that leads up the stone stairs to a shrine at the top of the hill, overlooking the Yamagishi district.

  • Thumbnail for Todaiji, Nandaimon, the Great South Gate, Nara
    Todaiji, Nandaimon, the Great South Gate, Nara

    This is a photograph of the Nandaimon, the Great South Gate, at Todaiji in Nara. Taken in early December, with mist and fog in the chilly late afternoon air, it conveys a sense of mood of time and place. It was taken from inside the outer precinct of the temple, looking out through the gate - i.e., this is the gate viewed from inside the temple compound. -- In retaliation for support of the Minamoto clan by armed monks from Todaiji, at the end of the Genpei civil war, the Taira clan burned the compound at Todaiji to the ground in 1180. When the Minamoto emerged victorious, they vowed to rebuild the Todaiji compound and did so by the end of the 12th century. -- The other buildings in the Todaiji compound have been damaged by fire or earthquakes over the centuries and most have been rebuilt in different styles. The Nandaimon, the Great South Gate, alone, remains in its original form, that which was built in the late 12th century.

  • Thumbnail for Shinto shrine, an infant is brought to the local shrine for a birth ritual
    Shinto shrine, an infant is brought to the local shrine for a birth ritual

    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.

  • Thumbnail for School -- students'  kendo sticks from an after school club
    School -- students' kendo sticks from an after school club

    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.

  • Thumbnail for Festival -- ommatsuri, fall festival, Morioka, image 3.
    Festival -- ommatsuri, fall festival, Morioka, image 3.

    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.

  • Thumbnail for Shinto shrine, Yamagishi neighborhood in Morioka, view from the front of the shrine
    Shinto shrine, Yamagishi neighborhood in Morioka, view from the front of the shrine

    As described in the previous image (ecasia000066) there is a local Shinto shrine on the hillside overlooking the Yamagishi district of the city of Morioka. This is a view front in front of the shrine, looking out across the neighborhood below.

  • Thumbnail for Store interior, a new "super-store"
    Store interior, a new "super-store"

    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.

  • Thumbnail for Byodoin, Hoodo, the Phoenix Hall, roof detail
    Byodoin, Hoodo, the Phoenix Hall, roof detail

    A detail photograph of the roof of the Phoenix Hall, the Hoodo, at Byodoin, Uji. It shows one of the phoenix figures, but is, mainly, a dramatic photograph...

  • Thumbnail for Motsuji, pond garden, Hiraizumi, view 2
    Motsuji, pond garden, Hiraizumi, view 2

    View across the pond of the garden at the site of the Heian temple at Hiraizumi, Motsuji. All that remains of the original temple at Motsuji are its foundation stones, but the pond is essentially as it was when built. During the last half of the 20th c., centuries of silt build-up were removed from the pond and from the stream bed feeding the pond, returning the pond to its original form. This view is from the northeastern bank of the pond, looking to the east. Recent research suggests that the stones that are layered along the bank of the pond here were brought a great distance to be placed here, perhaps from the shore of the Inland Sea.