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  • 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 Noh play, performance on outdoor stage, Chusonji, Hiraizumi
    Noh play, performance on outdoor stage, Chusonji, Hiraizumi

    Each November there is a performance of a Noh play on an outdoor stage that is on the grounds of Chusonji, at Hiraizumi in Iwate Prefecture. This image is of the performance in the fall, 2000. -- The two stage props seen here are unusual in their elaborateness; noh stages are usually totally bare of props or, if there is a prop, it usually is simpler than is the case here. The several musicians used in noh , e.g., stick drummer, hand drummers, traverse flute player, are along the rear wall of the stage. Out of the photo, on the right, along the edge of the stage, are the members of the chorus who narrate the play. Noh drama, itself, in its form, in its lack of scenery, use of masks for the main actor in most plays, etc., reflects the austere suggestion, the minimalism of Ashikaga aesthetics. The brilliant robe of the shite , the main actor, reflects the addition of a decorative element, probably from the Momoyama period. The painting of the pine on the rear wall of the stage (and bamboo above the musicians' "coming in door" on the right) is a convention found on every noh stage -- it is said that the pine derives from the great pine tree at the Kasuga Shrine, Nara.

  • Thumbnail for Map of the world from a Japanese perspective
    Map of the world from a Japanese perspective

    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.

  • Thumbnail for Shinto shrine near Buddhist temple at Hiraizumi
    Shinto shrine near Buddhist temple at Hiraizumi

    Up a small rise within the compound of Chusonji temple, at Hiraizumi, is this small Shinto shrine, set into the woods. It is very common in Japan to find small Shinto shrines within the grounds of Buddhist temples (e.g., there is a small Shinto shrine on the island in the garden pond at Ryoanji, a Rinzai Zen temple in Kyoto). Shinto and Buddhism are not mutually exclusive in Japanese culture and it is probably true that most Japanese would regard themselves as being both Shinto and Buddhist. -- see also: images of garden, Ryoanji; images in Colorado College Japanese Religion Collection

  • Thumbnail for Festival -- ommatsuri, fall festival, Morioka, image 2.
    Festival -- ommatsuri, fall festival, Morioka, image 2.

    This is the rear of a float in the fall festival parade of the Hachiman Shrine in Morioka. The drummers produce a powerful rhythm on the taiko drums, literally, "large drums." Individual floats are associated with neighborhoods of the city. Late into the night, after the parade of all of the floats on the main street, one can hear chants of celebration as individual floats are pulled through their "home" neighborhoods, which is done for the benefit of sick or elderly who could not leave their homes to attend the festival parade.

  • Thumbnail for Tea bowls at Korin-in
    Tea bowls at Korin-in

    Two tea bowls sitting on tatami mats in a room at Korin-in, a sub-temple in the great complex at Daitokuji, Kyoto.

  • Thumbnail for Shoe store with traditional footwear
    Shoe store with traditional footwear

    In order to participate in the Hachiman Festival Parade in Morioka, my group had to be outfitted in proper footwear, the Japanese geta (sandal). This store, besides selling Western-style sneakers and dress shoes also specialized in traditional footwear with shoes for everyone from parade participants to brides.

  • Thumbnail for Hiroshima, Bell at Children's Memorial
    Hiroshima, Bell at Children's Memorial

    The bell inside a sculpture dedicated to the children who suffered from the atomic bombing at Hiroshima. On the pulley of the bell hangs a golden crane, modeled after one made from origami (paper-folding).

  • Thumbnail for Bus stop, Morioka
    Bus stop, Morioka

    Looking from my bus stop in front of the Morioka Taiikukan and Iwate University (Gandai for short), facing towards the NHK tower in the Ueda neighborhood.

  • 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 Shinto shrine, Shichigosan Day, children are brought to the local shrine
    Shinto shrine, Shichigosan Day, children are brought to the local shrine

    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.

  • Thumbnail for Printed fortunes left at a temple as prayers
    Printed fortunes left at a temple as prayers

    A printed prayer or fortune, an omikuji , obtained at a shrine or a temple, may be tied to a line or, often, to a branch, in effect, as a prayer to the deity of the shrine or temple, seeking their aid in bringing it true. This line of such fortunes is at Muroji, a Buddhist temple in the countryside in Nara Prefecture. Although they are most commonly seen at Shinto shrines, this group is at a Buddhist temple. Keywords: omikuji , fortune see also: ecasia000035, 000059

  • Thumbnail for East Asian Ceramics:  Then and Now, 02  Oribe-ware Box.
    East Asian Ceramics: Then and Now, 02 Oribe-ware Box. by Higashida Shigemasa

    This is a contemporary ceramic object with a fluid green glaze that pools and catches on the texture of the surface, creating a strongly accented surface that is related directly to form and the process by which the piece was formed. The color, the "accidental" flow of the glaze across the heavily textured surface, the white glaze that is said to cover the inside of the piece, and the casual irregularity of the form, are all references to the style of historic Oribe-ware. -- Roger L. Watson and Margaret Dornbusch funds, 2005.52 -- [A parenthetic observation: photographs and images of works of art can be very misleading. This box, in fact, is perhaps 6 or 7 inches long, yet, in this image, it could easily be mistaken as being a much larger sculptural object. Without something to indicate scale, it may be very difficult to judge the actual size of an art object from an image of the object.]

  • Thumbnail for Shoes are removed on entering a Japanese home
    Shoes are removed on entering a Japanese home

    As one enters a Japanese home, one removes one's shoes in the entry way foyer, then steps up into the house, stepping into slippers that are worn only in the house. If one is visiting, the street shoes usually would be left on the floor in the foyer, with the shoe toes pointed away from the interior of the house, so that they can be stepped into easily as one leaves. If it is one's own home, the shoes usually would be placed in the cabinet next to the step. -- This custom has to do with the ideals of "purity," not allowing "dirt" from the outside to enter the house. This includes not only physical dirt but also, just as importantly, it includes the ideal of leaving psychic and emotional involvements with the outside world as one enters the sanctity of the home. In that sense, the removal of one's shoes is a symbolic separation from the concerns of the everyday world as one enters one's home.

  • Thumbnail for Hiroshima:  View of the reborn city today
    Hiroshima: View of the reborn city today

    Early morning, sixty years after the fateful early morning in 1945 -- a view across part of the harbor at Hiroshima, looking toward the city center in the distance, with its skyscrapers and bustling business center. Today Hiroshima is a vibrant city and there is little evidence of the utter destruction that was visited upon this site slightly over half a century ago.

  • Thumbnail for Shrine dogs
    Shrine dogs

    Guardian lion-dogs at the entrance to the main shrine at Miyajima.

  • Thumbnail for Traditional Shinto wedding
    Traditional Shinto wedding

    This young couple were married in the traditional Shinto ceremony at the famous Itsukushima shrine on Miyajima Island in the Inland Sea, near Hiroshima. They are wearing traditional formal dress for the Shinto ceremony.

  • Thumbnail for Shrine at Miyajima
    Shrine at Miyajima

    A view into one of the sanctuaries/worship areas at the main shrine at Miyajima. Only priests or shrine maidens would be allowed inside.

  • Thumbnail for Jizo statues at a temple in Kamakura
    Jizo statues at a temple in Kamakura

    A Jizo is a Buddhist bodhisattva (bosatsu) who is the guardian of the souls of children who have died, as young children or in birth. Persons wishing to offer a prayer for the care of a child often bring a bib or apron or cap to dress one of the Jizo statues, as they ask that it care for the soul of the child in their prayers. These rows of Jizo figures are at the temple, Hasedera, where there is a hall dedicated to Jizo.

  • 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 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 Magazines in bookstore section of a super-store
    Magazines in bookstore section of a super-store

    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.

  • 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 Traditional Shinto wedding at Itsukushima Shrine
    Traditional Shinto wedding at Itsukushima Shrine

    The bride and groom join a small group, presumably their parents and immediate families. The Shinto wedding ceremony is typically attended only by a small group of immediate family or very close relatives and friends. After the ceremony there will be a reception banquet which may include a very large number of friends, co-workers, etc. -- It is interesting to note that, with one exception, all of the women in the group are attired in traditional kimono, while all of the men (except for the groom, of course) are wearing western style clothing.

  • Thumbnail for Japanese house, interior
    Japanese house, interior

    Looking out from the dining/living room of my host family's house into the garden and at the clothesline, where my host grandmother would hang the daily wash out to dry every day. Very traditional-style Japanese house with sliding rice paper doors, but enclosed by modern glass doors to insulate the house.