Upon almost reaching the end of the covered stairways, there is a small landing where one is greeted by a small red Shinto shrine dedicated to a local deity.
Like many graves, the main stone here has the geometric shapes marking Buddhist symbolism but the surrounding structures are clearly Shinto toriis. This natural blending of features of both traditions was exceedingly common in premodern Japan.
This ema reads, in the center, "May I find someone I really like and keep a good relationship for a long time." To the right is also written," May I find a man."
This is the newly constructed main hall. It was destroyed in the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, and rebuilt in reinforced concrete.
Unfortunately I do not have a photo of the plaque describing the reasons for placing this rope circle here!
This small shrine is located in the middle of a relatively new (1970's and 80's) suburban neighborhood in Nabari City.
These two emas are both for successful entrance into university. The first asks to pass his or her entrance exams (name not visible), whereas the second wishes specifically to be able to enter the Osaka College of Education, and was written by an 18 year-old woman.
Another photo of the tree that survived WWII.
An example of the reverence for nature, particularly in its more awesome guises, is the placement of coins (mostly the equivalent of pennies) on top of this stump, which likely was a tree over four hundred years old.
Along the side of the steps up the side of the mountain, one sees this Jizo figure. The Jizo is a spirit that cares for the souls of children who have died and the Jizo statues are very common throughout Japan, especially in temple compounds. The offerings left with this Jizo are interesting and mildly humorous, since the offerings include a container of "One Cup Ozeki," a brand of sake that can be purchased from vending machines. Also interesting are the branches in the vases, which appear to be branches of sakaki, a plant usually associated with Shinto, although there frequently are "cross-overs" between Buddhist and Shinto practices in Japan. (Sake, likewise, is usually associated with the Shinto offerings of sake, salt, and rice, associated with purification, as seen in images from the Hachiman Shrine in Morioka.) Some excellent information in these areas may be found in the Colorado College collection dealing with Japanese religion, materials contributed by Professor David Gardiner.
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.
A line of bright red torii gates mark the path to a shrine.
A building at a shrine in Nagasaki. Note the traditional rice-rope decoration hanging above the doorway.
Keeping with tradition, this shrine building has a roof made of hay or thatch.
Ise Jingu, the ancestral shrine of the imperial family, is located in an evergreen grove in Mie Prefecture on Japan's east coast. Comprising both an Inner Shrine and an Outer Shrine, Ise Jingu has become a popular site for pilgrimages. dating from the third and late fifth centuries, torn down and rebuilt every twenty years, it remains an important symbol of celebration and ritual. As seen on the following page, a sea of pebbles and stones surrounds the small building occupying the adjacent empty lot in which the previous structure of the shrine was located.
Photo of a Shinto street festival in Nagasaki.
This angle shows the stone basin where the worshippers cleanse themselves, as well as the small administrative structure adjacent to the main hall.
This ema reads, " School: I pray that I may easily get into school." From a young age, Japanese children take what are often very competitive tests to enter both public and private schools. In the month of May, petitioners will post such ema around exam time, whether they seek to enter a junior high, high school or college.
This shrine shop has posted above the left-hand side of the counter a chart indicating unlucky years (yakudoshi) when one might most feel the need for an amulet (o-mamori) or two.
Inside we see a small mirror, which is often present in a shrine as an embodiment (shintai) of the kami. There are also small containers visible that may be filled with water, rice or even sake as offerings.
This young woman sits in the shade on a ledge beside the main hall. She holds her cell phone and either reads or sends an email message.
At this stone basin worshippers will rinse both hand and mouth as a symbolic act of purification before proceeding into the shrine center.