Kimbei Kusakabe



Shitennoji Temple in Osaka was founded by Prince Shotoku (Shotoku Taishi, 574-622) in 593 during Japan’s first wave of temple construction. It is one of Japan’s oldest Buddhist temples and is dedicated to the four directional guardians (Shitenno). The inhabitants of Osaka call the temple lovingly “Tennoji-san,” the way you’d address a person.
This photograph shows the Kondo (Golden Hall), based in the center of the temple buildings. Behind the Kondo is a five-story pagoda, and behind that, part of the corridor can be seen. The linear placement of a middle gate (Chumon), five-storied pagoda (Gojunoto), gold painted hall (Kondo) and a lecture hall (Kodo) is called the Shitennoji method.
Shitennoji was born out of war. The sixth century saw a bitter struggle between the pro-buddhism Soga clan, affiliated with Shotoku Taishi, and the anti-buddhism Mononobe clan. Shotoku Taishi made a vow that he would build a temple if the Mononobe were vanguished. They were finally defeated by the Soga in 587 and Shotoku Taishi kept his word.
The four guardians he dedicated the temple to, are Tamon-ten or Bishamon-ten (North),Jikoku-ten (East), Zouchou-ten (South) and Koumoku-ten (West).1
Shitennoji’s location was chosen to impress. Naniwa (current Osaka) was Japan’s most important point of entry for trade and diplomatic contact with the rest of Asia. The temple would be the first structure that foreign visitors would see. The view from the temple was spectacular. It was said that Awaji Island, across the bay, could be seen from the top of the pagoda. This great location allowed priests and faithful to observe the sun setting on the bay, a form of meditation.
Shotoku Taishi played a major role in introducing Buddhism to Japan during the reign ofEmpress Suiko (reigned 593-628). He also founded Horyuji in Nara Prefecture, which in 1993 became Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. It holds over 2,300 important cultural and historical structures and articles, and consists of the world’s oldest surviving wooden buildings.



Gorgeously dressed prostitutes are standing in the windows of the Nectarine brothel in Yokohama, a world-famous house of prostitution also known as No.9 or Jimpuro (新風楼, occasionally romanized as Jinpuro or Shinpuro). Until the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, Jimpuro was one of the top brothels of the city.1 It was originally opened in 1872 (Meiji 5) in Yokohama’s Takashima-cho (高島町). In 1882 (Meiji 15), Jimpuro moved to the less visible area of Eiraku-cho (永楽町). A branch specifically for foreigners was opened at the red-light district of Kanagawa’s Nanaken-machi (七軒町).2 The brothel was called No. 9, because this was Jimpuro’s original address in Takashima-cho.


A woman wearing a kimono is writing a letter with a brush. A box to place brushes andsumi (ink), and an andon lamp are on the tatami (rice mats). In the back hangs a kakejiku(hanging scroll).
The Japanese writing system was introduced to Japan from China in the 4th century AD. Initially, the Chinese characters were only used for reading and writing Chinese. Around the mid seventh century, or possibly earlier, a writing system was developed which used Chinese characters to represent the Japanese language. This was called Manyogana (万葉仮名). The name has been derived from the Manyoshu, a Japanese poetry anthology from the Nara Period (710-794).
The Meiji Period (1868-1912) saw a range of important transformations in the use of written Japanese. The Genbunitchi (言文一致) movement, for example, resulted in using a colloquial form to write. Previously, a classical style had been used. Additionally, in 1900, the Education Ministry standardized the hiragana script and limited the number of kanji(Chinese characters) taught in elementary schools to about 1,200.
More significant reform followed after the end of WWII, when conservatives were removed from control of the educational system. Undoubtedly, the most important reforms were limiting the number of kanji students learn at Japanese high-schools to just 1,850, and changing the direction from right-to-left to left-to-right.



A most gorgeous view on a snowcapped Mount Fuji as seen from the small village of Izumi (泉) in Shizuoka prefecture. At 3,776 m (12,388 ft), Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan and without doubt also the country’s best known. Mount Fuji’s beautiful symmetrical cone shows the mountain’s relative youth. The current form of the mountain dates back only about 10,000 years.1
The mountain’s name is clouded in mystery and its etymology is unclear. Nowadays it is written as 富士, the first character meaning “wealth” or “abundant” and the second “a man with a certain status.” They were most certainly not selected for their meaning, but because they matched the pronunciation of Mount Fuji’s name.
Mount Fuji has been considered a sacred mountain for as long as there are historical records. People worshipped a deity known as Asama no Okami. Like all sacred mountains in Japan, Mount Fuji was a forbidden sanctuary until the eighth century. This changed when ascetic Shugendo priests began to have religious activities on the mountain.
In the ninth century, the shinto shrine Fujisan Hongu Sengentaisha was built in what is nowFujinomiya city in Shizuoka prefecture. The shrine was popular with emperors andshoguns and many gave generous donations. To give thanks for being able to unite the country, Tokugawa Ieyasu even donated ownership of the uppermost territory of Mount Fuji to the shrine in 1606 (Keicho 11). The shrine is the owner of the peak to this very day.
Over the centuries, climbing Mount Fuji became increasingly popular as a religious practice. In response to this popularity, mountain guides called Oshi made their appearance. Based in the city of Fujiyoshida, they organized groups of pilgrims and took care of financial arrangements, ritual purification as well as leading them up the mountain. They even built lodging facilities.
As it was a sacred mountain, women were not allowed to climb Mount Fuji. This ban was finally lifted in 1872. Reputedly the ascent in 1867 by Lady Parkes, wife of Sir Harry Parkes (1828-1885), British Minister in Japan from 1865 through 1883, had played an important role in this historical change.







This charming studio shot of a young family “on the road” shows a father and mother with their three children. The mother is carrying a baby on her back, while the father has one in the basket. There are quite a few photos of people carrying young children in baskets like this, a remarkable number shot outside, so this must have been a common method to carry around young kids.



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