Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dazaifu Shrine, Japan

For our Chuseok (harvest festival) holiday in Korea, I decided to join some other expats and head off to Japan. Following an overnight bus from Seoul to Busan, we boarded a ferry and landed in Fukuoka, Japan, less than three hours later. Rain pelted us just as we boarded the bus, but everyone was in good spirits anyway. Having followed the weather forecast carefully, I arrived prepared with an umbrella and didn't get wet. 

A short distance from Fukuoka, the rather small city of Dazaifu was once an important administrative center for the island of Kyushu. Our first stop was the Dazaiful Shrine, a Tenmangu Shinto shrine dedicated to a well-known scholar Sugawara Michizane who died in 903 AD. The shrine complex is built on the site of Michizane's grave and still is a popular place to visit for students. Its main building dates back to 1591.
I loved the contrast of the neutral, slightly "fuzzy" roof compared to the more ornamental portion just below it. The main hall is a classic example of Momoyama-style architecture. I read that the tree next to the temple was one of 6,000 plum trees on the complex; how beautiful it must look in spring.

Absent in the shrine were deities or other statues. Shintoism, we were told, was not about following a particular scripture, dogma, or founder, but rather more about a reverence for ancestral traditions, customs, and living & acting to the guidance of the gods.

Devotees sat on cushions on the porch, while the priest performed his chanting and rituals from the elevated platform.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Friday, September 05, 2014

Buy a Tile

Want to support your local Buddhist temple in Korea? Buy a roof tile that will then be used. A bit more practical than buying a piece of sod from the Green Bay Packers stadium, once offered to help pay for resodding of their football field.  I wonder how much those hunks of dried grass are now worth though...

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Beauty Shop Gals

Beauty shop signs definitely vary by country. Above are some beauty shop poles in Seoul, South Korea.
A bit of a contrast, this hand-painted sign at a small stall in Velankanni, south India promotes a beauty of a different kind. Photographed during the annual religious pilgrimage, some devotees (both male and female) choose to have their head shaved as a sort of sacrifice.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Outdoor Sculptures at War Memorial of Korea

In addition to the large exhibition hall and many outdoor war equipment exhibits, the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul has several poignant memorial sculptures. The two pictured above show the human side of war. The "Statue of Brothers" is probably its most famous one, depicting two brothers embracing on the battlefield - an older brother from the ROK and his younger brother who is fighting with the North Korean army. A powerful symbol of love, forgiveness and reconciliation, it expresses the hope of Koreans. The granite used in the domed shape portion was collected from various parts of Korea, symbolizing the nationwide sacrifices. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

War Memorial of Korea

 Although I've taken the bus past the War Memorial of Korea quite often, I finally stopped to visit it. Located on the former site of the Army Headquarters in the section of Seoul known as Yongsan, the site covers over 20,000 square meters. Comprised of over 13,000 items (more added via donation each year), free entry to both the outdoor and eight exhibition halls has plenty to offer for the whole family. Exhibitions were signposted in several languages and QR codes enabled visitors to get more information via smartphones. From ancient arrowheads to the Kobukson turtle ships of the Joseon Dynasty to wars of the present day, the Memorial commemorated the sacrifices of the warriors and victims that helped contribute to the Korea of today. Some sections were more abstract and symbolic, some were more high-tech, while others encouraged visitor hands-on participation. As expected, the Korean War of the 1950's was particularly well and well-chronicled, taking up the second floor.
Free tours are offered.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tickling of the Morning Light

Despite the slightly hazy atmosphere, the morning light still managed to make its way through the trees, tickling the purple ground cover below. A tranquil way to begin the day.