01 November 2013

27 Buddhist/Shinto/natural activities towards enlightenment in Japan

Sébastien Duval meeting the Big Buddha of Kamagaya (Chiba prefecture, Japan) on 14 April 2013.
Travellers and expatriates in Japan have many opportunities to discover the Japanese spirituality and, perhaps, get closer to 悟り (satori, enlightenment). Even with children, the 27 following activities related to Buddhism, Shintoism and the Japanese nature are particularly valuable during a stay or travel in Japan.

You do not need to go to the most famous Japanese Buddhist temples or Shinto shrines but some advantageously organize activities in English. Conveniently, you can try many of these activities in Tokyo, Kyoto... or in the Japanese countryside! Still, the language barrier remains strong in Japan so prepare yourself well and/or go with a Japanese-speaking companion.

Preliminary remark: Yoga is an activity outside the Japanese culture.

  1. Share time with a Buddhist monk or Shinto priest.
  2. Share time with a craftsman dedicated to holy works e.g. a sculptor making statues of Jizo or Buddha.

  1. Attend a simple Buddhist or Shintoist ceremony.
  2. Attend a Buddhist ceremony celebrating Buddha's birth at e.g. Asuka-dera.
  3. Attend a Buddhist funeral with cremation (exceptionally Shintoist) for a person or animal.
  4. Attend a "11 March 2011 Tohoku disaster" memorial event in the Tohoku region with locals.
  5. Spend a quiet moment with the Big Buddha of Asuka-dera.
  6. Worship the Japanese gods at Izumo-taisha during Kamiarizuki/Kannazuki.

  1. Discover/understand sacred texts with specialists in Buddhism and Shintoism.
  2. Practice meditation e.g. zazen.
  3. Practice 写経 (shakyo, copying of a sutra) in Japanese.
  4. Practice sutra chanting/recitation in Japanese.

  1. Stroll among hundreds of expressive statues of Buddha's disciples at e.g. Choan-ji in Hakone, Nihon-ji on Mount Nokogiri or Ten'onzan-gohyaku-rakan-ji in Tokyo.
  2. Stay at a Buddhist temple/monastery for a few days (basic temple stay) or for a long period (retreat) at e.g. Mount Koya.
  3. Go on a pilgrimage around e.g. Kumano-kodo or Shikoku.
  4. Undergo a 修行 (shugyo, religious training).
  5. Volunteer in the Tohoku region (Fukushima prefecture or beyond).

  1. Explore the ancient forest of Yakushima.
  2. Explore the marine world of Japan by diving in e.g. the tropical waters of Okinawa or the arctic waters of Hokkaido.
  3. Explore the part of Japan most affected by the "11 March 2011 Tohoku disaster".
  4. Observe a visibly active volcano in Kyushu.
  5. Fly over Japan in a balloon.
  6. Walk among autumn leaves and winter cherry blossoms at Sakurayama park.

Step back:
  1. Spend a dark silent night on Taketomi island.
  2. Watch a sky filled with stars in Hokkaido during a clear winter night.
  3. Watch a sunrise from the summit of Mount Fuji.
  4. Watch a perfect solar eclipse in Japan.
Activities towards enlightenment in Japan.

Beyond these activities, you can acquire an お守り (omamori, lucky charm) at your favourite Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine, experience 精進料理 (shojin-ryori, Buddhist cuisine) at a temple or restaurant, and meet same-minded people in Japan during dedicated events (e.g. jisha-kon) or tours organized by a Japanese travel agency.

Discover Japan and make a step on the path to enlightenment _/\_

I love Japan. You too? Follow @InnerJapan on Twitter!

11 June 2013

Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Matsuri in Hiratsuka city (Kanagawa prefecture, Japan): photo, Japanese, link, map...

Bamboo and paper decorations at Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Matsuri (Hiratsuka city, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan) on 08 July 2012. Photo by Sébastien Duval.
Colourful annual summer 祭り (matsuri, festival) in Japan: 湘南ひらつか七夕まつり (Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Matsuri) in many streets of 平塚市 (Hiratsuka city) in 神奈川県 (Kanagawa prefecture). Photo on the left taken by Sébastien Duval on 08 July 2012.

Cheap 1-day excursion from Tokyo possible by train :)

What is your favourite Japanese festival? (name, location, reason, and link welcome...)

Website of Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Matsuri (Japanese only):

Message for the organizers of the festival:
Please also introduce Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival in English on your Website; foreign residents and tourists would have more chances to appreciate all the great things you prepare: parades, dances, decoration contests, evening illuminations... The ambiance is great; help more people enjoy it!

Location of Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival: near 平塚駅 (Hiratsuka train station).
[Google map] http://goo.gl/maps/nOeDx

10 June 2013

Sand dunes at Sanin-kaigan National Park (Tottori prefecture, Japan): photo, Japanese, link, map...

Child running towards a sand dune at Sanin-kaigan National Park (Tottori prefecture, Japan) on 03 March 2013. Photo by Sébastien Duval.
Surprising landscape on a trip around Japan: 砂丘 (sakyu, sand dunes) at 山陰海岸国立公園 (Sanin-kaigan National Park) in 鳥取県 (Tottori prefecture). Photo on the left taken by Sébastien Duval on 03 March 2013.

Do you know a surprising natural spot in Japan besides Tottori dunes? Where is it? (name, location, reason, and link welcome...)

Official page of Sanin-kaigan National Park by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment (Japanese only):

Message for the staff of the Japanese Ministry of the Environment:
Please, describe the Japanese national parks in English on your Website; foreign tourists, researchers, businessmen... should better know and understand the beauty and diversity of Japan's nature!

Location of Tottori dunes:
[Google map] http://goo.gl/maps/xkJFF

09 June 2013

2.000+ y.o. holy camphor tree at Kinomiya shrine (Atami, Shizuoka, Japan): photo, Japanese, link, map...

Vision on a Japanese pilgrimage... A 2.000+ y.o. holy 大楠 (Ookusu, huge camphor tree) at 来宮神社 (Kinomiya shrine) in 熱海市 (Atami city), 静岡県 (Shizuoka prefecture). Follow the link for a photo of the holy tree while waiting for the photos/videos of my travel to Atami in July 2013.

Are such impressive trees common in Japan? Which ones would you point out for a 1-year tour of Japan? (names, locations, reasons, and links welcome...)

Website of Kinomiya shrine (Japanese only):

Message for the head of Kinomiya shrine:
Please, introduce your Shinto shrine and holy tree in English on your Website; foreign tourists would certainly love it! Your Ookusu remarkably expresses the Japanese culture and the vitality of Japan's nature...

Location of Kinomiya shrine:
[Google map] http://goo.gl/maps/YoRT2

08 June 2013

Adèla Stefanov's travel photo "Kyoto - Sakura blossoms" (Japanese garden) on Facebook

Photo of splendid cherry blossoms! Spring at a Japanese Garden in Kyoto city/prefecture? If so, which one? I have never seen such a thing in Japan...

Travel photo "Sakura blossoms" shared on Facebook in Adèla Stefanov's album "Kyoto":

07 June 2013

Winter cherry blossoms at Sakurayama park (Fujioka, Gunma, Japan): photo, Japanese, links, map...

Winter cherry blossoms at Sakurayama park (Fujioka city, Gunma prefecture, Japan) on 02 December 2012. Photo by Sébastien Duval.
Great sight during a travel in Japan: 冬桜 (Fuyu-zakura, winter cherry blossoms) at 桜山公園 (Sakurayama park) in 藤岡市 (Fujioka city), 群馬県 (Gunma prefecture). Photo on the left taken by Sébastien Duval on 02 December 2012.

Do you know another good spot to see winter cherry blossoms in Japan? Where is it? (name, city/region, link...)

Official page of Sakurayama park by Fujioka city (Japanese only):
[Short URL] http://is.gd/fujioka_sakurayama

Message for the staff of Fujioka city and of Japan National Tourism Organization:
Provide at least a short page in English please...

Location of Sakurayama park:
[Google map] http://goo.gl/maps/DvQJn

06 June 2013

Earthquake information services in Japan

Earthquake information by the Japan Meteorological Agency:
Short URL: http://is.gd/jp_quake

What earthquake information service would you recommend to long-term travellers in Japan? Why? (English, Japanese...)