Japan Photo Set 4 – Shiroyama

A little about Shiroyama shrine: It is dedicated to a mountain that is nearby, and is tall enough (3000 meters) that it is usually in the clouds and is covered in snow (the name, Shiroyama, means “White Mountain”). The kami, or spirit, that resides in that mountain is a female spirit that is known as a kami of water, life, and matchmaking (tradition, however, holds that if you want a good relationship with a current partner, you should go separately to prevent the kami from becoming jealous).

The shrine was way out in the “countryside” – a somewhat less-settled area than the city.

This is the first torii that we saw, a sure sign of the entrance of a Shinto shrine. You can also see some glowing people – apparently I had the camera on the wrong setting.

Another picture of the countryside – you don’t see forests too often around here.

The first completely unblurred picture I took today…
This is the place where visitors to the shrine are to rinse their left hand, right hand, mouth, left hand again, and the cup-thing in that order. This is the preliminary purification ritual (this is to get the visitors clean enough to be inside the temple grounds).

The inner torii, along with a bit of a view of the lengthy path we had to take to get up here. The path was surrounded by forest and along it were also several waterfalls. There will be some more pictures of it later.

This is the actual entrance to the shrine (torii yet again). There are also several of our group in the picture.

The Shinto priest explained several of the traditions of the shrine. Here he is showing us the lion statues near the entrance to the main complex.
I did not get a very good picture of the priest, but he was wearing a white kimono with a teal-colored apron-type cover on the bottom, with traditional geta shoes (wooden sandals). The color white is symbolic of purity in Shinto.

This is in front of the side entrance to the main shrine. The priest is explaining that the straw bundles are symbolic of clouds, the jagged white paper of lightning.

I just thought this was kind of neat. Yes, this is still the main shrine building.

I was not allowed to take any pictures inside the main shrine building. However, we participated in a purification ritual, which involved the head priest intoning some words I could not understand, priestesses dancing, and afterwards a small amount of the shrine’s sake (rice wine). Joe tells me that it was really good sake – I wouldn’t know, it was the first I’d had.

Just a note – the professors of this program are really cool – they’re willing to talk with students more often than I’m used to at Rose (with the exception of some professors), and, as a friend said, they’re the kind of professors you’d be able to invite to go drinking.

The idea behind this thing is a bit complicated. You can buy fortunes at the shrine (I got one, which said I would get a “little luck”), and they give a detailed list of things to do and things to avoid, and what might happen to you soon. But if you don’t like yours, you can tie it to this thing, and the luck will be tied to this rather than to you.

This is the path to and from the shrine. Here, there are a couple of markers along the road.

A waterfall along the shrine. The path along the shrine is meant as a place for visitors to calm themselves and try to mentally cleanse themselves.

Shinto has some origins in a fertility-based religion, so life itself is a major theme. The path to the shrine is filled with signs of life, from the trees along the side to the moss growing in the road.
I think that’s it for now, I haven’t got any more. This might even be the last before the program ends! But I should be able to update at some point over the week afterwards.

Leave a Comment