In Japan, we often see people taking a walk with their dogs. Almost all the dogs wear very colorful clothes. Why is this?
Sometimes owners walk with their dogs in their arms or transport them in a baby carriage, which looks very humorous to me.
Every owner carries some bags and papers to collect the droppings of their own beloved dogs and never leave them on the road, even in the park. Owner’s manners are always very good, something which we Japanese can be proud of.
In Japan, smaller sized dogs are prefered, because they are taken care of within the narrow Japanese houses common in urban areas.
Near my flat, there’s an animal hospital, a pet shop and a doggie salon. That animal hospital accepts patients for medical care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s equipped with a very high level of medical instrumentation including an X-ray machine, a MRI scanner, and more. We’ve heard that medical treatment costs are very high at this hospital, however it looks very busy.
At the pet shop, many kinds of animals are sold: dogs; cats; fish (in fresh and salt water); birds; squirrels; crocodiles; snakes and many other species. The price of dogs or cats is typically more than 100, 000円 per animal. During the weekend, that pet shop is full of visitors.
It sells not only animals but also all the goods necessary for keeping one’s pet healthy, comfortable and stylish. Goods for dogs are especially plentiful; ball shaped feed, canned food, snacks, cakes(!), ice cream(!!), diapers(!!!), clothes and more; almost all the goods are similar to the ones necessary to take care of human infants and toddlers. I truly feel that I ate rather inferior quality food when I was a child living in a much poorer Japan compared to the kind that today’s pampered Japanese dogs eat regularly.
The hair salon for dogs seems to be always busy, though the cost is far higher than my typical bill at the barbershop.
In spite of the fact that there are many areas where people starve to death in the world, what is the current Japanese situation? I once heard a trusted veterinarian’s opinion that dogs kept within a house are not so happy, because they are confined in limited-sized rooms and therefore under greater stress than is natural. In addition, they are not allowed to have contact with fellow dogs of the opposite sex.
Are they truly happy?
Osaka Ali has been told that religious scholars have counted up to 8 million gods in the Japanese religion. That may or may not be true, but it sure feels like there can be 8 million passengers crowded on some local trains on a normal weekday commute in Osaka. That is why I enjoyed the winter holiday in Japan, a time when people here pressed a collective national “pause” button, and close down offices, businesses, schools and other work places to relax, spend time with family and reflect on past and future.
O.A. particularly likes the sparsely populated trains during the days following New Year’s. The train ride can be so calm and stress-free. With this peace and calm in mind, it was a great opportunity to take up wise and well-read VIP Urano-san’s invitation to visit Hozanji Temple on Ikoma Mountain, west of Nara. The journey took a couple of changes of train lines from my home, including a ride on a cable car up the mountain. In all, the journey lasted about an hour.
Being shortly after the 1st, there were some visitors, but not the throngs that might have been flooding the temple courtyards and stone pathways. Stone lanterns lined stairways led to the beckoning Torii gate. Everything about the day lent itself to a pleasant and refreshing tour.
A temple can be experienced culturally, aesthetically, spiritually, and philosophically, but we prefered a recreational pilgrimage, giving ourselves a chance to renew body and mind. Hozanji Temple’s mountain location provides great views of the city and the sheltering presence of a Japanese cedar forest clears the head and respiration. The fragrance of Japanese incense and the crisp air were enlivening and the architecture and decorative details beautiful and engaging.
My friend shared interesting stories about Japanese history and we had a great conversation about our dreams, plans and aspirations for 2013 over hot udon noodles. This year feels like it is off to a great start.
Urano-san informs about Todaiji Temple, another Nara-area landmark:
A Buddhist temple and its Great Buddha Hall houses the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha known in Japanese simply as Daibutsu. The temple is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site as “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara“. At the night of 15th Aug., about 2,500 lanterns are lightened around Great Buddha Hall and its face can be seen under those light from specially opened window, which means our respect to ancestors.
The scenery give us some similar feeling as experienced at Kasuga shrine.
In addition, the traditional dance parties, known as Bon-Odori and firework festivals are held at many places. Though Obon is held at the very hot period, many girls or ladies often wear traditional light cotton costume (kimono called Yukata).
There are many kinds of Bon-Odori dancing style and song, which differ district to district. The typical Bon dance involves people lining up in a circle around a high wooden scaffold made especially for the festival called a yagura, on which musicians and singers of the Obon music stand. Some dances proceed clockwise, and some dances proceed counter-clockwise.
Established in 768 AD and rebuilt several times over the centuries. The interior is famous for its many bronze lanterns, as well as about 3,000 stone lanterns that lead up the shrine.
The path to Kasuga Shrine passes through Deer Park. In Deer Park, deer are able to roam freely and are believed to be sacred messengers of the Shinto gods that inhabit the shrine and surrounding mountainous terrain. At the night of 14th & 15th of Aug.., bronze and stone lanterns are all lightened for showing our respect to the ancestors. Let me tell you, the scenery looks fantastic.
Kasuga Shrine is located in Nara City.
Japancasters, Urano-san is back with his enlightening description of the recent Obon holiday and its storied tradition:
There exist four clear seasons in Japan (Spring/ Summer/ Autumn/ Winter). During each season, specific festivals are held all over the country. Each festival has origins in Japanese religious traditions.
Today, I introduce one of the most popular Buddhist / Shinto customary festivals, Obon (お盆）or just Bon (盆), which is typical of Japanese spiritual mixture. Obon is the custom of honoring the spirits of our ancestors.
It was originally celebrated based on the lunar calendar and still is today. In most parts of Japan it is celebrated from the 13th to 15th of August based on calendar conversions. The three days are not public holidays but most of the shops, offices and some schools are closed during this time.
Many people return to their ancestral family hometowns to visit and clean their ancestors’ graves. This also becomes a time of family reunions. Obon has been celebrated in Japan in this way for more than 500 years.
Special ceremonies are held during this period: Here I’ll introduce a couple of ceremonies celebrated at Kasuga-shrine and Todaiji-temple in Nara city, which I visited last Thursday, the 15th of August. Nara is an older capital than Kyoto (the former Imperial capital city). It served as Japan’s capital (8th century C.E.), though that period wasn’t so long.
This past week has been a quiet one in Osaka, Japan. The trains have been much less crowded than usual, even at rush hour. Schools have been closed. Where is everybody? Celebrating Obon, of course. This important holiday is a special time of festivals, temple visits and dancing throughout the country. Urano-sama has some special insights to share. Check back here at the Japancast blog for more interesting stories about this unique Japanese tradition.
Osaka Ali loves high-concept manga .. here’s one that fits the novel category.
Thermæ Romæ (テルマエ・ロマエ) is a serialized manga about a bathhouse designer in the Roman ages who reaches a career plateau after he is fired by his chief patron, the emperor. The patron has just rejected his most recent design as being too out of touch with the public tastes.
After taking a therapeudic bath in one of his own bathhouses, the designer is magically sucked down the drain of the bath and emerges at the other side in … an onsen in modern japan. After making the impossible adjustment in culture and language and era, he uses the experience to help himself become inspired for his next round of bathhouse design.
Adventures, hilarity and romance ensue. Hiroshi Abe and Aya Ueto star.
Has anyone seen this comedic gem yet?