Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi

On the weekend I took in the movie Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi in Japanese). It is a Japanese Animation released by Disney in North America. It is a movie about a young girl who has to rescue her parents from the evil spirit in charge of a bath house for spirits.
The word ‘spirit’ in this case is translated from the Japanese Kami which means god. So the English has already been changed compared to the Japanese for this case, and I sure there are other such discrepancies as well.
Nevertheless it was an interesting look into a portion of the Japanese worldview, in particular the Shinto religion, and it’s many gods. I didn’t have an easy time understanding the movie, though it is entertaining on different levels.
There are quite a few concepts that a person without Japanese cultural background has difficulty picking up. After watching the movie I read a review of the movie at and while I did gain some valuable insight, I don’t think they can quite grasp the worldview behind the movie either. The author of the review has written the review from his own Christian worldview perspective.
I enjoyed the movie and it gave me some interesting food for thought.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Temple Gate

Back to the mountain shrine of a few days ago...

This temple gate is close to that shrine.  This temple takes up a significant amount of space on the mountain.  This would be the destination of many of the climbers.  Temples and shrines are  often located on mountains and in out-of-the-way places. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Redeemed Culture

In an article titled Can the Christian University Thrive, Chuck Colson writes: 
The real issue at Baylor is whether the price of academic respectability is the surrender of Christian identity. Is it true that “smart people outgrow God,” as secular critics insist? Or can Baylor provide an alternative, namely, a university that, in Dreher’s words, “can speak to the broader culture from an intellectually sound but morally distinct vantage point”?
This strikes me today as a crucial issue for North American culture as we find it in our current day and age.  If the "smart people outgrow God" forces win this battle and others like it then North America culture loses. 
It definitely contrasts Japanese culture, where Christianity has very little influence and the Christian world view can be incomprehensible to the average person.  The cultural basics that North American culture takes for granted, the underlying Christian ethics that the culture grew up on are still there. 
In Japan that Christian basis does not exist, so explaining concepts such as good and evil becomes very difficult.  It cause the newly landed missionary in Japan to completely rethink how to go about doing missions.  It causes frustration at how little progress seems to be made.  Japan needs to be redeemed.  It is crying out to be redeemed.  A lot of work needs to be done however at the very basis of its culture.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

The hairdresser spectacle.

There are a mind-boggling number of hairdressing establishments along the streets of Sekime. I have no doubt that the phenomenon occurs throughout the entire city of Osaka as well. In spite of the heavy competition for the populace's hairdo dollar, it is very expensive to have your hair done. I think thirty dollars would be about the standard, and it is difficult to find something decent for twenty. Due to the typical Japanese affinity for service there are lots of hairdressers at each of these shops.
The hours are long, typically these hairdressers work all day and then after the place closes there is practice lasting as late as eleven or twelve o'clock. It seems implausible for them to carry on with such a pace day in and day out, but after having seen the Japanese work ethic, it doesn't seem so implausible to me anymore. On the occasions when a shop is not busy, and the hairdressers have nothing to do, they are required to stand in a designated spot near their work area.
I can vividly recall walking along the street in the early evening, and looking into a brightly lit but inactive shop and seeing four hairdressers lined up in perfect array chatting with each other.
Even so hairdressing remains a popular profession with at least as many males as females going to school to get into the industry.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Mountain Shrine

Most mountain trails involve shrines and temples.  Before hiking through the bamboo forest we happened across a temple and several smaller shrines.  Shown hereis  a torii (the concrete gate) with a small bridge and a small shrine on the other side.  Shrines can be put nearly anywhere.  The small ones like this often invlove worship of a rock or something similar, and usually there is a traditional story or some folklore associated with it.

The Slipper Phenomenon

I'm convinced the people of Japan have some sort of insidious slipper plot. I haven't yet figured out what it is designed to do or how it is supposed to work but here is a synopsis of what traditionally happens.
If you live in Japan and go home you would step into the door entryway, take off your shoes (without getting your feet dirty in the entryway) and step into a pair of slippers. The slippers are worn throughout the lower areas of the house. However if you step up into the rooms that have tatami (straw mats) then you leave your slippers and walk around in your bare or sock feet. As you go back out of the tatami room, you put your slippers back on. When you get to the bathroom you would of course take them off again and step up into the bathroom to brush you teeth or perhaps wash your hands or yes even bathe. Upon exiting the bathroom you again step into your slippers. If suddenly you had to go to the washroom you would hurry over to the small room with the toilet in it (which is separate from the room with the bath in it), remove your slippers BUT slip on another pair of slippers which are in the room with the toilet in it and specifically designed for such a purpose (even to the point of matching the decor). When you are finished in there, you would remove the "toilet" slippers and put the other slippers back on again. Whew! This is normal. A typical foreigner mistake would be to forget to remove the "toilet" slippers upon exiting the room with the toilet in it, and then romping all over the place wearing those slippers, reinforcing the Japanese opinion of how boorish and uncouth North Americans are.
Additionally if you were to visit a castle or go to a smaller church, there are an ample supply of slippers for all visitors at the front door. Again the visitor removes his shoes slips into a nice, comfy, non breathing pair of slippers which of course have been worn by many who have gone before, and you may then enter the castle building or sanctuary area in a refined and dignified manner.
Yes I concur. Bewildering.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Paul - Hitched

It is nigh on 2 am and I have to be chauffer of the airport "limo" at 4am. My younger brother is just married. I was the best man for the evening, now I'm back to being just another man. Paul, God's richest blessings for your marriage.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Bamboo Forest

On the same trip up the mountain near Kyoto, I had the pleasure of hiking through bamboo forests. After seeing a picture of a bamboo forest in the Lonely Planet guidebook, I had been wanting to see a bamboo forest for months. I finally got the opportunity. Bamboo is considered a weed in Japan and it has many weed like characteristics. But walking down the mountain trail with the bamboo forest sloping away on one side and more "normal" looking coniferous trees sloping down the other was quite impressive.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Looking over Kyoto

In the first few weeks I was in Japan we had a national holiday so I had the opportunity to climb a small mountain. Most of the populated areas in Japan are built along the coastal areas on the flat parts of the country, while much of the country is mountainous. We rode the train from Osaka for about a 1/2 hour, got out at a small station and went right up the mountain. There are many well kept trails that most often tend to lead to a temple or shrine of some sort. Here we can see out over some of that flat land and see a part of the Kyoto area.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The future of Sekime-Photolog

Being in Canada, I'm sure is causing many people to wonder about the future of the Sekime-Photolog. Has it been rendered obsolete, since the blogger is not currently living in Sekime? Perhaps he has lost his will to blog?
Well rest assured I am not taking the proverbial header into the abyss, there is more blogging to be done. Content of this blog for the forseeable future will consist of reminiscing, (I still have more photos to share), and also of examining Japanese culture, looking at societal underpinnings, wondering about what makes culture tick, unravelling some of the fabric of things Japanese, and in general trying to get a handle on how people who grow up within Japan think. So please continue to come back and see how things are going and perhaps you can add your two cents (or more if you feel so inclined) to the comments section.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Granny Bike

One of the major modes of transportation in Japan is the bicycle. I even took to riding one of these (oh how some days I ached to have my own bike) to school most days, as long as it wasn't raining or wasn't too hot. No one laughed at me though, strange as it may seem I almost fit right in riding one of these.