Saturday, May 19, 2007

Kohshin-san - Red good luck charms in Naramachi

When you walk through Naramachi, the old area south of central Nara, you find many red stuffed dolls hanging in chain at the entrance. They are called “Migawari-Zaru”, the lucky charms in the shape of monkeys. It is a messengers of god to protect Naramachi by sacrificing itself.

It is also called “Negai-Zaru”, when you write your wish on their backs your wish would come true.

There is a “Shomen-Kongo-Zoh”, the blue faced statue called “Kohsin-san” in the Naramachi museum located in the center of Naramachi. According to the Chinese Koshin religion teaching Taoism which was spread among people as a folk religion in the Edo period, there are worms called “Sanshi-no-Mushi” in human’s body. They would slip out at night while the person is asleep to report the emperor if he had committed any crime on the day of “Kohshin”. People try to be awake the night of Kohshin-san’s visit every 60th day to attend the religious celemony. According to the belief, the report has a strong influence on the future of our lives.

If anyone still worried about the sprits, they can scare them away by hanging “Migawari-Zaru”, or by eating Konnyaku which the “Sanshi-no-mushi”, the worm hates.
Though people don’t follow the custom of staying up whole night anymore, the religious practice to hold the service for “Kohshin-san” is still alive in this area.

According to one theory, the “Kohshin religion” developed in the end of Nara period as a mixture of the Chinese Taoism and the Japanese original religion. God “Kohshin” was brought to Japan by the Taoist priests. The Naramachi Museum enshrines the “Shomem-Kongoh-Zoh” to succeed the Kohshin religion.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Visit Yagyu, the birth place of "Yagyu Shinkage Ryu" and try sword skills

Happy New Year!!

Thank you for those people who joined the year-ending party at NARACAFE YOUAN!!
We went to Kasuga Shrine, a big historical shrine in Nara together at midnight and celebrate the new year's day.

It was really nice and we had fun talking to strangers in the line for the shrine;)

*** The first event this year!!
Visit Yagyu, the birth place of "Yagyu Shinkage Ryu" and try sword skills***

Wanna try sword skills in a historical Dojo(swordmanship gym) with the real teacher of "Yagyu Shinkage Ryu"?!

* place: Masakizaka Dojo(swordmanship gym) in Yagyu
* time: Jan 13th 2pm-
* price: 3000yen for the training, 1000yen for the party
* how to get there: 8am @Kintetsu Nara station to walk there
or contact
if you prefer going by car.
* stay: contact for staying at NARACAFE YOUAN

*Yagyū Shinkage Ryū (柳生新陰流) is one of the oldest Japanese school of swordsmanship or kenjutsu. Its name roughly means "Yagyū New Shadow School," Yagyu being the name of the family which came to head the school at the end of the 16th century. It grew out of a school headed by Kamiizmi Nobutsuna, who namedYagyu Muneyoshi his successor in 1565. Today, the Yagyū school remains one of the most widely practiced schools of Japanese swordsmanship.

Yagyu Tajima founded the Yagyū Shinkage (Yagyu New Shadow) school of swordsmanship -- to this day Japan's greatest and most famous.
According to historical documents, by 1631 Tajima's eldest son (Yagyu) Jubei had demonstrated himself to be the best swordsman of the Yagyu clan. The mystery of his legend revolves around the fact that in 1631 he was suddenly (for unknown reasons) dismissed from the Shogun's service. Nothing is recorded of Jubei until his sudden reappearance before the Shogun 12 years later in a demonstration of his (newly) learned sword skills after which the Shogun immediately re-employed his services.

YOKOSO to NARA! Feel historical and cultural old capital here!


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Machiya- Old houses in NARAMACHI

NARAMACHI- the east part of the central Nara with many old houses from some hundreds years ago.

This area is located in the south from the stations and temples area.
Going through Todaiji, Kohfukuji, and Kasuga shrine, people can easily loose the sence of direction, time and nationality here.

There are shops which are handed over for some hundreds years through some generations, selling Sarashi(cloth), Sumi(chacole), Ittobori(wodden statues).

The "Marchants' House" was renovated as the traditional MACHIYA where those marchants lived.

There are old houses in Kyoto also which also have very narrow entrances since they were charged tax according to the width of the entrances.

The DOMA(old style kintchen) and NAKANIWA(garden in the house) are arranged in really useful way beside the "MA"(room) located from the very front of the house(Ichi no MA- first room) to the back of it(Oku no MA) so that they could change the scenes by using FUSUMA(sliding doors) and light also.

The KOHSHI(wodden fence) is the most appealing part of the character of those houses which is as if guarding them

It is also useful as used as a fence preventing the eyes from outside, but still visible from inside, removable during the festivals.

YOKOSO to NARA! Feel historical and cultural old capital here!


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The big statue of Buddha and Todaiji - World Heritage

Todaiji, a temple complex in the city of Nara in Nara Prefecture, was built in the year 743. At that time Buddhism was at its height, and served as a state religion. The best-known relic at Todaiji Temple is its Daibutsu, a colossal statue that, with 15 meters (49 feet) in height, is the world's largest gilded bronze Buddha. It is housed in an all-wood building, the Daibutsu-den, 48 meters (157 feet) in height, the largest wooden building in the world. Within the precincts of the temple, aligned along one-kilometer north-south and east-west axes centered on the Daibutsu-den, are an array of other buildings, including halls and storehouses, seven of which are National Treasures. By virtue of being one of the major historical temples in Japan, Todaiji Temple also possesses many valuable cultural artifacts. More than 20 of these Buddhist statues and other works of art are National Treasures. The repository for them, Shosoin, lives up its name of the Treasure House of the World.

Since it was built in 749, the Daibutsu has been repaired and renovated after damage incurred by earthquakes: even its head has fallen off once. The base of the statue that remains today dates from the 8th century, while the upper portion, including the head, was largely recast in the second half of the 12th century. Tragedy also befell the buildings housing it, especially the flames of war. After one burning in the second half of the 16th century the Daibutsu stood unsheltered for a century until the current Daibutsu-den was built in 1692. The most recent Daibutsu-den built in 1709, although impressive, is a shadow of the original structure, the width being about 30 percent shorter.

Also built around the middle of the 8th century, the original Shosoin, which is an architectural treasure in itself, served as the repository for the temple treasure. It is made in the Azekura style, a log-house construction that is often seen in old storehouses: the walls, intersecting at corners, are built up of hewn logs laid horizontally on top of each other. Shosoin safeguarded a heritage of around 9,000 different objects that date back to the 7th and 8th centuries, and most of them are well-preserved, so they can be attributed and accurately dated. Numerous articles were presented from overseas, especially from Persia, China, and Korea. The artifacts give a flavor of the cosmopolitan culture of China in the T'ang dynasty (618-907), when there was contact between the civilizations of Asia along the Silk Road (the overland trade routes from China to the Mediterranean in premodern times). It is for this reason that Shosoin's significance extends beyond Japan and that it is called the Treasure House of the World.

Nara national museum will The 58th Annual Exhibition of SHOSOIN tresure from Oct.24th to Nov 12th.
There will be 13 first-time exhibits out of 68 ofjects this time.

Don't miss it!!

Photos: (Top) The Great Buddha of Todaiji Temple ; (Bottom) Daibutsu-den, the pavilion that houses the Great Buddha, is the largest wooden building in the world.

YOKOSO to NARA! Feel historical and cultural old capital here!


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The ancient capital -HEIJOKYO -World Heritage

Nara was the glorious capital, "like a fragrant flower in full bloom," as an ancient poet once described it. Nara was the cradle of the great Japanese arts and the essence of culture in the long-ago Tempyo Period. The old, world-famous temples anshrines of the province of Yamato (presently Nara Prefecture) have handed down to us their precious history.
The palace was called "HEIJOKYO", remained as "HEIJOKYUSEKI" about 3km west from Nara park or Todaiji.

Among others, the cathedrals of Todaiji, Kofukuji, Yakushiji, Toshodaiji and the Kasuga Grand Shrine are settings where one can encounter the rich, elegant ambience of the Tempyo Culture.  As you go through the corridors, and glance at the tiled roofs of these cathedrals, the Tempyo Culture will make you forget all about time and space, and will whisper to you about the old days of well over a thousand years as though they were yesterday.

In the year 2010, HEIJOKYO will reach its 1300th anniversaly.
We will organize a year through festival called "1300 NENSAI" and welcome people from all over the world by making as museums everywhere.

-Don't miss it!!

YOKOSO to NARA! Feel historical and cultural old capital here!


Wednesday, August 23, 2006


I'm Ann, a Nara lover living in Nara, Japan.
I'll show you this wonderful acient capital of Japan.

YOKOSO to NARA! Feel historical and cultural old capital here!