Just outside Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Shrine has been around as a place of worship for 1300 years.
It is best known for its row of tori gates, whose red color is said to have powers against “supernatural powers” and also indicates the bounty of the Inari god.
(This particular spot is featured in a scene in the film “Memoirs of a Geisha.”)
The row of torii gates developed as a custom 400 years ago as donations from businesses to express gratitude for a wish “that has come true or will come true”; there are now 10,000 torii gates within the shrine.
(Incidentally in the film, the young girl runs through the torii gates on the way to the temple to offer a coin in prayer. The scene was flashed back at the ending when her wish came true.)
One can of course follow the gates all the way to the top of the mountain, about a couple of hours walk though lush scenery.
A tour of Fushimi Inari won’t be complete without mentioning the white fox, said to represent Inari (god of harvest and business) who protects rice crops from the mice that eat them. A recognition of ecological balance even in the old days.
It’s a good day’s visit — to admire a cultural symbol that has weathered the centuries, or simply reconnect with nature and oneself — something of a treat in today’s fast-paced world.
(Or maybe one can simply offer a prayer of thanks for a wish that has come true or will come true.)
I like the interplay of light and shadow at the Bamboo Forest of Akashiyama, near Kyoto, Japan..
As one walks into the forest, the rustle of the leaves whispers in your ear.
It reminds me of a story about a man who wanted to quit and went to the forest to ask God for a reason not to.
The answer he got was right around him. God compared the fern — which blooms almost instantly and fills the forest with its bright leaves — to the bamboo, which for years after planting, had nothing to show. But He didn’t quit on the bamboo.
And on the fifth year the bamboo suddenly emerged from the ground and rose to the sky, growing several feet every week until it covered the forest with its canopy.
For years the bamboo was silently growing its root system, so it could support itself as it ascends to what it can become.
I sometimes look at these pictures to remind myself of the bamboo, and the light that shines though them, when shadows tend to overcome.
(Beijing, China. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests peeks in the distance.)
In ancient times, the Emperor of China would move from the Forbidden City into the Temple complex and personally pray to Heaven for good harvest.
The Emperor was regarded as the Son of Heaven, who administered earthly matters on behalf of heavenly authority.
Well you’ve cracked the sky, scrapers fill the air.
Will you keep on building higher
’til there’s no more room up there?
Will you make us laugh, will you make us cry?
Will you tell us when to live, will you tell us when to die?
I know we’ve come a long way,
We’re changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?
– Cat Stevens, “Where Do the Children Play?”
Taipa Village is one of the few places in Macau where one can see an authentic slice of this former Portuguese colony. Though casinos are sprouting in the main city, Taipa Village has been preserved for a step back in time.
I like this vantage point where the old is mixed with the new, it almost looks like a collage.
Just a few steps away and one can enjoy history preserved. East and west co-exist. This is where the locals go.
More information about Taipa Village here.
In a previous post I described the Future World exhibit at the Art and Science Museum.
Its centerpiece is the “Universe of Water Particles” – a seven-meter virtual waterfall. It is serenely beautiful, hundreds of thousands of water particles cascading gracefully down a virtual rock, following the laws of physics. And with a backpacker’s silhouette, it’s picture-perfect.
But I miss the mist, the unpredictable gust of wetness on my face as the wind blows the water away from its normal free fall. I miss the rustling of the leaves and the way my feet slide on the slippery banks. I miss the smell of decaying trees along the river, and the greenness of young shoots rushing to rise above the rocks and catch the sun.
I like my waterfall to be raw, with the water falling down in complete abandon, daring to defy the laws of physics.
I want nature’s embrace to be sensual. I want to feel its wetness.
Black Waves is part of the Future World exhibition at the Art and Science Museum in Singapore. It is a collaborative work with teamLab, an interdisciplinary creative group.
Black Waves is “an expression of nature, rendered entirely in digital technology.”
The effect is created by “calculating the interaction of hundreds of thousands of individual water particles, and then representing the movement of waves in a crescendo of white foam.”
Computer animation is not new, but what is intriguing about this work is that it depicts the seascape in the style of traditional Japanese painting.
There is some kind of formality, a sense of order in what appears to be random, and yet it seems so realistic. Science capturing art capturing reality.
The artwork invites the viewers to immerse themselves in it. One can literally “step into the waves” or simply watch them from a bean bag on the floor while listening to the soothing background music.
By blurring the separation between viewer and artwork, it expresses the idea that we ourselves need not be separated from nature.
This vision of the future world is intriguing indeed.