Well, another day home, and another day for my memories to grow murkier
Well, right after coming down the mountain, we go to the local shrine…and there strapped to the toori (shrine gate) was a sign celebrating the recent inclusion of Mt Fuji as a cultural world heritage site. You see, it wasn’t allowed to be a natural heritage site due to pollution of some kind, but since Mt Fuji itself is worshipped as a kami (god, or powerful spirit) throughout Japan, it could be awarded cultural status. (I’m a bit surprised that people would want to pollute the home of their god, but hey…)
That shrine was kind of special in that it had multiple stories…to be taller, and thus closer to Mt. Fuji, of course. It was also rather special in that it was the first shrine I’d visited where the main thrust was actual Shintoism rather than tourism. So there were real miko (shrine attendants)! When we first entered, one of the miko was busy with some kind of consecration ceremony for an infant.
The other, was selling omamori (protective or good luck charms) and omakuji (paper fortunes). Hanging from a tree were ropes laden with fortunes which people had tied. (I think they tie the ones they don’t want to be true, and keep the ones they do?). So laden that a lady tying hers was having considerable trouble with her knot, and I saw a few which had fallen down. …I wonder what the significance of that would be :P. Oh yes, and the wooden thingies are prayers, I think.
Out by the sacred pond, was some very pure water that people could drink-which takes 15 years to get down from the mountain! Interestingly, apparently the water in that pond has a constant temperature all year around (maybe 12 degrees?) Because our group was quite big, my half had a different guide, and when we were on the bridge over the sacred pond filled with really fat koi (carp), he told me that as a junior high schooler, he had been caught by the miko fishing there! It was a new one to me!! But apparently koi aren’t even that good to eat, so… So the only earthly reason why people could buy fish food and feed the carp was that they were sacred. Of course.
And we saw a snake swimming! It wasn’t even a water snake! Of course the guide reminded me that in Shinto lore, snakes are often messengers for kami. But I was just kicking myself to have forgotten that Japan has snakes :P.
There was also a teeny tiny little shrine with fox guardian statues, with some kind of kami for businessmen enshrined inside.
But the thing is I don’t worship Mt. Fuji, or believe in anything like animism, and apart from the “oh, this is interesting” I couldn’t get out of there soon enough! I just didn’t like the feel of the place. Go figure. It was pretty too…
We found out later, when we looked at a print from a famous tapestry, that because the kami enshrined in Mt. Fuji was said to be female, and very jealous, until not too long ago, women weren’t allowed up the mountain. The social order, wherein women were somewhere above dust, and somewhere below garbage sweepers, may have had something to do with it too.
We also found out later that eating okonomiyaki, a type of savoury pancakes and yakisoba, a kind of noodle stirfry in the same meal makes for an awesome farewell to a region. And of course I had to eat mine with the pretty new chopsticks that we’d just been given :D.
All in all, the shrine visit made me really agog, yet again, that people worship mountains as gods. Yes, nature is spectacular and there is power there. But it’s like worshipping a signpost! Why worship a sign when you can find out what it’s pointing to? Surely what it’s pointing to is something greater than the sign, the mountain itself!
Sorry, l just get a bit upset when people miss the point.