Carpe Diem #1164 – Onsen the hot springs of Japan

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Carpe Diem #1164 Onsen the hot springs of Japan

This month at Carpe Diem I’m exploring the “Motherland” of haiku, Japan.

Today I’m taking a look at Onsen – Hot Springs of Japan.

An onsen is a Japanese hot spring and the bathing facilities and inns frequently situated around them.

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Photo Credit –  Outdoor Onsen of the Nakanoshima Hotel on Nakanoshima island in Nachikatsuura, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan.

The island has six different hot springs with high sulfur content. (The pool was closed for cleaning when the image was taken. On this day, the pool was assigned to men).

As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsens scattered throughout all of its major islands.

Onsens are a central feature of Japanese tourism, typically found in the countryside, but there are also a number of popular establishments found major cities.

The legal definition of an onsen includes the requirement that its water must contain at least one of 19 designated chemical elements, including such minerals as iron, sulfur, and metabolic acid, and have an average temperature of 25 °C (77 °F) or warmer at the point of release.

Onsen water is believed to have healing powers derived from its mineral content.

At an onsen, as at a sentō, all guests are expected to wash their bodies and rinse themselves thoroughly before entering the hot water. Bathing stations are equipped with stools, faucets, wooden buckets, and toiletries such as soap and shampoo; nearly all onsen also provide removable shower heads for bathing convenience. Entering the onsen while still dirty or with traces of soap on the body is socially unacceptable.onsen-4-washing-cubicles_-_20071009

Photo Credit – Onsen four washing cubicles

Bathers are not normally allowed to wear swimsuits in the baths. However, some modern onsen with a waterpark atmosphere requires their guests to wear a swimming suit in their mixed baths.

At 2015, around half (56%) of onsen operators banned bathers with tattoos from using their facilities. However, tattoo-friendly onsen does exist.

Monkeys enjoying the heated springs.

Heavy snowfalls (snow covers the ground for 4 months a year), an elevation of 850 meters.

The monkeys descend from the steep cliffs and forest to sit in the warm waters of the onsen (hot springs) and return to the security of the forests in the evenings.

However, since the monkeys are fed by park attendants, they are in the area of the hot springs all the year round, and a visit at any season will enable the visitor to observe hundreds of the macaques.

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Photo Credit – The Outdoor bath at Tsurunoyu Onsen, Akita Prefecture in the winter. Japanese macaques enjoying a roten-buro open-air onsen at Jigokudani Monkey Park

My tanka poem using the study of  Onsen Hot Springs in Japan

hot springs everywhere

japan has thousands enjoy

natures pure water healthy

even better when its blessed

rather not be with monkeys

Carpe Diem #1163 geisha, the beauty of Japan

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Carpe Diem #1163 geisha, the beauty of Japan

This month at Carpe Diem I’m exploring the “Motherland” of haiku, Japan.

Today I’m taking a look at Geisha – The Beauty of Japan.

I hope you enjoy this post as much as I have had to study it, I learned so much, which I never knew before, it’s amazing, I never read about it before as I thought it was all about prostitutes, something my parents taught me that it was a bad thing, which ever since then I had shut my mind too.

But geisha is not like that I’m so glad I studied it.

Geisha are traditional Japanese female entertainers who act as hostesses and whose skills include performing various arts such as classical music, dance, games, and conversation, mainly to entertain not only male customers but also female customers today.

Apprentice geisha are called a maiko.

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Photo Credit – Typical nape make-up on a maiko (Note the red collar)

A maiko is an apprentice geiko (not exactly same as geisha) in Kyoto, western Japan.

Their jobs consist of performing songs, dances, and playing the shamisen or the koto (traditional Japanese instruments) for visitors during feasts.

Maiko are usually aged 15 to 20 years old and become geiko after learning how to dance the traditional kyomai dances, play the shamisen, and learning Kyō-kotoba (dialect of Kyoto), regardless of their origins.

A woman above 21 is considered too old to be a maiko and becomes a full geisha upon her initiation into the geisha community.

Maiko is considered one of the great sights of Japanese tourism and look very different from fully qualified geisha. They are at the peak of traditional Japanese femininity.

The scarlet-fringed collar of a maiko’s kimono hangs very loosely in the back to accentuate the nape of the neck, which is considered a primary erotic area in Japanese sexuality.

She wears the same white makeup for her face on her nape, leaving two or sometimes three stripes of bare skin exposed.

There are three major elements of a maiko’s training.

The first is the formal art training. This takes place in special geisha schools which are found in every hanamachi.

The second element is the entertainment training which the maiko learns at various tea houses and parties by observing her onee-san.

The third is the social skill of navigating the complex social web of the hanamachi. This is done on the streets. Formal greetings, gifts, and visits are key parts of any social structure in Japan and for a maiko, they are crucial for her to build the support network she needs to survive as a geisha.

The first woman is known to have called herself geisha was a Fukagawa prostitute, in about 1750.

As they became more widespread throughout the 1760s and 1770s, many began working only as entertainers (rather than prostitutes) often in the same establishments as male geisha.

By 1800, being a geisha was considered a female occupation (though there are still a handful of male geisha working today).

There were many different classifications and ranks of geisha. Some women would have sex with their male customers, whereas others would entertain strictly with their art forms.

Prostitution was legal up until the 1900s (decade), so it was practiced in many quarters throughout Japan.

In the 1960s during Japan’s postwar economic boom, the geisha world changed. In modern Japan, girls are not sold into indentured service. Nowadays, a geisha’s sex life is her private affair.

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Photo Credit – Profile of geisha Kimiha from Miyagawacho, wearing a formal black kimono and a Shimada-styled wig. Her obi is tied in the “taiko” (drum) style. All these are details which clearly distinguish her from a maiko (an apprentice).

Modern geisha still live in traditional geisha houses called okiya in areas called hanamachi (“flower towns”), particularly during their apprenticeship.

Many experienced geisha are successful enough to choose to live independently.

The elegant, high-culture world that geisha are a part of is called karyūkai  “the flower and willow world”.

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Photo Credit – Geisha and two maikos. Mature geisha (center) ordinarily wear subdued clothing, makeup, and hair, contrasting with the more colorful clothing, heavy makeup, and elaborate hair of maiko (apprentices; left and right).

My tanka poem using the study of Maiko & Geisha ladies in Japan

young beautiful girls

train as maikos to become

geisha ladies very proud

they are not prostitutes

a human like you and me

Carpe Diem #1162 Ueno Iga Province, birthplace of Basho

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Carpe Diem #1162 Ueno Iga Province, birthplace of Basho

This month at Carpe Diem I’m exploring the “Motherland” of haiku, Japan.

Today we are taking a look at the region in which Matsuo Basho, one of the most famous haiku poet ever was born.

Basho was born in Iga Province near (nowadays) Ueno.

Basho’s birthplace is now in Mie Prefecture.

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Photo Credit                                                        Iga City

History

The area around the modern city of Iga corresponds to a portion of ancient Iga Province.

Iga is known as the birthplace of the haiku poet Matsuo Basho and the home of the ninja Hattori Hanzo.

The city of Ueno was founded on September 10, 1941, it was often referred to as Iga-Ueno to avoid confusion with other Uenos.

Ueno is the location of Iga Ueno Castle and the Iga-ryū Ninja Museum.

On November 1, 2004, Ueno, along with the towns of Iga (former) and Ayama, and the villages of Ōyamada and Shimagahara (all from Ayama District), and the town of Aoyama (from Naga District), was merged to create the city of Iga.

Traditionally, though, the Iga region of Mie is considered to have always been a part of Kansai.

Mie Prefecture has traditionally been a link between east and west Japan, thanks largely to the Tokaido and Ise Pilgrimage Roads.

With 65% of the Mie prefecture consists of forests and with over 1,000 km (600 mi) of coastline, Mie has a long been associated with forestry and seafood industries.

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Photo Credit – Iga Ueno Castle is a Japanese castle located in Iga, Mie Prefecture, Japan.

Construction on Iga Ueno Castle began in 1585, by the command of Takigawa Katsutoshi.

However, the honmaru, or innermost bailey, as well as the tenshu, or donjon, upon which the modern reconstruction was based were built by Katsutoshi’s successor, Tsutsui Sadatsugu.

Sadatsugu was then succeeded by Tōdo Takatora. Takatora renovated the honmaru, giving it 30 meters (33 yards) high walls.

This meant that the walls of the honmaru of Iga Ueno Castle were the tallest of any castle in Japan, a record that still holds.

After the threat of rebellion passed, the castle was not seen to be as important as it once was.

As a result, the tenshu was not rebuilt after it was destroyed by high winds in 1612.

Because of its beautiful architecture, and floor plan, Iga Ueno Castle is also known as “Hakuho” or “White Phoenix Castle.”

In 1935, the tenshu of Iga Ueno Castle was reconstructed out of wood.

It houses a museum which holds a collection of artifacts relating to the area’s history.

Most other parts of the castle lie in ruins, though the towering honmaru walls still stand.

The castle is now a National Historic Site and preserved in Ueno Park.

Iga Ueno NINJA Festa is the annual five-week ninja-themed festival in the Japanese city of Iga (in the former province of Iga), from April 1 to May 6.

Tens of thousands of ninja fans travel to Iga for ninja-inspired performances, competitions, and opportunities to practice ninja skills, organized to promote the city.

My tanka poem using the study of Ueno Iga Province, birthplace of Basho

mie area of forests

basho would have walked through them

reciting his thoughts

following path of nature

memories saved forever

Torii Gate at Itsukushima Shrine in Japan

Torii Gate at Itsukushima Shrine in Japan

This month I have been exploring the “Motherland” of haiku and Tanka, Japan.

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Photo Credit – Itsukushima Shrine, Hiroshima, Japan

Today I’m taking a look at Itsukushima Shrine and the Torii Gate in Japan, one of the three most beautiful sites in Japan.

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Photo Credit – Itsukushima Gate.

The torii gate – the presence of a torii at entrances is usually the simplest way to identify Shinto shrines

Itsukushima Shrine is a Shinto Shrine (which is a Japanese ethnic religion, it focuses on ritual practices to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present-day Japan and its ancient past), and it’s on the island of Itsukushima (popularly known as Miyajima), in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan, best known for its “floating” torii gate.

The shrine complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The torii appears to be floating only at high tide. When the tide is low, it is approachable by foot from the island.

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Photo Credit – Torii low tide, from the inside of the shrine.

The shrine was designed and built on pier-like structures over the bay so that it would appear to be floating on the water, separate from the sacred island, which could be approached by the devout.

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Photo Credit – Itsukushima floating shrine.

A “floating” building (Haraiden purification hall of the Marōdo auxiliary shrine) at Itsukushima Shrine

Because the island itself has been considered sacred, commoners were not allowed to set foot on it throughout much of its history to maintain its purity.

To allow pilgrims to approach, the shrine was built like a pier over the water, so that it appeared to float, separate from the land.

The red entrance gate, or torii, was built over the water for much the same reason.

Commoners had to steer their boats through the torii before approaching the shrine.

Retaining the purity of the shrine is so important that since 1878, no deaths or births have been permitted near it.

To this day, pregnant women are supposed to retreat to the mainland as the day of delivery approaches, as are the terminally ill or the very elderly whose passing has become imminent.

Burials on the island are forbidden.

Originally it was a pure Shinto shrine “where no births or deaths were allowed to cause pollution.

My tanka poem using the study of Torii Gate at Itsukushima Shrine in Japan.

Itsukushima shrine

beautiful sacred island

torii gate famous

looks like floating on water

what about stormy weather

Carpe Diem #1161 Matsuyama City birth-place of Masaoka Shiki

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Carpe Diem #1161 Matsuyama City birth-place of Masaoka Shiki

This month at Carpe Diem I’m exploring the “Motherland” of haiku, Japan.

Today we are taking a look at Matsuyama City birth-place of Masaoka Shiki.

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Photo Credit – Masaoka Shiki.

Masaoka Shiki October 14, 1867 – September 19, 1902), pen-name of Masaoka Noboru.

He was a Japanese poet, author, and literary critic in Meiji period Japan.

Shiki is regarded as a major figure in the development of modern haiku poetry.

He also wrote on reform of tanka poetry.

Some consider Masaoka Shiki to be one of the four great haiku masters, the others being Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, and Kobayashi Issa, which I have written about in the last couple of weeks

Shiki suffered from tuberculosis (TB) much of his life.

In 1888 or 1889 he began coughing up blood and soon adopted the pen-name Shiki from the Japanese hototogisu, which is a word usually translated as cuckoo.

It is a Japanese concept that this bird coughs blood as it sings, which explains why the name “Shiki” was adopted.

He died of Tuberculosis in 1902 at age 34.

Shiki, or rather Tsunenori as he was originally named was born in Matsuyama City in Iyo province (present day Ehime prefecture) it is in northwestern Shikoku, Japan.

The capital is Matsuyama.

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Photo Credit – Matsuyama castle

Matsuyama Castle is a flatland-mountain castle that was built in 1603 on Mount Katsuyama, whose height is 132 meters, in Matsuyama city in Ehime Prefecture in Japan

After the Battle of Sekigahara, the Tokugawa shogun gave the area to his allies, including Kato Yoshiaki who built Matsuyama Castle, forming the basis for the modern city of Matsuyama.

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Photo Credit – Matsuyama-Panorama.

A panoramic view of the city from Matsuyama Castle

My tanka poem using the study of Masaoka Shiki as a prompt

modern haiku poems

was masaoka shiki

died very young with tb

its sad nature can be hard

look that bridge is in heaven

Carpe Diem #1160 Kema, birth-place of Yosa Buson

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Carpe Diem #1160 Kema, birth-place of Yosa Buson

This month at Carpe Diem I’m exploring the “Motherland” of haiku, Japan.

Today I’m taking a look at Kema, birth-place of Yosa Buson.

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Photo Credit                                            Osaka  Castle

Looking for information about Kema-cho, Miyakojima Ward in Osaka city hasn’t been very successful, so I will now write what I have found out about Yosa Buson a (Haiku Master).

Yosa Buson original surname Taniguchi, Born 1716 – January 17, 1784  in the village of Kema in Settsu Province, (now Kema-cho, Miyakojima Ward in Osaka city).

He learned poetry under the tutelage of the haikai master Hayano Hajin.

Yosa Buson settled in the city of Kyoto at the age of 42.

It is around this time that he began to write under the name of Yosa, which he took from his mother’s birthplace (Yosa in the province of Tango).

Yosa Buson married at the age of 45 and had one daughter, Kuno. From this point on, he remained in Kyoto, writing and teaching poetry at the Sumiya.

He died at the age of 68 and was buried at Konpuku-ji in Kyoto.

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Photo Credit                                             Yosa Buson Grave.

Yosa Buson’s grave is also located at the temple.

Little History of Konpuku-ji in Kyoto Japan

It is a Zen Buddhist temple in Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan.

During the Genroku era (1688-1704), the temple was restored by Tesshu from the nearby Enkō-ji, and acted as a branch of that temple. It was also converted to the Rinzai sect.

When Matsuo Bashō traveled to Kyoto to visit his friend Tesshu, he stayed in a thatched hut in the back of the garden, and after some time, the hut was named Basho-an.

However, it fell into ruin, and in 1776 Yosa Buson restored it.

The thatched roof hut stands on the east side of the garden, and inside is a tea room.

My tanka poem using the study of Yosa Buson.

yosa buson poet

haiku star seventeenth century

kind hearted loved life

feels good reading about him

painted in the stars above

Carpe Diem #1158 Kashiwabara, birth-place of Kobayashi Issa

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Carpe Diem #1158 Kashiwabara, birth-place of Kobayashi Issa

This month at Carpe Diem I’m exploring the “Motherland” of haiku, Japan.

Today we are taking a look Kashiwabara, the birthplace of Kobayashi Issa,  Born June 15, 1763 – January 5, 1828) he was a Japanese poet and lay Buddhist priest of the Jodo Shinshu sect known for his haiku poems and journals.

He is better known as simply Issa, a pen name meaning Cup-of-tea, he wrote over 20,000 haiku, which have won him readers up to the present day.

Reflecting the popularity and interest in Issa as man and poet, Japanese books on Issa outnumber those on Buson and almost equal in number those on Basho.

He wrote a diary, now called Last Days of Issa’s Father.

More information on Kobayashi Issa

A little about Jodo Shinshu

It means“The True Essence of the Pure Land Teaching”  also known as Shin Buddhism, is a school of Pure Land Buddhism.

It was founded by the former Tendai Japanese monk Shinran.

Shin Buddhism is considered the most widely practiced branch of Buddhism in Japan, with 20% of the population of Japan identifying as members of the sect.

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Kashiwabara, Shinano Province, Nagano Prefecture

My tanka poem using the study of Kobayashi Issa a Haiku poet

lost mother at young age

troubled child with step mother

unhappy with life

searching but not finding peace

life unhappy many losses