Koto Jazz 23: Torii & Gateways

Torii translated to mean “where birds dwell”, is symbolic of the entrance to Shinto Shrines, and the doorway to a sacred place. It also means the transition from the physical world to the spiritual world. The kasagi, or top beam of the torii, is often curved, suggesting the image of “wings”, as showing in the above photo of Tacoma’s Point Defiance Pogoda and Japanese Garden. The second beam, or shimagi, appears to be a support beam, located directly under the kasagi, and is slanted inward. A third and final cross beam, the nuki, is separate from the two upper beams, but not too far below them. The hashira are the two supporting pillars which hold up the torii. They are often rounded like poles, but can be square shaped as well. There might also be a small gakuzuka support post that connects the nuki and shimagi at the center.

The significance to me of the spirit behind Shinto is it’s lack of a building structure such as a church, synogagogue, or mosque. The torii and the jinja (where the kami dwell) come closest to the spiritual place of worship of these western structures.

Kami and nature are virtually the same. The way of the kami, or kannagara no michi, we become filled with the energizing spirit of nature, and positive and negative ions. Each kami possess positive and negative energy, good and evil. Musubi is the energy force that connects humans and nature and the world to each other as we strive to unite with our higher spiritual power. You may find more information at the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of North America , at http://www.tsubakishrine.org/.

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KotoJazz 22: 3 Key Elements to Japanese Gardens & Koto Jazz

The Portland Japanese Garden (the Garden) website outlines the fundamentals of the Japanese garden succinctly. So many elements seem to come in threes – Shinto, Buddhist, Taoist – and then the three essential elements – stone, water, and plants (see Portland Japanese Garden, at http://japanesegarden.com/learn-more/gardens/). According to Wikipedia, “traditional Japanese gardens can be categorized into three types: tsukiyama (hill gardens), karesansui (dry gardens) and chaniwa gardens (tea gardens).” (see Wikipedia, Japanese gardens).

Likewise in Koto Jazz, three fundamental elements are present in the music and sound that makes it unique – Japanese Koto, western influence (rhythm and jazz), and reverence to Nature. To continue this analogy, The Garden begins with the “bones” of the garden, stones. I would parallel this with the traditional Japanese koto musical roots of koto jazz. Though they may vary from one musical piece to another, traditional koto tunes with its spiritual roots provide the base of the “musical garden” of koto jazz. The Garden’s second element is water described as the “life-giving force” of the garden. Likewise in koto jazz, western influences of rhythm and jazz weave within and through koto jazz as its “life-giving force”. Finally, the Garden describes plants as the gardens’ tapestry of the four seasons. This is the embellishment and coloring of the garden landscape, just as inspiration from Nature provides the embellishment and coloring of koto jazz music.

Other physical elements such as pagodas, stone lanterns, water basins, arbors, maples, and bridges, are provided by this kotojazz.com blog. Feel free to scroll down for information about these elements of the Japanese garden. The above image is a scene in the Portland Japanese Garden showing varieties of colored Japanese maples and a bridge.

On July 5th at 9pm, you have the opportunity to see some of this koto jazz music on display at the Brass Tacks, Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle. It’s an exciting opportunity to first hand experience the creative energy and spiritual presence of koto jazz. For more information, see “events section” of this website. I hope to see you there!