Tag Archives: china

Koto Jazz Piano at Japan Fair 2017, July 8 & 9, 2:30pm – 5pm; Annual Dinner, Sat. July 8, 6pm

Come join me at what promises to be an enjoyable event that offers you a visual introduction to all things Japanese. This includes a colorful fashion show to original Japanese performance by famous Kokyu performer Daikuke Kiba and my own variations on 1,000 year old Japanese koto music played on the keyboard. These include Haru no Umi, Tori no Yo Ni, and Kojo no Tsuki. I will also play my originals including recent art show selections Windy Wheat Fields and Snow Blossoms, and hyper fast Snow Flurry.

Sample previews are available here: https://kotojazz.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/sanger-de-christo-arts-center-represents-the-west-with-classy-exhibit/

 

Kampo & Chinese Medicine

The Japanese health care system is imaginatively and brilliantly eastern- western integrated and yes, supremely “ying” and “yang”. To expand on the document I published with the U.S. – Japan Foundation many years ago, the following describes kampo which is covered by health insurance providers in Japan. Japanese kampo is the study of traditional Chinese medicine that began in the 7th century. While kampo includes acupuncture and holistic wellness, herbal medicine has become the centerpiece of modern kampo. Herbal medicines have been used in China for thousands of years. They have been standardized and manufactured for widespread commercial use in Japan.

The medicinal use of plants was called the Shennong Ben Cao Jingo in China which was compiled around the end of the first century B.C. At the time, 365 species of herbs or medicinal plants were identified and classified. Chinese medical practices were introduced to Japan through Korea during the 6th century A.D. From 608 to 838, Empress Suiko dispatched young physicians to China. In those years, Japan sent 19 missions to Tang, China to research and bring back Chinese herbal medicine to Japan. Today in Japan, 148 different, mostly  herbal abstracts can be prescribed under Japan’s national health insurance system (source: National Institute of Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3114407/). Modern day Kampo is different from modern traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). While TCM incorporates Chinese philosophy such as yin and yang, Japanese campo favors a more scientific approach.

The first volume of the treatise included 120 drugs harmless to humans, the “stimulating properties”. These herbs are described as “noble” or “upper herbs” (上品):

chineseherbs

The second volume comprise 120 therapeutic substances intended to treat the sick, but have toxic, or potentially toxic properties of varying degrees. These are tonics and boosters, whose consumption must not be prolonged. In this category, the substances are described as “human,” “commoner,” or “middle herbs” (中品):

The third volume has 125 entries containing substances which have a strong impact on physiological functions and are often poisonous. They are taken in small doses, and for the treatment of specific diseases only. They are referred to as “low herbs” (下品), these include:

Japanese/ Western Influence:

Yumoto Kyūshin (1876–1942), a graduate from Kanazawa Medical School, was a key proponent of scientifically interpreting and testing Chinese medicine. His “Japanese-Chinese Medicine” (Kōkan igaku) published in 1927 was the first book on Kampō medicine in which western medical findings were used to interpret classical Chinese texts. The significance of these Japanese publications is documenting the application of clinical trials and empirical data to determine specific chemical properties and their functions within the Chinese herbs.

Sho-Saiko-To:

One such example today is Sho-saiko-to. The Chinese herbal medicine “Sho-saiko-to” is a mixture of seven herbal preparations, which is widely administered in Japan to patients with liver damage caused by chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis. Sho-saiko-to contains

  • Bupleurum Root,
  • Pinellia Tuber,
  • Scutellaria Root,
  • Ginseng,
  • Jujube,
  • Licorice, and
  • Ginger.

The herbs include such properties as baicalin and baicalein, and saikosaponin which possess anti-fibrogenic activities and the ability to inhibit hepatoma cell proliferation. Clinical trials have been confirmed in the U.S. by Natural Wellness for their SST product – http://www.naturalwellness.com/products/sho-saiko-to-sst.

The following are not connected in any way to sho-saiko-to, but are similarly organic and naturopathic. These herbs and foods are known to be easy on the liver and/or health remedies for the liver:

  • lemon/ lime,
  • avocados,
  • turmeric,
  • leafy green vegetables,
  • green tea,
  • walnuts,
  • garlic,
  • olive oil,
  • dandelion leaf,
  • beets,
  • carrots,
  • broccoli,
  • cauliflower,
  • grapefruit,
  • apples,
  • cabbage,
  • quinoa,
  • millet/ buckwheat.

Each of the 365 species of herbs and medicinal plants and various combinations from Chinese medicine and Japanese kampo are either healing agents, serve as preventive health care, or support ongoing health maintenance.

But don’t forget, there are a range of healthy remedies in standard western herbs which we already incorporate into our daily consumption extravaganzas. The standard cooking herbs pictured here are a healthy supplement to your diet.

herbgarden

By Chris Kenji Beer, Koto jazz

Sources: National Institute of Health, Japanese Society of Oriental Medicine, Natural Wellness, Wikipedia , shosaikoto.com, iherb.com.

 

The Relevance of China Xi Jinping’s Visit & Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur sends a powerful message of forgiveness, service and charity that I hope some day will be the touchstone of our nation, at least as much as other holidays. It is a time of relevance- when “the stone the builders rejected becomes the cornerstone.” It is a time of making relevant what should be relevant – the visit to the Seattle area of China President Xi Jinping; the visit of the first Jesuit Pope to the states. All of this is relevant to today’s modern puzzle. I’ve seen mockeries of the contrast between the two – the Chinese President’s message of business and trade versus the Popes message of love? People calling it a joke at the expense of the Chinese President? Do not forget he comes from a regime that helped take hundreds of millions of people (pushing 600 million people) out of poverty in China. It’s not perfect. Do you know of any political or non-political regime in human history to have done so much? Does it have to be a comparison between the two?

It’s historic they are both here to bring world attention to important matters. That said, I would take away their visits in exchange for a nation who celebrates the Jewish New Year every year, sets down its work on the sacred day of rest on Yom Kippur (this last Tuesday-Wednesday) and contemplates and prays for the power of atonement in our lives. I know I need it desperately in my life. Most Americans don’t know what Yom Kippur means. Don’t forget – this Christian nation – your church’s founder, the good Jew from Nazareth? He not only celebrated Yom Kippur, he lived it.

Koto Jazz 66: Gong Hay Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year! (belated)

Come join a celebration at the end of the Chinese New Year on March 6th, 6-8pm, Friday, Dragonfly Holistic Healing across from the Fremont bridge is having a “Chinese New Year” celebration open house, featuring koto jazz piano by Chris Kenji at Dragonfly Holistic Healing, 760 N. 34th Street, Seattle, WA 98103; Fremont neighborhood. Website: DragonflyHolisticHealing.com. Come join us for a Free Admission party. Gang Xi Fat Cai!

Koto Jazz 45: Water Garden Ponds

Ike (池), or garden pond, has been accepted as an assumed part of the Japanese gardens, symbolizing a larger body of water, such as the sea or ocean. There are no restriction as to the size a pond can be; it really depends upon space availability. The pond or still body of water in a garden originates from China, where it is thought to represent feminine elements in the natural world, or the “yin” of yin-yang. Adding koi to the pond may presents a dramatic natural feel to wataer garden.

The spiritual pond or body of water, or kami-ike (divine ponds), represents the Japanese Shinto spiritual belief that the pond in Japanese gardens are sacred. It has been a special place of prayer and meditation. As mentioned in KotoJazz 9: Islands of Japanese Gardens, the scene of ocean and sea occupying the majority of the garden space (“chisen”) originates from China. Groups of rocks on one or more sides of the body of water in the garden may represent the image of a seashore and/or mountains. If an island or stone island is placed in the pond, it represents a special divine place from where the kami came hahaguni (妣国).

The pond is the centerpiece of numerous other Japanese garden features, including the following:]

  • Koto Jazz 24: Waterfalls/
  • Koto Jazz 40: Stream Gardens
  • KotoJazz 9: Islands of Japanese Gardens
  • Koto Jazz 18: Japanese Garden Bridges
  • Koto Jazz 7: Water, Water Everywhere
  • Koto Jazz 43: The Moon Gate

    As mentioned in my last blog, Kotojazz 42: Shapes in Design & Music, I visited a number of Chinese gardens which featured rounded garden entry gates outside of Shanghai and Shenzhen.

    These pedestrian passage ways, often entry gates to the garden, are known as Moon Gates. There are a number of spiritual meanings behind each part of the Moon Gate, such as the symbolic image of the moon in Chinese culture. Just as the moon rises out of the sky, the Moon Gate rises out of the earth. The harmonious shape of the moon creates an inviting spiritual, Zen-like feel to your garden entrance.

    Historically, the Moon Gate had been relegated to the gardens of the wealthy, as an entry to a special place. The circle is a symbol of perfection in Chinese culture. The Moon Festival celebrates the moon at its fullest and brightest illumination. Today, the Moon Gate is available to everyone. 🙂

    Songs about the Moon and the shape of the full moon:

  • Circle, Sea Gull album
  • Circle of Friendship, by Joanne Shenandoah with Peter Kater; Life Blood album
  • The Circle of Life, The Best of New Age Piano
  • Share The Moon, Off The Record Instrumentals
  • The Circle, Circle album
  • Blue Moon– Rogers & Hart, The Smooth Jazz Instrumental Band
  • Sunday’s Moon, Theme song to movie “Coma”
  • Alternative Instrumental:

  • Red Moon, by Steve Jones Band
  • Moon X
  • Koto Jazz 40: Stream Gardens

    The “winding stream garden”, otherwise known in Japan as yarimizu– is a key part of Chinese and Japanese gardens. The stream represents in Taoism the permanence of impermanence, ever flowing water that still remains the same. It has also been part of the other creative arts, such as poetry and painting in China and Japan. An important element of the stream garden are the creek rocks on the creek beds and aligning the shore lines, as well as stones and occasional bonsai- shaped pine trees and bushes, as shown in the photo above. This is an excavated and revived archaeological site of the Kyuseki stream garden in Nara, Japan. A natural stream or one recycled by a pump naturally leads into a pond, the image of a larger body of water such a lake or the sea.

    The Kyuseki stream and pond garden near the Imperial palace in Nara (Japan’s original capital), dates back to the 8th Century, according to the Bowdoin University website (see Bowdoin’s Japanese garden website. This suggests the origins of “a stream banquet” (kyokusui no en) during which guests attempted to come up with an original poem before cups of wine, set floating from a point upstream, and arriving at their position along the riverbank”, according to the Bowdoin University Japanese garden website.

    The Japanese garden is also derived from Buddhist divination principles, with the intention of carrying away evil while attracting good. To do this, the original Japanese garden design publication, Sakuteiki (Records of Garden Making), says the stream should cross the garden from East to West.

    In college at Sophia University, I remember reading Genji-monogatori (源氏物語 The Tale of Genji), about the Heian period festival which featured the kyokusui-no-en, the Feast of the Winding Stream. It is an annual springtime event even today at Mōtsū-ji Temple, Hiraizumi.

    More often than not, the Japanese garden stream is not a raging force, but a soft and gentle water flow for the contemplative nature of this type of stroll garden. Again, this offers a more meditative environment for reflection and connection to nature.

    Here is sample song I wrote with the same intention called Kuriku Iwa No Hamon.

    and Black Pine Bonsai

    Koto Jazz 32: Shakuhachi (Bamboo Flute)

    The most common instrument played alongside the koto instrument is the shakuhachi (bamboo flute). The shakuhachi made its presence in Japan from China during the Edo period as a form of Zen Buddhist meditation called suizen (blowing meditation). As described by Wikipedia, the Fuke sect of Zen Buddhist monks is known as komusō, or priests of “nothingness” or “emptiness”. The shakuhachi is most commonly made of bamboo, its original form. The term itself is an ancient unit of measurement. The instrument is extremely versatile and seemingly limitless in range. But the most distinctive part of the shakuhachi sound is its depth and richness of tone.

    Here is a basic introduction of the bamboo flute, or shakuhachi, and koto music played in harmony together. The following are some I have in my collection:

  • Japanese Traditional Shakuhachi Music, by Satomi Saeki and Alvcin Takegawa Ramos
  • Shakuhachi Flute Meditations, by Riley Lee
  • Sakura-Japanese Melodies for Flute and Harp, by Lily Laskine and Jean-Pierre Rampal
  • The Japanese Bamboo Flute and Koto, by Yamato Ensemble
  • Variatons on Haru No Umi, by Kenji (note how this variation admittedly does not capture the full range and coloration of the shakuhachi as it is converted onto the piano)
  • Koto Jazz 31: Ikebana (Art of Flower Arrangement)

    I like the straight translation of the word ikebana. This includes the merging of the word ikeru, meaning to “keep alive”, with hana, meaning “flower”. The art of flower arranging certainly keeps alive and often brings to life the full range of beauty in color and structure combinations.

    Some sources emphasize the spiritual aspects of ikebana, providing silent reflection on the beauty of color combinations, and emphasis on shape and lines of the non-floral part of the plant such as branches, leaves and stems. The non-floral pieces often bring shape and form to the flower arrangement, and serve as the back drop of the intended image, while the flower is featured in the foreground.

    Silence is important for our ability to be inspired to connect more deeply with the natural forms before us when doing ikebana. We honor the uniqueness of each plant or flower and the flowing lines of stems and branches for back drops. Ikebana can help us appreciate and tolerate our differences, not only in nature, but in general.

    Its origins again date back to China – to a 6th Century Japanese Buddhist missionary who visited China three times and brought the art form to Japan. His name was “Ono no Imoko” and became the grounds keeper, then abbot for Rokkaku-do, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. He lived in a small house known as the ike-no-bo or the “hut by the pond”, which is the original school of Ikebana.

    Ikebana has become part of various Buddhist ceremonies such as offerings to the spirits of those who have passed away, but also paying honor to the Buddha. While spiritual in its origins, the Japanese today use it to show cultural refinement and for marriage potential.

    Koto Jazz 29: Health Science & Shinto Spirituality

    For decades, nearly all credible sources, including the World Health Organization (WHO), continue to place Japan as the #1 healthiest country in the world, consistently recording the world’s highest life expectancy and lowest infant mortality rates, among many other statistical categories. Scientists and health experts have asserted this is due to their diet — consumption of omega- 3 seafoods and seaweed. Perhaps, this is part of the picture. In Koto Jazz 24- Waterfalls and Koto Jazz 28- Beyond Prophecy, I explored the spirituality of waterfalls and the connection of spirituality to nature and energy, a crude attempt to describe the relationship between science and spirituality. This journey continues here.

    I would suggest that the top contributor to Japan’s world health status is more due to its healthy Shinto spirituality (despite their ongoing depletion of natural beauty in their own country in the interest of development), and the sheer luck of their geography (abundance of waterfalls, oceans, and mountainous country that cannot be developed). Spiritually, scientifically, Japan is a Shinto- spirit filled country that takes seriously the “inter-connectedness” of our body– our body’s spiritual and physiological health– with the Natural world. It is also a country with a highly developed infusion of “Eastern medicine”; a medical community and insurance industry that supports Eastern medicine.

    I have explored the health benefits of how electric ions we may receive in the presence of ocean waves, waterfalls, or old growth forests supports our pH balance. If we have a low concentration of electrons in our bloodstream, medically referred to as Acidosis (high acidic pH) (see Acidosis on Wikipedia), being present in these natural environments may increase negative electric ions in our body. An abundance of these negative ions can improve the body’s immune system. In addition to waterfalls and old growth forests (which we have successfully depleted worldwide), alkaline foods such as vegetables and some fruits can contribute to our body’s pH balance, according to Oriental Detox (see link below). Metabolism, the process which provides nutrients to our body and cells, is reinforced by negative ions, while positive ions in our bloodstream weaken our cell’s metabolism and immune system, according to Oriental Detox. High acidity, positive electric ions in the body not only harms our immune system, our body’s ability to protect ourselves from illness, but it also substantially accelerates the aging process.

    To circle back to the Shinto worshipful reverence to Nature, it is only in our own personal, individual best interest to heed the call of our own inner, natural attraction to waterfalls, oceans waves, and old growth forests to replenish our bodies with the spiritual, physiological food we need to sustain our lives. Unlike the western approach to being “saved”, we can actually take action in our day to day decision making and choose to care for “the Temple of the Spirit” by giving it the spiritual, physiological food our bodies need.

    In a following blog entry, I will propose how the presence of audio music and sounds can provide similar spiritual/ therapeutic/ scientific and physiological health benefits in our lives.

    Koto Jazz 25: Pogodas & The 5 Elements

    Every true traditional Japanese garden has a pogoda. The pogoda is distinguished from the lantern by its multiple layers of roofs. The temple pogoda, like the famous Nara Temple or the temple at San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden (pictured above), is a thin tower with 5-13 floors, each of which has its own roof. Usually made of granite or basalt, it originates from Buddhist Asia, and can be found in Japan, China, Thailand, Korea, Vietnam and Nepal, according to My Oriental Garden. Unique in the Japanese garden, the pogoda is the primary ornamental focal point of the garden that is recognizably made in the image of man versus God; man-made. Perhaps, this symbolizes its religious origins, Buddhism and Taoism, as the enlightened person being in harmony with the natural world.

    Functionally, the pogoda and lantern are clearly distinguishable in a Japanese garden. The lantern originates from Buddhist temples to light the pathway to the temple (see more information at Koto Jazz 12: Japanese Lanterns. The pogoda on the other hand, symbolizes the temple itself.

    When a pogoda features five roofs and floors, it reflects back to the five elements of Buddhism, or “godai” (“gogy” in Chinese), also referenced to describe lanterns (see above link) – Wind (kaze), Water (sui or mizu), Earth (chi or tsuchi), Fire (ho, ka or hi) and Void or Spirit (ku). Sometimes a sixth element is included, Consciousness (shiki).

    Note the (Confucian) “yin” and “yang” type of qualities of the five elements. The Wind (kaze) represents inward breathing and open mindedness. In Buddhist philosophy it can also mean evasiveness on the one hand, or compassion and wisdom on the other. Water (sui or mizu) adapts to the environment and changes with the seasons. It can also be associated with defensiveness on the one hand, and adaptability and flexibility on the other. The Earth (chi) (including plants), stable and solid as a stone and confident (ideals particularly in western cultures), can also mean stubbornness and resistance to change. Fire (ka) represents human drive and passion (ideals particularly in western cultures), but also unrestrained desire. Void or Spirit (ku) represents creative energy, spontaneity, and inventiveness.

    I recently wrote a piece called Alpine Wind Storm representing the complete opposite and not at all consistent with Buddhist meaning of Wind ;-/, which is featured live here; other koto songs below are more symbolic of the Buddhist intended symbolism of the Wind and the other four elements:

  • Kozan No Kaze [or Alpine Wind (Storm)] (the 1st song in this medley),
    – Koto Jazz medley live at the Brass Tacks, Seattle (July 5th). Kozan no Kaze is inspired by world renowned jazz piano player, Li Pui Ming’s style of jazz which I call “chaos jazz” (my piece is also more “chaos jazz” than koto jazz). I will also feature this piece when I play at the Royal Room, Seattle in September (see events section)
  • 1) The Wind:

  • Koto Jazz 17: Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises”.
  • Koto Jazz 8: The Wind and the Spirit.

  • 2) Water:

  • Koto Jazz 24: Waterfalls
  • Koto Jazz 7: Water, Water, Everywhere

  • 3) Earth (including plants):

  • Koto Jazz 21: Moss in Japanese Gardens
  • Koto Jazz 20: Flowers in Japanese Gardens
  • Koto Jazz 19: Japanese Maple Trees
  • Koto Jazz 16: Bonsai
  • Koto Jazz 9: Islands of Japanese Gardens

  • 4) Fire:

  • Koto Jazz 12: Japanese Lanterns (& Lighting)

  • 4) Void or Spirit:

  • Koto Jazz 13: Koto Jazz & the Shinto Source
  • Reflections on Service & Spirituality
  • KotoJazz 18: Japanese Garden Bridges

    Japanese garden design is strongly connected to spirituality. Shinto, Buddhism and Taoism are often the source in the creation of different garden styles. They are intended to be places of peace for meditation and spiritual contemplation and prayer.

    While bridges have become path ways linking garden visitors from one part of the garden to another, bridges do have spiritual meaning in Japanese gardens. Some bridges symbolize the path to paradise and immortality. The famous Kyoto garden bridge, Byōdō-in, connects the Phoenix pavilion with a small island of stones, representing the Mount Penglai or Mount Horai, the island home of the Eight Immortals of Daoist teaching.

    Other special islands in the Zen Buddhist tradition, such as the crane and tortoise islands, are sacred and not accessible by bridge. If one sees a bridge to an island in this type of garden pond, these are ordinary islands called nakajima (since they are accessible to the public). See KotoJazz 9: Island of Japanese Gardens for more information.

    Bridges can also simply serve as functional links between different eco-regions or sections of the Japanese garden. Stone bridges are called ishibashi. Wooden bridges are dobashi. Arched bridges are known as soribashi and flat bridges are hirabashi. While most bridges are not colored, the red painted temple bridges come from China.

    Here are some interesting links to information about Japanese garden and bridges:

  • Origins of The Japanese Garden
  • Hoi An Bridge, VietNam(a famous Japanese garden bridge)
  • Elements of the Japanese Garden Bridge, Bowdoin College
  • Yuugiri Japanese Garden Bridge
  • Monet’s famous images of Japanese Garden Bridge Painting
  • How to Build a Miniature Japanese Garden
  • Where To Buy Garden Bridges, GardenBridges.com
  • Where to Buy Garden Bridges, Hay Needle
  • Koto Jazz 16: Bonsai

    As a child, I always believed the work of “bonsai” to be the art of imitating natural mountain scenes above timberline. My images were of wind-blown pines standing tall alongside alpine lakes. Growing up partly in Colorado, I spent many days and nights 10k or above traversing the Continental Divide, contemplating the wonder of the crystal clarity in glacial lakes, rushing streams and falls suspended below jagged cliffs. Here are stunning, iridescent meadows interrupted only by the howling wind, or the sweet melody of mountain birds and squeak of pica. The pine trees are shaped and formed into a perfect flowing angle of branches tilted forward to bend but not break, by the powerful, magical hand of the wind. While I’d love to say this is true, it’s not true.

    I never imagined it to be an art form which has swept across the Pacific into the creative hands of artists and gardeners across America. As so much of Japanese culture, the art of bonsai can be sourced from China, specifically “penjing”, the art of Chinese landscape. I had the opportunity to see this first hand during many visits to various parts of China. There were featured “penjing” gardens in the areas I visited, of which there seems to be a greater emphasis in the coupling of “penzai” (Chinese bonsai) with uniquely shaped pumice-like stones. The word bonsai does in fact come from the word penzai, both of which are translated to mean tray or pot (bon) and plantings (sai). China doesn’t appear to be as set on miniaturization as does Japan, and it reminds me how so much of Japan’s early ingenuity stems from their unique skills in miniaturizing most all things.

    It is likely that “penzai” made its way to the Island of Japan from China somewhere between 600-800 A.D. when Japan initiated a number of Imperial missions to mainland China. However, bonsai first appeared in Japanese paintings in the medieval period (1100-1200, according to Wikipedia).

    Here are some nice explorations of bonsai koto jazz style music:

  • Black Pine Bonsai, by Kenji
  • Bonsai Garden (album), by Midori
  • My Tree, My Bonsai – Feng Shui Garden

  • Other:

  • Bonsai Bop, by The Ryoko Trio
  • Bonsai Juju, by Bonsai Garden Orchestra
  • Hunting Bonsai from World War Tree (album)

  • Bonsai as an art form may be of interest to you. You can find additional information about bonsai at the following sites:

  • National Bonsai Penjing Museum
  • Bonsai Gardener (good introduction)
  • Bonsai Northwest
  • American Bonsai Society
  • Bonsai Kits
  • Bonsai on Wikipedia
  • Penzai on Wikipedia
  • KotoJazz 13: Koto Jazz & The Shinto Source

    This week, I visited North America’s first sanctioned Japanese Shinto Shrine, the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America in Granite Falls, Washington (a suburb of Seattle). I was lead back to the Shinto spiritual nature — immersion into the beauty within the leaf of a delicate red lace maple tree, luminescent light green moss dripping down from tree branches in the world’s largest temperate rain forest ecoregion (as defined by World Wildlife Fund). This region is well known for its high amounts of rainfall (as much as 120 inches/year or 300 cm). Temperatures almost never reach below 50°F (10°C) or above 80°F (27°C), according to Wikipedia and the WWF. Today, this region’s temperature quite frequently exceeds both the higher and lower ranges.

    The Shrine sits alongside a crystal clear glacier water flowing river. There were numerous stone lanterns throughout the Shrine estate, one showing the 12 Japanese zodiac signs carved around the octagonal stone (also originating from China) at the entrance. There is a path that leads into the temperate rain forest with babbling brooks feeding into the river below and glowing moss patches accenting the path. There you will find a place of peace where only the regenerative qualities of negative ions such as the sound of the rolling river and the silent, dense forest are present. Verandas, stone lanterns, and elaborate gates, influenced by Buddhism, were present in the Tsubaki Grand Shrine.

    The grounds are sacred. It is surrounded by a fence made of wood called “tamagaki”. It had a main entrance called “sandō”, featuring a gate way flanked by posts of a gate called “torii”.

    The physical significance of the shrine is a “honden”, which houses one or more “kami” (or god). However, this place is not intended to be a place of worship. It is used for storing sacred objects. The intention of a shrine is to dedicate a natural place of spiritual inspiration and worship.

    I noticed something off about the Tsubaki Grand Shrine as I was reflecting on the visit. It came to me that most of the shrines I had visited in Japan were located on Buddhist temple grounds. My image of shrines are of the Japanese “jingū-ji”, or shinto temple. Imagine a Christian chapel inside the grounds of a Jewish Synagogue (or vice versa)! During the Nara Period (710-794), according to Wikipedia, it was believed that the temple could help guide the local kami to salvation. Japanese believe the kami, like people, also needed the salvation that only Buddhism could provide. Buddhist sūtras are recited to help guide the kami to satori (awakening, understanding).

    While the spiritual learning of my Buddhist- Shinto ancestors continues, I see more and more clearly my own purpose and the vision or path the laid before me; a spiritual path of healthy, balanced living and healthy integration of self with the world around. Just as Shintoism enshrines the local natural deity, koto itself seeks to reflect the spirit of the natural deity in its music.

    Here is a list of Shrines in the U.S. (Buddhist, Shinto, or both)