Yasuzumi Shrine / 安住神社

Yasuzumi Shrine
Yasuzumi Shrine

Yasuzumi Shrine was founded in Shoutai 2 (CE 899) by Arai Yoshiaki, and I believe it’s still managed by the Arai family. Revered here are three gods from Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine, as well as Empress Jinguu, who lived from Seimu 40 to Shinkou 69 (CE 170 – CE 269). After the death of her husband, the Emperor Chuuai in CE 200, she mounted an expedition to Korea, and, by the grace of the Sumiyoshi Sanjin, she and her Imperial Army returned triumphantly. They are, thus, enshrined together.

The structures now on the site were erected, maybe, in Houreki 4 (CE 1754), and in Showa 53 (CE 1978) were designated as Prefectural Important Cultural Assets.

In Heisei 2, to commemorate the enthronement of the new emperor, they acquired two golden liondog statues (which I somehow missed on my visit) which were made by the same guy who made the Nagasaki Peace Statue.

To celebrate the 1100th anniversary of the founding of the shrine, a new Torii was erected, and it is now, according to the people at the shrine, the largest Torii in Kanto.

The shrine’s traditional music and dancing has been designated a Municipal Intangible Cultural Asset.

The golden lion dogs are allegedly in that gate down there that I didn’t go to. Ah well, I’ll go again some day.

The shrine is a really nice place. Beautiful, quiet, serene, AND THEN YOU SEE THE HIDEOUS WEDDING HALL THAT HAS BEEN RECENTLY BUILT. OH JEEZ WHO THOUGHT THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA? There must be moneygrubbing Buddhist clergy involved in this idea.

I collect safe driving charms, and so here’s the one I bought at this shrine.

Wanderlust

It’s springtime in Japan.  Well, nearly.  The snow and the frost pretty much a memory now, at least in my part of the country.  Spring rains, cool and fresh-smelling, have begun.  I can have my windows open and enjoy the feeling of the breeze and the scent of new life.

This sort of weather always awakens something in me.  Wanderlust, I guess is what we call it.  I just want to pick up and go.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that I’ve been recontracted, and I’m relieved to be able to spend another year here in Tochigi.  It’s nice to have a place to come home to, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go on a voyage.

It’s become a bit of a tradition for me.  Come March, I start to plan (either in my head, or more concretely on paper and through travel booking sites) an epic weeklong road trip for Golden Week.  In 2006, I went to Shikoku, and it was excellent. In 2007, I went to Kyoto, Nara and Ise.  In 2008, I circumnavigated Kyushu, and completely fell in love with the place.  In 2009, I reinforced my feelings by returning to Miyazaki and Oita.

This year, because in my new job I don’t have the luxury of taking one of my 20-32 discretionary holidays whenever I want (because I’m the main English teacher instead of an assistant, despite my job title, and because I only have 5 discretionary holidays), I won’t be able to swing an epic road trip in Golden Week, and that makes me… a little sad.

These days, when the warm breeze blows and I get a noseful of spring, I close my eyes and suddenly I’m driving the streets of Kitakyushu, or the Phoenix Route in Miyazaki, or the road through the Oboke Valley in Shikoku.  I remember the places I’ve been, and I long to return, and to find new places.  But it’s not even the destinations, a lot of the time.  I’ll close my eyes and suddenly I’ll be driving the San’yo Highway through southern Yamaguchi, turning a bend and realizing I’m in Shimonoseki and about to cross the bridge to Kyushu; for me, the destinations are important, but what really sticks with me is the driving.  If I could afford it, or if I could somehow get paid to do it, I’d drive all over this country, to cities, to small towns, on highways, on backroads, on dodgy mountain paths.

These are what I see when I close my eyes in the spring, when the wanderlust comes for me.  Though I can’t, I long to give myself over to it, drop everything, and go.  The world at large isn’t conducive to the fulfilment of such dreams, though. Too bad.

One More Year!

Well.

The bit at the side of the page, the sort of… theme of this blog, I suppose, suggests that I’m ready for hellos and new experiences.  Yet, since August, I’ve been chillin’ at home in my (admittedly nice and comfy) apartment instead of going out and experiencing my new life here in Tochigi.

The best way I can explain this, I guess, is that, since my contract was only until March, I didn’t want to invest tooooo too much in my life here.  I didn’t want to go out and make new friends only to have to say goodbye again before I’d even had a chance to get to know them. I wanted to save money, in case I found myself homeless and unemployed. Stuff like that.

But now, I’ve got absolutely no excuses.  As of Friday, February 26, 2010, at 17:24 JST, I have a contract through to the last school day of March 2011.  So now I CAN go out and try to make friends, and try to experience Tochigi and try to live for a change.  This extra time also gives me the chance to possibly finish my Giant Trees of Tochigi photo project.  The fact that I now have 4 or 5 months without having to pay health insurance either (due to the way the system is structured), I can save money / pay down debt at a really good rate, if I keep living nearly as frugally as I have been.

So things are good.

Now, how do I make friends?  Twenty-nine years, and it’s a skill I still haven’t really mastered.