Sugawara no Michizane: from scholar to god

Shinto religion in Japan is a loose network of local deities (kami) and traditions of diverse origins, and one of those most unusual and yet popular is a kami named Tenjin, the god of learning. Tenjin is unusual because he is a deified version of an actual historical figure named Sugawara no Michizane who livedContinue reading “Sugawara no Michizane: from scholar to god”

Yakudoshi Got the Last Laugh On Me

Call it karma, superstition, what have you, but the last week of yakudoshi got the last laugh on me.  You see, I was in the last year of yakudoshi (a.k.a. atoyaku, 後厄 ) until the Chinese New Year of 2020, or January 25th.  Although Japan doesn’t celebrate the New Year according to the Chinese calendarContinue reading “Yakudoshi Got the Last Laugh On Me”

The Japanese Zodiac Explained

This year, 2020, is in the Japanese (extended) zodiac the year of 庚子 (kano-é-ne).  The Japanese zodiac was originally based off the Chinese Lunar calendar, though this changed in the late 19th century when Japan moved toward rapid Westernization and industrialization. However, the 12-animal zodiac, or jūnishi (十二支), is still an important part of theContinue reading “The Japanese Zodiac Explained”

A Brief Introduction to Japanese Shinto Religion

While I usually talk about Buddhism a lot, especially Japanese Buddhism, on the blog, I wanted to take some time to talk a little bit about the other religion in Japan: Shintoism. With New Year’s just past, it’s a good time to explore this oft-misunderstood tradition. Shinto is a tricky subject in some ways becauseContinue reading “A Brief Introduction to Japanese Shinto Religion”

Symbols for Japanese New Year

Japanese New Year (oshōgatsu お正月) has come and gone, and we’re now in the year 2020, but I took a photos around the house to show the kinds of symbols and accoutrements you’ll see this time of year. The first one is a kadomatsu (門松): This display, combines bamboo (竹), pine (松) and plum blossomsContinue reading “Symbols for Japanese New Year”