Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Itshukushima Shrine / O-Torii Gate - Miyajima Japan

Itshukushima Shrine which is a world heritage site is located at Miyajima Island.  Miyajima is part of the city of Hatsukaichi and is situated off the coast  of the city in the Seto Inland Sea.  It is said that owing to its geography and dark-color looking, the island has been an object of natural worship for people living nearby.  The island has been one of the three most scenic spots on Japan and is also one of the most famous Japanese island.
  Itshukushima Shinto Shrine is said to have been built at its present site by Saeki Kuramoto who was an influential figure in the Suiko  era (A.D. 593). 
This shire is built of camphor wood and is about 16 meters high.

  There are several ways to go to this place from Hiroshima. I opted the cheapest one: train. I took the train at Hiroshima downtown and got off  at "Hiroden-Miyayima-Guchi" (last train station).
  From Hiroden-Miyayima-Guchi station, I took a ferry.  It takes about 15-20 minutes to be at the Itshukushima Shrine.  The shrine is visible even from the Hiroden-Miyayima-Guchi station station. There is a restaurant on-board providing a variety of food from local to European dishes.   Wines and beers is also available. I took there a Japanese beer while staring the shrine from the boat :)
First snapshots from the boat. By the way, I went there in March, so the temperature during this month is still very cold, so as in the photo of the ferry people prefer to remain inside where there is heater. 
On Miyajima Island -it is said- there are about 23 shrines in total including those located along approx. 31 km shoreline of the island which some of them can be seen from the boat. On this trip I saw only this one :(
The shrine was designated as a world cultural heritage site and recognize as fulfilling the standards by UNESCO in 1996.
  The origin of the 'torii' is said to be that when 'Amaterasu-oh-mikami or the Sun Goodness (the most powerful God in Japanese mythology) hid herself in the cave of heaven, 8 millions gods had chickens cry.  After a while one of the chickens fled and perched on a tree, which could be literally described as 'tori' (meaning chicken) was 'i(ru)' (meaning to be) on the tree.  There are of course another explanations many of them adapted from foreign countries.
  aaaaaaaaaaa The most frequently question among tourist I heard that day was: What is the "torii' gate for? The 'Torii" gate usually standing on the boundary of the sacred and non-sacred land, symbolizes a shrine.  Inside the 'Torii' gate goods live and outside of it no gods live.  Even when there are no buildings, a 'Torii' gate is built to express that some gods are residing in the areas.
Building materials for 'Torii' gates are wood (Japanese cypress, Japanese cedar, etc.), stone or copper-covered wood, and lately even iron pipes or ferroconcrete.
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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hiroshima - Japan

The A-Bomb Dome, a Word Heritage Site
The A-Bomb Dome was initially built as the Hiroshima Prefecture Commercial Exhibition Hall in 1915. The building was standing within the immediate vicinity of the "ground zero". As can be seeing, the structure was severely damaged by the atomic explosion on the 6th of August 1945.
The structure reminds us of the unprecedented horror and destructive power of nuclear bombs.
  The Hiroshima Prefecture Commercial Exhibition Hall before and after the atomic bomb explosion.  it is one of the very few buildings that remained 'stand up' that day.  The atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima at 8:15 a.m., on August 6th, 1945 the final year of the Second World War, by the U.S. Army.  It was the first dropping of its kind in the world history during combat, and killed about 140.000 of the city population, then estimated at 350,000 people.

The bomb dropped in Hiroshima was approximately three meters long and weighed four tons.  Because  the final bomb was shorter than the initial design, it was dubbed "Little Boy".  It is said that the bomb carried about 50 kilograms of uranium 235, but the instantaneous fission of less than 1 kilogram released the energy equivalent of 16,000 tons of high-performance explosive.  The A-Bomb dome remains as a living witness of such tragic day.

The nuclear weapon "Little Boy" dropped on the city of Hiroshima  exploded about 600 meters above this spot.  It killed about 150,000 people in Hiroshima by the end of 1945 with roughly half of those deaths occurring  on the day of the bombing.  Among these victims -it is said- 15-20% died from injuries or the combined effects of flash burns, trauma, and radiation burns, compounded by illness, malnutrition and radiation sickness.

At the instant of the detonation, the temperature at the center exceeded a million degrees Celcius, generating an enormous fireball. Within 1 sec of detonation, it had extended to its maximum diameter of 280 meters.

The peace flame is another monument dedicated to the victims of the bomb with an additional symbolic purpose to console the spirits of the A-bomb victims.  The flame has been continuously burning since was lit in 1964.  It is said that will remain so until all nuclear weapons on earth are abolished  and the planet is free from the threat of nuclear annihilation. 

The Peace Flame

The Memorial Cenotaph
At the moment of the explosion, an extremely high pressure of several hundred thousand atmospheres was created.  The surrounding air was thrust violently outwards and produced an intensely strong blast.  the blast pressure 500 meters from the hypocenter  was an enormous 19 tons per square meter.  Buildings were crushed and people were blown through the air.  One of the structures that remain stand up was the Hiroshima Prefecture Commercial Exhibition  known now as the A-bomb dome.
The A-bomb Dome seen through the cenotaph and the peace flame.  The cenotaph carries the epitaph in Japanese meaning: "please rest in peace, for [we/they] shall not repeat the error." 

The Memorial Cenotaph, the peace flame and at the end the A-bomb dome (above).


Children Peace Monument
 It is a statue that was based on the true story of Sasaki Sadako and is dedicated to her memory.  Sasaki Sadako was a junior high school girl who died as a result of the radioactive aftereffects of the atomic bombing.  She believed that if she folded 1,000 paper cranes, she would get well.  The statue depicts a girl with outstretched arms and a folded paper crane rising above her.  To this day, people from all over the wold either bring many folded paper cranes to the statue or send ones to the city to replenish the statue.
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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Friday, September 20, 2013

Oisin, Niam and the Land of Youth

I now try to narrate an ancient Celtic tradition: Oisin, Niam and the Land of Youth.  Literature says that Oisín was a brave warrior, and a wise poet as well.  He was a member of the Fianna, a band of heroes who used not only to fight in the service of the kings of Ireland but to protect farmers and villagers from bandits and wild beasts as well.  Even today there are stories about them in various regions of Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland.   The version I am telling now is the one I heard in Germany when I was a visiting student at Boon University.     Oisín was the son of Finn Mac Cumhaill, the head of the Fianna clan. This is the story of Oisín  Niam and the Tir na nÓg kingdom or land of Youth: the fairy realm, a place where its inhabitants remain immortal and who do not perceive the passage of time, at least not as we simple human mortals do.

There are several version on how Oisín went to the Tir na nOg kingdom.  One version said that the Fianna were skilful hunters, one day they were following the footprints of a mysterious deer that used to  hide itself behind the stones of  the shores of Loch Lena.  After two nights tracking the deer, Oisín suddently spotted the animal which was perched on a rock. The hero tracked the deer stealthily, in doing so walked into the jungle and suddenly he came upon the magic door of Tir na nÓg. Poets and pipers claim that the threshold to Tir na nÓg is everywhere, and that anybody can come upon a gateway to the kingdom.  They say that anyone who stays in that land can spend a thousand years feeling that only a few weeks have passed. Poets also say that in the kindong of Tir na nÓg nothing is missing, in its hills and under its sky no one can get older and that - according to Galway - "all good things are there."

Other version says that when Finn and Oisín with many companions were hunting on the shores of Loch Lena they saw coming towards them a maiden, beautiful exceedingly, riding on a snow-white steed. She wore the garb of a queen; a crown of gold was on her head, and a dark-brown mantle of silk, set with stars of red gold, fell around her and trailed on the ground. Silver shoes were on her horse's hoofs, and a crest of gold nodded on his head. When she came near she said to Finn: “From very far away I have come, and now at last I have found you, Finn son of Cumhal.”
Then Finn said: “What is your land and race, maiden, and what do you seek from me?”
“My name,” she said, “is Niam of the Golden Hair. I am the daughter of the King of the Land of Youth, and that which has brought me here is the love of your son Oisín.” Then she turned to Oisín, and she spoke to him in the voice of one who has never asked anything but it was granted to her.
“Will you go with me, Oisín, to my father's land?”  And Oisín said: “Yes, I will go with you to the world's end”; for the fairy spell had so wrought upon his heart that he cared no more for any earthly thing but to have the love of Niam of the Head of Gold.

Then the maiden spoke of the Land Oversea to which she had summoned her lover.  And what she said seemed sweeter and more wonderful as she spoke it than anything they could afterwards remember to have heard.  Then, Oisín mount the fairy steed and hold the maiden in his arms, and before they could stir or speak she turned her horse's head and shook the ringing bridle, and down the forest glade they fled.  Never did the Fianna behold Oisín the son of Finn on earth again.

Both version converge on how Oisín met with various adventures in the Land of Youth.  But after a weeks in the Tir na nÓg  kindom - actually hundreds of years in human’s time but only a few weeks to Oisín perspective – the hero felt nostalgia for his companions in arms, his clan, the hazards and the glory anybody experiences in a battle and he wanted to come back. In Tir na nÓg he was told that hundreds of years had actually passed and that in the wake of time his brothers had already died and that the world is not the same anymore to the one he had known. But these words did not persuade the stubborn heart of the hero.  So, he decided to visit for some days the world he used to live in.  To do so, Niram lent him a very fast horse, and charged him that when he had reached his land again he must never alight from its back nor touch the soil of the earthly world with his foot, or the way of return to the Land of Youth would be barred to him for ever. That is, he would die instantly. Finally, Oisín took up his journey to Ireland.

Once there, Oisín could not find the Fianna clan.  He could not see his village either.  He saw ruins only. He could’n heard the ancient songs of his clan. Instead, he found strange buildings, and realized - with great perplexity - that humans had become smaller and slimer. It had been passed almost a thousand years, and the time of heroes was over. The warrior glanced amid the rubble that once used to be his village, a mountain spring and wanted to refresh himself. He -forgetting Niam's warming- dismounted.  No sooner his foot touched the mortal earth, than the hundreds of years that had been elusive in the fairy kingdom destroyed his body and Oisín died.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Rayong Oil spill (July, 27th) -Thailand

On July 27th about 50,000 litres of crude oil that spilled into the sea off the eastern province of Rayong.  Fortunately, according to the Thai authorities the cleaning process has been already done successfully.  This island was the most affected area.  _DSC0457.jpg
Ao Phrao bay on Koh Samet in Rayong province was hit by a oil slick when crude oil leaked into the sea from an offshore pipeline at a refinery operated by PTT Global Chemical Plc (PTTGC) in Map Ta Phut industrial estate on July 27.  
Boats cleaning the affected area.  Workers also used oil skimmers to remove the oil and put it in containers on board the ship.  Four ships were deployed to spray about 35,000 litres of oil-spill dispersants to clean up the slick on the sea surface, the company said._DSC0455.jpg
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Rayong Resort  located in front of Khao Laem Ya National Park._DSC0470.jpg

Monday, July 29, 2013

Beginning of Vassa 2013

The beginning of Vassa started this year on July 22.  This day marks the beginning of the Buddhist ‘lent’ period. Buddhist Lent is a time devoted to intensive meditation and study. That is a time when monks and nuns are supposed to retreat to their temples while new life springs forth
During Vassa monks and nuns remain in their temples and intensify their meditation practice.  It is also a time when monks refrain from eating meat and smoking. This is why Vassa is often called the “Buddhist Lent.” 
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Laypeople participate by bringing food, candles and other necessities to monks.  But also this day laypople offer food to the people.  So, everyone can have different kind of food made of pork, noodles and rice.  The temple also provides soft drinks, ice cream, some kinds of dessert... all of them free of charge.  

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Two movies, worthwhile to watch them!


Some weeks ago I watched a couple of interesting movies which deal with the condition of human bonds: Before Sunset and Before Sunrise.  The dynamic of the conversation, the subtle exploration of individuals' feelings, the presentation of the vulnerability as a constituent of any person, the mystery of everyday contact with new people make these two movies worthwhile to watch them. Along this two movies, the viewer not only can clearly perceive the connection and magic that exists in any personal interaction, but feel the stress people experience when taking decisions that inevitably affect their lives as well.  The viewer can also advert the role of fortune plays on our daily life.  In my opinion these are two of the most memorable movies owing to its clarity and simplicity with which addresses issues related to ordinary life and personal ties. Both movies are connected by the plot and actors - in fact, they are part of the same dramatic story.  The simple way of presenting the process of falling in love, the maturation of the life, experiences of frustration and excitement exert a powerful draw on me.  I dare say they are a very human film.  

Before Sunrise (1995) tells the story of Jesse, an American college student traveling through Europe after braking off the relationship with his girlfriend.  It seems that the goal of his trip is to keep away any memory of her. On his way from Budapest to Vienna meets Celine, a beautiful French girl who travels to Paris after visiting her grandmother to whom she felt deeply bond.  After a long conversation in the train and a large interchange of mutual flirtatious smile, Jesse convinces the girl to stay with him in Vienna walking and exploring the city. Both spend exciting hours talking about religion, politics, the meaning of life and death, fate. The Intellectual curiosity and empathy are common topics among them that keep the couple together, and make them communicate with great emotional intensity.   During their time together, the magnificent Viennese scenarios play a singular and romantic role as well. They fall in love each other, but they know it will end at dawn, when everyone must leave for their own destination.  Without asking each other for personal information such as address or phone calls they bid farewell each other …. However, they promise each other get together in six months later in the same train station.

Before Sunset (2004) begins nine years after the events narrated above. Jesse has become a writer, and wrote a book about Celine, about that day, and about his feelings for her. It seems it was a way he chose to deal with the absence of the girl, and to face up uncertainty, knowing nothing about her during this nine years.  That book is born of nostalgia and sense of loss:  an feeling that you and me have experienced to some extent, in some way this reminds me Nietzsche's Star frienship (click here). While he is presenting his book in a bookstore in Paris, he again meets Celine. They decide to walk together and talk, to know what happened to each other after so long. It is at this point that the viewer learns that Celine did not attend the meeting in Vienna; Jesse awaited for her in vain that day.   She said that she had lost her grandmother and there was no way to communicate this to him.   The time has passed for both of them, they have reached a certain maturity. Both have consolidated their personal projects, she as an ecologist, and he has deployed his literary vocation and got married. Once again, Jesse invite Celine to spend some hours together as he has to come back America at 5:00 PM. They again talk about their lives. What's interesting about this second film is that the dialogue takes place in real time, you even can feel the tension between them. Later, he persuades her to be on her flat, once there, he sat on the sofa and she starts singing and playing her guitar... then she starts shyly and sensually dancing... However, the time is awfully running  faster than ever, but it seems he has forgotten his flight...    The end is open, as in the original film.