Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Mix and match religions

October 14, 2009

Linda writes: We saved the best until last – a bullet train journey from Himeji (where the local speciality is a particular crab version of the famed Japanese pancake, though it’s more like an omelette than a pancake), arriving in Hiroshima an hour later, followed by a ferry to Miyajimi Island that takes us to the Itsukushima shrine.

IMG_0981The landmark Tori gate with Mount Misen behind is one of the ‘three views of Japan‘ and a popular tourist destination. Because of its staggering natural beauty, the island was thought to be holy and it’s only relatively recently that people have lived here. There is just a small strip of land for a few hotels, shops and cafes. The rest of the island is wild and mountainous. People flock here to visit the shrine and to see the 50ft high Tori gate which appears to float at high tide. At low tide it’s possible to walk out to it. At night it’s illuminated. Read the rest of this entry »


Tadao Ando’s minimalist temple

October 9, 2009

Linda writes: A couple of hours car journey crossing the vast connurbation that is Osaka/Kobe on the raised freeway and over the sea to Awajishima island just off the mainland gets us to our next location. Here local boy Tadao Ando, Japan’s most celebrated living architect, has built a sublimely minimalist Buddhist temple replacing an earlier building that had fallen into an advanced a state of disrepair. Much of the funding came from Sanyo. A senior executive lived nearby and also knew Ando.

Water temple [IMG_3106]

Mai has filmed with Ando before now. Contrary to what one’s expectations might be, Ando is a former boxer and entirely self taught. His blunt language is legendary and yet he is by all accounts hugely charismatic  and charming. Read the rest of this entry »

A very big Buddha indeed

October 8, 2009

John McCarthy writes: An early start from our Kyoto hotel for the hour or so drive to Nara. As we load up the van I’m vaguely aware of a PA system playing a very European tune that takes me back, momentarily to childhood but talk of our plans for the day take my mind off this unexpected connection.

Todai-ji [IMG_3080]

Todai-ji, a Buddhist temple complex, is big, very big. But nothing like as big as it was when first built, well over a thousand years ago. Standing a hundred yards or so from the massive doors of the Buddha Hall, the main building, I half close eyes and try to picture it as it would have been, a third wider again. And at maybe 100 feet high, its sweeping roofs would have been dwarfed by the twin 300 foot pagodas that flanked the original structure. Being a wooden construction the complex has been vulnerable to fire and the pagodas have not been re-built — unlike the main hall. Read the rest of this entry »

Of tea, tofu and Van the Man

October 7, 2009

Bullet train [IMG_3135]

Our Art of Faith II team is dodging cyclones while filming in Japan — last week’s introductory post is here, and a first report here. Today Linda Zuck writes about the ‘way of tea’ which we filmed on Monday, and about the wonders of tofu. Our presenter John McCarthy contributes from the Fushimi Inari Shinto shrine in Kyoto, pictured above, and also from a rather soggy Zen garden. Linda also reflects further on the weather which — you’ll perhaps be relieved to hear — has improved since they sent these despatches.  Read the rest of this entry »

Of toilets, Tarantino and typhoons

October 6, 2009

Our Art of Faith II team is currently filming in Japan (last week’s introductory post is here), and today’s blog is the first fruit of their explorations. Linda Zuck contributes six random observations on arrival in Japan and John McCarthy writes after the first day’s filming last Sunday. The location is the Shinto shrine of Nikko Tosho-gu, the astonishing seventeenth-century mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Tosho-gu [IMG_0720]

Read the rest of this entry »