Remembering the Unborn: Kiyomizudera’s Mizuko-Kannon

Remembering the Unborn: Kiyomizudera’s Mizuko-Kannon

The Japanese term mizuko (literally, “water child”) refers to a deceased baby, infant, or fetus. This includes stillborn and miscarried children as well as those who died by abortion, and in some cases also applies to babies that die shortly after birth. A funerary rite, called mizuko kuyō, is often performed on behalf of these children, and Japan has many shrines honoring mizuko–mostly in combination with statues of Jizō, a kind incarnation of the Buddha who is considred the patron and protector of mizuko. 

Read more

Temple and Toilet Slippers in Japan

Temple and Toilet Slippers in Japan

Most Japanese people don’t wear shoes inside. Apartments and houses typically have a small, lowered area just inside the door for removing shoes and a cabinet by the door where shoes are stored. This keeps the indoor spaces clean and undefiled – and it has been the custom in Japan for many hundreds (if not thousands) of years.

Read more

Sandals On – The Road Awaits

Sandals On – The Road Awaits

Japanese people have worn variations on woven straw sandals for over a thousand years. The simplest ones, known  as warazori, slipped over the foot and were worn for daily labor. Waraji had (and still have) ties to secure the shoe around the ankle, making them better suited for pilgrimages and other long-distance travel. People sometimes offered, or presented, waraji to Buddhist temples as a prayer for strength, either to work or to complete a special pilgrimage or journey. Sometimes the sandals were normal-sized, but in some cases – like the giant 0-waraji that adorn the back side of the hozomon at Tokyo’s Senso-ji – the sandals

Read more

A Visit to Nezu Jinja, Part 2

A Visit to Nezu Jinja, Part 2

(To read Part 1, click here.) Like many Shintō shrines in Japan, Nezu Jinja features a subshrine dedicated to Inari Ōkami, the kami (god) of foxes, rice, sake, fertility, swordsmiths, merchants, agriculture, and worldly success (among other things). There are over 10,000 Inari shrines across Japan — and with good reason, given Japan’s historical dependence upon rice as a primary source of food (and, at one time, as the measure of wealth as well).

Read more

A Visit to Nezu Jinja (Shrine), Part 1

A Visit to Nezu Jinja (Shrine), Part 1

Nezu Jinja lies in Tokyo’s Bunkyō ward, and has since Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi ordered the shine moved to its current location in 1705. The shrine is perhaps best known for its extensive azalea garden, which erupt in color every April (there’s even an azalea festival at the shrine each spring), but I visited for the first time last December and can attest it’s worth a visit in any season.

Read more

Goodbye Hair – Hello to a Warrior Life

Goodbye Hair – Hello to a Warrior Life

Most people who undergo chemotherapy lose their hair. Most women who receive the A/C drug cocktail I’m receiving for breast cancer treatment begin seeing the effects of alopecia (hair loss) about 14 days after their first treatment. Apparently, I’m a bit of an overachiever. Last night in the shower, my hair began falling out in clumps – and once it dried a few hours later, I ran my hand through it and came away with a large enough portion that it was clear the time had come. I went to the bathroom and shaved my head.

Read more

Blueberry-Cinnamon Oatmeal With Chia

Blueberry-Cinnamon Oatmeal With Chia

Since I’m currently undergoing chemotherapy following breast cancer surgery, I’ve cleaned up my act where my diet is concerned. No one can guarantee that a certain food, or diet plan, will prevent, cure, or even help with cancer treatment – but healthy foods are never a bad idea. On the days right after my treatment, I take joy in preparing my meals, and it helps my appetite (which chemo suppresses) too. In the interest of sharing – and hopefully helping other people looking for healthy, simple, and tasty recipes, I’m going to share a few of my favorites in the weeks

Read more

100 Summits: Nihon Hyakumeizan 2018!

100 Summits: Nihon Hyakumeizan 2018!

Happy New Year, everyone! Now that 2018 is upon us, I’m officially launching My 100 Summits Project: Nihon Hyakumaeizan 2018! As I mentioned in December, I’m under contract to climb and write a book about the Nihon Hyakumeizan (100 Famous Mountains of Japan) as described in Kyūya Fukada’s 1964 mountaineering book by the same name. Fukada’s book has inspired generations of Japanese mountaineers (and many from other countries around the world) to climb his “Hundred Famous Peaks” – which Fukada selected on the basis of their history, beauty, and essential “Japanese” character.   The world record for climbing all 100 peaks is

Read more