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Friday, June 19, 2015

Thinking About Japanese Temples

Although my convention participation has just ended, I'm suffering from burnout - but I'll be back to my usual self tomorrow (Friday) at work and will have a proper blog for you all once again.

Let's did into the old bag of tricks - some black and white photography... except it isn't quite.

In these photo's I visited an old temple supposedly at the foot of Mt. Fuji, that semi-mythical mountain people say is the tallest in Japan... of course, despite being at the bottom of the mountain, it was completely invisible to me what with the misty rain and fog that obliterated it from my view.

Foiled by the weather, it made me question if the damn mountain actually exists... how is it possible to not see the tallest mountain in Japan when I am supposedly less than a kilometer away from it?!

Three years... it remained invisible to my dark thoughts of conspiracy.

These photos were indeed taken by me with black and white film in my camera.

The problem, however came when I had it processed... even in 1993 with film still the only way to take a photograph seeing as how digital cameras were not yet a thing... the folks processing it couldn't believe someone was actually using black and white film and processed it with color film chemicals... hence the misty look to the shots.

To me it looks as though the images were taken by some sort of daguerreotype camera from the 1850s... so I suppose it's kind of neat.

Anyhow... when visiting any temple in Japan, there is a cleansing ritual people must perform before praying.

You are expected to go up to the little sink... a stone enclosure with fresh water pumping out of the bamboo spigot and using the bamboo-handled copper cup, you must wash your hands, ladling the water onto your filthy, sweaty digits, and when clean, use the cup to drink more of the fresh water to clean that dirty mouth of yours.

Swallow if you must, but some do rinse it out onto the ground outside the cistern. Yuck.

I always wondered how often the temple monks changed the cups... I mean... how many people put their lips to the damn thing... left or right-handed, that area about 2.5 cm (1-inch) away from the handle must see a lot of tongue... Ugh.

If they don't replace it, do they clean the cups? How? Disease is awaiting the devout.

Now that your hands and palette are clean and awaiting some debilitating disease, the visitor should then go to the huge metal pot under the roof... it's an incense burner... you light a stick, or use one already lit, and pick it up and waft the cancerous smoke over your bent head with a cupped hand. It's to purify you.
 Now... once done, you may take off your shoes - you are wearing socks, right - and enter the temple... make an offering and pray to the gods to maintain the good health you had before you sidestepped the minefield of pestilence and disease at the temple. Oh my Buddha, please let me live.

Me... I prayed instead for the spirits of Mt. Fuji to allow me to see the great mountain before I go home to Toronto - in this case, in seven months time during the summer of 1993.

Of course... if you are following my epic diary (Noboko & Andrew), you will know that it's September and after leaving Japan in July, I returned five weeks later to be with the woman I wanted to be my wife.

You might be wondering WHY I didn't pray to the gods for my plans to marry Noboko to be successful - just know that at the time of my visit to this temple at the base of Mt. Fuji, it was March of 1993, and I had not yet come across her in any shape or form.

Andrew Joseph

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