Kyoto

It's fire, It's Good Fire at Setsubun in Japan - Los Angeles Travel Photographer

Don’t panic, this is not what you think and I can explain.

Fire-Ceremony-Setsubun-Shimogamo-Jinja-Kyoto-Japan-Copyright-Jean-Huang-Photography-(2)[4383]

Fire-Ceremony-Setsubun-Shimogamo-Jinja-Kyoto-Japan-Copyright-Jean-Huang-Photography-(2)[4383]

Remember the last time I shared an experience where praying, burning and bean throwing is involved in Japan? Well, I thought I’d come back to finish what I started, the burning part.

As Setsubun signifies the beginning of a year (end of winter and beginning of spring), it’s customary for people to drive away the evils and wish for good luck for the coming year. Here at the UNESCO heritage site of Shimogamo-Jinja (下鴨神社), offerings and amulets are sent, along with the flames, to the great power above, in the chanting of priests.

Priests-Chanting-in-Fire-Ceremony-Setsubun-Shimogamo-Jinja-Kyoto-Japan-Copyright-Jean-Huang-Photography-(1)[4381]

Priests-Chanting-in-Fire-Ceremony-Setsubun-Shimogamo-Jinja-Kyoto-Japan-Copyright-Jean-Huang-Photography-(1)[4381]

What other cultures/civilizations does fire have a significant role in rituals/ceremonies? Share in the Facebook box below so we can all learn.

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Happy Valentine's Day, It Takes Two to Tangle - Los Angeles Fine Art Photographer

Let’s face it. Not all relationships start with love. And for the ones that do, it’s not a guarantee that they will end that way. As a French proverb described:

Marriage is like a fortress besieged: those who are outside want to get in, and those who are inside want to get out.

(Le mariage est une forteresse assiégée, ceux qui sont dehors veulent y entrer, ceux qui sont dedans veulent en sortir.)

In fact, this proverb gave the inspiration to a well known novel the title Fortress Besieged (圍城). And yet, all that ancient wisdom did not stop any of us from proceeding heels over head into a relationship that’s sealed with a marriage. So, when I saw this couple in the Shimogamo Shrine (下鴨神社) in Kyoto that dates back to the 6th century, I thought that they’ve succeeded in setting the expectations, well, realistic.

It-Takes-Two-to-Tangle-Shimogamo-Jinja-Kyoto-Japan-Copyright-Jean-Huang-Photography

It-Takes-Two-to-Tangle-Shimogamo-Jinja-Kyoto-Japan-Copyright-Jean-Huang-Photography

When us human showed us what we could do with our self-proclaimed far superior intelligence, e.g., marriage could mean combining the two, in wealth, social influence, political power, etc., something with brains the size of birds showed me what a relationship could look like. Maybe, they have a thing or two to teach us about harmony, passion, and being tangled gracefully.

Red-Crowned-Crane-Tango-Kushiro-Hokkaido-Japan-Copyright-Jean-Huang-Photography

Red-Crowned-Crane-Tango-Kushiro-Hokkaido-Japan-Copyright-Jean-Huang-Photography

This Valentine’s Day, I wish you a fun day of tangoing to be tangled.

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Wishing You Lots of Beans, Fortune Beans - Los Angeles Travel Photography

Many people in the world have just celebrated the beginning of yet another new year, Lunar New Year, that started yesterday. In Chinese, the word 春節 literally means Spring Festival.

While in Japan, we got to experience a different custom related to spring that traces back to the 8th Century in China, which involves praying, burning and bean-throwing. During Setsubun (節分), among many others, rituals are performed to drive away the evils and bad spirits.

Bean-Throwing-Setsubun-Shimogamo-Jinja-Kyoto-Japan-Copyright-Jean-Huang-Photography

Bean-Throwing-Setsubun-Shimogamo-Jinja-Kyoto-Japan-Copyright-Jean-Huang-Photography

Traditionally, roasted soybeans (called "fortune beans" (福豆 fuku mame)) are thrown either out the door or at a member of the family wearing a demon (Oni in Japanese) mask, while people say "Demons out! Luck in!" (Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!) and slam the door. Then, as part of bringing in luck, it is customary to eat roasted soybeans in the number that corresponds to one’s age, and in some areas, one for each year of one's life plus one for bringing good luck for the year to come.

At Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines all over the country, Priests and invited guests will throw roasted soy beans (some wrapped in gold or silver foil), small envelopes with money, sweets, candies and other prizes. We had fun witnessing beans being thrown and the tactics used to catch them in the Shinto Shrine of Shimogamo-Jinja (下鴨神社). I mean, look at the “containers” they bring. One has to dream big to achieve big, I guess.

Every year, Setsubun occurs on the day before the beginning of spring, i.e., Risshun (立春). And coincidentally, this year, Risshun happens to be the day before Lunar New Year. So, whether it’s spring or Spring Festival that you are celebrating, I wish you lots of fortune beans. Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi! :D

I reckon, I shall be back for the burning part later.

Reaching-for-Luck-Setsubun-Shimogamo-Jinja-Kyoto-Japan-Copyright-Jean-Huang-Photography

Reaching-for-Luck-Setsubun-Shimogamo-Jinja-Kyoto-Japan-Copyright-Jean-Huang-Photography

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