UNESCO

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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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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Love Story in Cuenca, Spain (Part 2) - Los Angeles Travel Photographer

In the last postJulián was enlisted to fight the Italian Wars in order to improve his outlook with Inés, the girl that he was in love with.  In the weeks and months that follow, news from Julián was sporadic. 

Two years later, when the war ended, Julián, now loaded with laurels, took the shortest roads and paths to go back home.  Nothing was communicated to
Inés as he wanted to make his appearance a pleasant surprise.  Finally, on one night, he showed up at their usual time to meet in front of Inés' door, intending to thank the Christ of the Passage (el Cristo del Pasadizo, in Spanish) for his safe return and a bright future.  Only this time, he found his position being occupied by a young Lesmes. 

Houses-on-the-Edge-of-Cliff-Cuenca-Spain-Copyright-Jean-Huang-Photography

Houses-on-the-Edge-of-Cliff-Cuenca-Spain-Copyright-Jean-Huang-Photography

Infuriated and jealous, Julián pulled out his sword and threw himself at Lesmes who instantly unsheathed his sword to defend.  The quiet night was broken by the sharp clash of swords, until Julián lost his footing on one of the steps and fell.  Lesmes took advantage and push his sword through Julián's already shattered heart.  The silence returned.

Soon, the guard came.  In an effort to escape the chase, 
Lesmes tried to jump from a path hid in the leafy forest in the upper city, unraveled a stone and went down to the bottom of the valley.

Inés, guilty of causing two lives, confined herself in the Convento de las Petras for the rest of her life.  To this day, people say her sad spirit still wanders the Convento.

In a UNESCO town that was built by the Moors and later conquered by the Castilians in the 12th century, there's bound to be a lot of stories.  And this is one of them.

Convento-de-las-Petras-Cuenca-Spain-Copyright-Jean-Huang-Photography

Convento-de-las-Petras-Cuenca-Spain-Copyright-Jean-Huang-Photography

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