Monthly Archives: August 2007

Kinshachi, the golden Shachihoko in Nagoya Castle

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      I’m supposed to explain in English about the castle tower and the golden Shachihoko in Nagoaya Castle to tourists from overseas on September 4th. That’s why I studied about those items! I’m going to introduce them in only two minutes that day. So I can’t mention most of what I studied… I’ll write about the information of them here.

   *Nagoya Castle and Shachihoko, a lucky charm
    
If you ask anyone in Japan what is a symbol in Nagoya, most of them will reply, “It’s Kinshachi.” Kinshachi means golden Shachihoko, a lucky charm, two of which are shinning on the top of the castle tower of Nagoya Castle.

     Nagoya Castle was built in 1612 by order of the first shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa. It was who lived first there was his 9th son, Yoshinao Tokugawa. In Japanese castles since the 16th century, the castle tower was very important as not only a watchtower and a command headquarters in domestic wartime but also showing the lord’s power to people and his enemies.

*What’s Shachihoko

      You can find Shachihoko in old Japanese buildings, but probably the two of golden Shachihoko of Nagoya Castle are the most beautiful, I think. Oh, you don’t know what Shachihoko is all about?! OK, I’ll explain.

      Shachihoko is a mythical creature originally. People say it comes from Shibi in China, and the Shibi comes from Maraka in India. The both of them are mythical creatures.   Makaramakara hindu

     Maraka was believed to have an elephant’s head and a crocodile’s body, and Shibi was believed to have a tiger’s head and a fish body in the old days. Those creatures were also believed to live in water and to splash water if there was a fire. That’s why they used to be fixed on top of buildings to protect fire as a lucky charm. And some people say those lucky charms were put on top of buildings so as not to suffer from drought because they have much to do with water. You’ll be able to find those lucky charms in Asian countries. 

      People say it was Nobunaga Oda, one of the most famous general in the 16 century, to start putting Shachihoko on top of buildings. And it seems that the first building was Azuchi Castle.

     Shachiko is often shortened to Shachi, and golden means kin in Japanese. That’s why peple call “Kinshachi” the two of golden Shachihoko of the top of the castle tower in Nagoya Castle.

    *Kinshachi of Nagoya Castle
    
The two of original Kinshachi, which were fixed on the top of the castle tower of Nagoya Castle, was made from Japanese old oval gold coins rolled thinly. The weight of the gold was 320 kg, which is converted into more than 400 million yen. The present ones were made after World War II, and a total of 88 kg of gold was used for the two. The original ones were made from wood, lead plate and gold plate, but the present ones were made from bronze, Japanese lacquer and gold plate.

      Actually, gold of the original Kinshachi was changed three times in 1730, 1827, and 1846. The local government used gold because of financial difficulties. And Kinshachi became to look dingy. So they covered the two of them with wire cages for glossing their dull surfaces in 1730. But they explained it for protecting from birds those days. in cage

   *Crises of Kinshachi
    
In 1870 after the Meiji Restoration, Nagoya castle and Kinshachi were decided to be taken down by the local government. But Max Von Brant, a minister from Germany saved the crisis. He advised the government and the local one to cancel the plan because he had been impressed at the scenery from the castle tower and the paintings on the sliding doors and walls in the palace. Besides Colonel Nakamura asked General of the Army Aritomo Yamagata to preserve Himeji Castle and Nagoya Castle and his request was granted in 1878.

     One of the reasons why Colonel Nakamura’s request was heard of was probably Kinshachi was showed at Vienna Expo in Austria in 1873. In advance of the expo, there was a domestic expo in Yushima, Tokyo. Kinshachi gained populartity there, and it was chosen as an entry to the expo in Vienna. 

     You know, Kinshachi is covered with gold. That’s why it had had its gold stolen many times. The most famous one is a story of Kinsuke Kakinoki. He was said to steel three gold scales of Kinshachi by flying with a kite. It was a fake, but Kinsuke Kakinoki was a real robber and was executed in 1763. The latest robbery was in 1937. There were 110 scales on the male Kinshachi’s body (There are male Kinshachi and female one. ) and the thief stole 58 of them during a measuring examination. He was arrested soon because he tried to sell them.

   *Present Kinshachi
     The castle tower of Nagoya Castle was burned to ashes the fires of war in 1945. The present one was rebuilt in 1959. Actually, the gold of the original Kinshachi was found after the war. The remain was brought to the occupation forces, but it was returned to Nagoya City as 6.6 kg gold in 1967 from the Japanese Ministry of Finance. Nagoya City made a miniature Kinshachi as the head of the city flag and a golden kettle by the gold for the memory of the original Kinshachi. golden kettle

     Although Kinshachi, the golden Shachihoko, is a lucky charm for protecting against fire, the castle tower was burned down by a fire. It seems its power sometimes doesn’t work…But today Shachihoko are on lids of hydrants in Nagoya City and trying to protect people from fire! shachi8

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Protect & Protest

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     The office of Mr. Yoshinobu Shimamura, a representative who belongs to the LDP was set fire yesterday on August 15, which was the 62th anniversary of the end of the World War II. Mr. Shimamura visited Yasukuni Shrine that day with other members as a chairman of “Minna de Yasukuni Jinja ni sanpai suru kokkai giin no kai”, or the association of representatives and councilors who visit Yasukuni Shrine together.

     Did the criminal get angry that representatives and councilors visited the shrine, or have an individual grudge against him? Or the criminal pretended to come from an opposition force to plant a bad image for it…I don’t know. But the criminal must have a stong message to Mr. Shimamura. Anyway it’s a big shock to have such an act of violence.

     I don’t know the course of the dawn of the association of visiting Yasukuni Shrine, but someone might think that it would be a good idea to keep a low profile when politicians visit the shrine because there are many opponents of visiting there in the inside and outside of Japan. And you know, Japanese tend to gather in groups. Some people try to gather company when they commit suicide.

     Anyway, one of the reasons why Mr. Shimamura became the target may be that he is the leader of the association. He can’t help being prominent. When Mr. Shimamura visited the shrine, a big group named “Heiwa Izoku Kai”, or the association of peace and the bereaved families, was demonstrating to stop visiting the shrine. 

     And just then former comfort women and their supporters had meeting for demanding the Japanese government to offer the official apology in Korea. Mr. Shimamura is well-known for a politician who denies the involvement of Japanese government and military in gathering comfort women during the World War II. As for “comfort women”, on July 31 the House of Representative in US adopted a resolution demanding the apology from Japanese government for former comfort women.

 

     I think there are mainly three problems in Yasukuni Shrine. First, all of the war dead during the World War II are deified by Shinto. It’s not considered that the feelings of believers in other religions and colonials and so on at all. Second, it may be unconstitutional to visit the shrine as public officials like representatives because there is a constitutional rule of the separation of religion and politics. And finally, war criminals are also deified as gods in the shrine. It makes a strong opposition from other countries where Japan used to invade and of course inside Japan as well.

     Many politicians try to visit the shrine, not to try to solve the problems. Probably they have very heavy bonds. I mean they have to appeal to someone or groups who have power by visiting the shrine. Anyway, it’s a big problem that many politicians are trying to protect only own interests, but it’s another problem to allow someone to attack the opponent, true or fake. I’d like politicians to drive for international cooperation and to take action against the recourse of violence.

*Photos from the Mainichi (1 &2) and the Kyodo(3)

Tai Chi Workshop

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      Last Sunday I went to Aichi Prefectural Gymnastic to join in an annual meeting of tai chi. There’re many styles and organizations of tai chi in the world, but what I’m doing now is Yang Ming Shih 24 simplified style tai chi chuan. I don’t know how many branches of my organization, but I belong to Aichi Prefecture Branch. And it holds an annual meeting on one day during Obon holidays every year. There were nearly 850 people in the meeting this year! 

     I’d been supposed to be in Tokyo during holidays, and I’d given up joining in the meeting. However, the trip to Tokyo was postponed for two weeks, and I was able to attend the meeting. But not it’s just a meeting, it’s a workshop. The participants can not only study theory but also practice there.

     In Yang Ming Shih style tai chi, we get a kind of exercise called “Hachi-dan Nishiki” before and after doing tai chi. It has 8 patterns and each pattern has special effect. For example, the first action of the exercise is good for your stomach and intestines and stiff shoulders. All the morning, the participants were divided into four groups and studied about the exercise in each workshop.  

      In the workshop, I studied about the 5 elements. There’s an idea in Oriental medicine and it says that everything has two sides of yin and yang, that is minus and plus, or shade and light. Every life cycles. Birth and death, and then regeneration…And in this endless cycle, the 5 elements, which I studied in the workshop, matter. I can’t explain about it here because it’s too difficult to write here to me, but I’ll show you a list. Interesting, huh?  

     五行

      Look at the Liver file. It means  liver, the internal organ has a close relation to eye. If you use your eyes too much by using the computer or paperwork or something, your liver will get weak, for example. And if you notice that you’re irritable recently, you may have problems on your eyes, or your liver, or the both. And the exercise “Hachi-dan Nishiki” and tai chi are very good way for prevention and cure of illness. 

      In the afternoon, all of the participants practiced tai chi. It was interesting to see many different performances at once. I mean, Yang Ming Shih 24 simplified style tai  chi chuan is only one, but you know each performer does his or her own tai chi as like no two minds think alike.

     I was at the gymnastic from 10:00 to 4:00. Probably because of doing tai chi, I had good appetite and was starving. That’s why I went to a café with my teacher and friends and had chocolate cake! Hmmm. I’m wondering when I should start go on a diet…

Karaoke Party

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    カラオケ1  I had a karaoke party at a pub named Isona between Ikeshita and Imaike last Friday. I reserved the pub because its seating capacity is about 20 and there were 17 people in the party.

     All of us had a really good time, drinking many kinds of alcohol and soft drinks, eating many foods, singing songs together, and chatting…Our feelings over the party ran higher than I expected actually.

     Kazu, a friend of mine and I had been waiting for the day of the karaoke party. He and I used to be in the same English class, which was a kind of phonetic class. Since both of us are English learners and have known singing songs in English is good for improving pronunciation, we decided to go to karaoke together in June. But unfortunately we were busy and couldn’t make time for karaoke for a while.  カラオケ2

     One day when I joined in a small concert with an afternoon tea party, I met Miho, another friend of mine. She likes to sing and is an English learner as well. That’s why she was very interested in the plan of singing songs in English. At the party, she and I met an enthusiast of the Beatles. He may not be just an enthusiast. I’d say he is a kind of professor of studying the Beatles.

     While I was talking to the professor of the Beatles, suddenly an interesting idea popped into my mind. And I asked him, “Do you like to sing songs…” He looked puzzled. But next moment when I added some words, his eyes flashed, “…of the Beatles?” I went on, “I’m going to have a karaoke party someday soon. Are you interested i…” “WHEN?!”

     カラオケ3  After the tea concert, I asked Nao, who runs an Australian pub named Isona, when I could reserve her pub. She replied I would be able to use it for the party last Friday of the 10th. The reason why I decided to have the party at her pub is because its karaoke machine has many English songs and I hope and pray her success.

     Nao has a dream of moving to Australia and of running a pub there in the near future. She’s studying and working hard to make the dream a reality now. She has studied business management of running the pub in Australia. Wow! And her pub just opened last April. That’s why I’d like to help her a little bit with advertisement. Some of the participants of the party may tell somebody about her pub or visit there again. カラオケ4

     When I decided the detail of the party, for example, the date and the place, I informed about it to my friends. At the moment I was about to email, Kazu gave me an email and mentioned karaoke. I told him about the party, he was really pleased and decided to join in the party soon. I was also happy to have an opportunity to sing songs together with him at last. 

     First I didn’t expect that so many people get together. But nearly 20 people replied, “I want to join in the party!” Interestingly some of them said to me, “I want to join you, I won’t sing and drink at all though.” I wondered what they were going to do then. Yeah, they were enjoying eating food and chatting and listening to someone singing.

     Since I was the organizer of the party, I’ve known all of the participants. But it wasn’t that they’d known each other before the party. That’s why first I thought it might be necessary for them to have time of self-introduction. But I was overanxious. They made friends ten minutes after the party started. How flexible and friendly they are! Ha Ha Ha! Yeah, they are my friends! Maybe birds of a feather! 

      カラオケ5What a lucky person I am! I have many nice friends! How wonderful it was to get together! I had a really good time together with them.  I’m sure all of the participants were enjoying foods and drinks, chitchats, and the relaxing atmosphere!

      I’m going to have a party again because most of them asked me, “When are you going to have a party next time?”

The Upper House Election and the Cabinet Approval Rating

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     The Upper House Election was held on July 29th and the result was the Liberal Democratic Party’s crushing defeat historically.

     The LDP lost 27 seats and saved 83 from 110 in the election, on the contrary, the Democratic Party added 28 seats and wan 109.

    

     And today the Mainichi made the result of a survey public. It’s an approval rating of Abe Cabinet. The Cabinet approval rating fell to 22% and the disapproval became 65%. And the LDP’s approval rating is 17% and it’s the second worst since the party was organized in 1955. On the contrary, the approval rating of the DP went up to 33% and it’s the best for them. And it means that the approval rating of the DP has almost doubled against the LDP.

     Here is an interesting result of a survey. It was held by Yahoo! Japan from July 29th to August 1 and the question was: What do you think the major factor in causing the DP’s victory in the election? As you see, 65% of people replied that it was that other parties didn’t have appeals!

     It means voters didn’t poll for the DP’s candidates willingly, doesn’t it? And there’re no positive ideas in it. It’s like elimination. I mean there were some main issues in the election, pension scandal, the Constitution change, income tax shock, direction of education, for example, but it seems that most of people didn’t consider those issues so much.

     Anyway it seems that Japanese people are taking a pessimistic view of the LDP-lead society. People keep their hopes up to the DP. I’d like them to stop ridiculous agitating for patriotism and deceiving people, and to start real “democratic” government.