shrines

Strapped for cash, 1,400-year-old Kyoto shrine leasing part of its grounds for condo development

One of the things that makes Japan such a compelling place is the country’s long cultural history. The upkeep of centuries-old buildings can be extremely expensive, however, especially since traditional Japanese architecture is mainly wood, reed, and paper, which aren’t exactly the sturdiest building materials.

As we’ve seen before, sometimes even sites of historical significance can struggle to make ends meet, and Kyoto’s famous Shimogamo Shrine is no exception. That’s why in order to raise the funds it needs, the institution, which was founded some 1,400 years ago, is planning to lease a section of its grounds for the construction of a condominium complex.

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Kitties keeping the gods company: Check out these photos of cats in Japanese shrines!

A few weeks ago, we found out that some cats had started taking over shrines in Thailand. While that might make our furry friends seem extremely impious, it’s also exactly the kind of hubris that we suspect cats particularly delight in. Now, you may be wondering if the same thing could happen in Japan–and the answer is: Of course!

While we’ve long suspected cats of being emissaries of the spirit world, these photos should make it clear that your kitten isn’t just adorable–it’s holy adorable!

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The top 10 rural regions of Japan that Tokyo residents would like to move to

There’s a widespread belief in Japan that if you want to achieve educational or economic success, you come to Tokyo. As a matter of fact, it’s such a common move that Japanese even has a verb for it, joukyou, or to “move on up to the capital.”

But for some people, always-lively Tokyo is just too bustling. It’s not just the elderly who feel the appeal of a rustic lifestyle, either. Even some residents in their 20s find themselves wanting to move away from the constant hum of the big city, and a recent survey reveals the top 10 rural regions of Japan that Tokyoites would like to move to.

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Burn baby burn! The Shinto inferno of Japan’s Dondo Yaki ceremony

When entering the grounds of a Shinto shrine in Japan, it’s customary to first stop by the water basin near the gate and rinse your hands, and sometimes your mouth, in order to cleanse them. Water isn’t the only classical element held to have purifying properties in Shintoism, though, since the same can be said about fire.

Obviously, worshippers aren’t called upon to put fire on their palms or inside their mouths. Instead, Shinto priests light pyres of charms and decorations during the Dondo Yaki ceremony, with the towering blazes regularly reaching 15 meters (49.2 feet) into the air.

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Giant maguro donated to shrine of fishing-god Ebisu

The start of a new year means it’s time for hatsumōde, the year’s first visit to a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple. You pray for good luck in the new year, throw some spare yen into the saisenbako (big offering box), get some omamori (good luck charms), and hope that the omikuji (fortune) you get is dai-kichi (great luck) and not dai-kyō (you’re screwed).

While most people are satisfied donating a few yen coins in the donation box when they visit their shrine, the Nishinomiya shrine in Hyogo Prefecture does things a little differently. They want to make sure the gods hear them loud and clear, so they lug a massive frozen maguro onto the donation box and leave it there for three days.

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Izumo’s Starbucks, a stone’s throw away from the gathering place of Shinto’s eight million gods

Shintoism has such a large pantheon of gods that the religion even has a structured way in which they all keep in touch with each other. Every October, the deities enshrined across the nation are said to gather in Shimane Prefecture’s Izumo Taisha Shrine, where they convene for their annual divine meeting.

We imagine it’s a busy conference, considering that some eight million deities are thought to attend. So we’re sure several of them were happy to find Izumo City now has a Starbucks, with the same tasty beverages the chain serves all over Japan, but with Japanese décor that’s unique to Izumo.

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Can’t spend a whole month at Kyoto’s Gion Festival? This beautiful video gives the highlights

Many neighborhoods in Japan have festivals during the summer, often centered around the local shrine. They generally include processions, musical performances, and Shinto rituals, with the festivities lasting a day, or maybe two if they stretch throughout the weekend.

Kyoto’s Gion district, though, does things on a grander scale. The Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival) starts on July 1 and runs for the entire month, with some sort of event happening almost every day. And while most non-residents can’t clear out enough of their schedule to sped a few solid weeks in Japan’s former capital, this beautiful video gives the highlights of the event.

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Japan’s 30 best travel destinations, as chosen by overseas visitors

It’s time once again for travel website Trip Advisor’s list of the best places in Japan, as chosen by overseas visitors to the country. One of the things that makes Japan such a fascinated place to travel is its extreme mix of historical and modern attractions, both of which are represented in the top 30 which includes shrines, sharks, and super-sized robots.

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Tsushima no Miya Station: The Japanese train station open only two days a year

Without a doubt, one of the things Japan is best known for is trains. And it’s not just marketing hype either–public transportation is apparently good enough to accommodate the decreasing number of Japanese youth getting driver’s licenses. But while most trains can be counted on to run from 5 am to 1 am every day of the week in the cities, that’s not always the case in rural areas.

Take Tsushima no Miya station in Kagawa Prefecture, for example, where the train has the most limited schedule in the country: It’s only open two days out of the year!

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Gunma Prefecture’s adorable mascot dances into our hearts and travel plans 【Video】

At first glance, Gunma may not seem to have a whole lot going for it. It’s one of Japan’s few landlocked prefectures, which means less access to Japan’s legendarily fresh seafood. The lack of a coastline also means Gunma doesn’t have a vibrant urban heart like Japan’s largest cities which grew out of its busiest ports, so economic and modern entertainment opportunities are limited compared to Tokyo, Osaka, or Fukuoka.

What Gunma does have is mountains, hot springs, and shrines, though. It’s also got Gunma-chan, its lovable horse mascot who shows off the prefecture’s attractions and some adorable dance moves in this new video.

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Nine places where cat lovers in Japan can step up their devotion to worship

Japan loves its cats. When feline fans here aren’t going online to swap trivia about their favorite members of the animal kingdom, they’re playing with cute kitties between sips of coffee at one of the nation’s many cat cafes.

At times, it even seems like “love” doesn’t properly convey the depths of their emption, and that it would be more appropriate to say some people worship the creatures, which is exactly what you can do at these nine shrines and temples dedicated to cats.

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Top 10 Japanese companies over 800 years old

As you’re probably aware, Japan has quite the lengthy history, stretching back thousands of years. And, as with any civilization, ancient Japan had need of commerce, which lead to the establishment of some of the oldest companies in the world.

Today, we bring you a list of our 10 favorite ancient Japanese companies. From sake to mountain-side inns to Buddhist temple construction companies, there’s something here for everyone!

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