Friday, November 30, 2007

Kanmanji Temple

I'm not sure what this little building was. It's not the temple itself.

Back when I went down to Kisakata to watch karate, I decided to stop by a temple that appeared on the tour map people were handing out at the train station.

I don't know much about the history of Kanmanji temple. There was a big sign near the entrance with a lengthy explanation, but it was filled with unknown kanji, and I didn't want to spend an hour translating it with my dictionary. Thus, unfortunately, I can't tell you who this guy is here:

I was able to look up some of the temple's past in its Wikipedia entry, which places the its origin over a thousand years ago, though I doubt any of the surviving buildings are that old. The gate, for example, is supposed to be 300-something years old:

There's no English entry for Kanmanji on Wikipedia, but if you want to have some fun, you can view the Japanese page translated by Google, which interprets Kanmanji as "perfused swastika." Disclaimer: Google translator doesn't work well with Japanese grammar or kanji.

Detail of some of the carvings on the gate.

This is a statue of Matsuo Basho, the famous traveling poet, most well-known for his collections of haikus. Kisakata was one of the northern-most points in his journey before he turned back southward.

There was a large graveyard sectioned off from the rest of the temple, but there were also some graves just in the entrance area.

People left flowers and cans of tea near the graves. Perhaps they got the tea from the vending machines at the entrance from the main road (vending machines are EVERYWHERE!)

These are all statues of the same guy: Jizo, the guardian of the spirits of children who die before their parents (including the spirits of children who die before birth). It is said that a child who dies before their parents is doomed to spend an eternity piling stones along a mythical river bank as penance for making their parents suffer. The parents pray to Jizo asking him to intervene, and he hides the children under his cloak, speaking mantras to them and leading them to the afterlife.

Correspondingly, the statues of Jizo often have babyish faces and are dressed in bibs or children's clothes.

Sorry. I don't know who this is.

For some reason, there was a whole clowder of cats in residence on the temple grounds. Here they are crowding around some food set out by one of the care-takers.

A large building, not the main temple

The main temple building. I saw a separate group of visitors approach the entrance and each, in turn, deposited some money and struck the hanging bell.

I'm sorry I haven't been posting all that often. Everything is going good and Minami High School is busy as ever. It's definitely been getting colder here and we've already had a good amount of snowfall. I'll try to update more often. Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 9, 2007


It turns out that the biggest jack-o-lantern I've ever made was in Japan. I brought in the pumpkin pictured above for my third-year class to carve, but it wasn't easy. It took two people, myself and another teacher, to lift it, and then we carted it to the classroom.

Everyone seemed to have a good time, though it was a little disorganized since it was so last-minute (I only managed to procure a pumpkin the day before, thanks to the other ALT who visits my school).

The class involved was my 3H class, hence the creative design for the nose and mouth. (The faces are censored because, technically, it's illegal to show recognizable pictures of your students online without parental consent).

I let them do everything themselves, although the partially mutilated top is mostly my fault. I got them started cutting the top off, but I started too high. After going around to some other students, I came back to find that, having been unable to remove the top completely, they had begun chipping away at the poor pumpkin's left lobe. So, we tried again lower, hence the scars around the top.

When they cut out the first piece from the face (the heart-shaped eye), they were almost more interested in the removed piece than the pumpkin itself. They held it up triumphantly and shouted "kawaiiiii!" (all girls). They thought it was so cute to have this little heart-shaped piece of pumpkin. As some of them continued to work on the pumpkin, others worked on the heart piece, boring out it's center to make it into a bowl and filling it with chopped-up pumpkin cubes like some kind of melon. They asked if they could eat it. I told them they weren't supposed to and they immediately went around offering some to other teachers in the halls.

I prepared a couple other activities for them to do while not working on the pumpkin, like this origami witch's cat design I found online.

It was mostly girls that got into the origami. Not surprisingly, the cats all came out rather well. In the end, none of them took their cat with them, and now I'm left with a drawer full of them.