Minoh, Osaka ー It’s been a long time since my last blog post – my apologies! My courses are starting to starting to pick up pace now, and the number of tests and quizzes continues to grow. I’ll do my best to keep my blog updated at least once a month.
A few weeks ago I was approached by a friend in Osaka about doing a translation for a shrine in Nara City (the old capital of Japan throughout most of the 8th century). It was a little intimidating translating a religious-themed text that was very technical. However, the biggest challenge was not the translation itself, but rather creating a text that foreigners with no prior understanding of Shintoism could understand. We had to think of ourselves as tourists and create a cultural translation that would be accessible to visitors no matter where they come from. After many phone calls, google searches, and hours flipping through the dictionary, we were able to produce a translation that maintained the historical and religious significance of the original document, but also one that enables non-Japanese-speaking guests to understand the shrine’s history and importance.
Part of the translation included the story of the shrine’s famous Tulip Festival (Yuri Matsuri/Saikusa Matsuri). The shrine was responsible for organizing the festival on behalf of the government that was based in Nara. After being discontinued for nearly 800 years, the shrine revived the tradition and it continues to be a popular festival to this day. During the festival, white and black sake barrels decorated with lilies are dedicated to the enshrined deity in hopes that they will bring her happiness in her afterlife.
The Tulip Festival is held in June every year so we were able to go to the festival after finishing the translation and witness the ceremony with a full understanding of what was going on. That being said, there were hundreds of people at the festival, so it was difficult to see what was going on. Thankfully, after the ceremony at the shrine, there was a parade so we were able to see all of the people in their traditional clothing.
After attending the festival, we went to the shrine’s main cite, called Omiwa Shrine which is just outside of Nara City. Omiwa Shrine is around 2000 years old and stands on a mountain that is said to host the soul of the deity of cultivation.
There also happens to be a shrine that is dedicated to studies (many students come here during February and March to pray for their university entrance exams). In preparation for exams, I stopped here and picked up an Omamori (Shinto amulet) to bring us more knowledge. The results of the exams come out in a few days, so I’ll see if it worked!
On the way back to Osaka, we stopped at a little tea shop for a break. In the picture below you can see a Japanese-style sweet filled with anko (red bean paste) and cold macha (green tea).