At last!!! I have managed to change the colours on my blog to make it more readable. Long story about a fault on Blogger - but anyway, I hope those of you who were dazzled by the previous lurid colour scheme find it easier now.
Here in London our thoughts are with the victims of the Westminster attack, but London has survived so much over the years, and I do remember when life was overlaid with the constant threat of IRA bombs some years ago. So things are carrying on exactly as usual, but I suppose the risk of trouble is always at the back of peoples' minds, as it is, sadly, in so many places in the world.
I've hardly been at the computer at all, so I am sorry that I've been remiss about responding to comments. I do read and appreciate them very much, so I'll aim to do better in future. I've decided I really must post more Japanese pictures, though, since there are still loads of things I would like to tell you about. So here is something about Miyajima island, near Hiroshima. It's particularly famous for its large orange Torii gate which stands in the shallow sea just offshore.
At low tide you can get very close to the gate as you see in the photos above and below. It's exhilarating, if a bit soggy, to walk over the sands. I noticed the old gent below walking out with his pet dog - or at least, he was walking and the dog was sitting in its buggy.
This big torii gate marks the entrance to the Itsukushima Shinto shrine complex. ("Itsukushima" is another name for the island). It is famous for several reasons, mainly that the main shrine as well as the torii seem to be rising from or floating on the water. And, as you see below, the general appearance of the place also reflects traditional Japanese ideas about landscape beauty, with sea, mountains and architecture in relation to each other. It really is wonderful.
The shrine's present design dates from the 12th century, even though it had been a holy place for six centuries before that. So pure was it that for many years no births and deaths were allowed to take place there. (If someone died suddenly I suppose there would have been great consternation - nobody was able to tell me if this had ever happened though. I probably shouldn't have asked!)
The site is large so didn't seem crowded, and October weather in Hiroshima is generally good so the general atmosphere was peaceful and pleasant. It's a working shrine and ceremonies were going on in the normal way - in fact there were lots of monks around. Here's one explaining to some schoolgirls about this section of a huge and very old tree. (T and I have been racking our brains to remember the exact significance of this gnarled and ancient slice of wood, so perhaps one Japanese speaking reader might click on the picture and enlarge it enough to read the notice on it?)
A couple of years ago I visited beautiful Nara park and admired the deer, so was charmed to find that semi wild deer roam the temple grounds here, too, and they are not backward in their search for food from tourists. These people were having some trouble posing for their group photo while deer enthusiastically rummaged in their bags for food.
I like to look for little details, so this home made tableau caught my eye, arranged on a box in the street. I wondered about the meaning (if any) of the pine cone in the foreground,which, as you see, has a long stalk balanced across it, with an acorn at each end.
High up on the hillside is Senjokaku hall, a monumental part of the shrine complex. It's as large as "1000 tatami mats" (which are, I'm told 85.5 x 179 cm each - that's about 33.5 x 70.5 inches. Tatami mats are used in Japan as a way of indicating the size of a space). Attached to the massive roof beams are votive paintings, and in the background you might spot huge rice spoons propped up on the floor, nearly twice the height of a man. They're called shamoji, they have some religious significance and are particularly associated with the island of Miyajima.
Similar flat rice spoons have become one of Miyajima's best selling souvenirs - needless to say the souvenir spoons are much smaller than the ones above, which are almost twice the height of a man. Little cakes shaped like maple leaves are also widely sold on the island.... here's one which formed part of our picnic lunch, together with sandwiches beautifully packed by the friend we were staying with. (It looks so much more elegant than my rough old version of a picnic....)
Anyway, Senjokaku has a fabulous view from all sides, as you see below. A quiet and peaceful place to sit and contemplate, with only the sound of birds to be heard and the sun coming in.
In this distant view you can see how large the hall is; it's just to the left of the pagoda.
Despite the island's fame, the tourism isn't too high key, and we particularly enjoyed the town museum, which spreads over several rooms in an old house. Of everything there, I was specially impressed by the prints on display. Japanese printmaking is most famous in the West for the work of a small handful of artists, of which Hiroshige and Hokusai are the best known. But in fact it is a huge art form with many celebrated artists and it's an absolute delight to look at the variety of it all. This woodcut in Miyajima museum appealed very much to me. I recognised the shrine, but I didn't understand what was going on. T is learning Japanese but his reading isn't up to deciphering the label.
It looks immensely dramatic, anyhow.
I'm looking forward to the Hokusai exhibition at the British Museum but how I wish there would be a more comprehensive exhibition of Japanese printmaking. Like most Westerners, I had absolutely no idea of how wonderful it is.