Rolls on beef. Truly Japanese

Going to a restaurant and ordering a dish that was originally invented in a foreign country you never know whether the recipe is the original one or you deal with some kind of a domestic variation.

Before we departed to Japan, I was always convinced that original Japanese rolls are served with raw or backed fish, other seafood or vegetables. Contrary, putting meat like chicken inside rice and seaweed I treated as an European invention.

…Till I ordered and tasted rolls with Japanese beef and kimchi midst of Tokyo.


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True Japanese (served in Japan) rolls filled with meat.

According to the menu the ingredients to prepare the roll were: grilled beef, kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage), sangchu (lettuce), nori (seaweed) and rice, as well as the restaurants original sauce. 


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Japan diaries 2.0. Shrines and temples. A note by an absolute beginner

Japan diaries 2.0. Shrines and temples. A note by an absolute beginner

Memories and notes of an European, first time in Japan, written or rewritten one year after the trip.


Japan is famous for its specific religious system combining Buddhism and Shinto. Buddhism that roots in India came to Japan from the continental Asia. It is based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha and his successors. Shinto on the other hand is originally a Japanese ‘traditional religion’ based on ancient believes in ancestors and deities. For centuries, the two confessions overlapped. Japan had times (XIX century, the so called Meiji Restoration) of intensive politics to split the Buddhism from Shinto or even disroot Buddhism as not originally Japanese religion. Those efforts finally failed. Shinto and Buddhism coexist in the Japanese culture. Many Japanese declare even being tied to both confessions. This religious coexistence is however not easy to tackle for an outsider.

On our Japanese journey we saw numerous shrines and temples. I cannot say that I fully understand that what I saw, particularly that we traveled without a professional guide. Below I will sum up all that I realised on spot and later at home digging a bit in the Internet resources.


A SHINTO SHRINE VS A BUDDHIST TEMPLE. THE BASICS

A Shinto shrine may be a very small spot marked by a torii (Japanese gate to a sacred place). It can however be a bigger complex of buildings, as well. A shrine is devoted to a specific deity. Even if in the Western nomenclature we would call it a temple, it will still be called a shrine in Japan. (This is of course an English description. Japanese have many different names describing different kinds of shrines.) The most of the bigger (sometimes quite huge) religious building complexes we visited in Japan were however Buddhist temples. Buddhist temples belong to and are run by different schools of Buddhism (sects), and simultaneously play a role of a monastery, with interiors accessible only to few. This is possibly why I had an impression that temple complexes are somehow bigger (more widespread) than shrines, which is of course not a thumb rule.

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Entrance to the Yasaka-jinja shrine, Kyoto, well widespread, located at the eastern edge of Gion, the famous Geisha district. 

At the first sight, those bigger temple or shrine complexes, seemed to us quite similar in construction pattern – widespread premises with many buildings and more or less complex gates of comparable design. Now sitting at home comparing the pictures, recalling memories and reading information available in the Internet, I realise that they were not that similar at all. Some had statues inside, like those of the Buddha, or just gods or goddesses (deities), and the whole temple seemed to be organised around them. The others however, were just sanctuaries with some objects inside, the figures (statues) even if present did not play a central role. It turns out that these are the basic difference between a Buddhist and a Shinto temple or shrine. Continue reading

Kiyomizudera

Kiyomizudera

Japan is famous for its specific religious system combining Buddhism and Shinto. Buddhism that roots in India came to Japan from the continental Asia. It is based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha and his successors. Shinto on the other hand is originally a Japanese ‘traditional religion’ based on ancient believes in ancestors and deities. For centuries, the two confessions overlapped. Japan had times (XIX century, the so called Meiji Restoration) of intensive politics to split the Buddhism from Shinto or even disroot Buddhism as not originally Japanese religion. Those efforts finally failed. Shinto and Buddhism coexist in the Japanese culture. Many Japanese declare even being tied to both confessions. This religious coexistence is however not easy to tackle for an outsider.

A Shinto shrine may be a very small spot marked by a torii (Japanese gate to a sacred place). It can however be a bigger complex of buildings, as well. A shrine is devoted to a specific deity. Even if in the Western nomenclature we would call it a temple, it will still be called a shrine in Japan. (This is of course an English description. Japanese have many different names describing different kinds of shrines.) The most of the bigger (sometimes quite huge) religious building complexes we visited in Japan were however Buddhist temples. Buddhist temples belong to and are run by different schools of Buddhism (sects), and simultaneously play a role of a monastery, with interiors accessible only to few. This is possibly why I had an impression that temple complexes are somehow bigger (more widespread) than shrines, which is of course not a thumb rule.


One of those widespread temples we visited was Kiyomizudera otherwise called the Pure Water Temple. The name derives from the Otowa Waterfall, at which it is located. Kiyomizudera is an independent Buddhist temple (since 1965) and belongs to the Kita Hosso sect. The complex is really big and consists of wooden buildings, of which some, including the Jishu Shrine at the entrance, are covered with vermilion (characteristic orange paint). The temple is located in the Eastern parts of Kyoto. Walking the quarters (very picturesque by the way) located beneath the temple you will finally get to Gion (the Kyoto geisha district).

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The main building and the temple complex photographed from a terrace located in the more remote parts of the complex and on pictures below while on the way down to the Waterfall.

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The impressive wooden structure beneath the main hall. It is told to be built without usage of nails. Continue reading