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Tokyo 2 / Togakushi 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 // Ninja Village

Nearer the center of Togakushi is the Togakushi Nakaya Ryokan, where we stayed during our visit. This ryokan is noted for its selection of food. I personally enjoy Japanese food, but some of our group couldn't quite get used to rather pungent dried fish for breakfast. My problems were with the futon (beds) which were always about a foot shorter than I was. Below is a photo from the ryokan's brochure which shows a typical dinner meal.

 

In the center of Togakushi is the Shinto Shrine called Chusha, or Middle Shrine. On the trip in October of 1988 we woke up to snow, so I got dressed and went out early in the morning (I've always been a morning person) to take some photographs. Above are photos taken from the front and then looking back through the tori before I climbed the steps up to the Chusha Jinja (middle shrine) itself. The Tori is a special gateway for the Gods. It marks the demarcation between the finite world and the infinite world of the Gods. Each Shinto shrine is dedicated to a specific Kami.

Turning around, here are the first tier of steps leading up to the shrine and, to the left, is the Chusha Jinja itself. On the right edge of the left photo you see the edge of one of many huge cedar trees that were near the shrine. Trees or groves within the precincts of a shrine are called Shinboku.
. . . .Shinboku are believed originally to have been a tree to which the spirit of a deity descended. Shimenawa may be strung around such trees and you can see that besides being protected by a little fence, this tree has the Shimenawa (A sacred rope of twisted straw marking the presence of a god (kami) or the border of a sacred area) The zig-zag folded papers hanging down from the Shimenawa are called shide.
. . . .I had an interesting experience with this cedar before it had the Shimenawa. Read below.

The photograph to the left is another photo of the cedar in 1988. To the right is a photo of myself standing by it back in 1987 when the tree didn't have the Shimenawa around it.
. . . The evening we had arrived another member of our group wanted to walk up to the Middle Shrine after dark. So we went, and saying he wanted to "introduce" me to the tree, invited me to lean against it and meditate. I did that for a short time and then I found I couldn't step away from the tree...I felt as if I were being held like a magnet on a refrigerator. After some effort, I stood away from it, and being the pragmatic sort I am, figured my difficulity was just the result of fatique (there wasn't much sleep on this trip). The the next day I went up again early in the morning and had the same experience. Well, I figured it wasn't fatigue this time so decided to spend more time sitting by the tree meditating. I remember hearing the Shinto priest passing by, his geta clacking on the stone walk. He probably wondered what this gaijin was doing by the tree. In any event, the next visit to Japan I wanted to return to the tree, but I found that it now had become the residing place of a kami with Shimenawa and fence (left photo).

Tokyo 2 / Togakushi 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 // Ninja Village