Hokkaido Jingu Shrine

Here’s another trip that was a part of my school program at Hokkaido Japan Language School (JaLS). This afternoon, we headed off to the Hokkaido Jingu Shrine in the middle of Maruyama Park (円山公園 – maruyama kōen). We had to walk over to Ōdori Station again this time, but we boarded the orange Tōzai Line subway train.

Maruyama Park is apparently at the very end of the Ōdori Road, which is the major east-west road in Sapporo that divides the city into north and south. We exited the subway and walked to the very end of Ōdori Road and entered the large park.

The end of Odori Road

Maruyama Park is 70 hectares of wooded forest inside the city of Sapporo. Not only is it home to the Hokkaido Jingu Shrine, but also the Maruyama Zoo. We didn’t have time to explore the whole park, but the setting was very tranquil inside.

The Hokkaido Jingu Shrine was established in 1869 during the Meiji era. According to Wikipedia, the soul of Emperor Meiji is enshrined here along with 3 Shinto deities. This is Hokkaido’s main Shinto shrine and was established as part of the “reclamation” of Hokkaido to Japan. We learned that the shrine faces northeast and is meant to protect Japan from danger in that direction. I’m not sure what that danger was, but that’s what the priest had told us through our translating teacher.

Before going into the shrine we all had to cleanse ourselves with water. One of our teachers demonstrated the proper order of cleansing of the hands. So we just followed along in this hand-washing ritual at this cleansing fountain.

For even more “cleansing,” we were lead by the shrine priest through this large, green cleansing wreath.  We had to enter through the wreath, turn left and circle back to the front. Go through the wreath a second time and turn right this time. We circled back to the front once more. We entered through the wreath a third time and circled left once more. This was the cleansing ritual. It was outlined also for other visitors to the shrine on a poster next to the wreath. It’s all in Japanese, but the picture was pretty self-explanatory.

Now that we as a group were all purified, we were allowed to enter the shrine grounds. The main shrine area has a very impressive roof that dominates the grounds. This is where people come up and offer money in an offering depository. There were also bells that one could ring after making ones prayer and money offering. One ring only, though. One isn’t meant to go bonkers on the bell.

Because our language school had made special arrangements with the shrine, the priest took us to a large room to the side of the shrine. It was like a museum area explaining the history of the shrine and how it came to be. All the explanations were in Japanese and our teacher had to translate. However, there is only so much that he could translate for us.

After the museum area, we were taken to a room where there was a stage set up. We were not allowed to photograph or film once we were seated. A priestess took to the stage performing some sort of ritual as others off-stage played traditional Japanese music to accompany the priestess’ dance-like movements.

After the performance, we went back to the main shrine grounds and explored the prayer and amulet area. In Shinto shrines, they often have amulets for people to purchase. Some of these offer protection or good luck. One can also draw a piece of paper with one’s fortune. If it’s a good fortune, you take the paper with you. If it’s a bad or so-so fortune, then you can tie the bad fortune to a stand with wires. This way, you are leaving your bad luck here. One can also purchase wish cards like the ones in the photo below. The ones I saw in Kyoto were traditional pentagonal-shaped wooden cards. However, this shrine had a great variety of cards. There were even plenty of Rilakkuma cards to write one’s wish upon.

After my schoolmates finished playing around with their fortunes, the priest took us outside of the shrine and to a little shack beside the shrine. Inside this shrine was a little snack shop that made fresh, hot, piping mochi snacks.

 

Inside the mochi was red bean, or anko. Red bean is a very common filling in Japanese snacks and desserts. The mochi was still hot and chewy, but the outside had this fine, crispy layer. It was so delicious. Best of all, it was free for us because we were doing a special tour with the shrine priest.

With our tummies filled with the warm mochi snack, we posed for photos with our teacher/tour guides and made our way back through beautiful Maruyama Park to the subway. Just imagine this place during cherry blossom season in the spring.

As chance may have it, my classmate, Kacy, is a YouTube vlogger for “We go on plane now?” detailing her time in Japan. She has posted her story of our trip out to the Hokkaido Jingu Shrine. I’ve embedded it below for your enjoyment.

Kendo Experience

Lazy me. I’ve been back from Japan for about 3 weeks now. I’ve been working mostly on my photos and haven’t been blogging at all since the first few days I was in Sapporo. So without further delay, here are my posts on recent trip to Japan.


 

Even before I arrived in Japan, I had gotten an email a few days before flying out. It outlined that we’d be going for an outing the very first day of class. It asked us to wear shorts and sportswear for the first day because we’d be doing Kendo. The email even came with a handy PDF poster for the event.

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Vancouver to Tokyo to Chitose

ANA flight NH115

Having just finished my Hong Kong photos, I am already onto my next trip. My wife and I had been planning something big in celebration of her finishing grad school. So here we are back in Asia. This time, we have decided to do something different. We are learning Japanese in Sapporo, Japan. That’s where we could get beer, ramen, and desserts.

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Hong Kong’s Stanley

If there ever was a nice tourist trap, I think Stanley in Hong Kong would count. This tiny little area on the hilly south side of Hong Kong Island is a magnet for tourists and locals alike. The famed Stanley Market attracts travellers looking for the quintessential Hong Kong souvenir. The waterfront attracts locals looking to enjoy some southern exposure on a sunny January afternoon. Expats love to travel here for a feel of something back home they might miss. This is Stanley.

stanley market on google maps

 

Over a half dozen trips to Hong Kong and I hadn’t been back to Stanley since 1988 when I was just wee pre-teen lad. My only memory of Stanley was getting this cheap little fuzzy caterpillar toy that would move around almost magically via strings attached to my hands. It was a long windy bus ride on the upper deck. Riding along all the tight turns along the rocky edge of Hong Kong Island is an experience on its own.

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Mayor’s Council Updated Regional Transportation Vision

Here’s the highlights of the Metro Vancouver Mayor’s Council vision of regional transportation. This updated vision was prompted by Premier Christy Clark’s insistence on sending transit funding issues to a referendum in the Fall 2014.

mayorscouncil_vision_map

 

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Hong Kong’s Yuen Long

Chinese calligraphy in Ching Shu Hin house in Yuen Long

Yuen Long is a large district in the northwest section of the territory. It was one of the largest town centres in the New Territories outside of the urban core of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. I had been meaning to visit this part of Hong Kong on many occasions. I actually got there this time with my sister, parents, and mother-in-law in tow.

First off, you should know about the special day pass for the Yuen Long and Tuen Mun areas of Hong Kong. This pass is not very well advertised on the MTR website. There are only two stations from which you can buy such passes – Nam Cheong and Mei Foo. The pass allows for unlimited travel on the West Rail, the Yuen Long/Tuen Mun LRT, and MTR-run buses in the area.

Tuen Mun – Nam Cheong Day Pass

This was also the first time I ever rode the West Rail. This line was the last of all the Hong Kong rail lines for me to travel upon. I could finally check it off my list.

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Hong Kong Museum of History

In continuing with the free museum days on Wednesdays in Hong Kong, my sister and I made our way to the Hong Kong Museum of History in Kowloon on Chatham Road. In terms of rail transport, the museum is within easy walking distance of the Hung Hom Railway Station. However, most tourists may actually find themselves walking due east from the busier Nathan Road.

This is the second time I’ve been to this museum. There aren’t many temporary exhibits here. The one temporary exhibit I wanted to see was an extra cost on top of the usual admission.  So much of what I saw was the same as before. However, it is still worth walking through this very extensive museum.

Diorama models of Qing Dynasty Hong Kong

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Hong Kong Heritage Museum

Wednesdays in Hong Kong are free admission days to the public museums and art galleries. My sister and I are big into museums. So our last Wednesday in Hong Kong was a perfect opportunity to hit up a couple of museums. The first on the list was the Hong Kong Cultural Museum in Sha Tin.

Buildings along the Shing Mun River in Sha Tin

Along the shores of the Shing Mun River, you can find the HK Cultural Museum about a 10 minute walk away from Sha Tin MTR station. We had to walk through the mall to reach the river and then walk along the river to the museum.

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Mass Transit Systems that Changed Their Cities

Henry:

Gordon shares about Vancouver’s SkyTrain making the i09’s list of Mass Transit Systems that changed their cities. The descriptions aren’t very in depth, but it’s neat to have Vancouver make the grade.

Originally posted on Price Tags:

Of eight, including the Seoul Subway, the Hong Kong MTR, Washington State Ferries,  the Venetian Vaporetti, Melbourne’s Trams, Medellin’s Gondolas and the (Lost) Los Angeles Cable Cars, we’re No. 6.

From io9:

The Vancouver SkyTrain was built to reduce the amount of surface traffic in Vancouver, BC. The fully-automated elevated rapid transit line serves several areas around Vancouver, and has a very high level of punctuality. Ridership is ever increasing, and the growing reliance on SkyTrain has lead to concerns that the system may not be able to meet demands.

The SkyTrain is also an excellent example of how efficient mass transit can transform cities, as population densities and wealth have increased around SkyTrain stations.

SkyTrain

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