Gaijin on Getas Blog

Archive for December, 2011

Garden Elements – Part 2

Posted on December 28th, 2011 by Mike Roberts

Ginkakuji - Kyoto

Ginkakuji - Kyoto


Paths are generally constructed of beaten earth that can be left plain or covered with sand or fine gravel, on top of which stepping stones can be placed. Irregular, flat stepping stones were used in the tea roji to guide the visitor to the tea house. Later stepping stones were introduced into other gardens. The most commonly used materials are slate, schist, flint and granite, left as natural slabs or shaped into more regular forms. In most gardens, stepping stones are of different sizes and are arranged in a variety of patterns. Read the full post »

Okunoin Cemetery at Koya-san (Part 1)

Posted on December 21st, 2011 by Mike Roberts

Takeda Shingen

Takeda Shingen

Many people visit Koya-san during the course of the year, primarily to stay overnight at one of the 55 temples offering temple lodging. And of course to tour the many historical and beautiful temples at Koya-san, including Okunoin Temple. The cemetery directly in front of Okunoin Temple is also another large draw at Koya-san. Because the oldest monument in the cemetery was constructed in the year 997, walking along the 2 km path from Ichi-no-hashi bridge to Okunoin Temple is like walking through 1,000 years of Japanese history and culture. Along the path you will find memorials to emperors, shoguns, fuedal lords, actors, singers, writers, poets and even fugu (blowfish) and termites. Having the oppurtunity to explore the cemetery with our Koya-san guide, Kaori Kodama, who has been guiding people around Koya-san for 15 years is a treat. Here are just a few of the more than 200,000 memorials found in the cemetery. (We will write about more later.) Read the full post »

Sake – The Basic Ingredients (Rice and Water)

Posted on December 15th, 2011 by Mike Roberts

In this installment of our discussions on Sake, we will discuss the basic ingredients of Sake, the different kinds of ingredients and how they affect the final result. These main ingredients include:

  • Rice
  • Water
  • Yeast
  • Koji

This installment will concentrate on rice and water, the most important ingredients by volume only. Yeast and koji will be discussed later. Read the full post »

Japanese Garden Elements – Part 1

Posted on December 9th, 2011 by Mike Roberts

We continue our discourse of Japanese Gardens with this discussion of some of the elements commonly used in Japanese gardens.

Kenrokuen - Kanazawa

Kenrokuen - Kanazawa


Waterfalls are used to indicate where water enters a pond, to highlight a scene or to provide a focus. The decorative use of rocks, another important element of Japanese gardening, can be found in both pond and dry landscape gardens. Rocks are often used to help create waterfalls. The artful arrangements of upright stones may produce a dry tableau that resembles a waterfall (karetaki), or water may be forced over rocks to create the real thing. Stone bridges, white sand and pebbles are often placed in front of the dry stone waterfalls to symbolize a running stream. Read the full post »

Sengaku-ji Temple and the 47 Ronin

Posted on December 1st, 2011 by Mike Roberts

Ronin Graves

Just one stop from Shinagawa on the Toei Asakusa subway line (Sengakuji Station), Sengaku-ji is one of Tokyo’s most famous temples. Although it isn’t big or particularly impressive, it is charged with history. This is where the 47 Ronin (Ronin are masterless samurai) are buried. The tale of the 47 Ronin is one of Japan’s most celebrated samurai stories, and remains one of the most popular historical stories in Japan. The story of the 47 Ronin has been told and retold in numerous movies, and kabuki and bunraku plays. Today, Hollywood is currently making a movie starring Keanu Reeves retelling the story. The movie is currently scheduled for release in November 2013. The tale has been described by one noted Japanese scholar as the country’s “national legend.” This true story has been popularized in Japanese culture as emblematic of the loyalty, sacrifice, persistence, and honor that all good people should observe in their daily lives. Read the full post »