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Earthquakes, thunders, fires and old fathers

It may be difficult for you to find the connection among the captioned jishin (earthquakes), kaminari (thunders), kaji (fires) and oyaji (old fathers).

They used to be thought as the most terrifying 4 things for Japanese. But then, like your country, a father’s social status in Japan has been lower for the last several decades…
There is another story that oyaji is a corrupted form of o-yamaji (typhoons). Two games of Rugby World Cup 2019 currently held in Japan were forced to be canceled due to a huge typhoon.

Japan is a disaster-prone country, and major disasters are earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons and floods. These disasters result from Japan’s geography and topography.
Japan is located on the border of some major crustal plates, which can bring about earthquakes. In our small country, there are more than 100 active volcanoes, about 10% of all the volcanoes in the world. Moisture from the Pacific Ocean causes typhoons and the rainy season, and the heavy rainfall combined with Japan’s mountainous land causes floods.

Therefore, ancient Japanese had a deep appreciation and respect for nature and its powers. They believed nature was the place where kami lived. They used rivers, waterfalls and the ocean to perform purification, and mountain worship became especially important.
These ancient people also believed that beautiful places were sacred by themselves. Therefore, they created shrines and temples at sites of natural power and beauty.

Today nature worship underlies Japanese faith, even though it’s not as deep as it was in ancient times. We call a sacred place “Power Spot” where you can get spiritual energy, and visiting Power Spot is the recent trend in Japan.
One of my hobbies is the pilgrimage to Power Spot. I would like to guide you to such sacred places as Mitsumine Shrine in Saitama, Oarai Isosaki Shrine in Ibaraki, Kuon-ji Temple at Mt. Minobu in Yamanashi, Togakushi Shrine in Nagano, Kifune Shrine in Kyoto and Izumo Taisha Shrine in Shimane.

The severe environment above mentioned contributed to the development of sophisticated preventive measures and technologies. Japan has many anti-earthquake buildings. The Five-Story Pagoda of Horyu-ji Temple, which is the oldest wooden structure in the world, is also famous for its oldest earthquake-proof structure. Today, the technique of this structure is employed by Tokyo SkyTree, the tallest telecommunications tower in the world.

In addition, Japanese people have learned the importance of acting orderly during times of a disaster. People help one another. Some explain that the Japanese patience in a severe condition and the so-called Japanese collectivism originate in the natural environment.

If you should encounter an earthquake or a flood during our guided tour, please follow our instructions. Don’t worry. We are accustomed to natural disasters. Have a safe journey in Japan 😉

YUKI Takano, a member of iTWS japan LLP
e-mail: yuki.takano@i3ws.co.jp

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