Shinto is the religion of the people of Japan, which is characterised by public shrines devoted to the worship of many gods. It is described as an action-centred religion made up of repeated practice of set rituals. These rituals are thought to cleanse impurities caused by wrong thoughts and deeds.
It is the same life whether we spend it crying or laughing. ~ Japanese Proverb
Aikido ~ (合気道 Aikidō, also 合氣道 using an older style of kanji) Literally meaning “harmony energy way”, or with some poetic license, “way of the harmonious spirit”, is a gendai budo – a modern Japanese martial art. Practitioners of aikido are known as aikidoka. It was developed by Morihei Ueshiba (植芝盛平) (also known by aikidoka as o-sensei (大先生)) over the period of the 1930s to the 1960s. Technically, the major parts of aikido are derived from Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu (大東流合気柔術), a form of jujutsu with many joint techniques, and kenjutsu (剣術), or Japanese sword technique (some believe the tactics in Aikido are especially influenced by Yagyū Shinkage-ryū). Aikido is also considered to contain a significant spiritual component.
Amaterasu is the sun goddess of Japan, the central goddess of Shinto, and the center of Japanese spiritual life. As the mythical ancestor of the Japanese Imperial Family, she forms the basis of their right to rule.
Izanagi is one of the first gods of Shinto’s cosmology. Together with Izanami, his female counterpart, he created the islands of Japan and populated them with many kami. Though he suffered a great tragedy, he went on to rule the Heavens and later help his daughter Amaterasu ascend to the divine throne.
Susanoo is the Japanese god of the sea and storms. A chaotic, stubborn, and foolhardy soul, he is also brother of Amaterasu, the Rising Sun and Queen of the Heavens. His quarrels with his sister eventually put him in conflict with Orochi, the eight-headed dragon.
Tsukuyomi is the Japanese moon god, a proud deity who represents the beauty and power of the moon. He committed an egregious crime in front of his wife Amaterasu, and was forbidden from ever seeing her again.
Inari is the kami of prosperity, rice, smithing, cunning, and craftsmanship. Portrayed variously as male, female, and androgynous, Inari is a complex and popular deity worshiped for more than a thousand years throughout Japan. Their prominence has led to the creation of a special type of shrine, focused primarily on smithing and rice cultivation as well as the preservation of foxes.
Raijin is the Japanese god of storms, a spirit of destruction and chaos who throws lightning and powerful thunderbolts while riding atop dark clouds. He is always accompanied by his companion gods, Fujin and Raitaro.
Fujin is a Japanese god of the wind, a demon born of the underworld who is a destructive force of nature, controlling all the winds of the world. He appears alongside his brother, the thunder demon Raijin.
Ame-no-Uzume is the Shinto goddess of dawn, an inventor of dances and comedy, whose positive self-image and quick thinking helped bring the sun goddess Amaterasu back to the world.
The Japanese god of luck and prosperity, Ebisu is a manifestation of the abundance of the sea. He is always shown with a smile and a laugh. Though he was rejected at birth, Ebisu would go on to become a benevolent, kind kami and one of the Seven Lucky Gods.
Ninigi introduced rice and civilization to Japan, then founded the Japanese Imperial family. He is the grandson of Great Amaterasu, the goddess of the heavens and the sun.
Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare. ~ Japanese Proverb
Kōan is a story, dialogue, question, or statement which is used in Zen practice to provoke the “great doubt” and to practice or test a student’s progress in Zen “on the way to enlightenment.”
The Japanese island of Okinawa nicknamed the Village of Longevity has residents with the highest life expectancy in the world. They also largely share a devotion to a Japanese philosophy known as ikigai (pronounced Ick-ee-guy), translated in a simple meaning as the happiness derived from being busy at some activity that holds meaning and purpose for them.
Ogimi, the friendly village of 3,000 of the world’s longest-living people, is known for its slow pace, ocean views, community gatherings, personal vegetable gardens and residents who smile, laugh and joke incessantly. They also take great pride in living to 100 and beyond. They have fewer chronic illnesses than most people, including cancer and heart disease, and their rate of dementia is well below the global average.
The concept of ikigai seems to be a very attractive but the full answer to a happy and long life is probably a combination of factors that include the usual suspects: diet, movement/exercise and having friends and community. What these “blue zone” (as according to Dan Buettner, the author of Blue Zones: Lessons on Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest) areas of longevity and happiness around the world have in common are residents who curate a simple life with few possessions, plenty of time outdoors, staying active with friends, getting enough sleep, and eating lightly and healthily.
Japanese take the concept of ikigai very close to their heart. To understand what an ikigai is you need to make three lists: your values, things you like to do, and things you are good at. The cross section of the three lists is your ikigai.
Studies show that losing one’s purpose can have a detrimental effect. Your ikigai is at the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing.
Since the dawn of time, some humans have lusted after objects and money only to feel dissatisfaction at the relentless pursuit of it, and instead focus on something bigger than their own material wealth. This has over the years been described using many different words and concepts, but it always came down to seeking the central core of meaningfulness in life.
Ikigai is seen as the convergence of four primary elements:
~What you love (your passion)
~What the world needs (your mission)
~What you are good at (your vocation)
~What you can get paid for (your profession)
Discovering your own ikigai is said to bring fulfilment, happiness and make you live longer.
How to find your Ikigai
To find your Ikigai you need to ask yourself the following four questions:
~What do I love?
~What am I good at?
~What can I be paid for now — or something that could transform into my future hustle?
~What does the world need?
10 rules to help find your Ikigai
In their book Ikigai The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles break down the ten rules that can help anyone find their own ikigai.
~Stay active and don’t retire
~Leave urgency behind and adopt a slower pace of life
~Only eat until you are 80 per cent full
~Surround yourself with good friends
~Get in shape through daily, gentle exercise
~Smile and acknowledge people around you
~Reconnect with the nature
~Be grateful for everything, especially things that brightens our day and makes you feel alive
~Live in the moment
~Follow your ikigai
~Follow your curiosity
When we’re children, we wander and are constantly curious about world that surrounds us. As we grow, we put ourselves in roles that we think we ought to play and restrain ourselves from being curious. The problem for millions of people is that they stop being curious about new experiences as they assume responsibilities and build routines.
We are born wild and curious. Our insatiable drive to learn, invent, explore, and study deserves to have the same status as every other drive in our lives. Fulfilment is fast becoming the main priority for most of us. Millions of people still struggle to find what they are meant to do. What excites them. What makes them lose the sense of time. What brings out the best in them.
Albert Einstein once said: “Don’t think about why you question, simply don’t stop questioning. Don’t worry about what you can’t answer, and don’t try to explain what you can’t know. Curiosity is its own reason. Aren’t you in awe when you contemplate the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure behind reality? And this is the miracle of the human mind — to use its constructions, concepts, and formulas as tools to explain what man sees, feels and touches. Try to comprehend a little more each day. Have holy curiosity.”
Long ago all the elements were mixed together with one germ of life. This germ began to mix things around and around until the heavier part sank and the lighter part rose. A muddy sea that covered the entire earth was created. From this ocean grew a green shoot. It grew and grew until it reached the clouds and there it was tranformed into a god. Soon this god grew lonely and it began to create other gods. The last two gods it made, Izanagi anf Izanami, were the most remarkable.
One day as they were walking along they looked down on the ocean and wondered what was beneath it. Izanagi thrust his staff into the waters and as he pulled it back up some clumps of mud fell back into the sea. They began to harden and grow until they became the islands of Japan.
The two descended to these islands and began to explore, each going in different directions. They created all kinds of plants. When they met again they decided to marry and have children to inhabit the land. The first child Izanami bore was a girl of radiant beauty. The gods decided she was too beautiful to live in Japan, so they put her up in the sky and she became the sun. Their second daughter, Tsuki-yami, became the moon and their third and unruly son, Sosano-wo, was sentenced to the sea, where he creates storms.
Later, their first child, Amaterasu, bore a son who became the emperor of Japan and all the emperors since then have claimed descent from him.
Pagodas are tower-like structures often characterized by multiple eaves stacked on top of another. Seen throughout Asia, pagodas are adaptations of India’s Buddhist stupas, which were initially built to house the remains and relics of the Buddha. As Buddhism spread throughout Asia, stupas became a vital feature of Buddhist temples and their traditional dome shape slowly evolved into what we now know as a pagoda. Similar to stupas, pagodas were initially used to hold Buddhist relics, though many have since lost this function. The number of eaves on a pagoda sometimes has a symbolic meaning. In Japan, for example, it’s common to see pagodas built with five different tiers. These represent nature’s five elements: earth, fire, water, wind, and space.