Shrine Relaxes Me

essay, Feb. 2019

MONICA

I’ve been working in administration at full time for about two years, and the other day, my manager offered me a job in accounting. To me, it’s a more professional job and position, so I felt that the door to a new world had just opened.

I have raised my children overseas for more than 10 years. After I came back to Japan, they all have grown up, so I started to work. I’m over 50, that is, not so young anymore, but I still want to try something new. So, I’m willing to take the offer.

However, on the other hand, I’m disturbed by the relationships with my colleagues. They even try to prevent me from getting a new job and position. Really, I’m pissed off.

You know, it’s like water in the glass that overflows. I have so many mixed emotions that I can’t keep them from overflowing now.

At times like these, I always seek answers at the bookstore. I take a book in hand by instinctively at random. Most of the time, it’s the book that gives me an answer for my difficult situation.

The book I chose this time said, “Being tired is the same as being haunted”.

Let me explain. “Tired” and “haunted” are both “tsukareru” in Japanese. When you are tired of something (or some bad situations), you are also haunted by something bad. So, the author said he would go to a shrine to purify his heart and body.

So, I thought maybe it would be a good place for me to relax and clear my mind. You know, this would be a good exercise too.

And I came up with an idea that I would collect stamps of shrines, since each shrine has its own individual stamp. I went to Haibara, a store which sells pretty Japanese papers and stationery, and bought a stamp book. There were many stamp books with unique designs, so I took a long time to consider, haha.

Haibara is a smaller than a convenience store, but it’s very famous. Many middle-aged ladies were going in and out the store. One old lady was staring at the letters written on Japanese paper. I was surprised there was still someone writing a letter in this digital age!

After I left Haibara, I headed directly for Yushima Tenjin shrine. After all, I married a man whose ancestors were Kan-nushi (a Shinto priest) of Tenjin shrine.(1) So, I thought it was the best choice to visit first. It’s famous and one of the major shrines in Tokyo.

It was smaller than I thought, but many people were praying, even though it was not a period of college entrance exams(2). My son told me that there were many hospitals nearby so patients and their families stopped by.

Not only visitors, but also I saw a group of seniors who were taking sketch lessons. I was impressed by how many people this shrine attracted on such an ordinary day.

Till that point, I thought shrine stamps were just stamps, but then I googled it, and realized they were much more.

Stamps are not mere souvenirs of your visit, but proof that you get a bond with God of the shrine you visit.

I was nervous because it was my first time to get a shrine stamp. But once I showed the first page of my new stamp book to a priest, he smiled, sealed a stamp and wrote a date.

Behind me there was a person holding an original stamp book of this shrine, and behind her there were three middle-aged women opening a page in the middle of old stamp books. Really, this shrine is very popular.

After that, I sat on the bench, closed my eyes and counted numbers for a half an hour. I didn’t call it a meditation. I was just trying to calm my feelings and clear my mind.

All that focus and calming made me work up an appetite! I left the shrine and looked for some cafes or restaurants. In front of the shrine, there was a restaurant named “Sabo-Matsuo”. From outside, I could see western couples eating lunch.

But unfortunately, the lunch menu was sold out, so I changed my mind and bought monaka, Japanese sweets with red beans, as a souvenir for my family.

Nearby, there is a famous restaurant “Tori-tsune” that serves oyako-don, a rice bowl with chicken and eggs. So, although I was still unsure what to feel about the accounting job and my co-workers, my shrine efforts did help my appetite and my focus: I made up my mind–next time when I visit Yushima Tenjin shrine, I will definitely eat lunch there.

Way to go:
To Yushima Tenjin shirine from Tokyo train station:
Open Google Map

To Haibara from Tokyo train station:
Open Google Map

Footnotes:
(1)Shinto is a Japanese traditional and local religion. Each shrine worships a different God. Tenjin shrine worships Michizane Sugawara, a scholar and politician around 900 A.D.. He is now treated as a God of wisdom.

(2)In the period of college entrance exams (in January and February), many students and their parents visit Tenjin shrine to wish a success.

written by

MONICA

Work for kimono company. Love skin care, fashion and bread. Mother of 3 children.

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