Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chinatown, Part 2 and a Mini History Lesson

So I mentioned in my last post that there's a distinct Chinese influence on Okinawa, you wanna know why? Once upon a time, Okinawa was an independent kingdom (it started out as three kingdoms, which is kind of funny given the size of the island, but was eventually unified by the Sho dynasty if I remember my history book correctly, who ruled from Shuri Castle) and had its own culture and language, distinct from Japan and China. The island is strategically located for trade, so in time the Chinese came to Okinawa and made the island into a tributary nation--Okinawa had to send a certain amount of goods and money to the Chinese emperor as tribute every year. In addition, when an Okinawan king died, the new king had to send envoys to the Chinese court to get permission to be the next king, and the Chinese provided the king with a special seal. This went on for several centuries. Sons of noble families were often sent to China to study at the schools there and would return to Okinawa several years later to begin jobs in the government and such. So that's why there's a heavy Chinese influence on the island; historically Okinawa has been more closely allied with China than Japan. Japan didn't take over on Okinawa until the 1800s I think. So there you have it, back to the pictures!

Today's pictures are from Maso-byo, which is the temple to the sea goddess Ma Zhu in Yokohama's Chinatown. Since Ma Zhu is a patron goddess of the sea, she was prayed to by sailors for safe journeys, and the Chinese would build temples in her honor whenever they settled in a new place since they generally got there by boat. If you read the Wikipedia page linked above, you'll notice that Ma Zhu's story is similar to the one our guide told us about when Lee and I toured some shrines and temples on Okinawa. I looked through our pictures again and found a good one of the front of Kanto-byo so I added that in to the previous post.

Here's Lee at the gateway to the temple, but the temple is behind me. The shop across the street (the bright yellow building) had a ton of panda merchandise in it--I kinda wanted to buy one of the panda umbrellas since I don't think my old umbrella managed to make it to Okinawa, I haven't been able to find it. I forgot to go back to the shop when we left the temple though, so no panda umbrella for me.

The way the temple is set up, you go through the gates (see picture of Lee above) and into the forecourt area, seen here. You go up some steps to get to the temple itself--we didn't go inside since there were people in there praying, and we didn't want to disturb them by trying to take pictures of everything, so we just walked all around the temple and took pictures from there. Anyway, this picture is taken from the top of the steps so you can see the forecourt area and all the Chinese lanterns strung up from the gate to the temple. They had a place where you could buy incense to burn at the entrance to the temple.

This is my new blog header! If you're looking at the temple from the gate area in the forecourt, this is what you see on the wall directly below the temple--the stairs up to the temple go on either side of it. Once again, clicky da picky to see it bigger.

A closeup shot of one of the dragons that decorates the temple. The whole temple was done mainly in shades of blue and green, which makes sense since it's for a sea goddess. If you visit the official Maso-byo website, they even have waves making up the background to the webpage.

There were several light posts around the temple area that were decorated with golden dragons, kind of neat huh? They had some decorations a bit like this at Shuri Castle.

Another decoration, I think this one was on the wall around the forecourt area, I just snapped a picture of it as we were leaving. Maybe it was on the gate post...yeah it was, I just looked back at the first picture from this post. They had these fan-shaped decorations on the inside and outside of the gate.

And another shisa picture, this one's for you, Vicki! :) And I'm actually *in* this picture, flashing the obligatory peace sign. We were getting ready to leave the temple when a pair of older Japanese ladies stopped Lee and asked him to take their picture via sign language since they didn't speak much English and we don't know much Japanese. I had to laugh that they would pick out Lee to do that out of all the people who were wandering around the area, why wouldn't they ask a Japanese person? Anyway, he took their picture and they were extremely polite.

This is the mate to the shisa I had my picture taken with above. Lee had the big Nikon camera so I took this with our new little point and shoot--it's a Canon PowerShot SC880 IS Digital Elph, whatever that means. Takes pretty good pictures though and it's pretty tiny. It's the camera we used at Disneyland so we wouldn't have to lug around the big one--can you imagine taking a big honkin' camera on Space Mountain? No, thank you! Anyway, I liked this big closeup picture of the shisa. Seriously, I'm going to have to do a whole scrapbook of nothing but shisa pictures at the rate I'm going.

This last one was a decoration on the wall that goes around the temple complex, I snapped a picture of it as we were leaving. I had to get a picture of it since I have all those photos of real-life lotus from the botanical gardens :)

So that's it for Chinatown I think; I've still got some more pictures to post from this tour though so I'll be sharing those this week.


Liz Guidry said...

Lee has such an honest face, they knew he wouldn't run away with their camera. haha!

Love the pics and - WOW - there's actually proof that you were there. *GASP*

CCsMom said...

Hey, in the close-up of the Shisha face it looks like he (she?) has a ball in her mouth. Must be like Ginger and her tennis ball. Wonder if this one can bark with the ball in its mouth like Ginger can. Pretty funny.

Good to talk to you (finally). Sorry we have been out of pocket for the past couple of days -- just enjoying some time off from work. But it's back to the grindstone tomorrow. The redeeming fact for this next week, though, is it's a short one. Love ya, kiddo! -- Mom

Melissa A said...

Great pictures!