Sake Kegs at Sengen Shrine in Shizuoka City
One noticeable difference between Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines (Shinto is the native religion) in Japan is that shrines exhibit the empty kegs of sake offered by believers (the original meaning of « Sake » is « food of the gods ») whereas Buddhist Temples don’t.
Sengen Shrine in Shizuoka City which is one of the most important in the Prefecture does exhibit quite a few.
Not all are sake made inside Shizuoka Prefecture, though.
At least investigating the one produced inside Shizuoka Prefecture provide quite a few insights!
Therefore it will be a pleasure to help you discover them!
« Kaiun/開運 » is the brand name of the sake produced by Doi Brewery/土井酒造 in Kakegawa City/掛川市 in central-western Shizuoka Prefecture.
« Garyuubai/臥龍梅 » is the brand name of Sanwa Brewery/三和酒造 in Shimizu Ku, Shizuoka City/清水区静岡市 in central Shizuoka Prefecture.
« Aoitenka/葵天下 » is the brand name of the sake produced by Yamanaka Brewery/山中酒造 in Kakegawa City/掛川市 in central western shizuoka Prefecture.
« Hana No Mai/花の舞 » is the brand name of Hana No Mai Brewery/花の舞酒造 in Hamamatsu City/浜松市 in western Shizuoka Prefecture.
« Senju/千寿 » is the brand name of Senju Brewery/千寿酒造 » in Iwata City/磐田市 in western Shizuoka Prefecture.
« Kumpai/君盃 » is the brand name of Kumpai Brewery/君盃酒造 » in Shizuoka City/静岡市 in central Shizuoka Prefecture.
« Haginishiki/萩錦 » is the brand name of Haginishiki Brewery/萩錦酒造 in Shizuoka City/静岡市 in Central Shizuoka Prefecture.
« Takasago/高砂 » is the brand name of Fuji-Takasago Brewery/藤高砂酒造 in Fujinomiya City/富士宮市in eastern Shizuoka Prefecture.
Now, this keg belonged to a defunct brewery!
« Chuumasa/忠正 » was the brand name of Yoshiya Brewery/吉屋酒造 in Shizuoka City/静岡市 in central Shizuoka Prefecture.
Their license was bought some two years ago by a new brewery called Suruga Brewery/駿河酒造 also in Shizuoka City. As for the Chuumasa brand name it is still used by Suruga Brewery.
As for this brewery, there are a lot questions marks left! (would you believe that one of my Japanese-side relatives is actually working there!)
« Kihei/喜平 » is the brand name of Hikari Brewery/平喜酒造 in shizuoka City/静岡市 in central Shizuoka Prefecture.
Now, Hiraki Company which originally (and still is) a liqueurs and drinks distributor originating from Kakegawa City bought Hiraki Brewery in Okayama Prefecture in 1956 and then established their headquarters in Shizuoka City to sell the sake made in their brewery in Okayama Prefecture.
Two years ago, having acquired the license of defunct Dogatsuru Brewery in kakegawa City they started their second brewery called Shizuoka-Hiraki Brewery/静岡平喜酒造. When interviewed the Association of Sake Brewers in Shizuoka Prefecture assured me that they would only market sake made in Shizuoka City inside Shizuoka Prefecture. Unfortunately it was completely untrue! Moreover their representatives or master brewers never appear at events featuring their brand!
« Fukki/富貴 » of the eponymous brerwey is from Shizuoka Prefecture but they produced pure sake alcohol to be blended with jumai sake in Shimizu Ku, Shizuoka City. They were an official member of the Association of Shizuoka sake Brewers until two years ago. They haven7t been mentioned there since then. I wonder why… actually I know!
Stone Lanterns at Sengen Shrine in Shizuoka City!
Yesterday, having some time on hand, I paid a visit to the Sengen Shrine, the largest Shinto Shrine in Shizuoka Ciy.
I had planned to take some pictures of dragons, but to my disappointment they were too few and unintereting.
On the other hand I discovered many traditional Japanese stone lanterns.
They are called tourou/灯籠 in Japanese.
They have been there since immemorial times though candles have been replaced by electric devices nside.
With all the tress, shrubs and hedges around it is easy to create some unexpected pictures!
These lanterns are either geometrically placed in front of smaller shrines or in rows along the many paths crisscrossing the very wide shrine properties.
At night you would certainly need the lanterns to find your way up the stairs to that very dark shrine!
Actually shrines are all either deep red or charcoal black, colors which would both make them invisble at night!
Interestingly enough the small wooden board notice warns to beware of the danger of the lantern! In day time? Unless you want to push it down in spite of its very heavy weight! Or maybe to warn drunk people during the New Year festivities?
Taken at an angle you can see the lanterns in a staggered manner!
Another graphic possibility!
Some of these lanterns are so old they have become a virtual garden!
They almost seem to march around a bend!
Some are almost hidden under the trees of the many gardens and small parks.
As far as I know there are only two types.
There were only a few of those roundish squat types, probably the older kind.
Thanks to the lichen patterns you could say they were all different!
Now, what’s that?
A bird’s nest, probably that of swallows!
It had been left undisturbed in spite of being presently vacant. After all such nests are considered as lucky in Japan, so cleaners see no need to take them away!
Inari Dai Myojin Shrine at 1,000 meters in Shizuoka City!
It takes a good hour by car to reach this spot in Umegashima, Aoi Ku, Shizuoka City, along and above the Abe River at 1,000 meters at the very end of the road where you are greeted by a minuscule Shinto Shrine.
The sign says « 1,000 meters, the highest tea fields in Japan! »
The red color is arguably the most used color for Shinto Shrines which are found in far more places than Budhist Temples especially in rural Japan!
This « Torii/鳥居/Bird Gate », for all its small size is remarkable for the fact that the top beam was made with the bottom part of a tree to show a pointed horn at its tip! Very rare actually! The whole portal was created by with logs sawed by the small log company just a few meters away!
For the people interested with such facts, the name of the shrine is called « Inari Dai Myoujin/稲荷大明神 »!
« Inari » is also the name of a sushi. Can you guess why? « Ina » means « rice » and it was offered inside rice straw balls at such shrines to pray for bountiful crops whose shape has been copied to make inari sushi!
This very spot is heavens for photography buffs!
SN3O4806take a zoom with you to catch to the different grey hues of the mountain reminding you of a Chinese ink painting!
Ooi Shinto Shrine in Shimada City!

Torii/Portal at the entrance of Ooi Shinto Shrine
Whatever City you visit in Japan, down to the smallest mountain village, you will discover at least one Shinto Shrine venerated by the locals. And if you are lucky enough to visit them during traditional holidays or festivals they become an unending source of lore study and photography!

Hand-washing fountain.
How do you recognize a Shinto Shrine from other cult sites?
It is actually very simple even if you can’t read any Japanese!
1) The entrance is always marked with « torii/鳥居/portal », however tiny the shrine.
2) You will usually find a hand-washing fountain/basin.
3) Entrance is free contrary to some of the shrines of other beliefs. Actually you will often see children playing in their yards in daytime.

Ooi Shrine garden
Now, if you happen to pass through Shimada City, by road or train or on your way from the International Airport take a couple of hours off for a leisurely visit of Ooi shrine/大井神社 as it is only a 10-minute walk from the railway station!
It is just the right size and a true representative of the long local history and culture.
It is also within walking distance to places such as Setsugekka Soba Restaurant where you could take a beautiful lunch before proceeding to the next stage of your trip through Shizuoka Prefecture and Japan!

Shimada Obi Festival Dancer Statue
Shimada is celebrated for its Shimada Obi/belt Matsuri/Festival, an event officially designated as one of 20 strangest/most original festivals in Japan. It is held every 3 years on the Years of the Tiger, Snake, Monkey and Wild Boar!

A young dancer of the other celebrated Shimada Festival, the 300-year old Daimyo Gyoretsu, which imitates the procession of a grand jumangoku (one hundred thousand koku, units of rice) daimyo with a total of 250 marchers stretching over 500 meters!

The New Year is an important time for the Shrine to collect money through the sales of New Year decorations!

The New Year is a great time for photography when people of any age and station visit the shrine!

New Year Decorations sales booth.

The Shrine has a small and cute garden with a carp pond and arched bridge!

2012 being the Year of the Dragon, so it would be a good idea to search for hidden representations of the fabled creature!

An ancient hand-washing basin inside the garden!

Traditional paper lanterns/chōchin (提灯), make for great photographs!

A sacred cow, symbol of fertility and wealth!

A « Kappa »!
Keep your eyes open and you will discover some very intriguing statues such that of a « kappa/河童”, the Japanese cousin of the Scottish kelpie!

The French will be glad to discover frogs everywhere!

More dragons spouting water instead of belching fire!

Lions help the dragons guard the shrine from evil spirits!
Looking forward to meeting you at the next shrine!

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