Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Look Out, Tree!

This is a strange old thing. On the road to Ota (the next town over from Asahi) there's this enormous tree right in the middle of the road. It's quite a bizarre thing to come across as you're making your way up a twisting mountain road. I'm presuming the tree has some sort of religious significance because of the little shrine underneath it, which is perhaps why they didn't cut it down when they built the road. Posted by Hello

This is a close up of the shrine. These little things are absolutely everywhere - you often see them at the side of the road, or in the woods. You don't often see them in the middle of the road though. Posted by Hello

I've just been told by one of the teachers that there used to be a railway track to the left of the tree, but it was removed about 30 years ago and the road was built there instead. The rail track was part of a failed attempt to connect Sabae with Echizen - in the end it was too difficult to build a railway through the mountains, so they gave up.

When they came to build a road, the original intention was to cut the tree down. However, so many workers became sick or got injured that they decided the tree was cursed, and its life was spared. None of the teachers are sure whether the shrine was put there before or after the incident though, but it seems likely that it was there before.

I also found out a little about these roadside shrines. The little statues are called "Ojizosama", and are representations of the Buddha. In the olden days people used to stop and pray when they walked past them, but this rarely happens now thanks to the rise of cars. Another example of the dilution of Japanese tradtions, which most people I speak to seem to be very worried about.

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