New Year’s Day is not the day to visit Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island, if you want to avoid the crowds. It used to be a good day to visit if you wanted to see lots of Japanese ladies kitted out in kimonos, but there was hardly a kimono in site this year, just a rather drab assortment of padded coats and jackets…
The shocking truth is that the Japanese don’t do it in kimonos any more. Some go so far as to assert that the Japanese don’t do it at all, as was reported in a 2006 A-Bomb City exclusive podcast report.
Someone told me today that in the days of yore, the Japanese would dress up in their best kimonos because they were going to pay homage to the gods at the beginning of the year, rather as people used to put on their “Sunday Best” to go to church or chapel before the advent of the Neo Dark Age turned Sunday into Shopping Day Seven and all was reduced to a common, beastly mediocrity.
In the photo at the top of this report, the bunch of old coves who are waiting to get into Itsukushima Shrine look as if they are queueing up for a January bargain sale rather than for the sale of New Year’s blessings.
It was a lovely clear day, so there was a good view of the snow-dusted mountains in the background, but it was freezing cold, which is perhaps why our delicate contemporary Japanese with their runny-nosed susceptibility to all manner of “alerughee” and “infurenza” chose not to dress up in their kimonos. You may have heard that the Japanese are very “delicate” or “sensitive” – so they are, to catching colds.
Here’s a shot of the torii gate from the Noh stage, cunningly angled to conceal the the hideous monstrosity of a building that is the headquarters of some modern Buddhist cult and was built half way up the hill across the water directly opposite Miyajima.
Turning back to the main building, you can see the winter screens, put up to protect the delicate sensitivity of the visitors from the wrathful nipping cold of barren winter.
“The eye never tires of seeing,” Bacon wrote, but it does get a bit jaded after too much exposure to a single shade of Vermillion. Fortunately, some relief was to hand in the earthier hues of yon gracefully roofed pagoda (above) or in the snow-crusted planking on this here bridge to nowhere crossed by nobody not no how for nowt. That snow shall melt ere it be dinted with footstep of saint or sinner, I’ll warrant you.