20100810

Summer Festivals

During the summer months, the churches in my parents' sect of Buddhism (Jodo Shinshu, a form of Mahayana Buddhism) hold fundraising festivals that they also use as an opportunity to share a bit of Buddhist/Shinto and Japanese culture with the local communities. Each weekend, a different church in the area holds its festival. Last weekend, my father and I headed South to Palo Alto for one of these festivals.

The church has its own adult taiko group, primarily women! June (foreground) and my father have been friends since childhood.

Dad and I actually went to the festival to watch his friend (right) play the shakuhachi, a flute made from bamboo. The woman on the left is playing a shamisen, a two-stringed instrument traditionally played by geisha.
Dad's friend played with three koto players. A koto is like a horizontal harp, but each string has a movable bridge, which tunes the string. Any time a key change is made, each string needs to be retuned to the new key... no mid-song key changes for this instrument!

 There were also ikebana (flower arrangements) and suiseki (rocks) displayed. Natural displays in Japanese art are typically abstractions of other natural scenes. In Japanese gardens and ikebana, things that are higher tend to represent the skies (clouds, sun, moon, treetops), while lower elements represent terrestrial elements (animals, minerals). I have no idea what this particular arrangement represents, though!
Suiseki are rocks that can represent a whole scene, a mountain, a tree, anything that it may resemble. What do you think this rock might represent? The person who found it saw a flower, specifically a chrysanthemum (which has relevance in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, although I can't remember exactly what!), but maybe you see something else in it.
In almost all Japanese arts, students may eventually go through what is essentially a certification process in order to be able to teach. When they pass this process, they also receive a "name" that they use in relation to the practice of that art. For many of these arts, the students must still travel to Japan to receive their name.

I had hoped to show stunning photos of the garden by now, but to be perfectly honest, the garden is languishing. Other than the blackberries, the plants just aren't flowering and fruiting as prolifically this year, and I wonder if something changed in my soil or if its the uncharacteristically cool summer we've had, or...