Yes, you thought right, Exotissimo now has Japan as part of its expanding destination network. And what a country to add to our repertoire! The country shares several similarities with its Southeast Asian brethren, mainly in the field of mythology. And Japan is a haven for legends and parables, starting with its almost endless array of weird and unique creatures. Combining two belief systems, Shinto and Buddhism, it truly makes for some fascinating myths and legends. Let’s take a look at a few of the many out there.
Hmm, haven’t you heard of this before? Doesn’t the name sound familiar? Well, if you enjoy a lager or two, you may have come across a Kirin before. That’s right, it is a beer brand and it is named after an East Asian horse-like hooved animal with what appears to be fire throughout its body. It has an intimidating look, but is actually quite soft in nature, eating fruits and veggies and is an omen of good luck. Pound a few of those Kirin beers and you may just actually see one yourself. Be wary though, they may be hot!
- Maneki Neko
Here kitty kitty kitty. Here money money money. You think you can make the connection between a cat and fortune? Commonly mistaken as a Chinese thing, the Maneki Neko is nothing but a normal cat with a raised paw (or both) resembling a high five. You will see these ceramic felines at shop entrances, restaurants, salons and other businesses in hopes that it will draw in money like a magnet. There are several legends regarding the kitty, ranging from an accidental beheading of a cat by a swordsman (and the head landing on a poisonous snake, killing it), a feudal lord following a beckoning cat away from a lightning strike and a previous pet appearing in an old woman’s dream advising on making cat-like sculptures, which brought her some fortune.
What is myth and legend without a dragon? Europe’s got its own version, China’s got one, and Japan’s got its own giant lizard. Capable of exhaling both water as well as fire and with their long bodies and menacing face, they are a force to be reckoned with. And you’ll find them almost everywhere, especially at temples.
- The deer at Nara Park
For 74 years during the 8th century, Nara was Japan’s capital and many of the temples and shrines built at that time still remain. Most of these relics are in Nara Park. But wait, there’s more. Calling the place home are over 1200 wild sika deer. And yes, there’s a legend about them. The deer are highly revered because they were visited by the gods and acted as messengers. To hurt or kill these deer was punishable by death until 1637. Still, these animals are designated as National Treasures and are protected as such. Feel free to purchase some crackers and feed these divine animals.
- Torii gates
What is the best way to mark the entrance of a holy place? Perhaps an iconic gate would do the trick. The Torii gate is perhaps one of the country’s most iconic figures. Its legendary status begs the question, did it exist before Buddhism or did it arrive with the introduction of the religion? There is some evidence of similar torii-like structures at Buddhist sites in Southeast Asia, but the Torii itself are prevalent at Shinto shrines as well. What do you think?
So, all this mythology must get you pumped up for a Japan trip. Contact us and check back with Exotissimo in the next few weeks for unparalleled and unmatchable journeys into the mystifying, the incredible, the awesome Land of the Rising Sun.