What does "kuyo" mean?
In Japanese,"kuyo" can be understood as a memorial for various objects, as well as for people. For example, old dolls, sewing needles, mirrors, dead animals as well as people who have died. Are you wondering why people are remembered in the same way as objects? We do this is because in Buddhism we think that all objects, not only people, have souls. So we respect objects as well as people. Therefore, when we throw out old objects, we express our sense of gratitude to them. On some occasions, we even provide a service, like a funeral. In the Kanto region, which includes Tokyo, there is a Festival of Broken Needles on February 8th. This is known as Hari-kuyo. "Hari" means needle, and "kuyo" means memorial. In kuyo, we offer flowers, rice, water, lit incense, or burn kuyoed objects while praying with sincere gratitude. So there are tombstones for objects as well as people.
There is a goddess of toilets in Japan!
Her name is Ususamamyouo (烏枢沙摩明王). She brings luck with money and happiness for women. In ancient times, when the gods met to allocate their tasks, none of them wanted to be responsible for toilets. Who would want to clean toilets? But Ususamamyouo chose this job and so she was given a high position. Therefore, if she is pleased with how well we clean our toilets, we can receive good fortune. This can mean financial rewards, a good marriage, beauty, and beautiful children. It is also said that we can attain a richness of spirit.....especially if we clean the toilet with our bare hands while chanting her mantra, "on kurodanou un jaku sowaka.” Are you able to keep your toilet clean everyday?
Why do sumo wrestlers scatter a lot of salt before a bout?
Have you seen that sumo wrestlers scatter salt into the ring before their fight? High rank sumo wrestlers do this. Why?
In ancient times, sumo was an important ritual in the Shinto religion. Sumo was performed to pray for peace in the country and prosperous harvests. It was often used for fortune-telling; to forecast crop yields and fish hauls depending on the result of the bout. Salt was used to purify the sumo ring. The Japanese believe salt has the power to wash away uncleanness? So, salt was a very valuable commodity for the Japanese. Because Japan has no rock salt or lake salt, the Japanese had to make salt from seawater. It took a lot of time and effort. Salt was regarded as both sacred and important and is still seen as a purifying agent. Even today, we throw salt before entering the house when we come back from funerals. And you are sometimes able to see a small mound of salt in front of restaurants in Japan. This means the restaurant has already been purified. Do you think garlic has magical powers to protect against evil spirits in your country? Salt and garlic may have something in common with each other.
What is “Itadakimasu”?
The Japanese usually have two special phrases that are used before and after meals. They are “itadakimasu” and “gochiso-sama.” But what do we mean by these phrases?
“Itadakimasu” literally means “have something.” In the Shinto religion, we give thanks to all living things for the sacrifice they have made. By using the above phrases, we are showing respect. “Chiso” in “gochiso-sama” means “making a lot of effort.” “Go” is a polite prefix, and “sama” is the honorific word which gives respect to the person who prepared the food.
“Itadakimasu” and “gochiso-sama” are the words that express gratitude to the ingredients, the person/people who prepared it, and the gods.
“Itadakimasu” is basically a polite way to say, “thank you for the food.” It could be compared to saying Grace in the Christian tradition.