UniYatra Blog

Ameeta and Craig, along with the UniYatra Group, create and provide educational, cross-cultural, and technical products and services. We use this blog to share our ideas, experiences, questions, and discussion about everything from travel, culture, society, and learning. We encourage your comments! Learn more about us on the UniYatra Group Web Site.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Kyoto Monkeys (Kukurizaru at Yasaka Koshindo Temple in Kyoto)

Kyoto MonkeysAt Yasaka Koshindo Temple, near Kiyomizutera, we stumbled across a small shrine. Hanging outside were strings of stuffed items, and inside were the same items with words written on them. We discovered that these items were supposed to be monkeys are intended to help you eliminate some kind of desire. You write the desire you wish to disgard on the monkey (much like you write a prayer on an ema) and hang it in the shrine.

The following is the text of a handout about Kukurizaru from Yasaka Koshindo Temple in Kyoto:
Yasaka Koshindo Temple

Koshin-san (Shomen kongo (the blue warrior), one of the Buddhist guardians) likes good people. Therefore, divine favor is given to them. But he abhors bad people. Therefore, punishment is given to them. His wish is that everybody will become a good person. That is why he has an angry face so that humans will not have a wicket heart. He aids those who try with all their might to be a good person.

Kukurizaru (The Hanging Monkey)

The Kukurizaru is a monkey which has its hands and feet tied together and cannot move. It is said that the monkey is an animal very like man, but after all it is an animal that simply acts upon its will or desire. If you go to a zoo, you can see that a monkey just plays about as it likes. This figure is compared to the desire in man, and in order that "desire" can not come out it is tied by Koshin.

In order to have one of your wishes granted by the monkey, you should get rid of one of your desires.

When you put in the effort to fulfill your wish, your desire tries to come out and prevent it from coming true. So you must put your desire in the monkey and Koshin will help you control it. Therefore, if your desire tries to come out and you do a bad thing, or you lose the willto keep up your effort as though the monkey in you is playing about you should remember Koshin's angry face. You should warn yourself that "You will be punished" and you should control your desire like a hanging monkey. If you do a good thing the hanging monkey will help you as a servant of Koshin. If you feel a desire coming on, you should put your hands together, pray to Koshin, and recite the Buddhist sutra:


If your monkey gets dirty or old you should replace it with a new one. And, if you do not need it anymore, please sent it back to Koshindo.

Writer: Emi Kitagawa (Kyoto Saga University of Arts, Department of Tourism Design)
Email: b103901@kyoto-saga.ac.jp
Editor: Eleanor Robinson (Kyoto University)

Below are two pictures of the hanging monkeys with (I assume) desires of which people wish to rid themselves (sorry, a bit blury):

Kyoto Monkeys Kyoto Monkeys

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What in the World is This? (4)

I took this picture during a trip to India in 1991. Can you guess what it is?

Here's a hint: I took this picture while inside, looking up. And it allowed me to sleep comfortably at night.

Give up? It's a mosquito net.

During that trip many years ago was the first time I had ever seen such a thing. Heck, now you can find them at places like Pier 1 (perhaps for more decorative purposes?) and maybe even at camping stores.

Effective? Yes indeed!

Monday, September 19, 2005

TrueCrypt: open-source encryption software

I have been looking at applications that support file and folder
encryption on Windows-based computers. The ideal application should be
reliable, should be easy to use, should support multiple encryption
methods, should run and mount automatically when a configured removable
device (e.g., a USB Flash Disk or a mobile USB hard drive) is activated,
and should run self-contained (no software installation needed on the
host system).

Conclusion: Among the many free and commercial offerings, most appear to
offer solid, basic file and folder encryption. I am most impressed by
TrueCrypt, a free open-source disk encryption application for Windows
XP/2000/2003. TrueCrypt is easy to use, runs in a self-contained,
auto-mounting mode, supports a wide variety of encryption options
(including cascading options), and has good documentation and user
support via its forum web site.

Caveats: All solutions I found require administrator rights on the host
computer; so using these solutions on systems you have control (e.g.,
can install software on) should work fine, but they may not work well in
Internet Cafe's or on lab computers were user access is restricted.

For installation details, please see this document.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Gadgets: USB Flash Disk

Flash Disk, USB flash disk, flash drive, thumb drive? Any of these terms sound familiar?

If you haven't tried one, you'll be amazed by the small size, simplicity and usability of these devices. You can plug a USB flash drive into just about any computer and use it just like a floppy disk (just faster, more reliable, and with larger capacity).

Maybe you are interested in the technology behind these devices?

SANDISK Flash DiskFor over two years I have been using a variety of flash disks from SANDISK, their 128MB version, 256MB version, and 1 gigabyte version.Right now, a great price point is the 1GB SANDISK Flash Disk. The 1GB model was originally priced around $300, but you can find them now for under $80.

USB flash disks do have some limitations, though. They do not last forever and can, especially after being used for a while, fail or corrupt information you store on them. My USB flash disks have failed twice. The first time, I lost several files; they just disappeared after I tried to copy some files to it. The second time, I lost a large email archive I had stored. No warning, no errors, just *gone*.

So, think carefully about how you use a USB flash disk. One of its most convenient uses is to carry critical files with you when you go back and forth from home to the office or when you are travelling. As much of a pain as it is to make backups, save the information on your USB flash disk regularly and often. I use a free program called SyncBack. It can either backup or synchronize the files on your USB flash disk (or any other disk for that matter).

Also, remember one of the most important points of using removable storage devices: when you are done, stop the device from Windows before disconnecting it. A quick, illustrated how-to can be found on this How To Remove A USB Device web page.

You can scope out the features and performance of different USB flash disk models in the ArsTechnica "Son of the USB 2.0 Hi-speed Flash drive roundup" article.

If you are looking for something else to do with your USB flash disk besides store files, check out Portable Firefox and Portable Thunderbird. These hacked versions of your favorite Firefox and Thunderbird will run completely off the USB flash disk -- convenient when you're traveling or wanting to check your email with your own email client at an Internet Cafe.

In a future post, I will write about options for encrpyting information on your USB flash disk or other storage device.

UniYatra Interesting Links: World Food Program "Food Force" Game

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has produced a free, entertaining, and educationnal game called "Food Force". The premise: a major crisis has developed in the Indian Ocean, on the island of Sheylan. We’re sending ina new team to step up the World Food Programme’s presence there and help feed millions of hungry people. Downloads (200MB+) are available for PC and Mac.

For other links of interest, including Cuke Skywalker and Darth Tader in... "STORE WARS: THE ORGANIC REBELLION" and "Ashes and Snow", please see the UniYatra Group Interesting Links page.

Friday, September 16, 2005

UniYatra Interesting Links: "Store Wars"

Cuke Skywalker, Obi Wan Cannoli, Princess Lettuce, Chewbroccoli takes on Darth Tader in... STORE WARS: THE ORGANIC REBELLION. More information can be found in the Store Wars Press Release.

This Macromedia Flash movie was created by Free Range Graphics; they also produced:

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Japan: Rain Drain

Japanese Rain SpoutI was tempted to make this a "What in the World is This?" piece, but the answer would have been a bit too obvious.

In the US, we use gutters that guide rainwater all the way down to the ground and (hopefully!) away from the house.

I am fascinated by the "rain drains" in Japan: decorative and functional (I assume).

Japanese Rain Spout

Japanese Rain Spout

Japanese Rain Spout

Japanese Rain Spout

Japanese Rain Spout

Japanese Rain Spout

Japanese Rain Spout

Japanese Rain Spout

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Hindu Symbolism in Miyajima

Hindu Symbolism in Miyajima
Ameeta and I found these unusual statues in Miyajima, Japan. They are unusual because the statues represent Hindu gods, something generally not seen in Japan.

Professor Phyllis Larson notes that the characters read かんぎてん (kangiten) and the first two both mean joy or pleasure. Apparently this refers to religious joy. In my Japanese dictionary there is a reference to a religious person who receives the sutra with joy and protects it. In another dictionary, the word is listed as a Buddhist term that refers to heaven in the Jodo sect. The first dictionary also said that the top half is always an elephant, and the lower, human. But clearly this is a sign of Buddhist origins in Hinduism, don't you think?

Other details on this include:

Ganesh Worship in Japan by Satish Purohit:

Scholars commonly date the presence of Ganesha in Japan with the age of Kukai (774- 834), the founder of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. The centrality of the worship of Ganesha or Vinayaka or Kangiten, as he is popularly called in Japan, is a distinguishing feature of this cult. The doctrines, rituals and beliefs of the sect have a number of parallels with the cult of Ganpatyas, to which belonged saints like Gajanan Maharaj of Shegao, Maharashtra.

China, the land through which the Elephant-headed divinity entered Japan has Ganesha Sculptures dating back to the fourth century, which surprisingly predates any depiction of Ganesh in India. Both the lands recognize Ganesha as having converted to Buddhism.

Ganesha’s most popular form in Japan is the dual-Vinayaka or the Embracing Kangi. Two tall figures, elephant headed but human bodied, male and female, stand in embrace. The female wears a jeweled crown, a patched monks robe and a red surplice.

One definition of kangiten is:

Also read Kankiten. Also Shouten/Shouden 聖天. Abbreviation of Daishoukangiten 大聖歓喜天. The elephant-headed Indian deity Ganesa, who is also sometimes called Nandikesvara, Ganapat or Vinayaka. A son of Siva still worshipped as a deity who foils obstacles to ones actions and grants good fortune to new beginnings. He appears in the *Ryoukai mandara 両界 曼荼羅 as an elephant-headed deity called Binayakaten 毘那夜迦天. In China and Japan he came to be revered under the the name of Kangiten. Although in texts, two, four and six-armed forms are mentioned, in Japan Kangiten is usually shown as a pair of two-armed, elephant-headed deities in embrace. Images of Kangiten are rare and many are kept as secret images in temples and shrines. Many are small, and made of metal because his ritual involves pouring oil over the images. The ritual associated with Kangiten was secret and was part of other ritual observances, such as the goshichinichi no mishuhou 後七日の御修法 . In popular worship he signifies conjugal harmony and long life. There is an iconographic drawing of Kangiten in Touji 東寺, Kyoto, by Chinkai 珍海 (1091-1152).

Hokaiji in Kamakura contains a kangitenimage in its Kangiten Hall

At the southeast corner of the Temple grounds or on the right of the main hall stands a small structure, in which the statue of Kangiten (Nandikesvara in Skt.), an ICA, is enshrined. The statue with 152-centimeter height, made during the first half of the 14th century, is unique in that it has two elephant faces on two human bodies hugging each other. Originally, Kangiten was a god of Hinduism and was later employed by Buddhism. In Japanese folklore, Kangiten is believed to invite a conjugal affection and bless couples with children. Unfortunately, the statue is not on public display and the feretory door is always closed.

Kangiten can also be found at Gumyo-ji in Yokohama:

And, although not ordinarily on view to the public, the temple has a Buddhist statue called the Kangiten. This Buddhist image, which is originally a Hindu Deity, is carved in the unusual form of a man and woman embracing each other. Incidentally, if reservations are made for five or more people, it is possible to have a shojin Buddhist-style meal at the temple, consisting of purely vegetarian fare, without meat, fish or eggs. On such occasions, visitors are given the opportunity to see the Kangiten.

Finally, this book (which I have not yet read) contains a chapter on Hinduism in Japan: Ganesa : Unravelling an Enigma (ISBN 81-208-1413-4). Thanks to Google Scholar, the following exerpts relate to kangiten in Japan:

Ganesa is called Shoten (noble god), Daishoten (great noble god) and Tenson (venerable god) in popular parlance in Japan. [...] He is an important diety in the mantrayana (esoteric) school of Japanese Buddhism. [...] Shoten is also quite popular in the non-esoteric sects. In 1979, Ganesa was being worshipped in as many as 243 temples in Japan. [p. 163]

In Japan, Ganesa is known generally by three names: Binyakaten, the generic appellation Binayaka meaning Vinayaka, Shoten (Aryadeca) and Kangiten. His other names are Ganabachi or Ganapati and Ganwha (Ganesa). [...] The third epithet Kangiten applies to a unique type of Ganesa evolved in China and Japan known as the double (two-paired). Kangiten is a god of happiness; or joy who brings prosperity and promotes well-being. Thus, the Japanese Ganesa, like the Indian prototype, is both a vighnakarta, obstacle creator and vighnaharta, obstacle remover, in his tantric form he radiates happiness, joy. [p. 164]

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