Shrines and Temples in Tokyo and Seoul

Visiting temples, shrines and cathedrals can be an inspirational way to connect with the community when visiting a new place. I enjoy visiting cathedrals in Europe, and I love to find the smaller ones located in villages, rather than the huge, famous ones in the big cities. These are usually quiet and deserted, which makes for a nice place to meditate. I have also been inspired by temples and shrines.

My husband and I visited Shinto and Buddhist temples and shrines on our recent trip to Tokyo and Seoul. One of the first ones we stopped at was Akagi Shrine in Kagurazaka, Tokyo.

Pictured above are the small wooden plaques called Ema, that are used by Shinto and Buddhist worshippers to record their prayers and wishes. At some point later they will be ritually burned to release the writer from the prayer or wish.

Not far from this shrine is Zenkokuji Temple which was built in 1595. I hesitated to enter since worshipers were coming and going, but I received smiles and bows, so it seemed appropriate for me to wander here.

In Seoul we visited Jogyesa Temple where there was a chrysanthemum festival in progress. The flowers were beautifully formed into in shapes of animals, flowers and many other objects.

What intrigued me the most about Jogyesa Temple was the service that was going on in the main building. The drums, chanting and bells were completely captivating. The worshippers were seated on the floor bowing, praying and participating. it was a beautiful site to witness. I wish I could have joined them, but I didn’t know if that would have been appropriate, so I viewed and listened from outside among the flowers.

I have always felt that it is imperative to be open minded, respectful and courteous of the beliefs of others, and never to mock, smirk or pass judgement. We all cling to our belief systems, and we may fall short on many occasions, and that is where forgiveness and grace come in. In this time of divisiveness, hatred, finger pointing and accusations, maybe we all need to give a little more grace and forgive a little more often.

Seoul, South Korea, a Few Highlights

Seoul, a city we have all heard about and one that is in the news frequently, and one I never thought I would visit, but I am certainly glad I did! It is filled with modern technology, fashion, K-Pop and skyscrapers; but you will also find a traditional Hanok village, ancient palaces and temples, and Koreans wearing hanbok, the traditional South Korean dress for formal or semi-formal occasions. It’s a mixture of old and new with a rich history rolled into a bustling, fast paced modern city.

The Bukchon Hanok Village was high on my list of destinations here. Hanoks are traditional Korean houses. Many of the houses in the village have been converted into shops and cafes, while retaining their original design.

The Bukchon Observatory is a great place to get some fantastic views of the city. It’s a steep climb to the facility, but well worth the effort.

Another must see is Gyeongbokgung Palace, with the changing of the guards.

The Lantern Festival at Cheonggyecheon Stream is spectacular and a must see for those visiting in November.

These are just a few highlights of Seoul; there are more places to visit and more blogs to post, so stay tuned. As always, please leave a comment with your thoughts and favorite activities in Seoul.