Monday, May 22, 2006

Peaceful Kitties

As I prepared my various Spring Kitties, I thought about those sleepy Kitties - some of my favorite varieties of regional line. I realized how I keep many of them close to my desk so that whenever I am feeling the stress of life, I just look to my left, my right or if its really bad, over my shoulder and take in the vision of those peaceful sleeping (or meditating) kitties. It always makes me feel better or I should say it actually interupts my bad patterns of thought. I even have a few "portable" kitties that I'll keep on my purse or briefcase for that quick fix during the work day, just to make sure I don't let myself get too overwhelmed or take things too seriously.

Chiba prefecture
Kanto, Japan

Kitty makes her pilgrimage to the Naritasan-Shinshoji Temple, perhaps to take part in legendary rite. She will pray to Fudomyoo, the buddhist divinity of fire, as a priest burns special sticks. According to tradition or legend, this rite was performed during a revolt in 939. On the 14th day, the revolt ended and Fudomyoo was given the credit. Today, it is believed that performing this rite honors Fudomyoo and in turn, he helps pilgrims like Kitty fufill her wishes by extinguishing ignorance, attachment to material things, and pulls them closer to enlightenment. The rite of prayer along with burnt offerings is called the Sacred Fire Rite or Goma

Kagoshima prefecture
Kyushu, Japan

Kitty has never been the same since she's seen Princess Mononoke! Here she takes in the nurturing care of a Japanese Cedar or Sugi tree in the lush forest of Yakushima island. Sugis are the national tree of Japan, but in Yakushima they are very special. Due to the altitude, these Sugi trees can grow to be almost 3000 years old. These old cedars are known as Yakusugis.

(I just call her Winter Kotasu Kitty)
Limited Seasonal Version

Kitty curls up to her Kotatsu, a table with a heater, covered with futon. Winter is raging outside her home, but she's oblivious. There are some versions out there that I covet not only for the plush but for the artwork. Being a displaced northerner living in a southern state sometimes I miss that peaceful, cozy feeling of coming in from the cold and cuddling up to a warm fire or radiator. When I got this kitty (plush, pen/pencil set, zipper mascot AND stationary!) I scanned the tag and blew the artwork up so I could have the full image of the warm, sleeping Kitty and the snow falling outside at night - definitely a comforting image from my childhood.

Limited Promotional Version

This series is not terribly remarkable but this little plushie says it all -- "ahhh...." very cute and very peaceful. As an aside, I have to admit that the recent offerings up at Asunarosha have been a bit blah as of late. I'm waiting for something like "Ramen Devas, 2006"! C'mon guys, let's get crazy!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Spring Fever

Ah yes, my vacation has finally arrived. Now I can indulge in my Kitty habits!

Spring sprang up a few months ago and if I'm not careful, summer will be in full steam before I've introduced the regional kitties that signify spring and along with it, the wonderful affliction of "spring fever." Here are a few of those traditional flowers of spring as well as the kitties that remind me of the sleepiness and the restlessness that comes with it.

Aomori Prefecture
Tohoku, Japan

Kitty rides a scattering sakura or cherry blossom that gently falls from one of the thousands of cherry trees that surround the medevial Hirosaki Castle. These beautiful flowers are in bloom for only a week so there is a lot of attention paid to "blossom forecast" or sakurazensen. In the "old days" the blossoms were used to indicate the time for rice-planting and to fortell the season's harvest. The aristocrats of the Heian days were a little more philosophical about the flowers, seeing them as a metaphor for the ephemeralness of beauty and life. Viewing these blossoms (or hanami) is still carried out today with special trips to popular areas such as Hirosaki Castle.

Fukuoka prefecture
Kyushu, Japan

Kitty poses as "the other" flower of spring; the ume or plum blossom. It is believed that the plum tree was introduced to Japan by the Chinese along with their tradition of hanami. In Dazaifu, the plum tree has special meaning. The famous Heian scholar and politician, Sugawara Michizane was exiled from Kyoto to Dazaifu after being falsely accused of treason. Legend says that when he was exiled, a plum tree is said to have followed him by flying from Kyoto to Dazaifu. Today, the flying plum tree or tobiume stands to the right of the front hall entrance of Dazaifu Tenmagu - one of the most important shrines built and dedicated to Sugawara Michizane.

Gunma prefecture
Kanto, Japan

Like her plum sister, Kitty looks reluctant to deal with spring and is perfectly happy to stay cloister in her tightly closed, yet cosy blossom. In the case of the mizubasho or (hang on to your noses) skunk cabbage, I'd be reluctant to step out of the blossom bud as well. The mizubasho, a lily like plant begins to sprout in the marshland bogs of Oze when the snow begins to melt. They say that May is the best time to see them in their full glory. Unlike her American counterpart, the japanese skunk cabbage doesn't smell.