Happy New Year of the Cow or Ox 2021 from Japan. Some will refer to this year as the year of the Ox or the year of the Cow; I prefer to use Cow, as an Ox is a castrated male for the Chinese, but the species is the same, and as a human being, I believe I should be kind to my fellow sentient beings, so I’m more comfortable using the year of the Cow. The year of the Cow signifies hard work, positivity, and honesty that will be manifested in all of us throughout 2021. In India and Buddhism and some Shintoists in Japan, the cow is a sacred, holy sentient being.
Rather than a picture of cows, I thought I would share with you one of my favorite power spots on our planet. This cover photo is of a gate that is one of the Japanese Imperial Court's twelve gates. Built-in 1636, there are over 500 wood carvings on this gate 194 are carvings of 30 different Mystical entities that are believed to live in a separate dimension and watch over us and visit us from time to time. These mystical beings from another dimension are known as 'Reiju Holly Spiritual Animal Entities”. Because of its reverence, I believe the cow to be one of the Holy Spiritual Entities, and many of my Buddhist and Shinto friends and colleagues agree. This power point is believed to contain numerous vortex points or portals of awakening - Chakras.
People who read my newsletter often read of me talking of power spots; what are their significance? I have found Zen-Buddhist Monks, Shinto priests, and artisans, such as painters and photographers who know these spots due to their majestic beauty and the energy that resides in and around them. Whether you were aware of it or not, everyone has visited a power spot. It could have been a moment of clarity, dizziness, or a moment of spiritual healing from the medicine Buddha or even Deja vu. Clarity takes different forms for different souls. Some read about it, but reading it is not living it.
In closing, 2020 has been an interesting year, and I believe 2021 & 2022 will be years of healing and meeting with acquaintances and visiting power spots around the world; and I feel fortunate because many who have read my current Luminous Landscape article or have traveled with me in the past few years, know that I feel that the concierge of the Zen forest guided my family to open a satellite office and home in what is sometimes referred to as Snow Country Niigata, but the region of Niigata where I am gets about as much snow as my Tokyo office. However, by contrast, I have discovered 100s of power spots here in Niigata, much more than Tokyo. Until 1603, when Tokugawa Ieyasu started building up what is modern-day Tokyo, the area was mostly swampland, with a few ancients districts that remain, so it could not be home to the number of power spots that money-hungry local tour guides and YouTube influencers plus tour companies claim. These entities are more concerned about revenue than introducing visitors to authentic Japan. Most international visitors get their information from guide books, so they feel they are getting the entire picture of Japan’s power spots, which lacks over 95% of the authentic power spots that exist in locations such as Niigata or where I travel with my clients on my annual Hokkaido Photo Tour, or my Essence of Autumn Photo Tour, and my annual Cherry Blossom Photo Tour. All these Japan Photo Tours are cross-country photography expeditions. Some of these power spots have festivals that coincide with our pilgrimage, and if I feel my clients would appreciate the experience, my team and I hold an impromptu meeting and decide whether we will visit the power spot and attend the festival. In some cases, these sacred spots and festivals have international visitors once every 20 - 30 years, and at others, I was the first the locals recalled having visited. If you think I’m tooting my own horn, here’s something to think about. In Japan, there are over 100,000 wild snow monkeys, but under 200 live at the Jigokudani Koen Snow Monkey in Nagano, and 99.5% of pro photographers and tourists make Nagano their destination for snow monkey photography.