The Japanese Inspiration to Breakup with Your Past

A country whose food recipes span over a longer timespan than the history of some modern nations, Japan is one place where traditional heritage and modernity exist side by side in everyday life. Japanese culture is well known for its food, polite and hardworking people, as well as its beautiful blend between the old and the new.

 For those who are lucky enough to visit the country, Japan’s shrines and temples offer a glimpse into the country’s unique history and modern traditions.  Japan is riddled with literally thousands of temples and shrines; some are very famous touristic destinations where visitors flock to in thousands each year, especially during festival times.

The Japanese Old and New. Source:

But what exactly is the Difference between Japanese Shrines and temples?

The main difference between the two structures is that shrines are Shinto, and temples are Buddhist, which are the two main religions in Japan. The Shinto religion was founded around 500 B.C; its primary tenant is the Japanese devotion to invisible spiritual beings and powers called kami and to various rituals. Kami could be ancestral spirits; gods that are associated with natural elements, such as mountains, seas, lakes; or gods with specific attributes such as the Japanese god of war Hachiman, or the god of death  Shinigami.

A Shinto shrine gate is called torii; and while they have 15 different styles, they are all commonly made from wood, and look much simpler than Buddhist temple gates, which are called Sanmon. For Buddhist temples, gates usually have three entrances. Each gate is thought to represent an aspect of Buddhist training needed to achieve enlightenment: emptiness (mu; 空), formlessness (muso; 無相), no-action (musaku; 無作).

For today, I wanted to visit the Yasui Konpira-gu Shrine.

Most of us have one or two things we are unhappy about in our lives. Did you ever look back at a period in your life, where you felt overwhelmed by complicated and harmful relationships, health issues, career mishaps, etc. etc. and many other problems that drain your energy on a daily basis.

Sometimes you feel the need for a fresh start, away from all the melodrama, the sadness, and pain you experience in life. At that moment, when you say “enough is enough” to your past mishaps, and strive to find a new way of telling your life story, the universe might just send you a signal for what exactly you need to do. Or, you can get a signal for how to start.

For me, the realization of the need for a fresh start came in the form of inspiration from Japan.  

But wait, what does Japanese culture have to do with breakups and new beginnings?!

Remember the Kami I mentioned above? They are believed to reside in shrines. However, since shrines house different kami’s, each one is frequented for a different reason; you could visit one shrine to ask for good luck in your business, another one to bless your love life, and a third one to pray for good health and vitality.

Tucked away in the Gion geisha and entertainment district of downtown Kyoto, Yasui Konpira-gu is a small Shrine off the beaten track where women flock to pray for breaking off bad relationships and initiating good ones. Also, the shrine enables visitors to pray for ending disease, bad habits, and harmful associations.

Yasui Konpira-gu, Gion, Kyoto. Source:

A ritual is performed where the visitor crawls through a hole in a large stone, known as the enkiri (separation) or enmusubi (marriage) stone. Afterward wishes written on a white, paper amulet, called katashiro, is pinned on the stone along with the thousands of others covering it. Older charms are removed and burned over time.

So while you might not be able to go all the way to Japan to visit such a temple, its story renders inspiration for the need to cut ties with harmful associations holding you back from fulfilling your highest potential. Whether you choose to take immediate action to change your life or pray your way out of it in a method unique to your particular faith, let’s take a page out of Japanese culture and let go of bad things.

6 of the World’s Most Unique Looking Churches

Church of the Transfiguration (Kizhi Island, Russia)

While this Church does not have the typical look and feel of a Russian
Eastern Orthodox Church, its unique wooden structure and many roofs and bulbs give it an attractive look that makes it an exceptional building. Constructed in the 18th Century, it is one of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the Kizhi Island.

Continue reading “6 of the World’s Most Unique Looking Churches”

How Mexico Found its Identity Through Art

The Mexican nation has a vibrant and rich culture influenced by the many civilizations which merged into modern Mexico; from the Aztecs and Mayans to the French and Spanish. Their history is very long and fascinating it actually took me three weeks of research to settle on an angle for this article, and no I didn’t land on just one.

Continue reading “How Mexico Found its Identity Through Art”

Nagiub Mahfouz Cafe and Restaurant – A Stroll into a Forgotten Past

Most people living in Cairo above the age of 30 have no need for an introduction about the famous Naguib Mahfouz Cafe. For others who have never heard about the place, they are in for a treat. Nestled in the small roads of Khan El Khalili, the restaurant has been in operation for nearly 30 years. The cafe’s reputation is mainly due to its unforgettable name of the Egyptian Nobel Literature Award Writer, whose signature adorns the first wooden poll you see as you enter the cafe. 

Egyptian Tarboosh

Coming up to the Cafe’ nothing on the exterior gives away the ambiance inside. A closed wooden door, with a modern placket and a security gate, gives the impression of entering a forbidden, high-security location. Once inside, you are greeted by male waiter’s in tarabeesh – a traditional Egyptian headdress outlawed by Gamal Abd El Nasser in the aftermath of the 1952 revolution – and the sound of an oriental live musical performance of anoon, mixed in with the loud bustle of a crowded cafe.

Egyptian Oud

For those of us who enjoy oriental music but are not overly fond of loud cafe’s, Naguib Mahfouz offers two secluded restaurant locations close enough for you to hear the music, but private enough to enjoy talking to your dinner companions, which is where I preferred to sit with my brother and his fiance’.  From the moment we sat down to our tables, we were hooked. The rustic Egyptian decor, coupled with the ambiance and the traditional Egyptian menu, transformed us to a time when women were referred to as hanem, (lady) and men were either a bey or pasha (lord).

Between the three of us, we ordered three different dishes, and none of us were disappointed by the food. We ordered the traditional Egyptian pigeons dish, mix grill with rice dish, and I sampled the grilled half chicken with pasta casserole or makaroona bashamel. The grilled chicken had just the right amount of herbs to create a savory but healthy taste, which was nicely complemented by the filling pasta casserole. The pasta had a small hint of cheese in the white sauce, giving a nice twist to a traditional taste. Every dish simply had the exact amount of herbs that complement the natural flavor of the meats.

To fully engage in the Egyptian spirit, you could follow the traditional wisdom to digest food, where Egyptians usually drink red tea with mint, and smoke hookah, both of which are offered in the cafe section of Naguib Mahfouz. There you can fully immerse yourself in the music and ambiance of a traditional crowded Egyptian cafe’.

If you ever find yourself in Cairo, and want to taste local cuisine in an unforgettable locale, Nagiub Mahfouz is definitely the place to go.