Monday, April 23, 2018


The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy have joined with other fantasy creatures in a Group Giveaway at Instafreebie.  This is for book 1, Coming Home.

Here's the link.

Clean Fantasy Creatures Group Giveaway

Big changes coming for the TGSB series as Book 5, Noriko's Journey, moves to publication this summer.  As Azuki and Shota grow up, the series grows up, too, and Japan moves incredibly quickly to take its place on the world stage.  Advances in technology, education and diplomacy happening every day (and twice on Sunday!)

This giveaway runs through June.  Stock up on summer reading today!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Meiji Shrine with pictures!

Meiji Shrine is huge.  Built around a garden Emperor Meiji built for Empress Shoken, its vast forest is composed of individually planted trees from all over the country donated after their deaths when the Shrine was built to honor their souls, which are enshrined there.  Their bodies are buried somewhere else, in or near Kyoto.  There are two museums, the Museum, containing artifacts from the Emperor's life, such as his desk, carriages, uniforms and so on, a series of Imperial portraits, and many photographs.  The Annex, near Harajuku station, is much more accessible, and features a changing exhibit of collections, including clothing, accessories, personal items like desk sets, and often features photographs from what must be a staggeringly enormous collection.  I visit the Museum every few years -- that's a permanent collection  that doesn't change.  The Annex, however, I visit regularly and it's given me much information and many ideas for the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series.
Saturday, I was supposed to attend a hanami party to celebrate the close of the sakura season.  The group didn't send out location information, there were no signs, and the security guards and direction-givers stationed all around the park had no clue.
In Book 6, there will be a Shinto wedding -- a big one.  Saturday is a big day for weddings at the Shrine proper, so I went there instead.
First, one enters the outer shrine precincts through a gigantic Tori gate.  There are several of these.  One enters the inner precincts through a second gate.  The Shrine itself is inside a courtyard and includes several halls usually reserved for ceremonies and closed to the public.  There are any number of ancillary buildings where one arranges for various services and where various services are held, including the presentation and blessing of babies!  So many babies! Everyone was so happy, including the troop of security guards, whose main focus was clearing paths for people participating in ceremonies.
Wedding parties enter the courtyard and proceed to one of the inner halls where the wedding ceremony itself will be held.  These are private.  After the ceremony, the wedding party leaves the courtyard and processes to one of the photography areas.  One may watch, but the area is closed off to tourists.  After the photographs, the wedding party leaves and the bride goes into a screened off area where her first headdress is removed and her hair, make-up and clothes are refreshed while the groom waits, taking pictures on his phone and making jokes with the various attendants and experts.  When that's finished, there may or may not be photographs of the couple together, and then they go off to the reception.  One couple was kind enough to pose with a group of Chinese tourists on their way so the tourists could take pictures with them.
Pictures?  Yes, I took some.
Musician outside the entrance to the Park

Mendicant monks taking a break outside the entrance to the Park

One of the vast Tori gates signaling the entrance to the Shrine

Barrels of French Burgundy donated annually to the Shrine.  The sake is across the street.

Just out of sight on the right is the chief Shinto priest who will officiate.  The second Shinto priest is on the right.  Next come two Miko, young women Shinto priests, followed by the couple.  They are leaving the central Shrine after the ceremony.

The bride has an official attendant who helps her walk in her ungainly costume.  Coming in, there is another woman attendant on her other side.  Now, it's her groom on her right.  They're followed by guests and family.  The security staff clears the way for this procession as it leaves the central Shrine for one of the photography areas, where six or eight photographers, make-up artists, costume coordinators and others wait to help arrange things.

I saw FIVE separate weddings!  Everything is beautifully organized.  Each couple gets personal attention. Nothing feels assembly-line.  They are lovely ceremonies!