A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

The POWER SPOT Boom Has Thousands of Women ( and a fair share of men, as well) Flocking To Meiji Shrine`s Gyoen Garden- But Unfortunately, the Presence of All These Ladies Has Driven Away the Tits- the Varied Tits ( the Japanese song bird- the yamagara), that is!

A Varied Tit ( yamagara) in Meiji Shrine`s Inner Garden

By Avi Landau
Harajuku, that trendy neighborhood right in the very heart  Tokyo, has long been one of the best places in all of Japan for observing Tits. In fact, many a time while there, I have held up my arm, and within a minute or two a Tit had come right into my hand! That is because the beautiful and usually quite elusive wild songbird called the yamagara in Japanese ( and the Varied Tit, in English), has long found the extensive and varied forest surrounding the Meiji Shrine to be a perfect habitat. These birds ( which are found only in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan) were so comfortable in the shrine`s forest ( created by planting 100,000 trees of more than 100 species from all parts of   Japanes), that they lost their usual fear of man there, and would regularly come down from the trees to take food out of peoples` hands. I have always thought this to be was one of the great nature experiences of Japan, and certainly of Tokyo.

A Varied Tit (yamagara) in Meiji Shrines Inner Garden

I say WAS, because the familiar presence of  Meiji Shrine`s  yamagaras ( Varied Tits)  might well have become a thing of the past! I was very disturbed to learn of this situation from an equally saddened gentleman who works at the entrance gate to The Meiji Shrine`s Gyoen Garden ( 明治神宮御苑).
I had dropped by to feed the Tits, and upon reaching the entrance to the garden ( just past the second Torii gate, on the left), I found a VERY LONG LINE. These were people ( mostly women), who had apparently been waiting FOR HOURS, just to have a chance to get near Japan`s hottest new POWER SPOT- The Kiyomasa no Ido ( 清正の井戸), or Kiyomasa`s Well, which is located imside the garden.

The long lines outside Meiji Shrine`s Inner Garden

I bypassed the line and headed straight for the gate where the man recognized me as a familiar face and fellow bird-watcher. He immediately and sorrowfully told me: ” The Yamagara are gone! These crowds have scared them off ” ! It took a moment for this to sink in, and when it did, all I could do was just turn my head to take a long, accusing look at the  line of POWER SPOT enthusiasts. I could only hope, along with the man working at the gate, that like so many other fads in Japan, this one would not last long. Maybe, with some luck, when the crowds of girls were gone, the Tits would come back to the shrine.

The long lines at the Kiyomasa No Ido ( Kiyomasa`s Well)- one of Japan`s hottest POWER SPOTS

Now you may be asking: what is this POWER SPOT BOOM?
Well, let me try to answer this questions.

Ta-Da-! Introducing Japan`s hottest new POWER SPOT- Kiyomasa`s Well!

In recent years it has become quite popular, especially for young women, to visit spots which are said to emit positive KI energy ( 気). If you want to know anything more specific about what exactly this energy is, I really cant help you. All I can say is that in ancient China and later in Korea and Japan, many have traditionally believed in the presence of this energy and also that somehow gathering it up can have beneficial effects, in terms of both better physical condition and better LUCK!

One of the many many posters on the TX (Tsukuba Express) train line advertizing Mt Tsukuba ( the entire mountain) as a POWER SPOT

So do not be surprised if you ask a young Japanese woman about her weekend or vacation plans and she tells you she will be going to visit a  power spot, either nearby or in some far off corner of Japan ( or the world!). I have had this experience several times in the past few months. Popular spots are typically great natural phenomena, such as volcanoes ( Mt Fuji ofr Mt Aso), or venerable shrines ( such as Ise Grand Shrine, Izumo Grand Shrine, or Kashima Grand Shrine, right here in Ibaraki), which is not surprising because these shrines were usually erected at the places where they were because those particular spots had long been believed to be sacred or to emit positive energies ( whatever that means!).
If you go check out a Japanese bookstore right now, you will be sure to find a special display area for all the new guide-books recommending all the best POWER SPOTS.  If you watch tv, you also surely see some POWER SPOTS being introduced.
Since the belief in the helpful effects of positive KI energy is very old, visiting places famous for their KI is nothing new.
My first experience with people trying to gather up positive KI energy, was many years ago in Taiwan. I had taken the old Japanese-built narrow-gauge train up Mt. Alishan, and spent the night at a hotel near the top. The next morning I was surprised to find that just about all the Chinese tourists who had stayed the night at the various hotels, had gathered outside at dawn, at a lookout point, where they were waiting excitedly for the sun to come up. Going through their noisy morning ablutions of exhuberant stretching,  burping and spitting up phlegm, these people then proceeded, as the sun started to rise, to deeply inhale the morning mist, which they told me was a manifestation of CHI (which is Chinese for KI).
But why has there been such a sudden explosion of interest in POWER SPOTS?
I`m not really sure ( and it seems that nobody else is either)! But anyway, it is clear that over the last 20 there has been growing interest in the SPIRITUAL, and by that I mean the unscientific, the mysterious, and the unexplainable.
I guess that the media realized thet they had struck a chord with the first articles about POWER SPOTS which started to appear about 20 years ago ( the word power spot was first coined, it appears, by the professional psychic and spoonbender Kiyota Masuaki back in 1990). Since it was found that lots of business could be drummed up by such articles, especially for the travel industry, the various media kept at it, creating the current boom.
How Kiyomasa`s Well Became The Sudden Craze
The reason that Kiyomasa`s Well, which is located  in the Meiji Shrine`s idyllic Gyoen Garden, a home for numerous rare wild birds, including the Varied Tit, became so popular so quickly at the end of 2009 is simple ( yet ridiculous). Just at the moment that the television personality ( tarento) Imada Koji was uploading a picture of this well on to his cell-phone, he got a call informing him that he had been made a REGULAR on some tv show.
When word of this got around, the crowds started showing up at the Gyoen. They arrive long before the shrine opens at nine, and wait for their chance to touch or dip their handkerchieves in the water of the well which was probably once on the Edo Estate of the great Edo Period Daimyo ( lord) Kato Kiyomasa ( who ruled what is now Kumamoto Prefecture, as well as parts of what is now Tsukuba City!). Kiyomasa, among othert things was renowned for his engineering feats ( including the imposing Kumamoto Castle).
I asked some of the women in line what they expected to gain from getting to the well, and non eof them seemed quite sure. They just hoped that they would come away IMPROVED somehow.
Mt. Tsukuba is also considered a POWER SPOT and at its shrine office you can buy these prayer-answering power stones- for 300 Yen each!

Mt. Tsukuba is also considered a POWER SPOT and at its shrine office you can buy these prayer-answering power stones- for 300 Yen each!

Well, as I said before, I hope it is soon realized that the well has NO beneficial effects ( since of course it does not), so that peace returns to the Gyoen, and possibly, along with it- the Tits.
Here are some pictures of the yamagara ( Varied Tits) eating out of peoples hands at the Meiji Shrine Gyoen ( the 4th,5th, and 6th pics down):