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The cherry blossoms are finally in full bloom here now, it's very late for Chiba. Late last night I went out for a walk out in the countryside, past all my favourite sakura trees. There was no wind, the frogs and owls were singing loudly, and this little shrine was looking magical with one single thin sakura tree lit up by the light shining from inside the shrine yard.
The shadows at the bottom corner are from the decorative rope hanging across the Torii gate. These ropes are called Shimenawa 注連縄. Shime means enclose, nawa means rope, they are hung at the entrance of shrines to announce that inside is a sacred place. Shimenawa are made with dried rice stalks, and are usually replaced annually just before New years day. At this time of year they are still new and shiny, but by Autumn they will start to fade and sometimes even break, especially in small country shrines, adding to their character. Different places have different ways of making shimenawa, even villages just a few kilometeres apart often have different styles, different thicknesses, hang them at different heights and even have unique names for them. They probably all started from one style, but evolved over time and place. Shimenawa are a beautiful example of human culture and expression don't you think?
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