足利学校 Ashikaga Gakko

Ashikaga Gakko, meaning Ashikaga School is well-known as the oldest academic institution. It is located in Ashikaga city, Tochigi prefecture, about 70 km north of Tokyo and about 70 km south of Nikko. So, Ashikaga would come handy if you plan your trip further to Nikko.

There are controversies about the origin of it, but it is said to have been established ca. 832 in the Heian period by Ono no Takamura and restored in 1432 by Uesugi Norizane, the lord of Ashikaga.

In the 1500s more than 3000 students came to study Confucianism, Chinese Medicine and Divination. The famous library contains more than 12000 volumes ( mostly in Chinese ) and some of Japan’s oldest historical documents,

Missionary Francisco Xavier reported in 1549 the Ashikaga School as the largest and most famous university of Japan.

After the Meiji Restoration in the late 1800s the school was disestablished. After 1990 several wooden buildings including the former student living quarters, classrooms and the library were restored and today the school is under the direction of Ashikaga city board of education.

Now the Ashikaga Gakko has beautiful gardens and lovely, peaceful grounds to walk around.

Inside the school visitors can enjoy videos of the school’s history and challenge the School Kanji tests ( I did and found it pretty hard ) and join a program reading Analects of Confucius aloud.

In the Ashikaga Flower Park you will find 1000-square-meter gigantic wisteria trellises and a 80-meter-long wisteria tunnel.

Entrance Gate. The Kanjis mean 'School'

Entrance Gate. The Kanjis mean ‘School’

Statue of Confucius

Statue of Confucius

Garden area in the school area

Garden area in the school area

Confucius statues

Confucius statues

Students brooding over the challenging Kanji Teasts

Students brooding over the challenging Kanji Tests

The school seen from the street
The school seen from the street



Learning Japanese in Context: temizu 手水

Temizuya  手水舎 inAsakusa Shrine 浅草神社

Temizuya  手水舎 inAsakusa Shrine 浅草神社

Temizu  手水

Temizu  手水

From this article on there will be contributions for the Japanese learning community.

According to my experiences the most effective way to learn and improve your language skills is to use practical and contextual topics in both oral and written situations.

When it comes to written material the dedicated japanese learner is surrounded with a multitude of written boards, plates, signposts, commercials e.t.c.

Happily one expression or Kanji is recognized, but mostly time and schedule doesn’t allow to decipher a somewhat longer text line.

Yet, why not take 5 or 10 minutes trying to come closer to a japanese text.

Armed with a smartphone app, a pocket dictionary and the courage to ask a native speaker can be a rewarding challenge and can be fun as well.

I am convinced this way the learning outcome will turn out more profitable than learning vocabulary in an isolated manner.

Today I chose an instruction table I saw inside a Shinto shrine instructing the visitor step by step with easy sentences and illustrations how to perform a symbolic cleansing called TEMIZU 手水.This purification is considered indispensable before visiting the sacred area and signifies the removal of evil and pollution. Every shrine provides an area in form of a pavilion called temizuya or hōzuya 手水舎 for the ritual.

In the following text I underlined the Kanjis and wrote the whole sentence in Hiragana.

Please, note well, temizu instructions vary between shrines.

The photos were taken at Asakusa Shrine浅草神社 Asakusa-jinja in September 2012



Water and Washing of Hands Method (Purification before praying to the deities)



When worshipping the deities



let us clean heart and body



1. First pour water on the left hand using a dipper



2. next, pour water on the right hand





  1. collect water on your left hand and rinse your mouth.Hide it with your hand when you let the water out. (remark: quietly spit the water out into your cupped left hand, not in the reservoir)



4. Wash the left hand which was held on the mouth once more.



5.At last, cleanse the dipper handle with the leftover water.

この作法では つぎの気持ちよく 手水れるようにづかいが大切です

このさほうでは つぎのひときもちよく てみずれるように こころづかいがいせつです

In this etiquette It is important being thoughtful in a manner that the next person will feel comfortable while performing the purification 

礎石夏目の墓 The grave of Sōseki Natsume in Zōshigaya Cemetery

One of the greatest writers in the modern japanese literature is Sōseki Natsume (1867 to 1916). He lived in the Meiji period (1868 to 1912) and was one of the first japanese novelists to depict the clashes between japanese and western culture.

Among his most outstanding works are I am a cat, Botchan and Kokoro.

Before Natsume Sōseki himself was buried in Zōshigaya Cemetery, he selected the cemetery as the final resting place for the friend of the Sensei in the novel Kokoro (1914)

(雑司ヶ谷霊園, Zōshigaya Reien

Zōshigaya Cemetery

Zōshigaya Cemetery

Zōshigaya Cemetery is a public cemetery in Minami-Ikebukuro, Toshima, Tokyo.

As I recently had been reading Kokoro and recalled the parts where Sensei mentioned about visiting his friend’s K  grave ( he committed suicide) 

and knowing that the author himself got buried there two years after completing the novel I had the strong wish to visit that grave in Zōshigaya Cemetery.

With the help of some locals and some efforts to decipher the cemetry plot signposts I managed to find Sōseki Natsume’s grave.

The plot number is 1-14-1-3.


Approach everything rationally, and you become harsh. Pole along in the stream of emotions, and you will be swept away by the current. Give free rein to your desires, and you become uncomfortably confined. It is not a very agreeable place to live, this world of ours.

The Three-Cornered World