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Mochiwa Mochiya Blogs

Welcome to the Mochiwa Mochiya blog page where you can find out more about Japanese translation, language, and culture. Feel free to leave a comment or share any posts that tickle your fancy!

  • Writer's pictureJason Khoh

The Changing of the Hokora


If you’ve been following @mochiwamochiya on Instagram, you’ll know I have a thing for hokora (祠), the adorably small Shinto shrines scattered all over Japan.

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While going on another marathon morning walk with Hachi the other day, it came as quite a surprise to see the two I’ve discovered in my neck of the woods had been replaced with brand new shrines made from Japanese cypress (hinoki; 檜) with shiny copper roofs (dobanbuki; 銅板葺き).

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Over time the copper roofs should develop a beautiful greenish patina. Another advantage of using copper is that it won’t crack, rust, or corrode. This natural metal has been used as the roofing material in many Japanese temples, and shrines since the Edo Period (1603-1868 CE). The thatched roofs were converted to better protect the treasures and sacred books housed inside from fires, which were common back then.

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Japanese cypress wood is naturally resistant to humidity, rot, and decay thanks to its high oil content that repels water and its anti-bacterial properties. Horyuji Temple (法隆寺) in Nara, houses some of the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures, which happen to be made from this beautiful wood. For the same reasons, many traditional baths and kitchen tools in Japan are also made from hinoki.

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To be honest, I kind of liked the old rustic style of the previous hokora, but I’m sure over time these new ones will develop their own unique charm.

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