Most of the bigger temples that we visit in Japan usually contain large incense burners in the court yard outside each temple. The locals will light the incense and then extinguish the flame by waving the stick in the air. Once it is extinguished and the ember starts releasing smoke, they will stand it up in the sand contained in the burner and fan the smoke toward body parts that are in need of healing. It is believed the smoke has a healing power to it.
I do not photograph people very often as I don’t want to encroach on anyone’s privacy, but these incense burners are such great spots to capture the spiritual side of Japan, they have become almost cliché on websites such as Flickr. I have no problems with this cliché, I will definitely be putting my telephoto lens to good use at every temple I visit in Japan.
The “Swastika” symbol you see in the picture above actually means “Temple” in Japanese. As a Westerner it was odd to see these symbols all over the temple grounds at first. But we quickly figured out their meaning in Japan.