Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Arata Isozaki Art Plaza


One of my favorite Japanese architects is Arata Isozaki. He was born in Oita in 1931 and after graduating worked under Kenzo Tange.


The first building he completed after becoming independent was the Prefectural Library in his home town of Oita, completed in 1996.


In 1996 the library moved to a new building, but rather than demolish the original it was renovated by Isozaki himself and turned into an arts center called Art Plaza.


One floor of the building is devoted to the works of Isozaki and include models and drawings of some of his more famous buildings.....


Monday, May 29, 2017

Some Unusual Ema


Ema, votive plaques, can be found at many shrines and temples and nowadays are usually a standard size and shape, though variations abound. The heart shape is becoming more common and its purpose is fairly obviously to petition for finding a lover. Ema are usually wooden, but these are made of ceramic. The other ceramic ema are in the shape of miniature kawara, rooftiles. Found at Zuiryujimirakumogosho, a small temple on top of Mount Hachiman in Shiga.


These unusual ema I found at the Inari shrine on the hill above Miyajidake Shrine in Fukuoka. The petitioner draws or paints a face onto the blank face of the fox.


These ema at Takeuchi Shrine in Higashi Izumo have a blank human body shape on which you mark which part of your body you have a problem with that you ask for healing.


These spoon shaped ema can be found at many places. They are rice scoops, in Japan sukuu, but the word pronounce the same but written with a different kanji  means "save", as in salvation. These are at Rakan-ji, a temple near Nakatsu in Oita.


At Nangu Taisha in Gifu there were the standard shaped ema as well as circular ones and some shaped like toy dogs.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Funai Castle


The ruins of Funai Castle are in downtown Oita City, though when it was built this was the coast. Some form of catle was here in the mid 16th Century, but its current form soidified at the end of the 16th century.


It is most famously known as one of Otomo Sorin's castles though he was defeated here by the Shimazu in 1586. Sorin is probably the most well known of the Christian warlords. Hideyoshi helped him retake the castle but later took the fief away from Sorins son.


Most of the castle burned down in 1743 and like most castles was decommisioned in 1872. The main gate and two towers were reconstructed in 1965 and in 1996 the covered bridge was restored.


It is now a free park and a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Saba Daishi Honbon


At the end of the tenth day of my walk along the Shikoku pilgrimage I was at Saba Daishi, a small temple on the coast near Mugi. I spent the night in their tsuyado, a free room for walking pilgrims to spend the night.


The name Saba Daishi comes from a legend concerning Kobo Daishi and a mackerel seller, hence the statue of Kobo Daishi holding a mackerel.


It is one of the "bangai" temples, 20 extra temples added to the 88 to make the round figure of 108, the number of beads in a Buddhist rosary, the number of times the bell is rung at the new year, and the number of earthly desires we mortals must overcome to attain enlightenment.


The Goma-do, the hall where the goma ritual is performed in front of Fudo Myo, is underground in the hillside, and a tunnel leads to it. Lining the tunnel are 88 statues representing the 88 temple of the pilgrimage. If one steps on each of the 88 tiles it is a miniature version of the whole pilgrimage.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

24 Paragons of Filial Piety


The Great South Gate, located halfway up the stepped slope leading to Yusuhara Hachimangu Shrine in the mountains outside of Oita City was built in the 17th Century and rebuilt in the 19th Century.


As well as the usual collection of carvings of mythical beasts and such that adorn many such temple and shrine gates, it has a collection of carved relief panels illustrating the 24 Paragons of Filial Piety.


Written in China in the 14th Century, the book was a popular way of learning about Confucian morality. The use of the relief illustrations probably is connected to the rise of Neo Confucianism in Edo Period Japan.


You can probably figure out which stories each picture represents by googling wikipedia or the online translations of the book.....


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Manholes by Children


On some recent travels I came across a couple of towns that have their manholes designs designed by children. The first was Takamatsu in Kagawa on Shikoku.


These first three designs were all executed by high school students at a local arts & crafts High School. 2 of the designs show views of the famous Ritsurin Garden located in Takamatsu, and the middle design features Sanuki Udon, the noodle speciality of the area.


The other 2 designs come from the town of Obama on the Japan Sea coast in Fukui, and these were done by obviously much younger children.



Friday, May 5, 2017

Sunlight & Shadow at Yusuhara Hachimangu


Yusuhara Hachimangu Shrine was the major shrine of what is bow called Oita City, and is located in the mountains to the west of the city proper.


I visited in a loveky sunny morning in February 4 years ago on my walk around Kyushu. The low winter sun made for some great photos so that is what I post now, and will post on the shrine itself later.


The first photo is one of the pair of wooden komainu in the gatehouse into the main shrine compound. The second photo is of the steps leading up to the honden, and this third id of one of the fox guardians at an Inari shrine in the grounds.


The main gate located lower down the hill is famous for its many relief carvings and that is also something I will post on later.......


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Kuroshio Town Ogata Library


One of the delights of wandering the backwaters of Japan, for me at least, is stumbling upon huge pieces of modern architecture, often quite surreal, which would not look out of place in a big city, but are found in the most rural, depopulated areas.


The number of small towns and villages which are home to massive auditoriums, museums, etc is quite staggering, and most date their inception and funding back to the tail end of the bubble era. Vanity projects for architects, and a cash cow for the ubiquitous concrete and construction industries, the funding for their construction came from the central government, however their maintenance and upkeep fell to the local communities, and many, like the Ogata Library featured here  down near Shimanto in Shikoku have now been closed.


Prince Charles may call these structures carbuncles, and the local people may not think much of them, but for my style of photography they are great. I've been here twice but unfortunately both times were really overcast....


It was built in 1998 and designed by Dan Norihiko,  a relatively young architect. He's younger than me so that makes him young.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Asami Shrine Revisited


A pair of huge trees flank the entrance to Asami Shrine in Beppu. I posted on the shrine many years ago.


It is the main shrine for the town and enshrines Hachiman.


I was heading out of town to continue my walk around Kyushu.


It was early in the morning on a sunny day..... the golden hour for photographers....


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Shikoku Pilgrimage Temple 33 Sekkeiji


Sekkeiji, the 33rd temple on the Shikoku pilgrimage was fairly unimpressive. That may be due to it being the end of a long day when I finally reached it.


Though reputedly founded by Kukai, it became a Zen temple and not long after was sponsored by Chosokabe, the warlord who burned down so many of the temples on Shikoku. It became his family temple and was where he was buried.


Perhaps fittingly, it was burned down in the early Meiji period in the anti-Buddhist wave that swept many parts of the country. It was eventually rebuilt at its current site, next door to its original site which is now a shrine.


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