Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Garden at Myokanji


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I came to an appreciation of the Japanese garden quite late. The first two years I lived in Japan I was in Kyoto which reputedly has a large number of highly ranked gardens, but I didnt visit any of them.

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Like many people, I think my favorite style is karesansui, the dry gardens of rock and sand.

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This one is at Myokani, a small temple in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, and doesnt appear in any lists of gardens to see, but I found it quite appealing.

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Karesansui is strongly associated with Zen, though I believe they were imported from China a little before Zen and the use of white gravel has been attributed to a Shinto influence. Myokanji is not a Zen temple, rather a Shingon one, but it may have been Zen in earlier times though I have been unable to find a date for the garden.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

More Hagi Teramachi


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The temple district, Teramachi, in Hagi is not on the main tourist route in the town but is well worth a visit if you are in Hagi for more than one day. There are a few historical buildings, a maze of narrow lanes, and of course temples... a few of which I have already posted about.

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Kaichoji is a fairly large temple with an impressive gate, but what is interesting is the main hall which was originally built as a Confucian shrine. It was located at the Meirinkan, the domain school that revered Confucius. After the temple burned down in 1874 they purchased the hall and rebuilt it here as the temples main hall.

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Red-bibbed Jizo abound, as do cemeteries. In my area graves are built behind houses, but in many places in Japan they are located at temples.

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One can often see huge pyramids composed of gravestones, usually belonging to people who no longer have an living relatives in the area to care for them. These quite large, smooth rocks are unmarked and are I believe marker stones to unknown people.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Kyushu Pilgrimage Temple 12 Kinsoji


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Kinsoji is a relatively modern temple, not being founded until 1914. Its location is right behind the Kibune Shrine in Iizuka that was very popular with boatmen on the two river forks that run nearby and I suspect that may have had something to do with it.

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No-one was home when I visited so I couldn't get inside to see the Fudo Myo enshrined there. It is known locally as Chiri Kiri Fudo, and as best as I can ascertain it was prayed to to prevent "convulsions", in this sense I think it means fits of temper by babies. It also prevented children from running awaya from home.

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It was a very small temple and hard to find as it looks just like a house. The giveaway was the Fudo Myo statue outside.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Big Freeze


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It had been a very, very mild winter so far. I'd already bought seed potatoes for planting. Then winter came. We get a fair amount of snow usually, but the next day it melts. maybe once a winter we will get a heavy snowfall that stays around for a few days.

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This year it snowed for a week and temperatures didn't get above freezing. As happens regularly when the weather is anything other than normal, ie if it rains a lot, is very windy, etc, the local train line stops running.

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This year many places in the area suffered from burst pipes. It happens sometimes, but this year it happened a lot. Even some of the mains burst and people are still without water. We had a couple of burst pipes as our water lines are outside, but lots of people had burst pipes indoors. Most Japanese houses are not very warm.

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Didn't stop the monkeys though, they need to eat and so a quick trip to our gardens was in order...

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Latest Masks


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The two latest masks I completed. Every winter I have a rather optimistic plan to finish lots of new masks. Summers are too humid to make them as everything stays soft and doesn't dry properly. As usual the universe conspires to give me so many chores to do that I don't get the time I want on my masks.

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These are two of the most popular of my masks. The customer has been waiting for them for a year. Obviously a very patient man, but he did say that my masks were worth waiting for. Sucker for flattery that I am. The garden will be demanding my time in a moon or two, but hopefully I will get time now for some new masks. I have been trying to finish a couple of Kitsune masks for three years now......

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Manhole Rice


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The most common motif by far  used in the designs on manhole covers in japan is the cherry blossom. Considering the central place occupied by rice in Japanese identity it is surprising that it does not appear more often than it does. This first one is from Mizuho up in the mountains near where Iwami meet Hiroshima.

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I found this second one in the village of Koshita south of Usa in northern Kyushu.

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Also in northern Kyushu, but on the opposite side in Fukuoka, this one is from Itoshima, one of the very ancient centers of early Japanese intereactions with Asia.

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The final one is from near Kurayoshi in Tottori and it shows a farm woman using a senbakoki, a threshing machine with a steel "comb" that separates the the easr and grains from the stalks. Prior to its invention in the 17th Century a tool made from a piece of split bamboo, a kokibashi, was used.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Kibune-gu Shrine, Iizuka


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Pronounced Kifune but written Kibune, this small local shrine in the outskirts of Iizuka is a branch of the famous Kifune shrine north of Kyoto.

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The nameplate on the fairly new torii names it as Kibune-gu, and this is the first time I have seen gu used for a Kibune shrine. Gu is often applied to Hachiman and Tenjin shrines, Hachimangu and Tenmangu, and shrine terminology has become somewhat confusing since the establishment of Shinto in the mid 19th Century. Commonly when I am asking locals about a shrine they will use the term Omiya.

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Kifune shrines enshrine two water kami, Takaokami and Kuraokami, associated strongly with rainfall. It was donating horses to the shrine in the case of drought or flood that traditiona has it led to Ema, votive plaques.

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There were numerous small secondary shrines in the grounds, some no doubt local Aragami, but there was no information signboard so I cannot be specific.

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

TKP Garden City, Hiroshima


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TKP Garden City is another of the high rises built along Heiwa Dori, the road leading to the Peace Park in Hiroshima.

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Its listed as a conference center with spaces for meetings and events.

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I haven't been able to find out who the architect is, and there is nothing extraordinary about the building.

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I like it because it allows me to take one of the kinds of photographs that I like :)

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Shohoji Frogs


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There were a lot of frogs at Shohoji, temple 93 on the Kyushu Pilgrimage. The word for "frog", kaeru, is the word for "return", and so there is an association between frogs and returning safely.

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The first photo is a very stylized statue of a frog covered in prayer requests. I would have thought the prayers would have concentrated on safe returns but in fact the full gamut of requests is represented:- passing exams, finding a girlfriend etc etc. This second photo is of Daikoku in the form of a frog.

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Shohoji is known as "Child Frog Temple", with temple number 3, Nyorinji, being the "Parent Frog Temple". I will be getting to that temple much later in the pilgrimage. The priest at Shohoji is the son of the priest at Nyorinji.

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The honzon of the temple is Yakushi Nyorai, the Medicine Buddha. In a secondary hall was I think an Amida statue and hundreds of childrens toy frogs including none other than Kermit.

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Shikoku Pilgrimage Temple 30 Zenrakuji


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Located north of Kochi City, Zenrakuji was not temple number 30 for almost 100 years. It was/is located right next to a big shrine, now called Tosa Jinja, and when Shinto and Buddhism were seperated the temple was damaged. The honzon, Amida Nyorai, was moved to Anrakuji which then became temple 30.

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In 1929 Zenrakuji was re-established but no buildings were erected until 1938, however Anrakuji refused to return the honzon. Later Zenrakuji changed to the same sect as Anrakuji with the same priest presiding over both, but Anrakuji stayed as temple 30. At some point in the 1970's the honzon moved back to Zenrakuji and it once again became temple 30.

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The original temple  is credited to Kobo Daishi but it was built under orders of Emperor Shomu and re-established by Kobo Daishi.

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The current temple is made of concrete and is architecturally not interesting. Neighboring Tosa Shrine however does have a lot of nice, traditional architecture.

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