Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Kyushu Pilgrimage temple 17 Amida-In


Located on a hillside along a narrow lane in the hills south of Kokura, Amida-In was a bit of a surprise.


It was relocated here from the big temple complex of Daigo-Ji south of Kyoto in the late 19th Century, but its not clear if that was any buildings or just the main statue.


Strangely being called after Amida, the main deity enshrined is Fudo MyoO, of whom there are several stone statues in the grounds as well as numerous other Buddhas and bodhsattvas.


As well as the Shingon style Pagoda, there was also a small shrine in the grounds. Just inside the priests quarters was this large, complex carving of a dragon.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Pagoda at Yakuoji


Yakuoji, located in Hiwasa in southern Tokushima,  is temple number 23 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage.


It is a Shingon temple and has a rather unusual pagoda, which may be a variation on a particularly esoteric style of pagoda called a Tahoto which is primarily found at Shingon temples.


For myself, who favors a strong geometric element to my photo compositions, pagodas of any style are fertile ground.


The details are another aspect of the world that intrigues my photo sensibilities.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Takami Shrine


Came upon this rather imposing looking shrine while walking from Yahata to Kokura. Apparently when the fledling japanese steel industry started up here in the late 19th Century the local steel companies made it their tutelary shrine and supported it financially.


According to the legend, Jingu stopped here on her way to invade Korea. The kami now enshrined here suggest to me that they were decided upon in fairly modern times. The primary group of three are Amenominakanushinokami, Takamimusubinokami, and Kamimusubinokami.


These are the first three kami that came into existence at the creation of the universe, but many researchers suggest that in ancient times there were no shrines to them. Before the seperation of Buddhas and Kami in 1868, many shrines throughout japan enshrined Myoken, the North Star, but because of its buddhist origins the kami was changed to Amenominakanushi.


The list of kami enshrined here continues with Umashiashigabi, Ametokotachi, Kuninotokotachi, and then carries on with a variety of kami connected to the descent of Ninigi and the foundation of the Imperial line, which all leads me to suspect that they were enshrined in the Meiji period with the creation of what became State Shinto.


Secondary shrines in the grounds include one to the 3 Munakata princesses from nearby Munakata.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Early Summer Kagura




Headed up to Kaze no Kuni, our local hot spring resort in the mountains nearby for a free kagura festival.


Its a great venue for it with an outdoor theater and there was lots of food and drink stalls. The different groups performing were all from the immediate vicinty and performed the more traditional, slower 6 beat style.


Lots of good guys, bad guys, and dynamic swordplay.


The highlight for me though was the offerings from a new micro brewery set up in Gotsu called Iwami Bakushu. The "Belgian White" was ok, but the best was "American Pale Ale".... so much tastier than the insipid chemical lager so common here in Japan.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tauebayashi 2016


It was great weather last weekend so I took advantage and went and visited the local Tauebayashi, rice planting festival. It had been a few years since last visiting, but I have always enjoyed it.


Things kicked off with the parade of musicians arriving, mostly drummers with 2 main kinds of drums, but also flute players and singers. Next up were the gaily decorated cows used traditionally to prepare the paddies. This was a new addition. Last time I came there was just a single "cow" which was a man dressed in a cow costume. As the cows were doing their stuff one of them took a huge dump, to cheers from the crowd.


Then there was a ritual offering to the Kami of the paddy and young rice plants, then to the accompaniment of the musicians the planting began......


The group of maidens was  larger this time too, partly due to the addition of the local High School Girls Rugby team. The musicians were also standing in the mud as well.


With so many maidens, the planting was accomplished much faster this year. There was the usual bevy of photographers who attend these kinds of events, but there were no tourists in the crowds. and a distinct lack of commercialism. A good time was had by all


Monday, May 23, 2016

Tengu Dakiniten Fudo Myo


Last weekend I was visiting the priest at Takuhi Shrine on Nishinoshima in the Oki Islands. I was intrigued by the print of Fudo Myo hanging in the priests house, even though this was a shrine. Upon closer examination it turned out to be quite an unusual Fudo. Standing on a white fox, it was conflated with Dakiniten, the Hindu deity quite popular with the rulers in Heian Japan, and one of the sources of Inari. It also had wings and the face of a crow, and was therefore also a Karasu Tengu.


Seeing my interest, the priest went next door and brought back this old painting which showed a more traditional long-nosed Tengu/ Yamabushi.

The shrine is located under a cliff high on the mountain, and was a temple until the Meiji Period when it "became" a shrine and therfore sparing it the destruction that happened to every other temple on the islands.

I found several smaller shrines around the mountain and the highest one was a Sanjin Shrine which the priest assured me was to Tengu.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Garden at Kikuya Residence Hagi


The Kikuya Residence is a large complex of buildings from the Edo Period belonging to the Kikuya Family in the old castle town of Hagi, Yamaguchi.


Though merchants, and therefore the lowest class in Tokugawa Japan, they were the richest family in the town and great supporters of the Daimyo.


All these photos are from the garden around the oldest cluster of buildings on the main street, but there is also a larger, more park like, stroll garden around the newer mansion house.


Like most Japanese gardens this one is particularly nice in the autumn with the fall colors. I'm sure that at some point in the future I will post some of that.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 5


Following a miserable and rainy fourth day, day 5 was back to glorious weather. I didn't have too far to walk today, just from Yahata to Kokura.


There were 2 pilgrimage temples to visit, and a major shrine which was unexpected. With the afternoon free I visited a few places "on assignment" for Japanvisitor,com.


I took the train out to Mojiko and visited the Kyushu Railway Museum there, and then headed back to Kokura to revisit some architectural sights that interest me.


First up there was the International Conference Center by Arata Isozaki, somewhere I have posted about before


And then through the concrete jungle to the iconic Riverwalk Complex,


It was the 29th of December and so I broke my walk and headed home for a few days to spen new year with my wife before coming back a week later to continue with the next leg of my 2,200 kilometer walk.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Manhole Bridges



Misasa in Tottori is a famous hot spring resort in the middle of the prefecture not too far from Kurayoshi. Several bridges over the river are symbols of the area, and opoen air pools under the bridges contain the highest level of radon for any hot springs in the world.


Mount Kasayama is a small, 100 meter high volcano just along the coast from Hagi in Yamaguchi. It is known for its "forest" of camelias. At the base is a small pond with a bridge leading over to an Itsukushima Shrine.


The Ichinosaka River runs through the middle of Yamaguchi City, but I have no idea which particular bridge this is or its significance.


Tabuse on the south coast of Yamaguchi has this bridge named Sakura Bashi, cherry bridge, for its famous promenade lined with cherry trees. In the middle of this modern bridge are a pair of tall steel sculptures, symbols of the sakura festival.


A little further down the coast is the town of Obatake where the Oshima Bridge connects to Suo Oshima, the third largest island in the Inland Sea.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Kyushu Pilgrimage Temple 16 Zenkakuji


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A very small temple in an urban neighborhood just north of Nogata, temple 16 of the Kyushu pilgrimage seems to have only been founded less than 100 years ago.

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The temple was founded by a nun who had a dream of the Ishizuchi Zao Gongen, the patron deity of shugendo and specifically the famous shugendo mountain on Shikoku, Mount Ishizuchi. It is the principle statue at the temple althiough there is no official link between the temple and Mt. Ishizuchi.

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In front of the small main hall was a set of Rokujizo, the six forms of Jizo Bosatsu. There were also numerous Mizuko Jizo, the statues memorializing dead babies.

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It was drizzling with rain and I had a long way to go to my bed for the night so I headed off quickly without properly exploring, which is a shame as looking back up the hill I saw a large statue of Fudo Myo, unusually dressed in yellow robes.

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