Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage Day 9 Yasugi to Iya


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For the ninth day of the Izumo Kannon Pilgrimage I started out in Yasugi. Now I head back West. Today I will not get to a visit any of the pilgrimage temples.

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I will, however, be visiting lots of shrines. This area was where the provincial government of  ancient Izumo was based, and also home to some of the earliest of the myths of Japan.

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I will be following the route of the Sanin-do, the ancient imperial highway that linked the region to the capital. It is generally believed to be the least travelled of all the ancient routes. Nowadays Route 9 follows its route, though I hope to be spending a lot of time off the busy road and on side roads.

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The route takes along the southern edge of the Nakaumi, marked as a lake on maps but actually a shallow lagoon.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Southern Coast of Osaki Shimojima Island


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On my second day of walking along the Akinada Islands I was on the southern coast of Osaki Shimojima heading towards Mitarai.

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The road around the northern coast looked on the map to be busier, plus the view would be towards the mainland.

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Here on the southern coast there was no traffic and the views were out into the Inland Sea and across to Shikoku.

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This part of the island is known as a breeding ground for a species of migratory cormorant. Othere than one small village there is nothing else along the coast except citrus orchards clinging precariously to the steep slopes.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Unju-ji


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After leaving Kiyomizudera I headed for Unjuji, what I believed to be the next temple on the Izumo Kannon Pilgrimage. When I studied the route and guide I saw a temple marked at the approximate location of Unjuji, and as Unjuji was a pretty big temple and on the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage I didn't read closely enough. Temple 22 is actually a small temple about 600 meters away, so technically I have not yet finished the pilgrimage until I go back and visit the proper temple 22.

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When I've been to Unjuji before I have seen pilgrims there, as can be attested by the photo above of the Kannon-do.

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There are a lot of small statues scattered around the grounds, and a very fine gate. The temple was founded in 1322 and belongs to the Rinzai Zen sect.

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The most interesting thing at the temple though is a bronze bell that is somewhere between 1000 to 1300 years old. Its a Korean bell, more specifically from Silla, the country that unified the Korean Peninsula in the late 7th Century. During the "colonial" period of Japanese rule over Korea in the first half of the 20th Century much was looted from there, and Korean bells were one of the objects apparently prized. Also, of course, much was looted from Korea by Hideyoshis armies in the 16th Century. Why the bell, and others like it throughout Japan, have not been returned is a mystery to me. Some historians believe this particular bell is one of the oldest of its style in existence.

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There is a fascinating article here that discusses the meaning of Korean Bells, and the Unjuju Bell, in relation to a pre-Buddhist "Goddess" religion of East Asia. The author is also pretty scathing in her criticism of how Japan portrays Korean history.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Onomichi City Museum of Art


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The Museum of Art in Onomichi, Hiroshima, is located on top of the mountain overlooking the town and the nearby islands.

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It was designed by world-famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando, and while the combination of modern glass and steel with the traditional curved roof is interesting, it is in my opinion not one of his better designs.

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The museum hosts various changing exhibitions and has a cafe with great views.

It is possible to drive up, but the easiest way is to take the Senkoji Ropeway. The museum is a few minbutes walk from the mountaintop station.

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It's open from 9 to 5 and is closed on Mondays.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage Temple 21 Kiyomizudera


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I have been to Kiyomizudera several times, but this was the first time I approached through the old pilgrim trail through the mountains. This way brings you to the Nio Gate. Most people come to the temple by car from the opposite side, and for them the Niomon is "behind" the temple. I have posted on the nio and some of the Fudo Myo statues here.

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It has the only 3 storied pagoda in the San-in region. Kiyomizudera means "temple of pure water" and there are many temples named this across Japan, but this may be the oldest.

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There is a nice set of Inari shrines and altars in the grounds. More photos can be found here.

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It is now a Tendai sect temple and as well as being on the Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage it is also on the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage, so I will be back here as I have started to walk that one too.

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An earlier post with more of the history can be found here. Today I did not dally as it was getting late and I wanted to reach the next temple, Unjuji, a few K downhill from here before ending this leg of the pilgrimage.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Ascending Sanbesan


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Towards the end of the first day of my walk along the Iwami 33 Kannon Pilgrimage I was close to the base of Mount Sanbe. It had taken me all day to walk more than 20k from Oda City and had climbed about 500 meters. My plan was to meet a friend on top of Sanbe to spend the night, so another 600 meters of climbing to go.

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I was going up by the most travelled trail on the northern slope. Since leaving Oda there had been no stores, convenient or otherwise, but in the recreation area at the base of the mountain was a Sanbe Burger. The only Sanbe Burger on the planet I believe. Late on a Friday afternoon in early November I was the only customer. After filling my belly I headed off with some trepidation. I don't like climbing! I'd been walking all day and was tired, but to get from a to b in Japan you are going to have to climb some.

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At 500 meters plus there was still a lot of green, but the color change was starting.

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Higher still, most of the green had gone, save for the moss.

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Higher still and the light was fading, and then suddenly I was on top. I was really surprised. It was easier than I had expected. Maybe I have gotten better at pacing myself. I certainly haven't gotten any younger. A couple of minutes after reaching the summit young Wes appeared having come up by a different trail.

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My posts on the sunset and the next days sunrise can be found below this post.

Wes's account can be found here.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage Temple 20 Chodaiji


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Chodai-ji, a Tendai temple, is close to the border with Tottori, and the most easterly of all the temples on the pilgrimage.

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"It is said" that the temple was founded by Gyoki, which would make it about 1300 years old. The temple was completely destroyed by a flood, but a local farmer had a dream that led him to the spot where the main statue was found miraculously undamaged.

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In the early 18th Century the local daimyo, a Matsudaira, renovated and enlarged the temple.

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There is a small Amida-do in the grounds as well as a small shrine.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Minimal Geometric Abstract


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Most of the photography I am doing nowadays is documentary in nature. I photograph the things I encounter on my walks around Japan.

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However, my real love is for images that are minimal, geometric, and abstract. Images concerned with pure composition.

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It is not important what the picture is "of". It is the interplay of line, shape, form, light, and shade.

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So, here are a few of my personal favorites......

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Otaki Shrine


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Still within site of Nogi Shrine, yet another shrine with an ancient pedigree, being listed in both the Izumo Fudoki and the Engi Shiki.

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I came in through the rear entrance so the way to the buildings was through a nice piece of woodland.

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Like all the shrines in the area there was a zuijinmon as well as an altar to Kojin, the rope snake.

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Otaki Shrine is a Gosha, 5 shrines collected into one place. The primary kami is Kunitama which seems to be a generic name for the kami of the land. Next up is Otanomikoto, a descendant of Sarutahiko who either gave the land for what became Ise Shrine, or led Yamatohime to the place while she was searching for a new home to enshrine Amaterasu. Also enshrined is Isotakeru and Inari.

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Secondary shrines within the grounds are a Tenmangu, Atago, & Hiyoshi.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tombo. Japanese Dragonflies


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There are about 200 types of dragonfly in Japan, each with its own name, and I have absolutely no idea which ones these photos are of, so I use the generic "Tombo"

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Associated with late summer and early autumn, the Tombo has a deep and rich relationship with Japanese culture, not least of which is an ancient name for Japan meaning Dragonfly Isles.

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Found as an artistic symbol as far back as the Yayoi Period, the dragonfly was adopted by samurai and appear on helmets and swords. It also appears much in Haiku.

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With the heavy use of chemical pesticides the tombo no longer appear in the numbers they used to.

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