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


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.


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.


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.


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.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sogo Building Hiroshima


Sogo is a department store in downtown Hiroshima. The building also houses the Hiroshima Bus Centre.


The exterior of the building is clad in a lattice facade that is somewhat reminiscent of Islamic decoration.


The kind of thing I like to photograph :)



Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hiyoshi Shrine, Nogata


In the north of Nogata I came across this small Hiyoshi Shrine, one of about 4,000 branch shrines of Hiyoshi Taisha, the shrine complex associated with Enryakuji on Mount Hiei, and the origin of the Sanno Shinto sect.


The two kami enshrined in Hiyoshi shrines are Oyamakui and Okuninushi, corresponding to the east and west shrines at Hiyoshi Tasiaha.  Both are from in the Susano lineage, and Oyamakui being associated with the Korean immigrants who founded the first shrine at Hiyoshi.


One of the pairs of komainu were unusual, one standing upright, and the other, pictured here, doing a "handstand". These types can often be seen in a small ceramic form on shrine or temple roofs.


There was no signboard at the shrine so I have no idea about its history or secondary shrines in the grounds, but in one small shrine I did find this worn, wooden figure, though I dont know who it represents.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Shikoku Pilgrimage Temple 31 Chikurinji


Located next to the Makino Botanical Gardens in the south of Kochi City, the 5 storey pagoda of Chikurinji was built in 1980 to replace a smaller three storey pagoda that was destroyed in a typhoon in 1899.


Its the onlly temple on the Shikoku Pilgrimage that is dedicated to Monju Bosatsu, and legend has it that Gyogi carved the statue.


According to the legend Emperor Shomu instructed Gyoki to find a mountain that resembled a sacred mountain in China named Godaisan in Japanese which is why the hill where Chikurinji is located is called Godaisan.


Reputedly Kukai spent some time here. It is now a Shingon temple. The Temples museum contains many National Treasures.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Nogata Coal Museum


On the other side of the railway tracks to Taga Shrine in Nogata is a small museum on the local coal industry called the Nogata Memorial Hall of Coal.


My father was a coalminer, as was his father, and I grew up near a big coal mine, so I have a particular interest. As a young lad I was a trainspotter so also have a soft spot for old steam engines of which there were a couple on display complete with puffing and whistling soundtrack


Most of the interesting stuff is lying around outside, but there are some displays inside.


I wrote a lengthy article on the place and the history of coal in Japan which you can read here.


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