Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sunset at Namiishi Dam


At the end of a very long first day of my walk over and around the Kunisaki Peninsula I stopped for the night on the banks of the reservoir behind Namiishi Dam.


I had now reached the high country in the middle of the peninsula by walking up one of the numerous valleys that radiate out from Mount Futago, and  the landscape was dramatic with features that made it an obvious site for early Yamabushi to inhabit.


There is a small park here, and that is where I spread out my sleeping bag....


All the posts of this days walk can be found by clicking here, though they will be in reverse chronological order.


Tomorrow I will pass over the high center of the peninsula and hopefully reach the east coast.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fudo Myo at Nanzoin


This Fudo Myo statue is about 10 to 11 meters high and is located at Nanzoin in Sasaguri, Fukuoka.


Its the first temple on the Sasaguri 88 sacred places pilgrimage, a miniature version of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, but its not part of the Kyushu 108 temple pilgrimage, though I stopped in at the start of my 3rd day of the latter pilgrimage.


It's a Shingon temple, and Fudo Myo is particularly popular in Shingon, so its not surprising that there are a lot of Fudo statues there....



Thursday, November 19, 2015

Otomeza Theater Mitarai


The Otomeza Theater in Mitarai on Osaki Shimojima is a fine example of a small provincial theater from early in the twentieth Century.


It was built in 1930 when the port had become less important than in the days of wind, but was still important as an "entertainment" area.


In 1950 it switched to being a movie theater, but following the outlawing of prostitution in 1956 the town went into serious decline and the theater closed. For a while it was used as a vegetable market.


It has been lovingly restored to its former glory and is a rare example of the kind of small theater that were found all over Japan. Like all thge historic sites in the town, entrance is free.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Biggest Reclining Buddha


Nehanzo, reclining Buddhas, are the least common pose for statues of Buddha in Japan. At Nanzo-in temple in Sasaguri there is what is certainly the largest bronze Nehanzo in Japan.


Its dimensions are impressive. 41 meters long, and 11 meters high, it weighs about 300 tons, more than three times as heavy as the Great Buddha in Nara, it is among the biggest bronze statues of the world.


It was completed in 1995 to house some of the historical Buddhas ashes which had been donated to the temple from Myanmar, where Nehanzo are much more common.


Nehan means "nirvana", and statues of the reclining Buddha depict him at the moment of his death when he entered Nirvana.


There is a lot more to see at Nanzoin which I will post soon....

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Grand Tour Colchester


I had never been to Colchester before, so was quite looking forward to visiting. It is often classified as the oldest town in England, known as Camulodunon before the Roman invasion.


Its most famous site is the Norman Keep, built on the ruins of a Roman temple. Boudica sacked the town, but it was rebuilt later though the Roman Capital was moved to London.


I was most impressed by the floral displays everywhere, especially the hanging baskets.


Lots and lots of half-timbered houses, one in particular still riddled with bullet holes from the Civil war.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Okunoin on Mount Wakasugi


The Okunoin on Mount Wakasugi is in a cave just below the summit. It is here that Kukai, later known as Kobo daishi, practised austerities on his return from China.


Considering its remote location, a surprising number of people make the climb, though I suspect most have parked their cars at the Kannon-do just below.


there were many statues around the area including a Fudo Myo (it was Kukai who introduced this deity into Japan) and a Kurikara, the dragon sword of Fudo.


The Okunoin is on the south side of the peak and so all the snow had melted, but just above there was still snow...


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Kubo Hachimangu


Kubo Hachimangu is a fairly major shrine in Onomichi.


Founded in the mid 9th Century, The enshrined kami, Hachiman, is composed of three different kami, the emperor Ojin, his mother Jingu, and then either his father, Chuai, or his wife.


According to local legend, Ojin visited the area during the twentieth year of his reign, which would have been in the 5th Century, though the mytho-histories of Japan claim it to be the 3rd Century.


There are several secondary shrines within the grounds, one of which is certainly and Inari shrine, though there was no information board at the shrine so I could not find out about the others.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Kitayama Shrine, Mount Wakasugi


Located right on top of Mount Wakasugi at about 660 meters above sea level, the maps and many people call it Kitayama Shrine, but it is really the Upper Taiso-gu shrine. The lower Taiso-gu I stopped in at on my way up the mountain.


Not surprisingly it seems to have the same set of kami enshrined as at the lower shrine, the main one being Izanagi, along with Amaterasu, and Hachiman.


All around the shrine are Buddhist statues and shrines as the Okunoin where Kukai supposedly practised austerities is in a cave just below the shrine. It was usually Buddhists or Yamabushi who established shrines on mountaintops like this.


There is a large, white statue of the mythical Jingu, mother of Ojin, and a curious statue of Daikoku with an extreme smile....


Friday, October 30, 2015

Mononobe Shrine part 2


Mononobe Shrine, the Ichinomiya of Iwami, enshrines Umashimade no mikoto, the ancestor of the Mononobe. His grave lies on the hillside behind the shrine. The Mononobe are often portrayed as Shintoists who resisted the importation of the foreign "kami" of Buddhism, though how much of that was religious and how much was power politics is hard to discern, as the two are intimately linked.


The father of Umashimade was Nigihayahi who descended from heaven in a stone boat to what is now the Osaka area. In the ancient myths the distinction between heavenly kami and earthly kami is an important one. The heavenly kami represent the Yamato and their associated clans who invaded and took over Japan. The earthly kami are the ancestors of the rulers of the tribes of Japan that the Yamato supplanted. What is interesting about Nigihayahi is that he was not part of the group that descended with Ninigi to Kyushu.


So when Jimmu invaded Japan in what is known as his "Eastern Campaign", when he reached the area that is now Osaka he was defeated by a tribe led by Nagasune. Nagasune claimed that he followed Nigihayahi. Jimmu and Nigihayahi had a "you show me yours and I'll show you mine" session with symbolic weapons whereupon Nigihayahi realized that Jimmu was of the same lineage as he, that is to say, they both had the same origins, so he submitted to Jimmu and had Nagasune killed. Jimmu made Nigihayahi's son Umashimade the head of his guard.


So, if the Mononobe have their origins in "the high plain of heaven", the Korean Peninsula, and ruled over the area around present day Osaka, why is Umashimade buried in Iwami? According to the shrines founding legend, Umashimade was flying on a crane and landed here thinking it looked like a mountain in Yamato. The shrines crest if of a crane and crane statues are in the grounds. If we consider that the Mononobe were at the peak of their power in the 6th Century, the time Buddhism wa sintoduced to the Yamato court, and we consider that Izumo lost its independence and was incorprated into the confederacy led by Yamato around the 5th Century, then it would suggest that the Mononobe were placed here as a projection of military power to warn the Izumo to behave.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mononobe Shrine


By mid afternoon on the second day of my walk along the Iwami Mandala Kannon Pilgrimage, I came to Mononobe Shrine, the Ichinomiya (highest-ranked shrine) of old Iwami province.


The first time I came here I was struck by the huge Chigi on top of the roof. Originally used to help stabilize thatched roofs, on shrines they are now only decorative, but fulfill a symbolic function. If the ends of the cross pieces are cut vertically, like here, then the kami enshrined is male. Conversely, a horizontal cut means a female kami.


The ema. votive plaques, are not the usual 5-sided shape, but in the shape of a rice scoop. Called sukuu in Japanese, sukuu also means "save" as in salvation. The temizuya is also distinctive, carved out of a massive rock and adorned with carvings.


The main kami enshrined here is Umashimade no mikoto, the ancestor of the Mononobe clan, considered by some to be the precursor to the samurai. Umashimade was made head of the Imperial Guard by the mythical first emperor Jimmu. Umashimade's tomb is on the hillside above the shrine.


For more about why he was here and the fascinating history of the Mononobe, I will save until the next post

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