Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Some Art at Kanaya Tenmangu

Kanaya Tenmangu shrine is located just outside what used to be the gate into Hagi castle and was where the the Daimyo and official travellers would stop and pray for a safe journey, consequently it received many paintings and such as offerings.

The paintings of horses may well be an earlier version of "ema", votive plaques which were paintings of horses as a substitute for giving a real horse. The coiled snake painting is probably connected to Benzaiten.

One of the things I look for when visiting small, local shrines is the artwork.

The final photo is one of the Zuijin at the shrine. A signboard showed picture of the Buddhist Nio guardians that guarded the shrine until the Meiji Period.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Kyushu Pilgrimage Day 10 Kitsuki to Beppu

For me, one of the great joys of walking these pilgrimages is not so much the temples themselves, rather the unexpected thibgs seen and experienced in the spaces between the temples. Day 10 was a day that alternated between light rain and heavily overcast.

My route was south, overland from Kitsuki till I hit Beppu Bay at the old castle town of Hiji. Tgere was a pilgrimage temple here, but more interesting was a much larger temple that had a garden designed by the great Zen artist-monk Sesshu, who lived for a while in the area.

The temple is also home to what is classed as the biggest Cycad in Japan. A very ancient species of palm, I believe its related to the sago palm. The Sesshu garden was not in great condition.

From here it was a long walk around the curve of the bay, stopping at any shrines I passed, until I reached the famous host spring "resort" of Beppu, which to me looked more like some sort of dystopian industrial hellhole with all the charm of an Albanian oil refinery, though I suspect in the sunshine it wouldnt look so bad.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Keitakuen Garden

In Tennoji Park, tucked  behind the Municipal Museum of Art is Keitakuen garden.

A modern garden, built for the wealthy Sumitomo Family who constructed a mansion nearby.

The garden, a stroll type built around a large pond, was designed by Jihei Ogawa who also designed the garden at Heian Jingu Shrine in Kyoto.

It is surprisingly good, though obviously it helps if the weather is good. and only 150 yen for the entrance.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Kyushu Pilgrimage Temple 23 Komyoin

Located against a cliff below one of the samurai districts in the old castle town of Kitsuki, just south of the Kunisaki Peninsula is Komyo-in, number 23 on the Shingon Kyushu Pilgrimage.

In 1645, Matsudaira Hideko was given control of the domain and he constructed a Kimon, a temple to guard the NE direction, and he chose Fudo Myo as the main deity.

In early Meiji the temple was destroyed in the anti-Buddhist movement, but the statue of Fudo Myo was transferred to this new location.

As well as the statue of Fudo in the main hall there are numerous other statues of Fudo around the grounds.

The Goma-do, the space for the Goma Ritual, is located inside a cave where another statue of Fudo plus 4 other Myo are enshrined.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Luminous River

I spent some time in Tokushima last December at the start of my walk along the Shikoku Fudo Myo Pilgrimage and so had the chance to see some of the illuminations.

Rather than the usual style of illuminations, Tokushima has been holding an LED Digital Art show at many sites around the city center. The biggest displays were executed by teamLab, an international arts cooperative. Luminous River, the biggest, was just a stones throw from my hotels so I got to see in many times.

More than 100 giant plastic white spheres floating on the river. Once the sun went down the spheres lit up in an everchanging sequence of colors acccmpanied by new age music piped from speakers along both banks.

The two bridges at either end already had permanent LED artwork installed on them, and on one of the bansk there was also many sculptural artworkd using lED's. Combined with all the normal illumination from the buildings it made for quite a sight....

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Kyushu Pilgrimage Day 9 Usa to Kitsuki

The ninth day was rainy. Not showery, but dark and overcast and incessant. Devoid of color. and while not a downpour it rained enough and was cold enough for the dampness to penetrate.

My route skirted the Kunisaki Peninsula, following the main road and rail line and rather than spend time looking around and enjoying the view I concentrated on walking quickly from shrine to shrine so I could take a break out of the rain.

At one shrine I found some interesting komainu, at another a pair of faded photographs of the Showa Emperor and his wife.

As I got closer to Kitsuki a couple of largish temples offered the possibility of something interesting to see....

As I reached Kitsuki in the early evening the rain finally stopped, though the sky remained threatening....

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Walk Around Dogo Day 2 (morning)

I woke before sunrise, the only person at the little campground in the scenic Jodogaura coast, and then headed north along the little coast road that was totally bereft of traffic.

Afetr a while the road cut inland along a valley wide enough for many rice paddies where the young seedlings were on the way to fullfilling their potential. At the coast in Nakamura I found the little village store open and took my morning repast before carrying on north.

A steady climb to the northernmost point of the island and the overlook of the Shirashima coastline. From here I headed south into the interior of the island. After a short climb I began a long descent.

The road was new, wide, relatively straight,  and little traveled. Every now and then I caught glimpses of the old road that meandered through the mountains. Quite a few k longer than the new road, it was probably a more enjoyable walk, but I had a room booked for tonight and so took the faster, easier route.

At the history museum in Kori I was surprised to find a lovely thatched farmhouse open to the public in the grounds behind the main museum building.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Kyushu Pilgrimage Temple 22 Dairakuji

Dairakuji was founded in the 14 Century and is just across the road from Usa Hachimangu, to which it was connected. Usa hachimangu now appears to lie inside a massive park, but until the Meiji Period the grounds were filled with a huge number of shrine/temple buildings. Old paintings show at least 5 pagodas.

Dairakuji was founded as a family temple for one of the head priests of Usa Hachimangu, but when the Buddhist parts of the complex were destroyed some of the statues, many of which dated back to the Heian Period, were placed here in Dairakuji.

I got here a little late in the day and was not able to get into the Treasure House, but there was still a lot of nice statues in the grounds.

Including, like at so many of the temples on this Shingon pilgrimage, multiple versions of Fudo Myo.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sword Dance Extraordinaire

I am a huge fan of kagura, and have seen hundreds and hundreds of dances over the years, most, but not all, Iwami kagura from my local area. While it is still fascinating seeing the variations of dances that different groups perform, it is nowadays rare to see a dance that I had not see before.

So it was with great anticipation I saw something at a performance by a kagura group from down near Masuda. There are basically two types of dance, masked-theatrical which was in earlier times performed by the villagers as entertainment in between the shinji, ceremonial dances, usually performed by the priests. There is a lot of crossover between the two, one being the use of torimono, objects carried by the dancers. Swords are often used as torimono.

I had never seen this kind before, 2 groups of 6 blades, crossed over and held together with material so they could be held. These are real blades, maybe not razor sharp, but still dangerous. At first the solitary dancer performed with these blades in his hand. later a shorter, double pointed blade was held between his teeth while he danced.

The finale to the dance was completely unexpected as the dancer started doing somersaults on the floor while holding all the blades. The roots of the dance is obviously with the shamanic, trance dances that are ultimately the origin of modern Iwami Kagura.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Daimonzaka is the slope that leads up from the valley floor towards Nachi Taisha Shrine, Seigantoji, and the Nachi Falls. Most people now take the modern road.

Daimonzaka means "Great Gate Slope", though the gate has long since disappeared, the path is flanked by huge trees, some 800 years old.

The stone staircase is 600 meters long and comprises of 267 steps. Near the base is shop renting Heian period costumes for cosplay photo ops.

For those unable to walk the Kumano Kodo it offers an opportunity to experience the pilgrimage route. At the top the road heads down to the right towards the Falls or a further series of steps carry on up to the shrine and temple.

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