Monday, December 30, 2013

Kanbara Shrine & Tomb


Kanbara Shrine is a little further down the river from Unochi Shrine, but was until recently about a hundred meters from its current location. It was moved when they discovered it had been built on top of a kofun, a mounded tomb....


The three main kami enshrined here are Okuninushi, Iwatsutsuwo, & Iwatsutsune, the latter two being the parents of Futsunushi, the kami from the Kuniyuzuri Myth who arranged the transfer of Japan to Amaterasu's descendants from Okuninushi.


Among the grave goods found in the excavated tomb was a bronze mirror dated 239, which was the year the legendary "queen of Wa" Himiko sent an envoy to China and received one hundred bronze mirrors.


The design of the mirror found here was the one that has been called Himiko Mirrors, but more than 100 have been found. Doing a bit of research for this post I read a convincing argument by one historian that these mirrors were manufactured in Japan by immigrant Chinese craftsmen.


I have often read that "shinto" has an aversion to death, but in western Japan at least I have found quite a few shrines that have been constructed on top of tombs.

Saturday, December 28, 2013



Shikinaen is the garden built around a secondary palace of the Rykuan Royal Family not far from Shuri Castle in Naha. Being Okinawan it includes both Japanese and Chinese styles. An earlier post on the palace, the Udun, can be found here.


Most fascinating for me was one of the bridges made out of uncut, sharp and gnarly limestone rocks.


There is also a small pavilion but unfortunately cannot be entered.


What makes the garden interesting is the exotic plants that cannot be found in mainland Japanese gardens. There are also views over Naha.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

By way of explanation


Some people get confused by this blog. Many blogs are diaries in chronological form, but mine jumps backwards and forward in time and space. There are a few themes that I return to regularly, manhole designs being one. All the manhole posts can be found by clicking the manhole tag.
Modern architecture is another interest..... click on the architecture tag
I try to post about all the critters I encounter.... click on the fauna tag
I do post vacation snaps... Morocco being a favored destination
Though I havent posted much recently I visit a lot of matsuris, most of which involve Iwami Kagura

Most posts however are concerning my walks around Japan. Currently I am posting about
Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage
Kyushu 108 temple Pilgrimage
Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage
Iwami 33 Kannon Pilgrimage
a 3 day walk across the Aki Nada Islands
a 5 day walk across the Kunisaki Peninsula
and a 3 day walk from Honshu to Shikoku starting with the Onomichi Temple Walk.

I post a little from each walk rather than a continuous and chronological sequence from just one.

One topic that is heavily represented is shrines, and an index can be found here.

there are now over 1100 posts, and over the years I have tweeked the code and its all getting a little messy, so I am hoping to start a new blog in what I think will be a better format early in the new year.

Till then I am off walking.........

so seasons greetings to you all

feedback is always appreciated

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hachizu Shrine


After leaving Usa Hachimangu and heading towards the Kunisaki Peninsula I chose to avoid the main road and instead headed through the back roads through the village of Hachizu where I stopped in at Hachizu Shrine.


There is a very unusual mix of kami enshrined here, the primary being Amenominakanushi, by some accounts the first kami to come into being, yet very little is known or written about him. There were apparently no ancient shrines deicated to him, but in the Meiji era when the buddhas and kami were seperated, many shrines chose to rename Myoken, the deity of the North Star, Amenominakanushi....


The next is Yaekotoshironushi, another version of the name Kotoshironushi, the son of Okuninushi and now more commonly equated with Ebisu. Then there is the pair of kami Mikahayahi and Hihahayahi who who created out of blood dripping from the sword that Izanagi used to kill the god of fire. Finally there is Uganomitama, the female aspect of Inari.


I am guessing that the pile of rice straw is to make new shimenawa. Secondary shrines within the grounds include Kibune, Tenjin, Konpira, Gion, Inari, Dosojin, and Wakamiya.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Along the Road.....


After leaving Unochi Shrine I continued downstream towards the first temple on this leg of my Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage. It was May, and the azaleas that lined the road were stunning.


The local manhole cover doesnt feature azaleas though, rather cosmo flowers....


Within the azalea bushes were miniature replicas of Haniwa, the terra cotta figurines, often over a meter in height, that surrounded the ancient burial mounds. According to the ancient chronicles the haniwa were created to replace the practice of sacrificial  live human burials along with deceased leaders. Most Japanese insist that such things never happened, though usualy the chronicles are treated as gospel.


Quite probably these roadside decorations are because a little way down the road is quite an important burial mound.

Kami Kamagari Island


After crossing the Kamagari Bridge from Shimokamagari Island I had two choices of route to cross Kami kamagari Island, one road hugs the north coast, and one the south. I chose the south as it appeared to be less populated and after crossing the bridge I noticed most traffic taking the north route. The view to the south across small islands towards Shikoku I also expected to be nicer than looking at mainland Hiroshima.


There were no houses along the road, but there were a couple of big quarries biting huge holes out of the steep slopes.


Looks to me like they were producing aggregate and there were several small piers extending into the sea which is obviously how the material was transported out.


Occasionaly a small beach appeared. Supposedly the southern peninsular of the island is home to the best beach in Hiroshima, and one of the top 100 beaches of Japan, but I did not venture to that part of the island.


High up on the mountainside I could see a large statues of Kannon, but no way was I going to climb up to investigate.


The road veered away from the coast, avoiding the settlements, and plunged through a new tunnel to emerge at the bridge taking me over to the next island, my destination for the evening.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Unochi Shrine


Unochi Shrine is a small and very old shrine in Kamo Town not far from the Kamo Culture Hall. It is listed in the Izumo Fudoki and must therefore be more than 1300 years old.


The kami enshrined are listed as Unojihiko and Suminenomikoto. The Fudoki describes Unojihiko as a "sea god" but there is no mention of Suminenomikoto, however a few k away is a Sumine Shrine that enshrines Sugane, Unojihikos father, so I suspect that is what is meant.


According to the legend, Unojihiko was very resentful of his father and tried to kill him by raising a very high tide which reached this far inland. there are small shrines in the grounds to Susano, Kushinada, his wife, and Okuninushi.


In the zuijinmon are a pair of fascinating little wooden komainu。。。


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dennis Banks in Yamaguchi


On Sunday I was privileged to finally meet one of my heroes. We went down to Tokuyama in Yamaguchi to see the last public event of Dennis Banks 2013 Japan Tour. For those who don't know who Dennis Banks is, he was a founding member of AIM and has continued to work for native issues, which by its very nature also means peace and environmental issues.

He spends a lot of time in Japan and after this last gig he was off to nearby Iwaishima to meet with the nuclear resisters there.

First there was a video of his life story, from the early days of AIM up through the Longest Walks and on to projects he is working on now. Then he spoke for a while and the afternoon ended with some traditional Ojibwa dances. It was good to hear the beat of the drum again, both literaly and metaphorically. Afterwards we spoke together about mutual friends, both living and those passed on.


Later we went and enjoyed some of Tokuyamas christmas illuminations.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ushitora Shrine


The next stop along the Onomichi Temple Walk is Ushitora Shrine, founded in the mid 9th Century and therefore believed to be the oldest shrine in the town.


The shrine is set in a grove of massive camphor trees the oldest of which is more than 900 years old. The ropeway up the mountain now passes over the shrine.


The 4 kami enshrined in the main shrine are Izanagi, Amaterasu, Susano, and Kibitsuhiko.


There are a lot of secondary shrines in the grounds including a large pyramidical rock, but the only one I could be sure of was an Inari Shrine.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Kamo Cultural Hall Revisited


To start the second leg of my walk along the Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage I took the train to Komonaka Station from where it was a few kilometer walk along the river to where I could rejoin the route where I left it at the end of Day 2.


I passed close by the Kamo Cultural Hall so could not resist stopping in to take some more photos of this strange piece of architecture.


I had been here a couple of times before and a previous post with more photos and details can be found here.


I don't think it is particularly good architecture,.. I detect an influence of Le Corbusier maybe, and local residents dislike it, but it has whimsy, so that cant be a bad thing.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Enjo-ji Temple


Enjo-ji is the first of the "extra" temples on the Iwami 33 Kannon Pilgrimage, that is to say it is not one of the 33 but still considered part of the pilgrimage. It has a fine pair of Nio


It is the only Tendai temple within Oda City and was founded sometime in the first half of the tenth century.


The honzon is a 16th century statue of Senju Kannon, the thousand-armed Kannon.


From the temple there are great views of Mount Sanbe the top of which I planned on reaching by the end of the day.


On the hillside behind the temple is a Noshiro Shrine which I am presuming is a branch of the shrine in the village a few kilometers downstream that enshrines Izanagi. A post on that shrine can be found here.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Iwano Yakushi-do


My final stop on my way to the station at the end of my second day of walking the Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage was this small temple next to the station.


A statue of Yakushi Nyorai is enshrined in the small building at the top of a flight of stairs. This statue was at the bottom of the stairs and is not the Yakushi, which was hidden and could not be seen. According to the signboard it is one of 7 Yakushi Nyorai statues that date from the time of Emperor Shomu who ruled in the middle of the eighth Century.


The statue was originally in a cave but sometime in the ninth Century a young woman who had just lost her parents was sleeping in the cave and had a dream that told her she shoukld marry a certain gentleman who lived over in Kitayama. She did, and with her new husband built the hall and moved the statue to it.


Judging by the number of prayer slips left here it continues to be a popular site.

And so that was the end of my second day....... looking forward to the next leg....


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