Thursday, May 19, 2022

Tanjoji Temple Birthplace of Honen


Tanjo-ji Temple is located in central Okayama prefecture, somewhat south of Tsuyama. Tanjo mand "birth", and the temple was built on the site where Honen, the founder of the Jodo shu, Pure Land sect, was born. 

It is quite a large complex and is included in about half a dozen pilgrimage routes, including the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage where it is a "special" un-numbered temple, and it was at the start of my 4th day walking that pilgrimage that I visited.

This is the mausoleum f Honen's parents. His father was a high-ranking provincial official who was later assassinated. Honen was born here in 1133. The temple was established in the early 13th century.

The temple was patronized by the Mori clan and was extensively rebuilt in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Some of the structures are Nationally recognized Important Cultural Properties.

A statue of Honen as a young boy leaving home to become a monk. While studying at Hiezan, the great Tendai monastery above Kyoto, he searched for a method whereby the mass of people could achieve salvation, and settled on what in Japanese is called the nembutsu.

In essence, this means reciting the name of Amida Buddha to ensure one's rebirth in his Pure Land. A disciple of Honen, Shinran, later created the True Pure Land sect, Jodo Shin Shu, and this is the most popular Buddhist sect in Japan.

Next I will post soem photos of the statuary and such from the temple....

Monday, May 16, 2022

Kabira Bay Ishigaki Island

Kabira Bay

Kabira Bay is one of the most popular scenic spots on the island of Ishigaki in what is now Okinawa.

With white sand beaches, turquoise seas, and coral reefs, it is consodered a troical paradise and a very popuar dstination for tourists from maonland Japan.

Actually we visited in April which is kind of the off-season, and the weather was very overcast so the scenery was not as colorful, but there were also few other tourists so it was possible to walk the uncrowded beaches.

Actually I believe that you are not allowed to swim in Kabira bay itself because of black pearl cultivation.

Ishigaki is part of what is called the Yaeyama Islands, the last group of islands in the chain that extends south and west from Kyushu in the mainland of Japan.

The Yaeyama Islands include the furthest west and also the furthest south points of Japan, and is much closer to Taiwan than it is to the main island of Okinawa.

The area is belieced to have been settled by Melanesian people from further south.

In the 15th century the Yaeyama Islands became subsumed under the rule of the recently unified Ryukyuan dynasty of the main island of Okinawa.

In the 17th century Satsuma Domain invaded the Ryukyu's, or in todays parlance "conducted a special military operation". but the islands did not become part of Japan until the late 19th century.

Ishigaki Sea Salt

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Off the Beaten Track in Kitsuki Castle Town


I first visited Kitsuki in the second week of my marathon walk around Kyushu on the Kyushu Pikgrimgae, incidentally the longest pilgrimage in Japan. Komyoin is temple number 23 on that pilgrimage. I was attracted to Kitsuki and planned a return visit.

My opportunity came a few years later when I planned a 5 day walk criss-crossing the Kunisaki peninsula and arranged my route so I get spend a full day in Kitsuki.

First I visited the reconstructed castle, billed as the smallest castle in Japan, and then the samurai districts, a Preservation District with many samurai residences and their gardens open to the public. I walked through the former merchant district quite quickly as they were mostly gift shop and such, but there were many examples of a little-known art form called kote-e, plaster reliefs.

My methid of exploring a new place back then was to check maps for shrine locations and then arrange a route that would allow me to visit as many shrines as possible, and so I headed away from the main tourist area..... the to ywo pictures were a former doctors house from the Meiji period...... I'm not sure but I think it was the childhood home of a man wholater became a fairly major politician....

The thrid photos is a branch of the Yasaka Shrine nearby, and the final three photos werre, I bekuee, a tenjin shrine or Tenmangu,because of the ox statue

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Saihoji Temple Fumeikaku


The Fumeikaku hall is one of the landmarks of the historical town of Takehara on the coast of Hiroshima.

It's part of Saijoji Temple, a large complex on the hillside overlooking the old town. Originally a Zen temple, it was converted to the Jodo sect after rebuilding following a fire in 1602.

A long, curved, walled stairway offers great views over the bell tower and the grey, tiled roofscape of the Historic Preservation District which is commonly classified as a "Little Kyoto", consequently, the stairway has been used in numerous movies and TV shows.

The vermillion-colored Fumeikaku was built in 1758 and was modeled on the famous Kiyomizudera in Kyoto. It houses the honzon of the temple, an 11-faced Kannon.

There are other things to see at the temple, as there are around Takehara, and I quite recommend a visit.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Nima Sand Museum Interior


These shots were all taken inside the largest pyramid at the Sand Museum in Nima, Shimane.

Suspended above your head is the largest sand timer in the world, the main attraction of the museum.

The #hourglass" itself is 6 meters tall and one meter wide and contains almost one full ton of fine sand which takes a year to pass through the narrow aperture.

On new years eve every year the sandtime is lowered to the floor and at midnight is rotated so that the sand starts to flow again.

Other artworks connected with sand and a variety of events have been tried over the years to popularize the museum, but most visitors seem more attracted to the architecture.

I suspect the place is not making any money at all and I am sure it will not be able to stay open too much longer, though the proximity to the World Heritage sites of Iwami Ginzan may supply enough viitors to forestall that event.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Nima Sand Museum


I have posted on the Nima Sand Museum before, but it was a long time ago, and the posts no longer have photos. It is one of the local architectural attractions that hasn't closed down, though I believe it is not making money.

A nearby beach, Kthahama, is famous for having "singing sand", that is to say it squeaks when walked on. The local mayor decided this was a good enough reason to oen a unique museum devoted to sand.

The museum is toed with a series of glass pyramids which make it easy to spot when passing nearby. In fact it is said that the architect made the tallest pyramid tall enough so that it could be seen from his mother's grave.

Shin Takamatsu is one of my favorite Japanese architects, and being a local man Shimane has quite a few of his buildings, which often feature simple geometric forms, though the structure closest to this one is probably Seirei, a Buddhist "chapel" near Osaka.

If you are wondering what a sand museum could display, the answer is "not a lot". Its main feature is the worlds largest sand timer, which I will show next.

I visited at the end of my third day walking the Iwami 33 Kannon pilgrimage. Day 4 would see me heading u from Nima into Iami Ginzan.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Flowers & Statues at Choanji Temple


The gardens at Choanji Temple in the Kunisaki peninsula  spread up the hillside from the main buildings towards the biggish shrine above.

As I cam over the mountain I encountered the gardens before the temple. As I mentioned in the previous post, the gardens seemed somewhat unkempt, though to my mind that is not a criticism. I'm no great fan of flowers so I realy gon't know what they were, except for azaleas which I do recognize.

It was still really early so there were no visitors or staff around. In the treasure hall is said to be a small wooden statue of a deity called Taroten. It was enshrined in the large shrine that was the okunoin of the temple until 1868. The statue looks like a kami statue but is associated with Fudo Myo and also tengu.

There wre a few statues around the grounds, and at least three pairs of the stone Nio guardians that are ubiquitous in Kunisaki

More posts on this tri around Kunisaki can be found by clicking the Kyushu Fudo label below, or from an earlier trip by clicking the Kunisaki Fall Walk label.

The principal statuem te honzon, was theis Edo-period statue of a Thousand-Armed Kannon.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Choanji Flower Temple


Choanji is a mountain temple in the Kunisaki area that is known locally as a flower temple because of its extensive gardens.

In ancient times it was the most important temple in the region as it was the head temple of Rokugo Manzan, the syncretic shugendo sect based on Hachiman and Tendai Buddhism that dominated the area.

In the heyday of its power and wealth more than 1,000 monks were based here. Excavated in the grounds have been 19 bronze plaques inscribed with the Lotus Sutra. These sutra burials were popular in the late Heian period, though occurred mostly in areas outside of the capital area.

During the Warring States period a warlord built a small castle above Choanji. When he was defeated control of the Rokugo Manzan was shifted to Futago Temple, where it remains to this day.

When I visited in early May, 2016, the gardens were not well kept and there was no-one around, though it was only 7:30. I had arrived from down the mountain, following the trail that roughly follows the old shugendo pilgrimage route. This was my second day walking along the Kyushu Fudo Myo-o pilgrimage

I was impressed with how many pairs of stone Nio there were. More photos of colours and statues will come next.....