Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Keishu-en Garden


Keishi-en is a fairly modern Japanese garden attached to Yoko Museum, a small gallery specializing in Chinese ceramics and art. The garden uses Mifuneyama as "borrowed scenery" behind the garden. It was designed by Kinsaku Nakane whose most well known garden is the one at Adachi Museum in Shimane.


There is a large pond filled with koi, behind which is a karesansui garden with many azalea bushes which bloom in the late spring. Unusually the upper part of the garden is a tea plantation with rows of tea plants following the contours.


The path around the garden passes over a bridge by a small waterfall and also leads to a teahouse where you can get traditional tea and sweets.


Most visitors to the area visit the Mifuneyama Rakuen Garden which is very close by and also uses Mifuneyama as a backdrop, but Keishu-en is well worth a visit, especially if you appreciate the work of  Kinsaku Nakane



Monday, August 3, 2020

Torinji Temple the Oldest Wooden Building in Okinawa


Torinji Temple belongs to the Rinzai Zen sect and was established on Ishigaki Island and built in 1613, the same time as neighboring Gongendo Shrine. Like Gongendo Shrine it was built by the Satsuma Clan who had invaded the islands.


It is said that the building is the oldest wooden building in all the Okinawan Islands. In the gate are two Nio statues that are also credited with being the oldest wooden statues in all Okinawa.


Buddhism was introduced into Okinawa from China in the 13th century, but unlike in Japan, where it had been introduced from Korea in the 6th Century, it was never used to politically unify the country.


It would seem that both the shrine and temple were established by the Satsuma samurai for themselves as Zen was the sect of choice for many samurai. Behind the small main hall is the remains of a small garden.


Friday, July 31, 2020

Along the Ebino Valley


My third day walking up the Sendai River was the 39th day of my walk around the Kyushu Pilgrimage. This would turn out to be the halfway point as iy ended up taking 78 days to complete the pilgrimage, but of course I didn't know that at the time.


There was a mist and the ground was covered in frost as I set out. The mist was not so thick and the bright sun made it quite dazzling as I headed up the river towards the next pilgrimage temple.


On my right were the Kirishima Mountains, and on the lefy another range of mountains whose name I did not now. Later today I would cross over them to a different watershed, the Kuma River.


A main road and an expressway followed the river, but I stayed on the rural roads that primarily passed through agricultural lands...... hoping to find more tanokami, but primarily avoiding the noise and traffic.....


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Kote-e of Kitsuki



Kote-e is a kind of Japanese art we would call plaster relief. a kote is a kind of narrow trowel used by plasterers, and e means picture or painting, so the literal translation would be "trowel picture".


The art developed in Edo and spread throughout the country, though in some places it is more common. Oita is one such place, and the merchant district of the castle town of Kitsuki has numerous examples.


The designs of the kote-e primarily used symbols to either ward off misfortune or attract good fortune. The kanji for water, used to ward off the danger of fire, is very common nationwide.


Being merchant properties, many of the kote-e in Kitsuki invoke good fortune and the accumulation of wealth. Daikoku and Ebisu, two of the 7 Lucky Gods, are therefore common.


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Tanokami of Kiyomachi Onsen part 2


Kiyomachi Onsen is a hot spring resort town and typically the accomodations are quite pricey, certainly more than I could pay. However I did find a really cheap place.3.000 yen for a tatami room with access to a kitchen in a small, old, run down building that a local onsen used. The baths were in a couple of small old building next door. There were absolutely no tourists, the place was used purely by locals, kind of like a sento.


My hosts were very friendly and told me I was the first foreigner who had ever stayed there. I explained that I was walking the Kyushu pilgrimage and that also I had an interest in the Tanokami. He promptly told me to get in his car and then drove me a few minutes away where there was a large collection of Tanokami statues that had been brought in from the surrounding communities.


When we got back I took a bath in my own private onsen bathroom. It may be a cliche, but my experience has been that the further you get away from the main tourist sites and the cities, the more friendly and helpful people become....


Of course its not as convenient or simple, but well worth the effort....


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Early Morning Views of the Inland Sea


After coming down from my night spent on Mount Kannomine I started walking up the coast of Osakikamijima on my third day walking along the Aki Nada chain of islands in the Inland Sea. I love sleeping out at the highest point anywhere, and on the islands in the Inland Sea the views are particularly impressive. Links to posts on Mount Kannomine are here   here   and here.


I was heading up to Kinoe, a port on the East coast of the ilsnad from where I could take a ferry to Takehara on the mainland of Hiroshima. A car ferry also runs from Kinoe across to Omishima and the Shimanamikaido.


This eastern end of the Aki Nada Islands is close to the chain of islands that comprise the Shimanami kaido, and as both are popularly cycling routes it is a way of connecting the two.


Kinoe was in forer times a major port for ships plying the Inland Sea route..... the expressway of historical Japan. Kinoe was well known a place where sailors could purchase the companionship of young women, though Mitarai on Osaki Shimojima was higher-class and busier.


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Tanokami of Kiyomachi Onsen part 1


I dropped down into the Ebino Valley with its great views of the Kirishima Mountains and headed to Kiyomachi Onsen where I had a room for the night. I stopped in at the small tourist office near the station and discovered a group of Tanokami statues that had been collected together from the neighborhood.


This is Miyazaki Prefecture, but historically it was part of the Satsuma Domain which is where a particular culture of Tanokami developed in the Edo Period. Here the Tanokami, "rice paddy god" was seen very much as a tutelary deity, and statues were found everywhere.


You can pick up a map which shows the location of these statues, some of which have been gathered together. Many of the statues are painted.


These last two photos show a particular feature of many of these statues..... the weirdly exaggerated hats which look odd until you view the statue from behind when it all becomes clear. The Tanokami here have an obvious relationship with fertility......


Sunday, July 19, 2020

Taisanji mountaintop temple in Tokushima


Located at about 450 meters above sea level, Taisanji is the first of the bangai temples on the Shikoku pilgrimage known commonly as Ohenro, and the first of the 36 temples on the Shikoku Fudo Myo O pilgrimage. Most pilgrims on the Ohenro don't make the steep detour up to it, as I didn't when I walked it, , but I was on my first day of the Fudo pilgrimage.


According to the legend it is a very ancient holy spot for Buddhism being established in the 6th Century. Later the monk Gyoki, who is credited with founding many of the Ohenro temples, practised austerities here, and later still Kobo Daishi came here and built a building and put a statue of Senju Kannon here. It is said he received the statue from his master when studying in China.


There was a giant, ancient Gingko tree in the grounds but the leaves had all fallen. I had passed through some fall colors on the way up the mountain but at this height it had all gone. I had become intrigued by Taisanji after reading a little about Tachikawa Ryu, a school of Shingon that espoused a type of tantric practise utilizing sexual energy, and Taisanji was one of its centers. It became outlawed and actually classed as heresy by the head authorities of Shingon so all records were destroyed or locked away.


Of course there was no sign of it anywhere I could see.


Friday, July 17, 2020

Beneath a Sea of Clouds with the Rice Paddy Gods


Unkai is a Japanese word that refers to a "Sea of Clouds". When the conditions are right, usually late Autumn/early Winter, Valleys fill up with mist during the night. When viewed from mountaintops above the level of the mist it appears to be like a sea. many Japanese seem shocked that such things occur in many parts of the world.


On the 38th day of my walk along the Kyushu Pilgrimage, I set off from Sogi Falls in the deep mist that filled the Sendai River valley. Once the sun rises the mist gradually thins and disperses.


As I headed upriver I passed a couple of small roadside shrines with statues of Tanokami, the god of rice paddies. Yesterday I passed a bunch of them but they were all fairly weathered, but today they had been painted.


I had been heading west, and by late morning the mist had disappeared. The river now veered sharply south and then later turned back north so it was easier to keep heading west  by cutting across the range of hills and dropping down back to the river near Ebino.


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Kurushima Kaikyo Suspension Bridges


Claimed to be the longest suspension bridge structure in the world, the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge is actually 3 connected suspension bridges. Its total length is a tad over 4 kilometers, a little longer than the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge further along the Inland Sea which also connects to Shikoku and is still, I believe, the longest suspension bridge in the world.


I walked across it on the third day of my walk along the Shimanami Kaido, the route that connects Honshu to Shikoku via a series of bridges across the islands.


If you are on foot like  I was, or cycling or using a moped then the crossing is much more than 4k as a series of gradually rising loops take you up and down to the height of the bridge.


The bridge connects Imabari on Shikoku with Oshima. I had crossed Oshima fairly quickly after spending the night on Michika Island in view of the Hakata-Oshima Bridge. Later I will post some shots of the stupendous views from the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridges....