Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Great Camphor Tree at Horakuji Temple


In the grounds of Horakuji Temple is a huge, ancient kusunoki tree. Estimated to be about 800 years old, it is officially the second oldest tree in Osaka, one in Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine being older.

Its dimensions are impressive. 26 meters tall and a similar size for the spread. The circumference of the trunk is 8 meters. It is said the tree can be seen from 8 kilometer away.

On one side at its base is a small Inari shrine with a few small vermillion torii leading to it. On the trunk, above a shimenawa is a Tengu mask.

Also at its base is an altar to Fudo Myo, 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Horakuji Temple 3 on the Kinki Fudo Myo Pilgrimage


The Kinki Fudo Myo Pilgrimage consists of 36 temples, but begins in Osaka with a clutsre of half a dozen close together, so I was visiting temple number three by lunchtime of my first day walking it. It is located in Tanabe, south central Osaka.

In the Edo period it became known commonly as Yakuyoke Tanabe Fudoson, yakuyoke being the "unlucky" years that the temple offered protection against. The hinzon is a Fudo, and the large flaming sword is like a sign making the temple easy to find in the highky built-up area.

The temple was founded by the son of the famous Taira no Kiyomori, Taira no Shgemori in 1178. The Kumano Kodo passes nearby and it is said that he established the temple here after completing the Kumano pilgrimage. The temple was destroyed by Oda Nobunaga, but rebuilt shortly afterwards.

The 3 storeyed pagoda is new, being built in 1996 and supposedly houses Buddha relics brought from China.The temple is home to an ancient silk painting of Fudo Myo, and is also where the famous monk and sanskrit scholar Jyuin studied.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Shirakawa Bridge Landscaping


The Sjirakawa River runs through downtown Kumamoto, and the main road that runs away from the railway station passes over the Shirakawa Bridge.

Fujie Kazuko was the young architect gice the project of "landscaping" the bridge as part of the Kumamoto Artpolis program.

Her project seems more like sculpture than architecture, primarily consisting of strang, geometric structures places on either sidewalk of the bridge. At night they light up/ Yje structures do seem to provide a little shade, but no protection from the weather.

It is the weakest of the Kumamoto Artpolis projects I have seen so far. Posts on other projects can be found at ths link.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Kumamoto Artpolis Kumamoto Station


Kumamoto Station is in the process of being redeveloped so it's not surprising that the project is incorporated into the Kumamoto Artpoli program. The West gate which is on the shinkansen side of the station and facing the hills has been completed.for ten years now.

A roof with organic curved outline and curved holes in it extend out from the entrance. There are also curved, vertical walls with rectangular opening that often frame vegetation. 

The architect was Sato Mitsuhiko. I enjoyed the space, especially as rhere are few people on this side of the station.

On the main East Gate only one small section has been completed, a long covered walkway that extends from the main station entranvnce out to the tram station which is covered with a flat roof with similar organic curves as the structure on the west side.

The plan is for more areas on this busier side of the station to have similar curved roofs. The architect is Nishizawa Ryue.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Honzoin Temple 55 of the Kyushu Pilgrimage


Honzoin is a very small, urban temple in downtown Kumamoto and number 55 on the Kyushu Pilgrimage  Its honzon is a Fudo Myoo, but I did not get into the main hall to see it. However there were multiple small Fudo statues in the grounds.

The Daishido was a simple, modern, concrete structure that was open. There was also a statue of Kobo daishi outside. The temple has been here since the 1930's but its origin lie with Mount Aso and Shugendo.

Mount Aso was a major shugendo center, and there were 37 sub temples scattered around the mountain as well as a main temple that was connected to the main shrine of the mountain. These were Tendai temples, and the other two major shugendo centers on yushu, Hikosan and Kunisaki, were also Tendai based. On Honshu the most dominant form of shugendo was Shingon related.

On early Meiji shugendo was outlawed and all of the temples on Aso wete closed down. One however moved to Kumamoto and converted to Shingon and then a few decades later moved again to its current location.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Kumamoto Station Koban


For those who don't know Japan so well, Koban is often translated as "Police Box" and they refer to  small police stations, not always manned 24 hours a day, that are scattered around the cities and rural areas.

I've seen several that were architecturally interesting, but perhaps the best is the one outside Kumamoto Station. It is one of the Kumamoto Artpolis projects.

An overhanging balcony extends out from the second floor, punctuated by circular holes of various sizes that allow the viewer to see the interior walls that are painted in a variety of pastel shades.

Unusually, for the Kumamoto Artpolis project,  the design was by a couple of non-Japanese architects, Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, though they both had previously worked for Toyo Ito.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Kongoji Temple 56 on the Kyushu Pilgrimage


Kongoji is a small, urban temple in downtown Kumamoto. Like all the temples on the Kyushu 88 (108) temple pilgrimage it belongs to the Shingon sect. The konzon is an 11-faced Kannon.

The temple was originally built at the end of the 16th century and was located NE of Kumamoto castle. It was the Urakimon, or "rear" kimon for the castle. The Kimon is often called the demon gate as it protects a site from the evil forces that approach from the NE. Enryakuji temple protecting Kyoto is the most famous example, though most castles had temples that were kimon.

The temple was moved to its current location in the early Meiji period due to the Haibutsu Kishaku, the anti-Buddhist campaign of the period that was more violent in some areas than others. Like anything with a negative connotation, it is usually not talked about much in Japan.

Its current form is obviously quite recent as it is all concrete, and like quite a few temples in cities, raised up to allow parking underneath the building.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Kokin Denju no Ma Teahouse


Kokin Denju no Ma teahouse is an old, thatched building with fatastic views out over the large pond in Suizenji garden in Kumamoto. The teahouse is actually a bit older than the garden, but it was not moved here until 1912.

For more than 300 years it had stood inside the grounds of the Imperial palace in Kyoto but it probably had a different name then.

Kokin Denju is an esoteric teaching on classical poetry. Yusai Hosokawa, the grandfather of the man who established Suizenji garden in 1637, was a samurai scholar who passed on the Kokin Denju to his student Prince Hachijonomiya, the brother of the then current emperor. This took place in the teahouse when it was in the Imoerial palace in Kyoto in the 16th Century.

It is now free to enter and enjoy the best views of the garden.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Mount Fuji at Suizenji Garden


It is believed that the earliest Japanese gardens, based on Chinese gardens, were representations of mythical and legendary landscapes that were Daoist ind later Buddhist in origin. The extremely common Crane or Turtle Islands being examples.

Later actual famous landscapes, usually again Chinese, that had been immortalized in poetry and painting were the inspiration. Later still came the idea of gardens representing actual jaoanese landscapes..

Suizenji Garden in Kumamoto is said to be based on the 53 stations of the Tokaido, the highway that connected Kyoto with Edo, and the most famous view along that route is of course Mount Fuji.

The garden was built for the tea-drinking pleasure of the Lords of the Kumamoto Domain and also has a Noh stage as well as several teahouses within the grounds.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Autumn Colors at Suizenji Garden


Suizenji garden is probably the most well known garden in Kumamoto and is registered as one of the top 100 scenic spots in Japan.

It is a stroll type garden built originally as a tea retreat for the daimyos of Kumamoto.

The largest part is a representation of the Tokaido, the main road between Kyoto and Tokyo in the Edo period, and perhaps its most famous spot is a representation of Mount Fuji.

I visited at the end of November which meant that this far south the autumn colors were almost at their peak. It also meant the large grassy areas were yellow rather than green.