Thursday, September 24, 2020

Shorenji Amida-do

Heading down the Kuma River it was not too long before I cam upon another thatched temple. This one was the Amida-do of Shorenji temple.

It was built in 1295 by Yorimune Sagara to memorialize his great  grandfather, Yorikage, who came here from the capital to take over the surrounding lands. The Sagara family controlled this area continuously for almost 700 years until 1867, an unusual situation in the volatile political scene of historical Japan.

The current building is about 570 years old. Inside are some statues that I believe date back to the Kamakura Period. Being an Amida Hall the central place is for a standing Amida.

I am almost certain this is a Jizo. The upper reaches of the Kuma River is an intriguing place and I plan to return there and do a lot more exploring. In fact this leg of my pilgrimage, following the Sendai River upstream and then crossing over to go down the Kuma River was one of the most enjoyable legs of the whole pilgrimage.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Cat Temple Shozen-in

Standing guard in front of the gate to Shozen-in, a small temple in the mountains of Kumamoto, are a pair of cats rather than the more usual nio or komainu. The reason relates to the story of why the temple was founded in 1625

Previously a temple, Fumonji, stood on this spot but was burned down in 1582, and the resident priest,  Seiyo Houin, killed. According to the legend he had been falsely accused of plotting against the local lord.

Following his death, his mother went to a local shrine and there bit her finger and painted the kami statue with the blood and also got her cat to lick the blood. This was all some type of curse and withcraft. A series of misfortunes began affecting the lords family, and some stories involve the cat shapeshifting into a beautiful woman.

Subsequently the lord decided to construct a new temple to pacify the spirit of the son who had been killed.  Pacifying angry spirits and ghosts is a huge part of Japanese religious practise. The disasters ceased.

Earlier I have posted about the Kannon-do of the temple, and of a Cat Shrine in Kagoshima

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Kannon-do at Shozen-in Temple


The Kannon-do (Kannon Hall) at Shozen-in Temple near Yunomae in the mountains of Kumamoto is rather unusual. It has a thatched roof, which in itself is quite unusual although not so unusual in this area. It is painted black, which is unusual,and its carvings are quite bright.... not so unusual.

It was built in 1625 at the same time as the main hall and was built on the site of a temple that had been burned down earlier. Both the main hall and Kannon-do are Importany Cultural Properties.

The legend of why the previous temple was destroyed and this new one established is a ghostly tale involving curses and a cat and the temple has two cat statues standing guard which  has led to the temple acquiring the nickname "Cat Temple"

But that is for the next post.....

Friday, September 18, 2020

Yunomae Manga Museum


After leaving my berth for the night I began the 41st day of my walk around Kyushu by taking the train a couple of stops east to the terminal at Yunomae, a small hot spring resort in the mountains of Kumamoto. The next pilgrimage temple was actually west but I was making a small detour to see some things that interested me.

First stop was the Yunomae Manga Museum, kind of a memorial to a local man, Ryosuke Nasu, who was a political cartoonist and caricaturist from the 1930's and 40's. As well as exhibiting his work they also hold numerous manga events and festivals.

It was too early for me to enter, but I was more interested in the architecture. It was one of dozens and dozens of pieces of architecture around Kumamoto that are part of what is called Kumamoto Artpolis, an attempt to integrate architecture and design in a better way throughout the prefecture.

There are a lot of heavyweight architects who have contributed, but, like here, lesser-known architects. Many of the pieces are in quite remote locations but as I have an interest in modern architecture I will be making a bunch of small detours as I pass through Kumamoto to visit as many of them as I can.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Sleeper Train to Nowhere


When I am not sleeping out for the night I always look for the cheapest type of accommodation possible, so I was delighted to find Blue Train Taragi for the night of my 40th day walking along the Kyushu Pilgriumage.

It is three carriages from the former Hayabusa sleeper train that ran, I believe, down to kagoshima and was discontinued in 2009.

One car has reception and a communal area that includes TV and wifi but the other two were sleeping berths which included single rooms. There are no bathing facilities on the train, but the low price includes a ticket to the onsen just across the road.

I have spent a couple of nights on sleeper trains in Europe,  but not yet in Japan. I had a pleasant night on Blue Train and would stay there again. Taragi is on the Kumagawa Railway upstream from Hitoyoshi.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Statues and Fall Colors at Kandaiji Temple

Some of the photos of statues I encountered amoing the autumn colors at Kandaiji Temple, the 51st temple on the Kyushu Pilgrimage. It is located in the upper part of the Kumagawa Valley in southern Kumamoto Prefecture.

I was here in late November on the 40th day of my walk around Kyushu. Not sure who the first statue is, though I would bet it is one of the Buddhas. The second is most obviously Fudo Myo.

Again, not sure about the 3rd photo but in the 4th that is definitely Kobo Daishi on the left and Jizo on the right. This was a Shingon pilgrimage centered on Kobo Daishi.

This last one has me puzzled. It is on the backside of a Fudo Myo statue, and it is holding a sword, but the hairstyle or headgear does not look like Fudo......

Friday, September 11, 2020

Tashibu Motomiya Hachimansha


The Kunisaki Peninsula is one of my most favorite places, one reason being that some of the cultural revolution that took place at the end of the 19th Century was somewhat ignored here. I am referring to the artificial separation of shrines and temple.

Many of the shrines here still have Buddhist guardians, usually made of stone. Most shrines will also have a small graveyard attached to it.

I am on my first day walking along an ancient yamabushi pilgrimage route that, for me, is also the start of the Kyushu Fudo Myo Pilgrimage. Much of this area was a base for a type of shugendo that mixed Tendai Buddhism with Hachiman shinto.

Another great attraction here for me is that many of the shrines still have old, wooden masks on display.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Kandai-ji Temple number 51 on the Kyushu Pilgrimage

Kandai0ji is located on the south side of the Kumagawa Valley in the mountains of Kumamoto. It is the 51st of the 108 temples on the Shingon Kyushu 108 temple pilgrimage.

It was not very grand but had really noce grounds and gardens. I could not find out much about it except its honzon is a secret Kannon.

Just as I was leaving the priest, in full robes, and his wife appeared  and invited me in for tea. I begged off claiming, truthfully, that I still had a decent walk to go before reaching my accomodations for the night.

I should have stayed and chatted, and regret it now. Thre was quite a lot of statuary in the grounds and that I will post on next.....

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Kiyomizu Temple number 2 on the Kinki Fudo Myo-o Pilgrimage

Located a little to the west of Shitennoji Temple in an ancient part of Osaka with many interesting shrines and temples, it is the second of the 36 temples on the Kinki Fudo Myo pilgrimage.

Its full name is Arisusan Seikoin Kiyomizudera and is now a Tenda sect temple. It is not known when it was founded, though I suspect it was a long time ago. Kiyomizu means "pure water" and there are a lot of temples with that name, not just the famous one in Kyoto.

Its honzon is a Kannon statue and the temple is one of the Osaka Kannon Pilgrimage temple, but I did not visit any of the buildings, instead went straight to what is called the only natural waterfall in Osaka City.

It may well have been "natural" at some point in the past, but has been much "improved" as the Japanese would say. It is made for purification by water rituals, and Fudo is almost always present at such sites.


Friday, September 4, 2020

Shirahige Shrine Asagiri


By lunchtime of the 40th day along the Kyushu Pilgrimage the mist had all disappeared and it was yet another glorious, late November day. After having stopped in at a handful of small, local shrines I reached a rather grander affair.

Shirahige Shrine was built at the base of a small mountain that once had a small castle and was the focal point for the area. It was a large shrine with multiple secondary shrines in the grounds and was obviously supported by the local lord of the castle.

There are a lot of Shirahige shrines around the country, branches of the Shirahige Shrine on lake Biwa near Kyoto. They enshrine a Korean king who settled in the Shiga area. This Shirahige shrine had no apparent connection with that one.

All the kami enshrined here relate to the founding myths of Jimmu, the mythical first emperorr. The primary kami is Ugayafukiaezu, the father of Jimmu, and also Hikohohodemi, hikoitsuse, and Inainomikpto are enshrined here.

There was also a dedicated area for archery, something only a few shrines have.