Monday, September 20, 2021

Flowers of Taketomi Island


I Don't often take photos of flowers. I quite like flowers, and they are obviously beautiful, but I am not obsessed with them.

All these shots were taken on Taketomi Island in Okinawa, a sub-tropical environment with some large and spectacular flowers.

I visited in an April, so don't know what the floral offerings are at other times of the year.

I also have absolutely no oidea of the names of any of these flowers, in English, Japanese, nor Lation.

This display was in front of the village school, or maybe the former village school. One could easily imagine oneself in England.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Koinoki Shrine the Love Shrine in Fukuoka


Koinnoki Shrine is within the grounds of Mizuta Tenmangu Shrine in southern Fukuoka and is distinctive for being painted pink.

There are also a plethora of hearts around the shrine so you would perhaps not be surprised that the shrine advertises itself as a Love Shrine.

Probably the original shrine that took the name "Love Shrine" is the small one in Kyoto next to Kiyomizu Temple. It enshrines Okuninushi who, since the Edo period, became known as the kami to pray to for success in finding a spouse or lover. However , here at Mizuta Tenmangu it is not Okuninsuhi who is enshrined but Koinoki no mikoto, the only shrine in the country to this "god of love"

The shrine is very popular, especially for young females, and there are many things they can spend their money on including this heart-shaped ema, votive plaques, as well as omamori, amulets, and omikuji, fortunes, all guaranteed to have a love theme.

As well as the pink color scheme, other decorations have been added to the shrine to appeal to the target demographic. I quite liked the semi-abstract dosojin statue.

There was also a Meoto Iwa, or "married couple rocks". Usually, these are naturally occurring pairs of rocks, often on the shore, with a shimenawa connecting them. Here I suspect the rocks were purposefully arranged. There were also  hearts found all over the place.

I can find no information about the kami Koinoki no mikoto. I strongly suspect that it was simply the name for a local kami and because of the idiosyncrasies of the Japanese language the Chinese character representing"koi" was changed to the one that reads as "love". This kind of redefining of words is fairly common, perhaps the most well-known example being "Karate". Originally kara was written using the character meaning China, but this was rewritten by the Meiji government to the character for "empty hand", thereby obscuring the Chinese origin of the martial art.

This was my final stop on my 50th day walking the Kyushu Pilgrimage that had started out in the fog further south in Arao, Kumamoto. On my way north I stopped in at shrines before reaching one of the pilgrimage temples. I had a wonderful time exploring the nearby Kyushu Geibunkan and its' annexes before reaching Mizuta Tenmangu. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Nakane Samurai Residence & Garden in Kitsuki


The castle town of Kitsuki in Oita is yet another of the small towns in Japan that have chosen to label themselves as "Little Kyoto". The castle claims to be the smallest in Japan and the town that grew up around the castle is organized in an unusual way due to the lay of the land.

There are two bluff, kind of small plateaus with  steep slopes that in places are cliffs. It bwas on top of these that the samurai built their homes as a defensive location. The narrow strip of land between these two strips of high ground is where the merchants and lower class townspeople lived and worked.

Atop the southern bluff, closest to the castle, is the former home of the Nakane family who were, I believe, the highest-ranked of the retainers to the castle lord. As befitting their status the Nakane had quite a rage garden.

When I visited the house was occupied by a kimono rental company and was therefor free to enter and explore. It seems the kimono rental has moved to a different location and now the house is just an open house but remains free to enter.

It seesm thatdressing up in kimono to explore the town gives you free entry to all the samurai houses, museums etc in the town.

The northern bluff is actually very well preserved with many former samurai houses open to the public and is a Historic Preservation District. Many of the houses also have quite nice traditional gardens.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Many Komainu at Mizuta Tenmangu


Mizuta Tenmangu is a fairly large, well establishd, and popular shrine  in southern Fukuoka, and so has over the years received donations and support from wealthy benefactors as well as parishioners. Komainu statues are one such recipient of donations, and Mizuta Tenmangu has numerous pairs that have been installed over the centuries.

These first pair are carved into the lintels of the porch, along with baku, the mythical elephant-like creature. Usually, but not always,  one of the pair will have an open mouth, and one a closed mouth. With this pair, it is not clear.

The open mouth corresponds to "Ah" and the closed mouth to "un", the Sanskrit equivalent of the Greek alpha and omega. usually the "ah" is on the right, I presume because the Japanese traditionally wrote and read from right to left.

All these komainu are made out of different kinds of stone. Originally komainu were wooden and placed inside the shrines. Predominantly in the Edo period they came to be placed outside and made of more weather-resistant stone, though you can sometimes find them made of metal or ceramic.

Behind this pair, you can see a bronze statue of an ox.... a symbol of Tenjin, and found at many Tenmangu shrines.

Lichen and erosion take their toll on komainu and other stone statues. One of the pairs here is in the haunches raised pose.

This final pair seem to be more recent as they have little miss, lichen, or erosion. I continue to be fascinated by the diversity of styles of how komainu are represeneted both through history and in different regions. A selection of previous posts featuring komainu can be viwed by clicking this link.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Morikawa Residence Garden in Takehara


The Morikawa Residence was a "mansion" for a very wealthy merchant in Takehara on the south coast of Hiroshima/ Because so much of its historical streets and buildings still remain it is classed as a Preservation District and is also known as the "Little Kyoto of Ali". I wrote an earlier post about the Takehara Preservation District.

Morikawa built his new mansion in 1916, so it not so old, however it was built in traditionalstyle and is very large and open to the public. He was also the mayor of the town, showing that wealth and political power have always gone hand in jhand. An earlier post shows interiors of the mansion.

The Morikawa residence of course has a traditional Japanese garden, or rather three gardens. The main garden wraps around the property in an L shape and is therefore viewable from many different rooms.

It also has a Tsuboniwa, that is often translated as "courtyard garden" These can sometimes be very small, but as befittig a mansion the one here is mid-sized.

Often a Tsuboniwa is completey enclosed on all four side by the buildings, but here there is a narrow gap that connects to the main garden. Many of the rooms that do not look out onto the main garden can view the Tsuboniwa.

There was a third garden, a small front garden that you pass through from the gate to the entrance. I didn't photograph it. They are usually the most minimal with less plant and many rocks.

In a few of the first photos, you can see splashes of bright blue. These are plastic tarps spread over some bushes to protect them while the gardener was pruning some trees.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Mizuta Tenmangu


A few miles north of the Geibunkan is the small town of Mizuta and the main shrines is a Tenmangu with this unusual Torii.

It was founded in 1226 as a branch of Dazaifu Tenmangu, the burial place of Sugawara Michizane north of here. Dazaifu was the "capital" of Kyushu. Suguwara Michizane was a high-ranking courtier in Kyoto who was "exiled" to Dazaifu by his rivals at court.

He died shortly afterwards and his enemies began to die off and so it was believed that Michizane was operating as an "angry ghost", a very important component of Japanese beliefs. To appease his spirit he was posthumously promoted and also enshrined as Tenjin in Kitano Tenmangu shrine in Kyoto.

Tenjin is now considered a kind of patron saint of education and students will pray at Tenmangu shrines for success with exams and such.

The current main hall of the shrine was a reconstruction built in the early 17th century. It is said that Mizuta Tenmangu is the second-largest Tenmangu shrine in Kyushu after Dazaifu tenmangu.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Takuno to Nima


Takuno is a small fishing port that I visited late on the third day of my walk along the Iwami Kannon Pilgrimage, my local Kannon pilgrimage here in the western haf of Shimane. I had stopped in at Hateiji temple, number 5 on the pilgrimage, and also the Hachman Shrine next door to it. Before leaving I went to the small harbour to check out once again the intriguing shrine on the small offshore islets connected to the myth of Susano.

Takunoi had been a Kitamaebune port, a safe haven for trade ships to stop, and so was a little wealthier due to the business of lodging sailors and also with the establishment of some merchants, and this shows in the remaining examples of old buildings, many of which are empty and abandoned, like much of rural Jaoan.

On my way out of town I saw a small grove of trees and was surprised to find a largem gnarly tree with two trunks that had been marked as sacred by the addition of shimenawa. There was no signboard and nobody around to ask so the story of the place remains a mystery to me.

After a few hundred meters and passing a couple of small rock coves I arrive at the beach at Nima.

Here I discovered one of the numerous breeding grounds of the infamous Japanese tetrapod. Tetrapods must outnumber the people in Jaan many times over. Ubiquitous is truly the only word. Why it is that these strange creatures grow here so much more than in the rest of the world must be related to Japan's unique love of nature.

This unusual and whimsical sign warns to be on the lookout for the smuggling of nefarious people as well as contraband, and also to generally watch out for marine safety.

Small fish drying is not anynusual sight in the many small coastal communities. These are a San-in specialty, Nigisu, Deep Sea Smelt. I suspect these will find their way to some incredibly over-priced omiyage outlet.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Geibunkan Annex 2 by Kengo Kuma


At the Kyushu Geibunkan in the Chikugo area the second annex was also designed by Kengo Kuma.

It gets much more attention than the first annex, but I prefer the first. The second annex is a small pavilion with a large arbor.

Much is made of its modular nature, with all the parts of the arbor roof structure being the same .

I akso include a couple of more shots of the main building, just because I like the irregularity of it.

Finally here is a shot of the Chikugo Funagoya Shinkansen Station which is right next to the Geibunkan, both of which pretty much stand alone amoing the rice paddies.