Saturday, July 11, 2020

Karakamishiragi Shrine & a serious revising of myth0-history

At the far western edge of the village of Isotake is the small fishing port, and next to it a small, fairly standard, little shrine with modern torii, standard, modern komainu, and the large thick shimenawa typical of the region. What is interesting is the name Karakamishiragi Shrine which translates as "gods from Silla Shrine", Silla being one of the countries that made up the korean peninsula before becoming unified.

The kami enshrined here are Susano and two of his daughters, Oyatsuhime and Tsunatsuhime. His son, Isotakeru, gave his name to the village, but curiously is not enshrined here. According to the local records they all arrived here from Silla and established what later became known as Izumo Culture. It also says they travelled back and forth between here and Korea with local kami, transferring technology.

This is quite different from the mainstream, official version of the mytho-history which has Susano descending directly to japan from the High Plain of Heaven. That version is the one in the Kojiki which nowadays is touted as the oldest book in Japan, but to be quite frank is a very revisionist, political rewriting of the myths to suit a small group of powerful clans who had seized power just before writing the kojiki.

Visiting this shrine not long after moving to the area set me off on a trail of discovery as I followed the local legends and myths that tell quite a different story than the mainstream which became fixed in the early days of the Meiji Period when national myths were needed by the political leaders....It also led me  to a more detailed exploration of Susano, the kami largely dismissed by the mainstream myths in favor of his sister Amaterasu

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Fall Colors... Sunset... & Illuminations at Sogi Falls

At Sogi Falls in the mountains of Kagoshima around Isa City the fall colors were in full swing. A big park is there and that was where I was planning to sleep out, but I did not forsee that the place was lit up at night so there werelots of security guards to protect the generators and lights and such.

As the sun went down I headed across the old bridge and found a suitable place to lay out my bag and then headed back to the park to take some more photos.....

There were very few people and with the illuminations of the waterfalls and the river gorge as well as the foliage it was unusual and a nice surprise

Sogi Falls is not so well known but certainly worth a visit if you are in the area

Friday, July 3, 2020

Married Rocks of Muroto

Heading down the coast road towards Cape Muroto is a familar site to anyne who has walked or cycled the Shikoku Pilgrimage known as Ohenro. As you approach the cape a group of towering rocks becomes visible.

Once there you see that a pair of these rock pillars has a shimenawa, sacred rope, strung between them. These roks are known as Meoto Iwa, or "married rocks". The larger rock is considered male and the smaller, female. They are one of the attractions of the UNESCO Global Geopark of Muroto Cape

Meoto Iwa appear at numerous places around the coast of Japan, and I must have seen half a dozen around the western part of the country, but the most famous ones are on the coast of Mie not too far from the shrine at Ise.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Sogi Falls... Niagara of the East

A little before sunset I arrived at my planned destination at the end of my 37th day along the Kyushu Pilgrimage. All day I had pretty much followed the Sendai River upstream and I was bushed as I reached Sogi Falls.

A grand 12 meters in height and about 200 meters across, they are certainly pretty waterfalls, but "Niagara of the East"?

Downstream a short way is the brick facade of a power station built in 1868. Now partially submerged  by a reservoir created by the big dam downstream, the local tourist literature proclaim that it is reminiscent of a medieval European castle........ I personally think these spurious analogies are absurd.

The bridge you can see in the photos a little upstream of the falls has now gone. It has been replaced with a new cable-stayed bridge just downstream of the falls. My plan was to sleep out at the falls, but that was not to be.....

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Shikoku Pilgrimage Temple 39 Enkoji

I arrived at Enkoji, temple 39 on the Ohenro pilgrimage, on December 26th. It had taken a couple of days to walk from the previous temple at the cape. I had chosen a slightly longer route along the coast rather than backtracking and then going over the mountains. Even down at sea level it had snowed some yesterday, Christmas Day.

Enhoji has a fine pair of Nio in the main gate. Reputed to be founded in 724 by the renowned monk Gyoki, like many of the other temples on the Ohenro pilgrimage The honzon is yakushi Nyorai, reputedly carved by Gyoki.

A well in the grounds is famous for healing eye problems, and there is also a statue of a turtle relating to a legend of a giant turtle with a red bell on its back visiting the temple in 901. I was rather taken by the carvings however.

There are a couple of small gardens and in one a pond filled with koi.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Tanokami the God of the Rice Paddy

The god of the rice paddy, literally "Tanokami" , unsurprisingly can be found throughout Japan, though they are never mentioned in any of the ancient chronicles that nowadays are used as historical records. In my area I encountered a small shrine to a tanokami and was told that after the harvest the god returns to the mountains in his role as yamanokami. This seems somewhat widespread an idea.

However, in what is now Kagoshima and part of Miyazaki, in the old domain of Satsuma, ther is a type of tanokami somewhat different and also very prevalent. Believed to date back to the early Edo Period, hundreds of statues of Tanokami can be found, many along the roadsides, and function much as a protective kami in the same way as for example Jizo statues.

On the 37th day of my Kyushu Pilgrimage, I walked from Sendai up the Sendai river and along the way encountered these 4 examples. They are all pretty weathered. Over the next few days I will be encotering many dozens more, some of which are painted......

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Pagoda at Rurikoji

Classed as one of the Three Great Pagodas of Japan, and also a National Treasure, the Pagoda at Rurikoji Temple in Yamaguchi was built long before the temple.

Built in 1442, the 5-storey pagoda is 31.2 meters high and with rooves made of cypress bark. It was built by Ouchi Moriharu to memorialize his brother who died in the Kansai region while fighting against the Muromachi Bafuku.

The Ouchi were a major clan and held a lot of territory in western Chugoku until defeated by the Mori during the Warring States Period. Yanaguch was an oasis of "civilization" during the time of the Onin War that lay waste to kyoto.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Hachiman Daibosatsu

After visiting Hojoji, temple 46 on the Kyushu Pilgrimage, I headed east along route 263 and a few kilometers out in the country came to temple 48, Satsumayakushi Temple. It was a very new and modern main hall, and the honzon, a Yakushi Nyorai statue, was transferred here from Koyasan.

There was a hot spring facility in the temple grounds, owned by the temple I suspect, but most intriguing was the red torii that led to an overhang in the rock wall into which had been cut a couple of altars. The first was to Hachiman Daibiosatsu.

Hachiman was a very important kami with strong links to Buddhism. Originally a north Kyushu kami with connection to Korean immigrants, Hachiman rose to prominence as a protector of Todaiji, the great national temple established in Nara.

Hachiman was the first "kami" to be given the rank and title of Daibosatsu, Great Bodhisattva" and statues of Hachiman were not uncommon in earlier days. Next to the altar for Hachiman was another small altar.

The figure on the left is I believe Bato Kannon, the Horse-head Kannon, and the figure on the right seems to be Benzaiten holding a lute.

Friday, June 19, 2020


Japan has almost 30,000 kilometers of coastline, which ranks it 7th in the world, so it is not surprising that it has thousands of coastal settlements. Takeno is a small town on the Sea of Japan coast in Hyogo.

There is a lovely, white sandy beach that is popular in the summer. Takeno is part of the UNESCO San'in Kaigan Global Geopark.

Now still operating as a fishing harbor, in former times it was a stop along the Kitamaebune trade route that ran all the way down the Japan Sea Coast from Hokkaido, round through the straits at Shimonoseki and then through the Inland Sea to Osaka.

In many ways it is typical of such seaside villages, with narrow alleys between weatherbeaten wooden houses. Pleasant enough for a stroll and exploration

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

A Diversity of Fudo

As any regular reader of this blog will know, I happen to have somewhat of a fascination with Fudo Myo, the fierce, fanged deity surrounded by flames. As I wander around the countryside I am always somewhat reassured to find his countenance, either within a temple or even just along the roadside.

I am also somewhat obsessed with the increasing loss of diversity nowadays.  Certainly, small statues are going to be mass produced, plastic, metal, plaster, concrete, all use molds. Increasingly stone statues or homogenous. Automated and computer-controlled machinery using the same dataset are churning out identical statues everywhere.

so here are a group of diverse statues of Fudo, all found at one temple, Hojoji in Satsuma, Kagoshima, temple 46 on the Kyushu 108 temple pilgrimage dedicated to Kobo Daishi.

The largest one and possibly some others will have been put up by the temple, but the smaller ones will have been dedicated by individual parishioners. Like all the other "deities" you encounter in Japan, Fudo has multiple meanings and powers and is likewise worshipped for a variety of reasons.