Monday, July 15, 2024

Interesting Modern Architecture in Sasebo


One of my favorite subjects for photography has always been modern architecture, and the cities and even the countryside of Japan have been great locations to find such.

Walking around Sasebo in Nagasaki I came across a few buildings that while not amazing, were quite interesting. These first three shots show the Sasebo City Library. 

I can not find the architect, but believe it was built in 1993.

Literally across the road is the Sasebo City Museum Shimanose Art Center. A somewhat brutalist building housing many galleries and arts facilities and also an archeology museum.

Again, I could not find who the architect was, but it was built in 1983.

The next 2 shots are of a headquarters  for Shinwa Bank. Of the three it is quite well known and was designed by Seichi Shirai who seems to have been fairly well known.

Built in three stages with each of the three sections distinctly different, the section shown, known as Kaisho-kan, was the last built, in 1975.

Finally, back near the port another shot of Arcus Sasebo, the newest, and for me, the most interesting of the modern structures in Sasebo.

The previous post was Miyajitake Shrine.

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Mugiwara Zaiku Traditional Straw Crafts


Mugiwara Zaiku is a traditional type of craft that nowadays is practiced in just one location in Japan, Kinosaki Onsen in northern Hyogo.

It uses dyed wheat straw that is cut into intricate patterns kind of like marquetry and other types of inlay.

It is most commonly used to decorate boxes, though it is also used for other objects like fans or dolls.

The straw is prepared, dyed, then cut and flattened.

Nowadays modern chemical dyes allow a wide range of sometimes bright colours, but traditionally the colours would have been more natural earth tones.

As well as being cut, like veneers in traditional marquetry, the strips of straw are sometimes woven into patterns before being used.

In the early 18th century a visitor to the hot springs from Tottori, a certain Hanhichi, made small objects out of the local straw to help fund his travels.

Local people imitated his work and now Kinosaki is the only place in the country where it is still practiced.

The European physician Siebold took examples of mugiwara zaiku back with him in the 19th centuryand are on display at several museums in Europe.

The collections are of such good quality that craftsmen from Kinosaki traveled to Europe in 2001 to study them. As well as shops selling the crafts now in Kinosaki there is also a small museum dedicated to the craft housed in a former storehouse. Here visitors can take classes and produce their own articles.

The previous post in those series on Toyooka was on Gokurakuji Temple

Friday, July 12, 2024

Miyajitake Shrine Sasebo


Miyajitake Shrine in Sasebo is on a steep hillside in the downtown area.

I can find no history of it, though at the entrance there is a cluster of small local shrines that would have been moved here probably in the early 20th century, if not earlier.

The architecture is modern, as the original would have been destroyed in the great bombing raid of 1945.

The new structure is quite unique, with a long covered structure leading to the main hall.

It is a branch of the quite famous Miyajidake Shrine further north in Fukuoka.

It was built around a major kofun for a powerful, local ruler and is now considered to be Empress Jingu.

Also enshrined are two of her brothers.

The previous ost was on the Fudo Myo statues below nearby Saihoji Temple.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Isotake Port


Just a short walk past one small inlet after Takuno and I came into Isotake Port.

Named after Isotakeru, one of the sons of Susano, the small shrine at the harbour, Karakamishirahige Shrine is where I first read about the myth of Susano coming here.

The shrine's name roughly translates as " foreign gods from Sila" and enshrines Susano and a couple of his daughters. Some versions say that Isotakeru came with them from Sila, some say he was born here.

The shrine records say that Susano and others would travel back and forth to the Korean Peninsula, a story confirmed by other legends further down the coast at several coastal towns in  Yamaguchi. The myth of Susano's arrival in these parts is also recognized at the previous port of Takuno.

It is a decent-sized harbour with quite a few inshore fishing boats.

A friend and I stopped in here in a small yacht many years ago, and the local fishermen were intrigued by our boat.

If you look back through all the posts in this series documenting my explorations of the Sea of Japan coast, you may notice there are only fishing boats, no pleasure boats of any kind. Yachts and pleasure boats exist in Japan of course, but not in this neck of the woods.

Like traditional towns, these little fishing settlements have lots of very narrow alleys between the houses.

The previous post was on Takuno Port.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Fudo Myoo's below Saihoji Temple


Just below Saihoji Temple in downtown Sasebo, but quite outside its grounds, is an altar with numerous Buddhist statues, most being Fudo Myoo

Because there were no statues of Fudo inside the temple  and grounds, I surmised that this altar was not connected to Saihoji.

Saihoji is a Soto Zen temple, and Fudo is most usually associated with Shingon or Tendai Buddhism, the so-called esoteric sects, and with Shugendo, the syncretic mountain religion with strong ties to those esoteric sects.

I can find no information at all about this small site.

The previous post was on Saihoji Temple.

Monday, July 8, 2024

Saihoji Temple Sasebo


Saihoji Temple is considered to be the oldest and the most important temple in Sasebo.

It was rebuilt after being destroyed at the end of WWII in a bombing raid. The impressive Niomon was not actually completed until 2001.

Inside the Niomon were a pair of statues of Fujin, the Wind God, and Raijin, the Storm God.

Ostensibly Shinto in origin, being created by Izanami while in Yomi, they are usually found, like here, in Buddhist temples.

According to the temple's website, the Nio were each carved in China from a single piece of wood.

It is a Soto Zen temple with a Shaka Nyorai as honzon.

The original temple was Rinzai and founded in the early 13th century. It fell into disrepair but in the mid 15th century it was moved to its current location by the Akasaki Lord and rebuilt as a Soto temple.

The previous post was on nearby Kameyama Hachimangu Shrine.