Friday, December 9, 2022

Eirakukan Kabuki Theatre


Located in the former castle town of Izushi in northern Hyogo, the Eirakukan is a traditional Japanese kabuki theatre open to the public.

Built in 1901 it is the oldest kabuki theatre in Kansai, and the oldest kabuki theatre in Japan still standing on its original site.

The theatre closed down in 1968 and was then renovated and restored and opened again in 2008 and while there are occasional perfrmances, it is primarily a tourist site now.

All parts of the theatre can be explored by visitors, including te stage and backstage areas. A highlight is going underneath the stage to see how the revolving stage, the mawari-butai, is operated.

There is a lot of advertising, inside and out, not just for the famous kabuki actors, but mostly for the sponsors and local companies.

I was maybe not as impressed as many visitors, probably because I had previously visited a couple of larger kabuki theatres down in Kyushu. The Kaho Gekijo Theatre in Iizuka, Fukuoka, has the largest revolving stage in Japan, and the Yachiyo-za in Yamaga, Kumamoto, both are somewhat larger than the Eirakukan.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022



Kushijima is a small uninhabited islet at the mouth of the entrance to the  World Heritage Site ports of Yunotsu and Okidomari.

It can be reached on foot at low tide and a small bridge over a dee and narrow channel in the rocks makes this safe and easy.

During the time that the Mori clan controlled the silver mine and the surrounding area they had a small castle on the island to protect the harbours.

Nothing now remains, but it must have been at least a little substantial as it withstood an attack by Amago forces in the Warring States period of the mid 16th century.

There is a small beach and campsite here now and its quite a dramatic bit of coastline.

I am guessing that these man-made excavations in the rock are a fairly modern attempt to make pools for pleasure bathing, but I may be wrong.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Mizuko Temple Monju-in

Mizuko Temple Monju-in

Mizuko Temple Monju-in.

Monju-in is one of a cluster of mountain-top temples at about 450 meters above sea level in the mountains overlooking Sasaguri in Fukuoka. A couple of the temples are part of the Sasaguri pilgrimage, but Monju-in isn't.

Mizuko Temple Monju-in.

The temple was founded in 1981 and is a branch of the Omuro Shingon sect whose head temple is Ninna-ji in Kyoto. The honzon is a Jizo, but the temple is most well-known for Mizuko Jizo.

Jizo is an incredibly popular deity in Japan.

Jizo is an incredibly popular deity in Japan, technically a bodhisattva, like Kannon, and there are an untold number of Jizo's, each known for particular benefits.

Jizo statues are often found alongside roads.

Jizo statues are often found alongside roads and so have a reputation as a protector;r of travelers. In many instances, Jizo statues replaced dosojin, stones representing the kami protecting boundaries. When I first started walking the back roads of Japan I noticed every pass would have a Jizo.

Jizo looks after the souls of the unborn, aborted, miscarried, and still-born babies

However, it is as protector of children that Jizo is most well-known, and Mizuko Jizo, a modern, specifically Japanese, Jizo, looks after the souls of the unborn, aborted, miscarried, and still-born babies. Mizuko Jizo has become very widely known nowadays and has even made inroads in some western societies.

The six realms of suffering in Buddhism leads to groupings of 6 Jizo, as in 5th photo, notice how each Jizo is carrying different objects and performing different mudras with his hands. Not sure of the meaning of the three differently colored Jizo in the above photo.

Jizo nowadays very often appears with child-like features, though many manifestations have nothing to do with children, Fukuyose Jizo, photo 2, is for general good luck, and there are Jizo for success in business as well as a "victory" Jizo enshrined here at Monju-in

Koyasu Jizo is a protector of  motherhood and of all children, not just those who have died young.

Jizo's origins are in India, though China and Korea were responsible for many of the texts connected to Jizo in Japan. Also, curiously, like the other very popular bodhisattva in Japan, Kannon, Jizo seems to have changed sex in China, Korea, and Japan, from female to male, the opposite to Kannon who went from male to female.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Osaka Tenmangu

Osaka Tenmangu

Osaka Tenmangu.

Osaka Tenmangu is a large, quiet, shrine in the middle of downtown Osaka that is the origin of Osak's biggest matsuri, the Tenjin matsuri.


There are countless thousands of wooden ema strung up around the main buildings, the vast majority containing prayers for success in exams, as this is a Tenmangu shrine, enshrining Sugawara Michizane, considered to be the patron of scholarship.

Osaka Tenmangu.

The origin of the shrine comes from when Sugawara Michizane stopped at Daishogunsha Shrine on his journey to "exile" in Dazaifu. That shrine now exists as a sub-shrine in the grounds today.


A small pond in the grounds is home to some Japanese pond  turtles,.... something I think is more common at shrines than at temples....


The shrine buildings have been destroyed many times by fire, but surprisingly the main hall anf gate survived the destruction of WWII and date back to the mid 19th century.


There are a lot of secondary shrines within the large grounds, including the obligatory Inari Shrine.

Osaka Tenmangu.

This was my second day walking the Kinki Fudo Myo pilgrimage and was heading to the next temple after having visited  Houoninji.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Takahara Kumano Shrine

Takahara Kumano Shrine

Takahara Kumano Shrine.

Takahara is a mountaintop village located on the Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodo ilgrimage.

The village shrine, a branch of Kumano Hongu, is situated in a grove of ancient trees.

As I understand it, the village was not directly on the pilgrimage route until the route was changed in the Edo period and it became an important way-point.

The shrine was established earlier, in 1403, making it one of the oldest shrines in the area.

It is a very colorful shrine with a lot of paintings and color dating back to the Muromachi period.

The main buildings is built in what is known as Kasuga-style, and has a roof of cypress bark.

I believe this section of the Kumano Kodo is by far the most popular, especially among thos only walking a day or two. I visited towards the end of my 4th day of the Saigoku pilgrimage.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Sekimondo Temple 18 Shodoshima Pilgrimage

Sekimondo Temple

Sekimondo Temple 18 Shodoshima Pilgrimage.

Sekimondo, temple number 18,  is just a one kilometer walk from Hotogekataki, but it is a very steep kilometer. Sekimondo is located at about the midpoint of one of the two walking trails of Kankakei Gorge, and can therefore be approached from the bottom walking up, or from the top walking down.

Sekimondo Temple 18 Shodoshima Pilgrimage.

It is in a narrow, steep valley, flanked on either side by formations of rock outcroppings, many of which have names. Sekimon means “stone gate” and refers to the natural arch stone bridge under which the main temple hall lies and through which the trail passes. Crossing the vermillion bridge over the fast moving stream, the natural courtyard has a thatched bell tower and a statue of gleaming white stone.  


In the cliff face below the natural arch is a cave fronted by glass. Steps lead up and one enters through the floor. Inside is dark and lit by candles and lanterns, not too different really from any other temple, except here the walls and ceiling are of rock. There are several altars, the main one being to Fudo Myo, the fierce, fanged, deity holding a sword in one hand and a rope in the other. Fudo Myo was a favorite of the ascetics who spent time in these mountain hideouts undergoing training, so its not surprising to find statues of him here.

Back outside you can see a large carving of Fudo in the cliff face beside the temple. It looks like a cliff carving but in actual fact is sculpted out of stone blocks and then assembled. More buildings dot the steep and rocky gorge leading upwards, and way up high there is some type of hexagonal hut perched on top of a rock that must have fantastic views down the gorge, but the upper section of the temple grounds is roped off.

From in front of the main hall the path slopes upwards and then passes beneath the great arch of stone overhead and then heads up to the ropeway station at the top of Kankakei Gorge passing several more rock formations.

The Shodoshima Pilgrimage has a lot of these unusual cave temples, including the aforementioned Hotogegataki, and Kiyotakisan, both of which I had visited earlier on this days walk.

Sekimondo Temple 18 Shodoshima Pilgrimage.

Yesterday I visited Goishizan and Dounzan.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Bridges at Shurakuen Garden Tsuyama

Bridges at Shurakuen Garden Tsuyama

Bridges at Shurakuen Garden Tsuyama.

The Shurakuen garden in Tsuyama is an Edo-period stroll-type garden that is dominated by water.

Bridges at Shurakuen Garden Tsuyama.

As such there are numerous bridges across narrow sections, though none of the classic vermillion bridges or Chinese style "drum" bridges found at many gardens.


This is the smallest bridge there.....

Bridges at Shurakuen Garden Tsuyama.

And this kind of walkway is fairly common in many traditional japanese gardens....


But most of the bridges were quite rudimentary, wooden structures....

Though these are not.....

many of these bridges were covered in earth......

As you can see, Water Lillies dominate the garden...... water Lillies here on this link, and more general views of the garden on this link.

Bridges at Shurakuen Garden Tsuyama.