Thursday, October 21, 2021

Yet More Deities at Myo-on-ji Temple


This is the 4th and final post on Myo-on-ji temple. It is not a famous temple, nor particularly ancient or large. However, it does have a large number of statues in numerous small shrines, due to the fact that it is a pilgrimage temple on the Sasaguri 88 temple pilgrimage in Fukuoka.

Myo-on-ji was the 11th temple we had visited since starting to walk the pilgrimage. It had raken just under 2 hours since starting at Sasaguri Station, and by now I had come to realize that there were going to be a lot of very diverse statuary tp be seen over the next 4 days.

I started out by posting some photos of Fudo Myo, one of my favorite deities, and a figure that is very common on this pilgrimage. So much so that my second post was a much larger selection of Fudo statues at Myo-on-ji, with one of my wordiest posts where I try to explain the complexity and diversity of Japanese deity identities. The third post was on a variety of statues of Kannon, another very popular deity, technically a bodhisattva.

This time I show another group of statues, mostly multi-armed, multi-headed, fierce deities that originated in India. The top photo is Aizen Myo, among other things associated with sex and love. The next three might be various Myo..... or not..... If I was to dig into it I might be able to say with some certainty the names and classifications of these deities, but I don't have the time. Probably some readers would know.

Statues of snakes, often with offerings of coins, are commonly associated with Benzaiten, the complex Buddhist-Shinto deity that among other things is often associated with water and many times is conflated with Suijin, the water god. I have also seen these snake statues at altars to Kojin the land god in Izumo.

Thgis final photo is another deity I cannot immediately identify. though for some reason I seem to think it might actually be a Bato kannon......

From Myo-on-ji the pilgrimage route heads up into the mountains and the temples ar further apart, but some are much bigger than any yet visited...

Monday, October 18, 2021



Shinsekai is the entertainment district around the Tsutenkaku Tower in the south of Osaka City,

On the right of the photo above you can see one of the icons of Shinsekai, a character called Billiken, a good-luck figure whose history dates back to when he was enshrined in the area back in 1912. He is the creation of American artist Florence Pretz.

It is claimed that the northern part of Shinsekai is modelled on Paris and the southern part on Coney Island in New York

The area was once considered quite seedy but recently has been a little gentrified by the development of nearby Abeno Harukas and the homless residents are less in evidence, though not invisible.

I was here because there are plenty of very cheap hotels in the area that seem particularly popular with Asian tourists on a budget. There are plenty of retro pachinko parlors and arcades, and the local specialty is Kushikatsu, deep-fried skewers of battered meats and vegetables.

I visited at the end of my first day walking the Kinki Fudo Myo Pilgrimage which I started at Shitennoji Temple, one of the oldest temples in all of Japan with a little-known garden, I had visited a further three temples of the pilgrimage, number 2, Kiyomizudera, a small but very old temple, number 3, Horakuji Temple which was quite a surprise with its massive tree and with plenty of art, and temple 4, Kyozenji Temple.

There had been other sights other than the pilgrimage temples.  An annex of Isshinji Temple was very surprising, as was Aizendo Shomanin Temple. The most interesting shrine of the day was Yasui Shrine enshrining the samurai Sanada Yukimura.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Kurume Naritasan Mahabodhi Temple


Readers of my recent post on the Giant Kannon Statue in Kurume will have noticed the appearance of a distinctly Indian-looking building. 

This is a representation of the Mahabodhi Temple in India, built on the site of where the historical Buddha reached enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Often claimed to be a copy or replica of the original, it is in fact a stylized representation of the original. It stands 38 meters tall, whereas the original is much taller, and the architectural details are somewhat different..

There are numerous similar representations of the original tower in other countries such as Thailand, Myanmar, etc and these copies have also altered the appearance to fit in with their own architectural heritage.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Funatama Shrine & Tamahime Inari Shrine


Funatama and Tamahime Inari are a set of small hokora shrines found along the Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodo. They lie on the Otonashi River, one of the three rivers that meet at Hongu, the centre of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes and shrines.

According to the founding myth, a kami watched as a spider was drowning in the floodwaters nearby. The kami threw some leaves into the water and the spider climbed on one and paddled to safety. This gave the kami the idea of a boat, ad so he carved a dugout canoe from a tree. This was the creation of the first boat.

The shrine became nationally famous around the end of the Edo Period through a popular folk song. It is believed that around this time the Inari shrine was established.

I visited on day 3 of my walk along the Saigoku Pilgrimage in early March, and was surprised that so many of the New Year decorations were still up.

Although Inari is most commonly associated with rice-growing, there is in fact an uncountable number of different Inaris. I believe this one came originally from somewhere in Nara and is associated with men and women.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Kurume Giant Kannon


Since I first sighted the giant Kannon statues near Kurume, it still took a couple of hours walking to reach it.

It is  203 feet tall, which by my reckoning makes it the 5th tallest statue in Japan. It was completed in 1982 and cost about 50 million USD.

It is in the grounds of a branch temple of the famous Narita-San in Chiba. Without meaning any disrespect, my impression was that it was more like a Buddhist Theme Park than a temple.

As with many of the giant statues in Japan it is possible to climb stairs within the statues to an observation deck that has windows with views over the surrounding countryside.

Kannon is a Bodhisatva and comes in a multitude of forms. The version here is a Jibo Kannon, representing motherly love.

In East Asia Kannon is usually female, but in south and southeast Asia it is usually a male. There was a lot to see at Kurume Naritasan-ji, so that will be in later posts.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Japanese Gardens at Osaka Expo Park


The Japanese Garden in Expo Park, Osaka, is just over fifty years old, but is huge, measuring about 64 acres in total.

In fact it should really be considered as several gardens as it was buult for the World Expo70 and its purpose was to introduce foreign visitors to the history of garden design in Japan for the past 1000 years and more.

It is divided into four areas, the Ancient Garden, Medieval garden, Early Modern Garden, and the Modern Garden.

The Ancient Garden reflects the style of Heian Period gardens such as the ones at Byodo-in in Uji or Shinsen-en in Kyoto. Heavily Chinese in style.

The Medieval garden showcases gardens of the 12th to 16th centuries. This was the time of Zen influenced garden design, especially karesansui, the dry gardens of raked sand. It was also the time of the tea ceremony and the gardens here are home to several tea houses, though some are only open during the peak autumn leaves season.

The Early Modern garden focuses on the great daimyo gardens of the Edo Period. This was the time of the great strolling gardens, usually around a largish pond The largest pond at Osaka Expo is called Shinji Ike.

There is a large, covered rest area with great views of\ve the central part of the garden.

Any time of the year is good to visit, though obviously you can check and see what is flowering when. All these photos were taken in mid-Aptil.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Best Vantage Point in Japan


Japan is home to a multitude of observation decks atop high-rise buildings and towers, with Tokyo Skytree being the tallest and most famous. Most of the high-rise buildings are in the biggest cities, but the many towers are often found on the coast with views along the seashore.

At 289 meters in height5, the observation deck on top of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is taller than most of the others, and the views are astounding.

The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge opened in 1998 and connects the main island of Honshu with Awaji Island. It has the longest central span of any suspension bridge in the world at almost 2 kilometers. The total length is almost 4 kilometers.

To visit the observation deck you must book well in advance as there are a very small number of places on the tour and though relatively little-known is quickly booked up. After being kitted out in a hardhat and hi-viz vest you first have a lecture on safety protocols and how the tour will be conducted. Then you get a guided tour of the bridge museum which showcases the amazing technology that went into building it. Then you are taken out under the bridge on a walkway to the public observation deck below the bridge, 50 meters above the sea below.

Then you walk out about 1 kilometer under the bridge to the base of the tower on the Akashi, Hionshu side of the bridge where a small elevator takes you up to the top of the tower.

The observation deck is open to the elements, and there is no glass or fence obscuring your views. This makes it somehow more exciting.

The views are 360 degrees, as well as down on the bridge roadway and the ships passing underneath. Akashi is the closest view, and then west along the Okayama coast, then east to Kobe and Osaka beyond that.

I should really amend the title, as I have seen some amazing views from the tops of mountains on islands in the Inland Sea, but the views from the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge are the best I've seen from a man-made vantage point.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Jyokoji Temple 8 Shodoshima Pilgrimage


I reached Jokoji, number 8 temple on the 88 temple Shodoshima Pilgrimage, after coming down from the mountains visible in this first photo where I had visited the amazing mountain cave temples of Dounzan and Goishizan high up in the mountains.

The large, walled compound and belfry gate was quite a contrast, and I think this was the biggest temple I had visited on my first day walking the Shodoshima Pilgrimage.

The temple was founded in the mid 8th century by Gyoki, though it was located furter up the side of the mountain. It was destroyed in the 16th century when a Christian daimyo held sway over the island and destroyed many temples.

The temple was rebuilt in the mid to late 17th century. The small Yakushi-do in the precincts dates to 1665 The main hall was rebuilt in 1986. The honzon is a Yakushi Nyorai and the temple belongs to the Shingon sect.

Flanking the Yakushi statue is a statue of Fudo and one of Kobo Daishi. The ceiling is covered in paintings done by members of the temple. They seem to be mostly fruit, vegetable, and flowers..

It seems it was once a very rich and poerful temple. In the mid 19th century a Christian believer was found in the parish and the temple was punished by having the tax-free status of its lands rescinded. In the Meiji Period with Shinbutsu Bunri, it lost control of several shrines, and in the postwar land reforms, most of its properties were confiscated.