Thursday, May 16, 2024

Jozan Inari Shrine


Jozan Inari Shrine is tucked away at the northern end of the grounds of Matsue Castle and consequently is missed by most visitors.

It was a favorite spot of Lafcadio Hearn who lived literally a stone's throw away across the moat and visited here often.

Jozan Inari Shrine is the origin of the  Shikinen Shinkosai Festival, one of the top three boat festivals in Japan wherein a procession of brightly decorated boats transport the kami of the shrine 10 kilometers downriver to Adakaya Shrine. The festival only takes place every ten years and the next will be in 2029. Some of the boats are stored at Adakaya Shrine which is worth visiting for the unusual straw "serpents"

The shrine was established in 1638,  a couple of decades after the castle was built when the grandson of Ieyasu, Matsudaira Naomasa, took over the domain.

He had a vision that said Inari would protect not only the castle but also his Edo estate.

Though there are many different Inari's, its primary feature was as a kami of rice, although later it became very much associated with business success. In this case Inari was very much seen in Matsue as a kami to protect the home from fire.

The aroach to the shrine is like many others, and lacks the "tunnel" of red torii seen at many Inari shrines.

However, if you venture behind the main buildings you will find thousands of fox statues....

The previous post was on the Western-style Meiji-era guesthouse in the castle grounds.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Kyushu Ceramic Museum


The Kyushu Ceramic Museum is a large, modern museum devoted to ceramics produced in Kyushu but predominantly locally produced Arita ware. For anyone with an interest in ceramics it is a must visit site.

It is located on a hill not far from Arita JR railway station.

The museum has a collection of more than 30,000 pieces, about 1,500 of which are on display at any one time, so if you have been before, a later visit will have different works on display.

There are also temporary themed exhibitions as well as the changing exhibits from the permanent collection.

The museum has two big collections donated by private collectors, one focussing on Arita ware made for the domestic market and one exclusively on works exported.

There is also a gallery devoted to contemporary ceramics of Kyushu.

There are a couple of other, smaller museums in Arita specializing in ceramics, but this is the biggest.

The museum is one from 9 to 5 except Mondays. Entry is free.

The previous post in this series exploring Arita was on the famous porcelain shrine.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Maruyama Shrine Awa Ikeda


Maruyama is the name of a small hill in the town of Awa Ikeda in what is now Miyoshi cIty, Tokushima, on Shikoku.

Maruyama is a very common name as it literally means "round mountain", ... we have one a few kilometers from my place.

Ikeda is also a very common placename, so it is prefaced with Awa, the old name for the province to distinguish it from other Ikeda's around the country.

The shrine is fairly unexceptional, just a typical village shrine.

There are a variety of ways of reading the enshrined kami's name but they are all versions of the great Izumo kami Susano. Here it seems it was probably Gozu Tenno, the original "plague god" of Gion whose origin is disputed but heavily connected with Korea, as is Susano.

The honden is fairly new, and other than that I can find no other info on the shrine. I visited at the start of day 4 of my walk along the Shikoku Fudo Myo Pilgrimage. The previous post in the series was on the walk along the river to end the day before.

Friday, May 10, 2024

Tozan Shrine Arita: Japan's Porcelain Shrine


Tozan is the popular reading of the kanji for Sueyama, the official name of this shrine in the old town of Arita in Saga.

While most torii entrances are made of stone, concrete, wood, and even sometimes metal, the one here is made of porcelain.

Not only that, but some of the komainu, lanterns, and other features are also made of porcelain.

Arita is said to be the origin of Japanese porcelain, when kaolin, the fine white clay used to make porcelain was discovered nearby in the early 17th century.

The local legend has it that it was a man named Yi Sam-pyeong, a Korean known in Japanese as Kanagae Sanbee, who discovered the kaolin deposit , and a bust of him stands in the shrine. (photo 3)

The shrine was founded in 1658 as Arita Sarayama Sobyo Hachimangu, with the name changing in early Meiji to Sueyama Shrine.

As a Hachimangu the primary kami would be Hachiman, considered an incarnation of Ojin a semi-mythical early Emperor.

In 1923 Nabeshima Naoshige was enshrined here. He was the local Daimyo credited with "bringing" many Korean potters to the area during his retreat from Korea at the end of Hideyoshi's invasion.

Many sources use fairly passive verbs to describe this "resettling" of Koreans but in reality they were kidnapped and enslaved.

Many of the estimated 50,000 to 200,000 Korean captives were farmers but technicians like potters were much sought after. Kidnapped Korean potters were responsible for Satsuma ware and Hagi ware, but also mining engineers, movable-type printers and even Confucian scholars were also kidnapped accompanied by massive looting of art such as temple bells and statues.

The previous post in this series exploring Arita was on the surrounding Historic Preservation District.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Gokurakuji Temple Kinosaki


Gokurakuji Temle is a Rinzai Zen temple tucked away down a back lane in Kinosaki Onsen and is hardly visited by most visitors to the town.

In front of the main gate is a hillside rock garden dotted with statues and a pond with what I presume is a Benzaiten Shrine.

The temple dates back to around the beginning of the 15th century, but fell into disuse and was revived in the early 17th century by the Zen monk known as Takuan after the pickle he is said to have invented.

He resided for some years at Sukyoji Temple in the nearby castle town of Izushi and is said to have been a frequent visitor to Kinosaki's onsens.

On the hillside just above the temple is a Rakuju Kannon statue that I didn't visit, but the rock garden in front of the main gate has several other Kannon statues as well as a Fdo and a Jizo.

The main hall is registered as an Important Cultural property even though it was built in 1921, it seems quite elegant. The main gate is also registered and dates back to the late 17th century.

The water in the Tsukubai basin is piped from a sacred spring behind the temple famed for its healing qualities and said to have been discovered by the monk who discovered the hot spring and founded the nearby Onsenji Temple.

The jewel in the crown of the temple though is the Seikantei "dry" garden which features sections of both black gravel and white gravel .

 The honzon of the temple is an Amida Nyorai, and there is also a Koshin-do in the grounds (photo below)

The previous post was on the magnificent Seikantei Garden. Also nearby is Onsenji Temple

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Arita Historic Preservation District


Arita in what is now Saga Prefecture is and was a major ceramics town, specifically Japanese porcelain, which is said to have originated here.

The main part of the old town with a street of merchant and townhouses and kilns located in the northern section, is registered as an historic preservation district.

In 1832 a big typhoon caused fire to spread from the kilns and it engulfed the whole town so everything save one solitary building dates from after that time.

Many are built in Western-style.

Many are now gift shops selling local porcelain souvenirs, although a couple are museums.

In the northern part of the town, near the kilns, walls have been built by recycling kiln bricks.

There are currently more than 120 of these preservation districts around Japan, covering a wide range of architecture and including merchant towns, samurai quarters, ports, farming villages, temple towns etc.

Some of the better ones are located off the main tourist routes and so retain a measure of authenticity that is lacking in the major tourist areas where the architecture seems more like a theme park

Not far from Arita I visited a couple of other preservation districts, like the thatched roof townscape of Hizen Hamashuku, and the nearby sake brewing district. Other districts I liked from this walk around Kyushu were the port of Mimitsu, and the merchant town of Hita.

The previous post in this series exploring Arita was on Hokao Shrine