Monday, June 7, 2010

A Walk to Suga


The weather during May remained unseasonably cool, so I talk advantage and went on another exploratory walk. I started in Nogi, now little more than a suburb of Matsue. A cookie-cutter town of convenience stores, pachinko parlors, and drab, utilitarian buildings.

My route was to roughly follow Route 24 up the Inbe River and over into the watershed of the Hi River around Suga.


After about 30 minutes I was in the foothills on narrow lanes with mostly older, more traditional houses. The person in this house is obviously really into bonsai!

As usual I stopped in at all the shrines along the way.


In the village of Noshira I found this that looks like a shrine, but is in fact a "kyo", translated as "church". Its a branch of Izumo Yashirokyo, a religion started by the then head priest of Izumo Taisha in the late 19th Century when the state basically told priests to stop preaching or dealing with "religious" matters. If they wanted to deal with religious issues they should found their own churches. The state had appropriated the Torii symbol, so only "shinto" shrines could have a torii, so many of the shinto-based Kyo simply use a simple gate with one crosspiece.


Also in Noshira I found an interesting shrine with a huge mask of Uzume or Otafuku. As Uzume is one of the kami enshrined here it is most likely her.


And then, paydirt!!!!! I found 2 examples of something I search for and hope to find on my backcountry explorations, a pair of Phalli!

I chatted for a while with a lady visiting the shrine, but she professed to not know anything about them, which may be true, but its more likely that she didn't want to talk about them with a foreigner.

I have an extensive collection of photos from small fertility shrines I've visited, but I've hesitated to post any as about half the visitors to this blog are from a certain North American country wherein many citizens react strangely to such topics. They either get offended and indignant, or they react like giggling Elementary schoolgirls.

Anyway, to have found these two really made my day and my steps had more spring to them.....


Route 24 is a fairly busy, 2 -lane road, that has been straightened a lot and bypasses many smaller settlements. I chose to walk the old sections of road that snake along the river. Its a longer walk, but there is almost no traffic, often the things to be discovered are in the small villages, and I'm more likely to meet friendly people. Sure enough I soon came upon a small unmarked shrine to Kojin with the rope serpent wrapped around the base of a tree. It looked like nobody had visited the shrine in a few years.


There were a lot of snakes of the non-rope variety out and about. This one was a bit over a meter in length. No idea what species it was, though if it was a 4-lined Rat snake I wouldnt be surprised.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Vacation 2010 Day3: Warwick


On my third day of vacation I took a 20 minute bus ride to the castle and market town of Warwick.

I have vague memories of visiting the castle here when I was a young kid, but essentially I didn't know the town at all.

My first stop was St. Marys church in the middle of town, where, for a small fee, you can climb the church tower for some wonderful views out over the town, the river Avon, and some typical English countryside.


The church was founded in the 12th Century, but it, along with most of the town, was destroyed in a great fire in the 17th century, so the rebuilt church dates from that time.

probably due to the number of shrines and temples I visit in japan, I now have become fascinated by churches and cathedrals. One of the chapels in St marys is particularly fine.


Warwick is most well known for its castle on the banks of the Avon. The oldest parts date back to the 11th century. It is now a tourist trap, so I couldnt be bothered to pay the exorbitant entrance price.


warwick has many fine examples of 17th century architecture, including this pub.


Parts of the Lord Leycester Hospital were built in the 13th century, but most buildings are a bit older. Its not a hospital in the medical sense, but a home for retired and injured soldiers and their wives, something it is still used for today. In the garden is a vase over 2,000 years old. I would have liked to look around inside, but it was closed that day.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Takano-Ji inside


Inside Takano-Ji is like stepping into another world. The ceiling is painted with bright murals of dragons.


All the colums and architectural details are also brightly painted.


If this was in Kyoto there would be a hefty entrance fee and crowds of people.


Above the main altar a huge mandala.


There are some amazing statues. I think this must be one of the Shitenno, the four heavenly kings.


There is also a collection of paintings.

One could easily spend hours taking it all in.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Takano-Ji above


Takano-Ji, founded almost 1200 years ago, is also known as Iwami Koyasan, as the kanji for takanoji can also be read that way.


It's one of my favorite temples, partly due to the fact that it is so far off the beaten track that it is always quiet.


There are lots more statues up around the main hall, and a sign commemorating that here was a huge, magnificent bell until it was melted down to make cannons. This bell links Takano-Ji with my own village through the Enko legend.


When I first saw the covered walkway that climbs the hill from the priests quarters to the main hall I thought "wow" the peasants get to climb in the rain but the priests are protected", but of course it is not the priest whi is protected but the sacred things he carries.


There are some wonderful carvings of dragons on the outside of the main hall, with outspread wings, something I've not seen elsewhere.


There are some nice views down from the main hall. Behind it a path goes to the mountaintop where there is a small shrine, and half way up a small building where Kukai supposedly spent time.

The real surprise of Takano-Ji though is to be found inside.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Takano-Ji below


Takano-Ji is a wonderful old mountain temple in the middle of nowhere just north of where I live. Its not on any main roads, and only has a small handpainted sign pointing to it.


The 2 Nio guarding the entrance to the temple are not intricately carved, but quite vivid.


The temple was founded in 814, and legend has it that Kobo Daishi himself spent time at this spot. Of course, according to legends Kobo Daishi managed to be in six places at once performing miracles the length and breadth of Japan, so I havent been able to confirm if he really was here.


Largely due to its isolation, I think, the temple is quite atmospheric.


There are statues dotted around all over the place.


The priests house is quite old and very traditional. Buddhist priests often get to live in some remarkable places.


The main hall of the temple is higher up the mountainside, about 160 steps higher up!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Atrium at Kunibiki Messe


The Kunibiki Messe is a large convention center and exhibition hall in Matsue, Shimane.


Designed by Shimane-born architect Shin Takamatsu.


The central atrium features the forms common to much of Takamatsu's work... cones, cylinders, spheres, etc.


Running through the space is an elevated walkway that connect the 4th and 5th floors.


Up to the 5th floor


Down to the 4th floor.