Thursday, September 30, 2010

Vacation 2010 Day 9: Wurzburg


After spending the day in Bamberg, I arrived at night in Wurzburg where I would stay for 3 days and catch up on my sleep. My friends apartment was located right under the hilltop Fortress Marienberg.


Next day we visited some of the 100 churches of Wurzburg. The town was almost completely destroyed in a bombing raid towards the end of the war and everything has been restored to its former glory. Lots of frescoes and gold leaf.....


The centerpiece of Wurzburg is The Residenz, a World Heritage site, and the interior is possibly the gaudiest building I have ever seen......


The Residenz is one of the locations for a new version of The Three Musketeers being filmed right now starring Orlando Bloom and Mila Jovovich.


After the Residenz we visited a few more churches and then walked along the Main River past the old harbour.


Not all is baroque in Wurzburg. Right on the river is the local power station......

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Love Hotel Haikyo


Halfway up the side of a mountain, miles from anywhere, literally clinging to the side of the mountain. we came upon an a small abandoned Love hotel.


Literally built into a crevice, a stream passed underneath the building.


Each of the 4 rooms were decorated with different themes, though the building had been stripped and vandalized so it was not clear exactly what the themes were....


This one seemed to have an underwater theme.

Not sure how long this place stayed in business. In this part of the country the love hotels are built between towns, not in towns, so this one would have serviced customers from Matsue and Yonago.

Each of the 4 rooms had floor to ceiling windows with fantastic views over Nakaumi (the Inner Sea) and Daisen, but Love Hotel customers are not usually concerned with the view :)


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fudo Myo & Nio: Mine-Ji

The third and final mountaintop temple we visited a few weeks ago up in Izumo was Mine-Ji, and the Nio were particularly impressive.

I had never seen any painted black with gilded eyes before. The temple was founded in the 7th Century and sits on a mountainside near Kisuki in the Okuizumo area.


While not as remote or as high as Kez0-Ji, reaching Mine-Ji involves a very steep, narrow, windy mountain road.

Contemporary yamabushi still perform rituals and undergo training here, and in the area set up for Shugendo rituals there was a small, eroded Fudo Myo.


Above the Niomon was a most effective relief of Fudo Myo, done in copper I believe.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tenmangu Shrine, Tsudera


The Tenmangu Shrine in the village of Tsudera is located a little off the Kibi Bike Path, and is a fairly standard, small, local shrine, but it is my nature to not be able to pass by a Torii without going in to explore.


The honden backs right up to the Sanyo Expressway and the shrine was newly reconstructed using money from the construction project. The honden was decorated as this particular saturday in June was the annual matsuri.


In front of the honden were the offerings laid out for the kami, in this case Tenjin, the deified identity of Sugawara Michizane.


What was unusual, and something I don't remember seeing before is that flowers were used. Thats a Buddhist practise, and though officially "separated" by the government, buddhism and shinto evolved symbiotically and one can still find evidence of the mix. Also unusually this shrine, and others in the area, still had a buddhist bell.


Deep in the shadows of the interior of the honden peeking out from behind a screen was Sugawara himself.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Kibi Bike Path


The Kibi Bike Path is a 15k, well signed, and very popular bike and walking path that crosses part of the Kibi Plain in southern Okayama. Bicycles can be rented at either end of the path, JR Soja Station in the west, or JR Bizen Ichinomiya Station in the east. The bikes can be dropped off at either end.


For those unfortunate enough to live in or be visiting the large cities of Japan the path offers an easy way to experience a semi-rural environment. The rental bikes are gearless, but the path is almost completely flat.


Much of the route is through rice paddies and there are shrines and temples in abundance.


There are also a lot of "kofun", burial mounds, indicating the areas importance in prehistorical times. Some of the tombs are open for entry to see the stone coffins.


If one wants to venture a little off the path itself there is a lot more stuff to see.


I will be posting on various of tye sights during the next few weeks.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fukuoka City Public Library


The Fukuoka City Public Library, opened in 1995, is another of the many pieces of modern architecture built on the reclaimed land known as the Momochi district.


It was designed by the Yamashita Sekkei Corporation.


As well as books the library is home to an archive of documents relating to the cities history, a film archive of Japanese and Asian films, with cinemas, and a UN depository.


The interior, like the exterior, is a mish-mash of styles and periods that looks a bit "twee" like a wedding chapel or expensive hotel.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Yamaguchi Go Steam Locomotive

One day in Yamaguchi City 5953

One more manhole cover in Yuda Onsen features the white fox, this time in combination with one of the last steam trains in Japan, the Yamaguchi Go.


It stops in Yuda Onsen after starting from Shin Yamaguchi Station. It then runs to Tsuwano up in the mountains of Shimane. It runs most weekends and holidays between March and November.


The locomotive was built in 1936, and each of the carriages is fitted out in the style of different rail eras. The train is very popular so advance bookings are needed.


The train stops in Tsuwano for sebveral hours allowing passengers the chance to explore the town before heading back to Yamaguchi.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Soja Shrine


Part of the fascination for me in visiting shrines around Japan is to discover the differences and varieties. Architecture, layout, styles of shimenawa and statuary all vary by region, and the first thing I noticed about the larger shrines in southern Okayama is that they all have covered entranceways.


Soja shrine in Soja City gave its name to the town. "Soja" roughly translated means "all the kami shrines", and when the shrine was founded towards the end of the Heian Period the town changed its name from Hachiba to Soja.


Enshrined here are 324 kami!!!! Apparently the local bigwig found it rather tiresome to have to travel around and visit all the shrines in his jurisdiction every year so he gathered them all together in one place, hence the name Soja Shrine.


The two main kami enshrined here are Onamuchi, which is one of names Okuninushi goes by, and one of his wives, Suserihime, a daughter of Susano.


This area of Okayama, formerly the province of Bitchu, still continues a tradition of kagura, so in front of the main shrine were a lot of fine, wooden masks. The mask in the middle with the snot pouring from his nose is apparently Inasehagi!


A very partial list of some of the other 324 kami enshrined here is

Numata Sha
Gion Sha (Susano and family)
Kotohira (Konpira)
Various Aragami


The entrance to the shrine is right next to the Soja Local History Museum, not far from Soja Station. Soja is a good place to start or end a trip on the Kibi Bike Path.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fudo Myo & Nio: Kezo-Ji


Kezo-Ji was an unexpected delight. It is a true mountaintop temple located just below a 450 meter high peak in the mountains between Matsue and Mihonoseki.

Getting there is by a very steep and very windy road. The only things on the road are a small abandoned love hotel and a small tea room. Its possible to drive right to the temple, but the best way is to stop and walk up a long flight of steps that passes through the Niomon (guardian gate)


The temple was founded in the 9th Century, but the Nio were donated by the Lord of Matsue when he built Matsue Castle 400 years ago.


The temple lies to the NE of Matsue and was chosen to offer protection from this direction, in the same way that Enryaku-Ji protects Kyoto.


A little further along the mountain trail and one comes to one of the largest Fudo Myo-o statues in Japan.


About 8 meters high, the statue was carved out of a natural rock outcropping about 150 years ago.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vacation 2010 Day 8: Bamberg


Bamberg is a wonderful example of a Bavarian medieval town that escaped the bombings of the war, so its no surprise that the whole of the old town is a World Heritage Site.

I was fortunate to be able to be shown around by friends who live in Bamberg.


There were of course lots of churches, cathedrals, etc, but as usual my eye was drawn to details...


I don't think I have seen anything like the murals on the outside of the Old Town Hall.


Built in the middle of the river, the 14th Century Old Town Hall is reached via two bridges. This is probably the most well known view of Bamberg.


Like I mentioned, my eye was drawn more to details...... after 3 days of massive churches and cathedrals.....