Wednesday, March 30, 2011



Nagi is a small town in northern Okayama with a population of around 6,000 people, yet is home to a large Museum of Contemporary Art.


When we visited it there was an exhibition that featured a variety of artists, and the piece I enjoyed the most was by an Okayama artist, Gen Okabe, featuring a large "tunnel" constructed out of tree limbs. I saw a piece of his many years ago up in Kansai.


The occasional exhibits of modern art are not what this museum is primarily about. The museum is a collaboration between renowned architect Arata Isozaki and 4 artists who were asked to create artworks that would not be able to be displayed in a normal museum or gallery.


Opened in 1994, the three artwork/architecture pieces are titled Sun, Moon, and Earth, and are interesting enough that I will do a post on each one later.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spiral Staircases


There is nothing particularly Japanese about spiral staircases, but they do make nice photos!!


The first 2 photos are from the Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum near Kochi, Shikoku.


This one is in the Warabekan, a museum of toys and childrens songs in Tottori City.


These last 2 photos are from the observation tower on top of Mt. Senkoji in Onomichi.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Otobe Inari Shrine


The tjhird shrine I visited on my little walk around the neighborhoods east and north of Matsue castle was yet another Inari Shrine. It was hard to find, perched on a piece of high ground surrounded by houses, I eventually found a narrow gap between 2 houses with the steps leading up to it.


It looked as if there was not much activity here nowadays, and if it wasnt for the shimenawa it might be mistaken for a shed. The badly damaged statue to the right of the komnainu is all thats left of the fox statues.


The shrine was built by the Otobe family who were high-ranking retainers of the Lord of Matsue, and this location was chosen to protect the castle from the NE, in the same way that Enryaku-Ji on Mt Hie was chosen to protect Kyoto from that inauspicious direction.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Canal City (outside)


I post a lot on shrines, temples, and churches, but far more important to many contemporary Japanese are Cathedrals to Consumption!


Canal City in Hakata is one.


There are hotels, entertainment complex, restaurants, and more than 200 retail establishments.

But not one single place to buy a battery for my camera!!


It was designed by the Jerde Partnership who focus on creating "spaces" for people to meet rather than buildings per se. They are currently redesigning my hometowns city centre (Coventry)


Drawing inspiration from the canyonlands of the American Southwest, that is more apparent from the photos shot inside which I will post later.


Friday, March 25, 2011

The view from Asari Fujisan


Sailing down the coast of Shimane approaching Gotsu one can see what looks like a miniature version of Mount Fuji. The proper name of this mountain ( hill in English) is Mount Murokami, but everyone kniws it as Asari Fujisan. On top is a small temple that can only be reached by foot, so recently I went for a walk to revisit it.

On the lower slopes passed this abandoned roadside shrine to Ebisu. Its been a long time since anyone left any offerings here.


Further up are several Jizo statues on the pilgrim path to the mountaintop. According to the story on the signboard, a long time a guy a boat was heading down the coast from Izumo to Hashi and stopped in near here. On board was a young girl who an old childless couple convinced to stay with them. At some later point the girl left and started to walk back towrds Izumo and the old couple chased after her. At this spot the old woman died. The old man died on top of the mountain at the site of the temple.


Asari Fujisan is only 246 meters high, but has 360 degree views around and along the coast. The coastal villages seen here are Gotsu, Kakushi, Tsunozu, Ninomiya, and Waki.


Right below is the village of Watazu.


The Gonokawa River close to where it meets the sea.


The village of Asari with its wind generators, looking up the coast towards Izumo.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jozan Inari Shrine


Matsue has a lot of Inari shrines. This one is in the grounds of the Fumon-in temple about 500 meters from the castle in Matsue. Though still in the grounds of the temple it was officially "separated" from the temple with the shinbutsu bunri of Meiji.


It has the same name as the famous Jozan Inari in the castle grounds, and I would guess was set up as a subsidiary shrine of the former. Incidentally, Jozan can also be read as Shiroyama, and that is the name Lafcadio Hearn used.


Inari is mostly known as a kami of rice, but according to Hearn in the Matsue area it has stronger links to the cult of Fox witchcraft, and the Lords of Matsue were supposed to be masters of the cult, using foxes to send messages to Edo in hours rather than weeks.

The previous shrine I visited this day was also an Inari shrine, as was the next.

I could actually find very little information about this one, except Hearn has a ghost story from this temple.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Jizo at Togaku-ji


I was up in Matsue last week and took the opportunity to walk around the area north of the castle and visit some shrines and temples.


One temple I visited I had not been to before, Togaku-ji, had a big collection of Jizo.


The main hall oif the temple was being renovated, hence covered in green tarp, so I couldnt see what art may have been inside.


As well as all the jizo there was also a hall containing 500 statues of the Rakan, which I believe were disciples of the Buddha. Photos of those will come later.


The raked gravel along the entranceway hinted that this was a zen temple, which it turns out to be. It belongs to the Soto sect.


I could find no stories or historical personages connected to the temple, so it won't be found in any tourist guides, but like many shrines and temples off the beaten track it was filled with fascinating art.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Himosashi Catholic Church


Himosashi Catholic Church is located in the small village of Himosashi on Hirado Island in Nagasaki Prefecture.


The island was home to many "hidden christians" who secretly practised a type of Christianity after it was made illegal 1n 1612.

In 1865 some of these hidden christians came out and visited the Oura Church established by the French in Nagasaki. Many of these christians were rounded up and persecuted and tortured.

Finally the persecution ended in 1888 with the Meiji Constitution that guaranteed religious freedom and chuches began to be built.


Himosashi Church was not built until 1929, but replaced a nearby chapel built much earlier by a missionary.


It was designed by Yosuke Tetsukawa, a Japanese architect who designed many churches in Kyushu.


It is a concrete structure in the Romanesque style and has a lot of stained glass.


It is open every day and there is no entry fee.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Vacation 2010 Day 16: Dartmoor


For the last proper day of my vacation one of my nephews was kind enough to drive me to Exeter via Dartmoor. The lower slopes of Dartmoor are steep, wooded valleys with fast flowing streams.


We stopped in one of the many picturesque villages and found a tea room


and then explored the local churchyard.


Up on top of the moor we stopped by one of the many exposed Tors..... not sure which one it was


I like Dartmoor.... lots of open space and mostly treeless so one can see for miles. It is Britain though so its very wet.


This is probably a neolithic structure of some kind..... lots of stone circles, ley lines etc up on the moors.....

Thursday, March 17, 2011



This is the draincover for Miyoshi, a town in the mountains of Hiroshima, and upstream from us on the Gonokawa river. It depicts cormorants as ukai, the traditional method of river fishing using trained cormorants is still practised here in the summer.


I don't have any photos of the ukai, but I hope to see it later this year. I do have a few photos of wild cormorants though, this one was along the moat of Okayama castle.


In front of a house a few meters away from where I took the draincover photo I did find this rice-straw model of what I believe is a cormorant sitting on top of a turtle.


Miyoshi is not particularly famous, but like a lot of places off the beaten track it is possible to spend a day or two there and find enough to see. Miyoshi dolls are still produced here, made of clay, and there is a nice free museum with a big display and its alos possible to visit workshops where they are made.


Miyoshi also has a connection with the Chushingura, the story of the 47 Ronin. The wife of the Lord who was avenged by the ronin came from Miyoshi and after they committed ritual suicide she spent the rest of her life caring for the families of the 47. At her burial place in Miyoshi are statues of her and the 47 ronin as well as a cherry tree reputedly planted by the leader of the 47.

Previous posts on Miyoshi, mostly about the shrines, can be found here