Monday, May 30, 2011

More Yuushien


here are photos from the second half of my walk around Yuushien, the graden located on daikon Island. It has a large karesansui, the dry garden mostly associated with Zen


Most commonly the rocks are seen as islands and the raked sand as water.


There are a few buddhist statues scattered about the garden, and coins left in their hands as offerings....


There are also several small waterfalls though its necessary to take side paths to see them.


The best views, perhaps, are in the restaurants and tea rooms where the windows provide the frame to see the garden as paintings.


As well as the peonies, Yuushien is also famous for growing ginseng, a plant notoriously difficult to grow. The gift shops are stocked with ginseng products.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Maidens planting rice


Here are some more photos of the Tauebayashi festival down in Kawahira last weekend.


Someone asked if in the olden days the saotome, planting maidens, used to be virgins, and I have been unable to find out for sure. I suspect it may have been the case sometimes, but rice-planting rituals varied so much from region to region that it was probably not a universal thing.


Was talking with a friend recently who had just finished planting his rice and he said that according to his father during the Taisho period (1920's) it was the women who planted the rice. The men did the preparation of the paddies. Since the war the rice planting has become mechanized and the men do it mostly, though I often see old ladies out in the paddies afterwards planting on the corners where the machines can get to.


I believe in premodern Japan the whole family would have been involved in the planting.


When I first came to Japan I was told several times that all the old women I saw who walked bent over at 90 degrees were that way because of a lifetime working in the paddies. Like many things I was told it turns out to be a myth. There are millions of old women bent over who have never been in a rice paddy in their lives. It is caused by calcium deficiency. Prewar japanese diet was very poor. High mortality and low longevity were the norm until the postwar period.


Anyway, the matsuri was enjoyable again this year, though I missed the young kids playing the music.


The men, of course, have things to do..... lots of supervising and encouraging the women :)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tenjin Inter Media Station


The Inter Media Station building in Tenjin, Fukuoka, is not much to look at from the outside.


But inside is another matter!!!!!


Basically its another shopping and entertainment complex.


I am not much of a shopper myself, in fact I loathe shopping. I would rather have sharp sticks poked in my eyes. But in Japan, perhaps more than most places, shopping and consumption are elevated to levels I would equate to religious.


Which is why these kind of places seem to be Cathedrals of Consumption.


The receptionists/information counter girls were something else too. With fake fur stoles and fake flowers in their hair are they the miko of a new religion?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Vacation 2011 Day1: Sumiyoshi Shrine


The last part of my first day of vacation I was in Hakata and I visited the Sumiyoshi Shrine there.

The head Sumiyoshi Shrine is in Osaka, but the one in Hakata is believed to be the original one.


The main kami are Sokotsutsuo-no-kami, Nakatsutsuo-no-kami and Uwatsutsuo-no-kami, which are kami connected with navigation and safe travel by sea. the mythical "Empress" Jingu is also now enshrined here as the myths say she received oracles from the Sumiyoshi Kami before her mythical "conquest" of Korea.

I recently read that the 3 kami were originally aspects of the undersea Dragon King, a kami long associated with distant lands.


Travellers and emissaries going from Yamato to Korea and China would first stop at the Sumiyoshi Taisha in Naniwa (Osaka) and then visit other Sumiyoshi Shrines along the Inland Sea until finally leaving from Hakata.


Its a nice oasis of green in an otherwise built-up area and has some fine Zuijin and komainu.

There is a secondary shrine to Amaterasu in the grounds, and an Ebisu shrine in front.


As a major shrine it is able to employ Miko.


Behind the main hall are 2 Inari shrines.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011



This is the draincover for Chikumi, one of many small fishing villages scattered along the north coast of the Shimane Peninsular north of Matsue.


Its actually a very beautiful coastline and not much visited. There are no pachinko parlors, fast food joints, and I didnt see any convenience stores, just fishing villages and a few farms in the mountains.


Earlier I posted about a walk I did last year along the coast. That walk started where this walk ended.


You are never far from the signs of fishing......


Monday, May 23, 2011

Rice Planting Matsuri


Its that time of the year again. In my neighborhood the month of May is spent planting rice. My neighbors dont go on vacation for Golden Week, the time off from their regular job is spent preparing the paddies and planting.

Down in Kawahira half a paddy remains unplanted......


Its waiting for the arrival of the procession from the local community center. Its Tauebayashi time again.


The maidens line up along the paddy and wait.....


While the farmer and his oxen do a ceremonial circuit of the paddy.


Then the drummers and singers begin to perform the rice planting song.


A man and a woman place a bottle of Sake at a sacred sprig in the center of the paddy, plant a few rice seedlings around it and ask the kami of the rice paddy to watch.....

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Yuushien is a Japanese garden in the middle of Daikon Island in the Nakaumi between shimane and Tottori.

This is where we went to see the peonies in bloom recently.

While the peonies were certainly the stars of the garden in May, there were other flowers in bloom too including wisteria.

Its a circuit walking garden with a few side paths to explore.

There are different flowers in bloom at different times of the year and for the fall foliage the garden is illuminated and open late.

There are buses to Daikon Island from Matsue and Sakaimoinato.

The garden is open from 8:30 to 17:30. 7 days a week and entrance is 600 yen

Friday, May 20, 2011

A walk from Muraki to Higashi Aohara

After the ceremonies at Taikodani Inari I decided to take advantage of the warm, dry weather and go for a walk along the backroads in the mountains north of Tsuwano.


I started out in Muraki, a small settlement west of Tsuwano and headed north along route 17. My first surprise was a new tunnel. According to the map I was supposed to snake up and over the mountain, but this new tunnel punched straight through saving me at least a kilometer and some climbing.


On the other side the road dropped down into a valley and then climbed slowly north. As usual I was on the lookout for shrines, and as usual some of them marked on the map didnt exist, and some shrines existed that were not marked on the map. According to the map this little grove of trees contained a shrine, but as the only way to it was through a farm I decided to pass.

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The road passed through small settlements with names like Yamashita (under the mountain) and Nakagawa (middle river), common names that existed all over Japan and also became common family names when commoners were allowed to have names in the Meiji period.


It was a pleasant enough walk, very little traffic, and the sound of farm machinery at work. I kept my eyes open for a drink vending machine as it was warming up and I was starting to get thirsty.


There were not a lot of shrines, and most were common old Hachiman shrines with no distinguishing features. As always there were many roadside altars with fresh flowers.


There were also many abandoned farms. Apparently 1 in 8 houses in Japan are empty.

The road reached a pass and went through a small tunnel and then a new 2 lane road descended rapidly. The old road weaved its way along the bottom of the valley and looked more interesting, but I had gone about 10k without finding a vending machine so I was in a hurry.


Another few K and I took a smaller road off to the right, Route 170, that went down the mountain to Route 9, the Takatsu River, and the train line that would take me home. In about 4k there were only 2 small farms. A very pleasant road that I was unable to enjoy as my thirst was becoming too much. I was sustained only by the thought that once I reached the small train station at Higashiaohara, actually halt would be a more accurate description, there would be a vending machine. But no!!!!!.... so i begged some water from an old man working in his garden. He took me back behind his house and ran the water for a few minutes till it became cold, and it was delicious.... fresh, mountain water!!!!

It had taken me about four and half hours to walk 18 kilometers, a crazy pace fueled by my need to reach a vending machine. I only visited 4 shrines.