Friday, September 30, 2011

Ryozenji Temple 1 of the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Located in Naruto, not far from Tokushima City, Ryozenji is now classified as temple 1 on the pilgrimage route because it is located closest to the port where pilgrims from Kyoto/Osaka would arrive on Shikoku.

The name translates as Vulture Peak Temple, and according to the legend it was founded by the famous priest Gyogi in the 8th Century and visited by Kukai in the 9th Century.

Like most of the pilgrimage temples it belongs to the Shingon Sect. The main deity worshipped here is Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha.

The temple buildings date from 1964, and like many temples in eastern Shikoku is was destroyed by the warlord Chosokabe Motochika in the 16th Century and was burned down again in the late 19th Century.

I think most pilgrims start from here, and also quite a few return at the end of their pilgrimage to "close the circle". Also it is close enough to Tokushima that many people do a sample of the pilgrimage by walking the first half a dozen.

The temple has all the products and supplies you would need to do the pilgrimage.

The Niomon gate and the pagoda are particularly delightful. Like many of the temples there are dozens and dozens of statues of many Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and other deities.....

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Vacation 2011 Day 6 Over the Atlas


It rained most of the night in Marrakesh and when we drove south out of town we passed through some flooding. It was grey and cloudy all the way up into the Atlas Mountains and over the pass.


Coming down the other side the weather cleared up a little


But down in the lower country towards Ouarzazate there were sandstorms...


Much to my delight, some of the country was very reminiscent of northern Arizona.


It was a long day in a car and by the time we got to Nkob the light was fading and we settled in to our gite for the night.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Creatures met along the way


Here are some of the creatures I encountered on my walk last week down the SE coast of Shikoku.


There arent a lot of goats in Japan, but you do occasionally see them staked out eating the weeds. I hope to get some goats in the future.


This little bird could not have been dead long as it had not been taken by any carrion eater or invaded by ants....


This frog however must have been dead for some time as it was completely mummified...


Kites, tombi in Japanese, are common everywhere....


Tombo, dragonflies, are also quite common... this one was quite a small species...


Maybe because of the impending cooler weather, butterflies seem to be a lot more active right now...

Monday, September 26, 2011

It happens every day, but.....

h1222 in a narrow valley it is not often I get to see the sunrise...


But walking down the east coast of Shikoku last weekend I was able to see it. On friday morning I was a few kilometers south of the village of Sasabe in Tokushima by 6am....


The biggest of the group oif islands just offshore is called Oshima, like dozens of other small islands.....


Saturday morning at 6 I was just south of None in Kochi.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

The art & offerings of Tanegaike Benzaiten


Part of my interest in visiting shrines is to see the various forms of art and offerings that are on display. At the Tanegaike Benzaiten Shrine near the Tottori sand dunes snakes/serpents are the theme due to their association with Benzaiten.


Benzaiten is sometimes found in shrines, sometimes in temples, and like much of japanese religion historically she crosses the boundaries between both, so its not unusual to see a buddhist statue within a shrine, or vice versa.


Like the nearby sand art displays, these representations of the dragon of the legend are made out of sand.


Because snakes like eggs, fresh eggs are left as offerings in front of the shrines. I have also seen this at Omiwa, where the legend is of Okuninushi appearing in the form of a snake.



While plastic flowers are not uncommon, real ones are still used.....

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tenjin Shrine, Bando


This small shrine is located by the side of the road leading to Oasahiko Shrine in Tokushima. It is a massha of Oasahiko shrine. Massha and Sessha are small subsidiary shrines usually located in the grounds of a larger shrine. The distinction between a massha and sesha is blurry, but usually a sessha will have a kami that has a relationship to the main god of the main shrine, and a massha will have a kami unrelated to the main kami.


The sign says it enshrines the kami of scholarship and learning which is now generally considered to be Tenjin, the name given to the enshrined spirit of Sugawara Michizane. Shortly after his death there were plagues and his angry ghost was deemed responsible for them, and it was not until much later that he became associated with learning and scholarship.


Angry ghosts that caused plagues and other misfortunes were a major concern of religions and rituals in ancient Japan, both "shinto" and buddhist. The Gion matsuri being another fasmous example.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Magaibutsu of Kunisaki


magaibutsu are buddhist carvings carved directly into cliff faces or rock outcroppings or cave walls rather than carved out of a piece of stone. Magaibutsu never became as poular in japan as they were on the Asian mainland, but they can be found all over Japan. Most however are found in the Kunisaki peninsular of northern Kysushu. This first one is of Dainichi Nyorai and is 6 meters tall.


Right next to it is this 8 meter tall carving of Fudo Myo o, and together they are known as the Kumano Magaibutsu. they are believed to be the oldest and biggest magaibutsu in japan.


Another large one is this one of Fudo Myo with two attendants on a river. Its 3.2 meters high.


There are many many more smaller ones scattered all over the peninsulat


Friday, September 16, 2011

Kuromatsu Matsuri part 2

This is a continuation of an earlier post. The flotilla of boats carrying the mikoshi headed out to the island to pick up the goddess............

Nothing much will happen on land for a few hours and we were lucky enough to be invited in to a party......

Once the sun had gone down the lanterns on the beach were lit.....

Eventually the boats came back, and did three circuits of the torii on the little islet just off shore...

Three of the small boats in the conoy were lit in the shape of kanji.....


The musicians on the boat carrying the mikoshi and priest keeps up the incessant rhythmn and now the musicians on the beach join in.....


Once the boats make it back to land the mikoshi is carried to the beach. First the children carry their mikoshi out of the sacred matsuri area to the local shrine....
later the men start to carry the much heavier mikoshi....... but they never get off the beach..... they go forward, start to stagger from side to side, stop, back up, and try again...... this goes on till the early hours of the morning....

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A True Tale of Typhoon Talas postscript

Sunday morning I woke late and the sun was already up. The sun!.... havent seen it for a few days. In many ways its as if the typhoon was just a dream.
The way to the next temple is straight up the mountain, but as the trail is very steep and there is a good chance the trail is running with water, washed out, or in other ways damaged, I decide to take the longer way, along the river around the mountain and go up the other side where there is a ropeway.
I head out of Oi across the bridge. The river is still swollen,brown and turbulent, but the debris in the trees show that it was 4 or 5 meters higher yesterday at its most flooded.
Im in the shade of the mountain which im grateful for as its already starting to warm up. The main road is on the other side of the river and this road is narrow with few habitations. Every few hundred meters water comes pouring off the mountainside and its like walking along a Japanese city street in the summer with the store doors open and air-conditioned air blasting out on to the street. There are rocks and stones scattered across the road, but no landslides.
About 6k later I get to the ropeway station that goes up 600 meters to Tairyuji. The ropeway car attendant tells me that yesterday the paddies in the village below were all underwater. The views from the ropeway are stunning and from the top I can even see back to the pagoda of Kakurinji. At the temple they tell me that trees along the trail down fell during the typhoon so the trail is dangerous so I decide to go back down by ropeway and head off the 14k to the next temple.
Walking through the village I was confronted with a strange site...... piles of rice by the sides of the road. The villagers had been up since first light sweeping the roads clean of all the rice that had been washed out of the paddies. This shrine was nice, with 1,000 year old trees. I chatted with one of the men cleaning up there and he gave me a bottle of tea..... so far I have found more osettai (gifts to pilgrims) at shrines than at the temples.
The main street of the village gave further evidence of the destruction caused yesterday by the flooding..... every house had been emptied and all the furniture, tatami etc stacked on the street to dry...
A few hours later, over a pass and on my way down along another river towards Byodoji, a rescre helicopter slowly hovers and passes up and down the river. teams of people are also walking the riverbanks peering down into the riverbanks. Typhoon Talas has claimed 100 people, either dead or missing.
But its not all doom and gloom. Life goes on. Not far from Byodoji I spy shrine banners flying and the sound of people. Matsuri!! Its a small Yasaka Shrine and the people insist is stay awhile and eat some local delicacies and drink some cold beers. Drinking beer and walking in the hot sun do not go well together, but im only a few minutes from the last temple I can visit on this segment of the pilgrimage, and it would be rude to refuse such an invitation, so I join them. They showed me some nice old sarutahiko masks as well......