Monday, December 31, 2012

Kitsune of Shikoku


Statues of foxes, kitsune, are common throughout Japan, mostly as guardian messengers of the kami Inari, and as Inari shrines are the most common shrine in Japan (according to one counting method) it is not surprising that while walking the Shikoku Pilgrimage one encounters many fox statues. This first one, however, did not appear to be connected to any shrine and was just along the wayside not far from Aizen-in on the first days walk.


This small Inari hokora (wayside shrine) is just in front of the entrance to temple 10 Kirihata-ji


A peek inside another small hokora, this one at the entrance to temple 25, Shinso-ji


An Inari shrine within the grounds of temple 31, Chikurin-ji


These last two were at the Yosakoi Inari Shrine near the base of Kochi Castle.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Inari Shrine at Kobo-ji, Hagi


Tucked away in the corner of the grounds of Kobo-ji temple in Hagi is a small Inari Shrine.


The temple is named after Kobo Daishi who legend says visited the nearby hot spring on his return from China.


At first I thought it must have been Dakiniten, the buddhist element/manifestation of Inari because of the distinctly buddhist windows,...


But a peek inside revealed a distinctly shinto Zuijin behind the taiko that has seen better days...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Aki Nada Bridge


I started my walk along the Aki Nada Islands by crossing the Akinada Bridge from near Nigata in Hiroshima over to Shimokamagari island. The bridges website claims it is the 9th longest bridge in Japan. Its total length is 1,175 meters with a central span of 750 meters. It opened in 2000.


One of the cool things about walking these big bridges is that they are so high that they afford great views, as in this photo looking back to Nigata.


Where the bridge ends on Shimokamagari is a small park, Shirozaki-en with this strange sculpture.


A rough translation of its title is [life] soil fire knowledge sky water, and it is by the artist Imai Makimasa.


There is a male and female figure.... the male being the more "muscular" one. The base of the sculpture is composed of more than 3,500 tiles...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Onomichi Temple Walk


Before I headed off on my walk to Shikoku along the Shimanami Kaido I spent the morning walking Onomichi's temple walk.


Though a relatively small town, Onomichi is home to 25 temples that, like the town itself, are mostly located on the steep hillside running down to the sea.


The route, only 2.5 k long, is easy to follow, especially with the free maps from the towns tourist information office. An easy half-day wander, mostly along narrow lanes and up and down steps.


As well as the temples, some of which are not particularly impressive, there are also a handful of shrines as well as other funky old buildings and other tourist sites.


There are also lots of nice views down over the town and across to Mukaishima across the narrow channel.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Iwami 33 Kannon Pilgrimage: Kitahachimangu


Though I have yet to finish walking the Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage Ive started walking the Iwami 33 Kannon. Being local it means I can do it in one day sections when the weather window allows. I had wanted to do the old Iwami 33 but many of the temples on it no longer exist... victims of Haibutsu Kishaku I suspect.


The old and the new pilgrimages both share a majority of temples but the older one started in Iwami Ginzan and the new one starts in Oda. On my way from Oda Station to the first temple I stopped in at Kita Hachimangu.


A fairly typical Hachiman Shrine, though it was founded in the ninth century, much earlier than many others, and unusually is a branch of the original Usa Hachiman rather than the Kyoto Iwashimizu Hachiman. There are many secondary shrines in the grounds, Ebisu, Aragami, Awashima, Konpira etc


The most interesting of the secondary shrines is this Kinashi Shrine. It enshrines Susano and connects to when he stopped here on his journey from Sila to Izumo. According to local legends he, along with local kami, travelled back and forth between Izumo and Korea from a point a few miles down the coast... Even more interesting is that this shrine was the original shrine here before the Hachimangu was established.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Fall Colors walk: Yaeyama Falls


Down below Yaeyama Shrine the valley leads up to Yaeyama Waterfall, a popular area even though it is remote. There is a big car park and plenty of picnic tables. To get to the waterfall is a 1.5k walk up the valley.


Everywhere I go this woman seems to be following me.....


There are numerous smaller falls along the way including this one in a narrow cleft in the rocks...


Lots of running water....


and some natural fall colors as opposed to the profusion of maple trhat had been planted at the lower end


The trail end at Yaeyama Falls.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fall Colors walk: Yudani Gingko


Winter has arrived early this year, and with being extra busy and the Fall weather being wetter than usual I didnt get to do as much walking in November as I had hoped, but I did make a Fall Colors walk up the Yudani Valley that ends at the Gonokawa near Kawamoto and starts up near Mihara. First stop was this abandoned temple that I had hoped to explore inside of but it has already begun to collapse and their were construction workers there to stop me from entering a "dangerous" place....


Further up the valley a farmer had a grove of gingko trees and he was busy collecting the nuts from underneath...


Solitary gingkos in a background of green are perhaps the most typical image of fall colors round here for me...


I had been told that the huge gingko at the temple in Mitani was particularly spectacular but it had only just begun its metamorphosis from green to gold....


The shrine in Mihara.....

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mysterious Sea Creature


I had never seen this creature before and I have been unable to find out what it is, so if any of you have any ideas please let me know.


It was about 15cms long and was swimming on the surface in a small harbour on the south coast of Yamaguchi in August.


Its coloration was more vivid than these photos show, and its movement can only be described as elegant..

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Omiwa Shrine, Tokushima


Coming to the end of my fourth day on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, between temple 17 and 18 it began to rain so I took shelter in this large shrine.


It is believed to be a branch shrine of the famous Omiwa Shrine in Nara, though it was written with different kanji, but the main kami is Onamuchi, more commonly known as Okuninushi, the main kami of the Nara Omiwa Shrine.


It is an old shrine, being listed in the Tenth Century Engishiki, and it is also a "soja", a shrine where the local government official gathered together all the shrines of a district into one site so he didnt have to travel around to visit them annually.


Small shrines like this surrounded by water are usuallky a Suijin or Benten shrine. This one is an Enoshim-sha, the main kami of Enoshima Jinja being Benten.


The second kami enshrined here is Oyamakui, one of the kami of Hietaisha, a grandson of Susano, and known to be a kami worshipped by immigrant clans in ancient Japan. Interestingly, to me at leat, that the two main kami are both Izumo kami.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Susanoo's Unusual Komainu

Scattered across the remote mountains of Inner izumo are a series of mountain shrines to my favorite kami, Susano. Finally i was able to visit Yaeyama Shrine located on Mount Yaeyama .

I will post more on the shrine at a later date, but for now I just want to show you the rather unusual komainu.

As I wander the backroads of rural japan I am always on the lookout for diversity.... homogenity is such a sickness :). and in the "arts" of local shrines is one place where diversity can be found...

The faces of these komainu are not so unusual, but the stance and body forms are....

The author of a book I have on the komainu of izumo believe these were carved by a man in Yunotsu, but doesnt give any dates. He also believes that originally they were located inside the gate.

Incidentally, a pair of komainu at another Susano shrine, Yaegaki near Matsue, are believed to be among the oldest in japan....