Friday, June 29, 2012

Kanzui Matsuri part 8


This is the second half of a post on the Oeyama dance as performed at last years matsuri up in Kanzui, The first half can be found here.

The group of heroes dressed as yamabushi find their way to the demons lair and after convincing the demons that they are real yamabushi are invited to spend the night,


There are 4 heroes, and the boss demon and three aides, so a total of 8 dancers packed into the tiny performance space. The king of the demons is distinguished by his oversized mask.


The heroes share the drugged sake with the demons and when they are drunk the fighting begins, each hero putting paid to one demon.

The final scene is when the king demon is confronted by the main hero. But the demon has a trick up his sleeve,..... a demon spider....

I had not seen the spiderweb and spider used in the Oeyama dance before...


The hero of course defeats the spider and the demon and so the world is once again safe.....

It was now 3:30 am and the kagura would be going on for another 3 hours but I left as I felt I neede to put in an appearance at my own villages matsuri which was also being held this night....

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Nio of Kunisaki: Final post


A final look at some of the intriguing Nio to be found at shrines and temples on the Kunisaki Peninsula in northern Kyushu. This first one is not a real nio but a sculpture used as a comment/message box at Maki Odo temple.


In the temples treasure house/museum there were a pair of old wooden nio that once stood on guard there.


At Taizoji, the small temple at the foot of the steps that lead up to the giant Kumano Magaibutsu, a smallish pair of stone nio.


This final pair of big, wooden Nio were in the museum of  Usa Hachimangu museum.
before the separation of buddhas and kami they would have stood guard at the shrines entrance.


Usa Hachimangu had long been a syncretic site incorporating buddhism with kami worship, but whereas many of the shrines in Kunisaki seem to have escaped the rigid separation of buddhas and kami, Usa because of its imperial connection did not/


Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Walk from Honshu to Shikoku Day 3


I woke at first light and was already over the bridge onto Oshima when the sun came up. My route took me along the coast a little before pretty much heading straight through the middle of the island. the current running along the coast was very, very strong. There were a couple of shrines to visit along the 10k route, but not much else.


At the southern end of the island I came to the final section, the triple Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge, three connected suspension bridges that together make the longest suspension bridge structure in the world. The bridges are a hair over 4k long, but with the long, windy, access path for cyclists is closer to 7k.


The views from the height of the bridges were stupendous.... it helped that the weather was glorious...


I got to Shikoku around noon. There were a surprisingly large number of people walking over the bridges....

It had taken me 3 days to walk the 70k..... actually an afternoon, a long day, and a morning, so it could be walked in 2 days, but 4 days would be better to give time to explore.....


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ube Shrine

Ube Shrine is located a little south of Tottori City and was/is the Ichinomiya, first-ranked shrine, of the former Inaba province. In the Meiji period is was classified as the second rank of government supported shrines.

The main shrine building and a picture of the enshrined kami, Takenouchinosukune, were printed on the 5 yen note in the early twentieth century. He is usually depicted with a full, long beard. (very handsome if I do say so myself :)

Within the grounds is a massha, secondary shrine, Kofu Shrine that enshrines, among others, Takemikazuchi, Yamato takeru, Izanagi, and kukurihime.

The main kami, Takenouchinosukune, was of royal descent and served 5 emperors and is most well known for serving the mythical Empress Jingu on her mythical invasion of the Korean Peninsular. He lived to be almost 300 years old, and a set of rocks in the shrine grounds is supposedly where he left a pair of shoes.

28 Japanese clans claim descent from him, most notably the Soga and the Katsuragi.

Now he is known as a guardian of children and while we were there several ceremonies were held for kids even though it was a few weeks after the "official" shichigosan.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sunset over the Yoshino River Valley


The first 10 temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage are along the north side of the Yoshino River. Number 11, Fujiidera is at the base of the mountains to the south of the river. On the trail up the mountains to temple number 12 is the Hashiyama Rest Hut, a concrete roof over a concrete picnic table. Here i made camp for the night and settled in to enjoy the views. Down below is part of Kamojima.


Looking upstream to the West.


Far to the East, where the river reached the sea with Awaji Island in the distance.


Down below and a little east, Ishii Town,

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Iconic Pumpkins


The tiny island of Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea between Okayama and Kagawa is known internationally as an "Art Island" thanks to the Benesse Corporation who have built numerous museums, hotel/museums, and various other art projects and public art on the island.


One sculpture in particular is now so well known that it is the icon for the island itself, Yellow Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama,  a fibreglass sculpture sitting on the end of a small  quay on the islands south shore since 1994 is now seen in almost all the advertising for the island and miniature copies of it are for sake everywhere.


Born in Nagano in 1929, and now 83 years old Yayoi Kusama is now recognized as one of Japans most important twentieth century artists and has influenced such famous artists as Andy warhol and Claus Oldenburg.


Quite probably it is the most-photographed artwork on the island.


In 2006 Red Pumpkin was installed in the main harbor of the island where ferries from the mainland and Shikoku arrive.


Its much larger than Yellow Pumpkin and like a piece of playground equipment one can climb inside the sculpture. Colored lights in the floor intereact with the polka dot patterns of sunlight streaming in through openings in the sculpture.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Vacation 2011 Day 16 Over the Atlas to Marrakesh


Heading back to Marrakesh by car after 10 days trekking, we retraced our route down the "Valley of the Roses". Some of the country reminded me very much of the Colorado Plateau in the SW U.S.


We then followed the Dades Valley known as "the valley of a Thousand Kasbahs" for obvious reasons.


After Ouarzazate we headed north into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. The day we drove here the weather was overcast and rainy, but on this return journey we had good weather to the colors and shadows made it far more photogenic.


It was a long, slow , climb up the winding road that switchbacks its way to the pass. I recently watched an old B&W French movie about truckers in this part of Morroco and much of it was filmed on this road. Other than a bit more traffic and the fact that now it is tarmaced, nothing else has changed since it was filmed.


After lunch at the pass we started down to the plain below. This side of the Atlas is greener with more settlements. Parts of it looked just like the red-rock country around Sedona (without mosques :))


Late afternoon saw us arriving back in Marrakesh and Hotel Ali. After 10 days in the desert the noise and crowds of Marrakesh were too much for me so I spent the evening in the refuge of my room....

Sunday, June 10, 2012



The draincover for the town of Kotohira in Kagawa on Shikoku, depicts pilgrims ascending the steps of Konpira-san.


Known also as Kotohira-gu, or simply Konpira Shrine, it was a major pilgrimage site with millions coming from all over Japan.


In total there are 1,368 steps to reach the highest shrine, but the vast majority nowadays only climb to the main shrine at 785 steps.


Most of the way up is lined with souvenir shops and eating establishments.


From the main shrine there are expansive views and I imagine the views from the top must be more impressive.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sun Hiroba


Sun Hiroba is the name of the atrium-like space in the middle of the Kobe Fashion Plaza complex.


It's 50 meters across and rises to a height of 40 meters.


The Kobe fashion Plaza was designed by Showa Sekkei and opened in 1997.


It is located on Rokko Island, the largest man-made island off Kobe.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Shikoku 88 Temple 11 Fujiidera


The first ten temples on the Shikoku Pilgrimage are all on the north side of the Yoshino River. Temple 11, Fujiidera (which means Wisteria Temple) is the first one south of the river.


Reputedly founded by Kukai, the temple was converted to a Rinzai Zen temple in the Edo Period and is one of only 3 Zen temples on the 88 temple pilgrimage.


The main deity is Yakushi Nyorai and legend says Kukai carved the wooden statue (honzon) though historical evidence suggests otherwise. Like most temple, it has suffered repeated fires, but the honzon has always survived unscathed and so the temple has a reputation as offering protection from disaster.


From here its is a steep, long climb up into the mountains to temple 12.