Tuesday, July 31, 2012



On the long climb up to Shosanji, temple 12, on the Shikoku pilgrimage there are three sites associated with Kukai, the second being Ryusui-an.


According to the legend, when Kukai was climbing the mountain back in the early ninth Century he stopped here and by tapping the ground with his staff caused a spring to start flowing. According to many legends associated with kukai he did this many, many times all over Shikoku.


There used to be a shokubo, temple lodgings, here but it has long since closed down. There is a really cool looking tree though.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Toyonaka Inari at Taineiji


Taineiji is an old Zen temple in the mountains a little south of Nagato on the north Yamaguchi coast. We drove past the temple but stopped just after when we saw a vermillion bridge crossing the stream and decided to explore...


What we found was a branch temple of Toyonaka Inari, the second of the three great Inari Shrines of Japan, though in reality a temple up in Aichi. The branch temple was established here at Taineiji about 50 years ago,


It enshrines Dakiniten, a "buddhist" correlate of Inari, though it is unclear how much Inari is in Dakiniten or how much Dakiniten is in Inari. Originally a Hindu goddess Dakini became associated with the fox and she is often depicted riding a white fox.


Dakiniten was a powerful deity during the medieval period and this seems to be when the associations with kitsune grew.


Spent a long time chatting with one of the monks at the temple. He had spent a year at a monastery in Ireland and bemoaned the fact that while in Ireland he was treated with respect as a priest but that in japan he received much less respect.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Orochi Manholes


Known as the Land of Myth, Izumo has many myths recorded in the earliest chronicles, and probably the most well known is the story of Susano slaying the Yamata no Orochi, a fearsome dragon with 8 heads and 8 tails.


There are many different explanations of what exactly this great serpent was, but the most common one is that it refers to the 8 tributaries that drain the Okuizumo area and combine to form the Hi River.


The route of the Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage passes through the watershed of the Hi River for about 100k, so its not surprising that the towns in the area incorporate the Orochi in their manhole designs.


The first one I found near Hinobori, The second In Kisuki also features the local bridge. The third from Mitoya includes Susano and the princess Inada who he saves from the Orochi. The fourth, from Yokota is in the heart of the myth country. Near here is where Inada and her family lived. The final photo is the main design found in Izumo City itself.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Vacation 2011 Day 17 to Essouira


We left Marrakesh in the early afternoon and headed 200k almost directly west until we hit the Atlantic and Essouira. It was my first time here and I was very impressed. Instead of the red of marrakesh, here everything was white.


Like in Marrakesh, fresh squeezed orange juice was abundant and cheap.


Essouira is one of the best anchorages on the Moroccan Atlantic coast.... Phoenician, Carthaginians and Romans all had settlements here in ancient times. The harbor is filled with funky wooden fishing boats of all sizes.


Essouira is now a very popular tourist resort so the narrow, traffic-free alleys were filled with art and craft shops.


The huge stone wall of the Portugese fort still surrounds the old town


The old town has a main plaza but mostly consists of a maze of narrow alleys and lanes...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art revisited


The Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art sits on the waterfront in Kobe and was constructed in 2002 as part of the cities post-earthquake revitalization.


Earlier I posted on one of the features of the architecture, the spiral staircase


The museum primarily consists of 3 glass structures each with an overhanging roof. The 3 structures are set on a base of white granite with steps that lead down to the waterfront.


The museum was designed by Tadao Ando and has more than a passing resemblance to his Fort Worth Museum he built a little later.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Shikoku 88 Temple 13, Dainichiji


Temple 13 has the same name as temple 4, Dainichiji. It is the first of the 88 temples located in Tokushima City.


The main deity is kannon, and there is a nice statue of her in the grounds. Legend has it that Kukai had a vision of the Dainichi Nyorai while doing a goma ritual nearby and then founded the temple.


Originally part of a shrine-temple complex it was originally named Ichinomiyaji after the shrine which is just across the road, Ichinomniya. The temple and shrine were officially separated after shinbutsu bunri and the temple buildings date from the late Meiji period.


There is a nice statue of Kurikara, a dragon wrapped around a sword. Associated with Fudo Myo, kurikara statues are often found at ascetic sites, waterfalls etc. The most common association of Kurika and Fudo Myo is in a legend that has Fudo transforming into a dragon to consume the sword which was a manifestation of a heretic.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Leading the blind to the aquarium


Recently some of my photos have been used in a publication dealing with access for visually-impaired people.

The photos were taken from an earlier post, Leading the blind, on the tactile floor markers used as guides.


While scouring through my files looking for the originals I came across this sequence of photos of the same subject. All of them were taken at Aquas, our local aquarium.


I find it intriguing that something designed for those with poor or no sight could be so visually striking.


I also like them because it is very easy to photograph them and have them look like the paintings I used to do back in the day......




Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fudo Myo o of Shikoku

Of all the Buddhist deities in Japan I think Fudo Myoo is my favorite. Associated strongly with Shingon its not surprising that statues of Fudo Myoo are plentiful on the Shikoku Pilgrimage.

One of the fascinations is with the diversity of representations, from statues executed by artists to cruder images made by "folk". These first two are both found at temple 1, Ryozenji.

This rather unusual one is found at Temple 2, Gokurakuji, and Fudo Myoo is accompanied by a pair of attendants, Kongara and Seitaka.

The flames behind Fudo Myoo in this fairly modern sculpture are carved in an unusual way. It is located at temple 7, Jurakuji. The flames represent the purification of the mind by the burning away of all material desires.

This modern version which stands along the entrance way to temple 12, Shosanji. What is unusual about this one is that both his "fangs" are pointing down. Usually one is up and one is down.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage


I'm about halfway through walking the Izumo 33 kannon pilgrimage. There are hundreds of 33 Kannon pilgrimages in Japan, though probably the oldest and most well known is the Saigoku Pilgrimage up in Kansai. The Izumo pilgrimage was founded, like many of the others, around the middle of the Edo period, the time pilgrimages really became popular among common folk.


I havent measured it yet but my guess is it is about 300k in length, possibly longer. Many of the temples are uninhabited and in fairly remote locations. Many are mountaintop temples and therefore there is a lot of ascending and descending to do.


There are some stunning views especially across the OkuIzumo region. There is little in the way of pilgrim infrastructure. I have found no signs along the road and there are no rest huts, though I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that temple 9, Mine-Ji, had a tsuyado for pilgrims. Stores are few and far between, though the route does pass through the urban areas of Izumo City and Matsue City. Occasionaly the route follows main roads, but most of the route is along very narrow, mountain roads with very little traffic.


I recently discovered a map of the old Iwami 33 Kannon pilgrimage!!!!! so once I finish the Izumo 33 that is what I will walk next....... and then the Chugoku 33 Kannon.... and then the Shodoshima 88... and then,,,,

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Iiyama Hachimangu


The Iiyama Hachiman shrine is located in Fukawa, now a part of Nagato City, Yamaguchi, and is the main shrine of the area.


It was established in 772 and moved to its present location in 807. In the 15th Century the Mori Clan who had taken over the area from the Amago greatly expanded the shrine, and I suspect this is when it was turned into a Hachiman shrine


Being a Hachiman Shrine the main kami enshrined here is Ojin along with his father Emperor Chuai, mother Empress Jingu, and the 4th being Emperor Nintoku his son. usually the 4th kami at a Hachiman shrine is Himegami, Ojin's "wife".


Also enshrined here are 3 unamed female kami and I suspect they were the original kami of the shrine. Hachiman did not spread around the country until the samurai rose to power many centuries after the shrines founding.


I suspect that the 3 female kami may well have been the Munakata Sisters. As "daughters" of Susano, and hailing from north Kyushu, it is believed the Izumo area and north Kyushu were connected in an alliance and as northern Yamaguchi is halfway between those two places it would make sense.