Monday, September 29, 2014

Shisa of Okinawa 2


This is the second post on the shisa of Okinawa.


All of these photos wre taken at Okinawa World, a "theme park" in the south of the main island.


The making of small shisa for roofs has become a folk art


The main reason for visiting Okinawa World is for the cavern.....


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Arashima Hachimangu

Arashima Hachimangu is located right on Route 9. Hachiman is usually a trio of kami, Homuda Wake, the name of Emperor Ojin, is usually the primary, and the other two being taken from his mother, Jingu, his father, Chuai, or his wife, Himegami. Unusually this one lists Homuda Wake, Jingu, and Takeuchi Sukune, who was Jingu's minister.

It is a direct branch of the Usa Hachimangu. Almost two thirds of Hachimangu nationwide are branches of Iwashimizu. Like all the other shrine in this area there was a Zuijinmon which also had a pair of nice wooden komainu.

Again, like all the other shrines in the area there was an altar to Kojin, the most common kami in the region that hardly gets a mention in any sources on Shinto as it is neither national nor imperial. Represented as a rope snake, in my neighboring area the name is different, but it is just as prevalent and important.

There are several outcroppings of smooth, rounded rock in the grounds. The smaller one has a hokora to Sumiyoshi in a small hole carved into it.

The larger one has steps carved into it that leads up to an Inari Shrine.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Making hemp fibre


Whereas hemp had and has many uses in ritual and ceremony as well as medicine in traditional Japan, its main use was as fibre, and that was one of the main focuses of the matsuri.


All morning a very tall steamer had a fire burning under it.


By lunchtime the stems of the plant were ready and removed and placed in the stream to cool down.


After a short while everyone collected some stalks and began peeling off the outer skin, something surprisingly easy to do.


I has presumed that it was the whole stalk of the plant that was used to make fibre, so was surprised to learn that it was just the thin bark. The strips of fibre were then scraped with a bamboo scraper to remove the vestiges of "stickiness", and that about it. We now all had a small amount of one of the best fibres in the world.


It could be used to weave, or could be used to make a gohei, a purification wand used by Shinto priests, pictured below.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2nd Annual Hemp Festival


Last weekend went to the second Annual Hemp Festival up in the mountains near Chizu, Tottori. The festival was organized by a small, local hemp farm to showcase the second most important plant in ancient Japan.

The day was kicked off by a purification ceremony by a Yamabushi from Mount Fuji.


There were lots of stalls selling clothing made from hemp, probably its most important use in ancient Japan. There were also demonstrations of extracting oil from hemp seeds and a small loom where visitors could try their hand at weaving with hemp.


The folks from the Hemp Car Project arrived in a bus powered by hemp oil. There were about three hundred people there, mostly younger people who have moved into the rural areas of Japan and practice a more sustainable lifestyle. There were lots of young children. The Mayor of Chizu gave a speech and suggested that he may be naming Chizu "Hemp Town" in the future. I met an old guy from Hiroshima who told me about a Shinto Sect shrine in central Hiroshima that has links with hemp. In return I was able to tell him about the Hemp Mountain and Hemp Shrine near our home.


There were stall selling other hemp products, and several example of traditional hemp products including some bell ropes from Kyoto and a Gohei, a purification wand used by Shinto priests. Throughout the day musicians performed.


As at any other festival in Japan there were plenty of food stalls including some vegan offerings. I settled for a Wild Boar Burger even though I have been eating a lot of boar this week. 600 yen a pop for a hemp beer from Germany was a bit too pricey for me but the brand name is kind of clever.

The main event of the day was the making of hemp fiber, and that I post next.....


Monday, September 22, 2014

Hashima Shrine

Hashima ( or Hajima) Shrine is located on a small rounded hill among the rice paddies just outside Yasugi town center, just off Route 9. The hill is called Gongenyama, and until the Meiji Period the shrine was called Daigongen Shrine. Gongen are/were Buddhist manifestations in kami form.

Like all the shrines in this area of eastern Izumo there was a Zuijinmon ans a nice pair of unpainted Zuijin. At the base of the hill was a stone carved with the name of Dainichi Nyorai, the Great Sun Buddha who was the identity of Amaterasu for a thousand years. However the kami now listed for the shrine are Onamuchi, the Yamato name for Okuninushi, and his "sidekick" Sukunahikona. The Gongen for Okuninushi was Yakushi Nyorai.

There were a couple of smaller shrines in the grounds, an Inari, one to Konohanasakuya, the wife of Ninigi most often equated with Mt. Fuji, and an Oyamagi Shrine.

Like all the shrines in this region there was an altar to Kojin, the most common kami of all. Every shrine has at least one Kojin altar, often more.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Yasaka Shrine near Sakai, Bungo Takeda


By lunchtime of my first day walking across the Kunisaki Peninsula I was approaching the foothills and the valley I was going to follow up to the center of the peninsula. In the middle of the rice paddies in a small village east of Bungo Takeda I came across this Yasaka Shrine.


Being a branch of the famous Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto, and formerly known as Gionsha, it enshrines Susano as well as various members of his "family" Like most of the shrines I'd visited today there was a carpet of golden gingko leaves.


There was a small secondary shrine in the grounds but there was no sign so I could not find out which kami was enshrined there.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage Day 9 Yasugi to Iya

For the ninth day of the Izumo Kannon Pilgrimage I started out in Yasugi. Now I head back West. Today I will not get to a visit any of the pilgrimage temples.

I will, however, be visiting lots of shrines. This area was where the provincial government of  ancient Izumo was based, and also home to some of the earliest of the myths of Japan.

I will be following the route of the Sanin-do, the ancient imperial highway that linked the region to the capital. It is generally believed to be the least travelled of all the ancient routes. Nowadays Route 9 follows its route, though I hope to be spending a lot of time off the busy road and on side roads.

The route takes along the southern edge of the Nakaumi, marked as a lake on maps but actually a shallow lagoon.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Southern Coast of Osaki Shimojima Island


On my second day of walking along the Akinada Islands I was on the southern coast of Osaki Shimojima heading towards Mitarai.


The road around the northern coast looked on the map to be busier, plus the view would be towards the mainland.


Here on the southern coast there was no traffic and the views were out into the Inland Sea and across to Shikoku.


This part of the island is known as a breeding ground for a species of migratory cormorant. Othere than one small village there is nothing else along the coast except citrus orchards clinging precariously to the steep slopes.


Friday, September 12, 2014



After leaving Kiyomizudera I headed for Unjuji, what I believed to be the next temple on the Izumo Kannon Pilgrimage. When I studied the route and guide I saw a temple marked at the approximate location of Unjuji, and as Unjuji was a pretty big temple and on the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage I didn't read closely enough. Temple 22 is actually a small temple about 600 meters away, so technically I have not yet finished the pilgrimage until I go back and visit the proper temple 22.

When I've been to Unjuji before I have seen pilgrims there, as can be attested by the photo above of the Kannon-do.

There are a lot of small statues scattered around the grounds, and a very fine gate. The temple was founded in 1322 and belongs to the Rinzai Zen sect.

The most interesting thing at the temple though is a bronze bell that is somewhere between 1000 to 1300 years old. Its a Korean bell, more specifically from Silla, the country that unified the Korean Peninsula in the late 7th Century. During the "colonial" period of Japanese rule over Korea in the first half of the 20th Century much was looted from there, and Korean bells were one of the objects apparently prized. Also, of course, much was looted from Korea by Hideyoshis armies in the 16th Century. Why the bell, and others like it throughout Japan, have not been returned is a mystery to me. Some historians believe this particular bell is one of the oldest of its style in existence.

There is a fascinating article here that discusses the meaning of Korean Bells, and the Unjuju Bell, in relation to a pre-Buddhist "Goddess" religion of East Asia. The author is also pretty scathing in her criticism of how Japan portrays Korean history.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Onomichi City Museum of Art


The Museum of Art in Onomichi, Hiroshima, is located on top of the mountain overlooking the town and the nearby islands.


It was designed by world-famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando, and while the combination of modern glass and steel with the traditional curved roof is interesting, it is in my opinion not one of his better designs.


The museum hosts various changing exhibitions and has a cafe with great views.

It is possible to drive up, but the easiest way is to take the Senkoji Ropeway. The museum is a few minbutes walk from the mountaintop station.


It's open from 9 to 5 and is closed on Mondays.