Sunday, November 30, 2014

2014 Autumn Colors Walk Day 1 Yanai to Tabuse

Yanai 柳井市

2014 Autumn Colors Walk Day 1 Yanai to Tabuse.
My traditional Fall Color Walk this year was a long one, 7 days, as it coincided with the latest leg of my walk along the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage. I started out in Yanai and walked through southern Yamaguchi to Chofu, at the edge of Shimonoseki in the far west of the prefecture/island.

Yanai, Yamaguchi.

While exploring around Yanai itself there was only one single Maple in the yard of one of the big merchant houses open to the public, however the streets were lined with Goldfish lanterns, a local speciality, which at least reflected the color of Autumn.

From Yanai I headed south and climbed up a mountain to reach Hannya-ji, one of the bangai temples on the pilgrimage, and here I found some gingko and maple, though most of it was around the old priests house.

On the way down the mountain and heading towards Tabuse I came across some autumn color that is not usually featured, A type of ivy, I presume, but found climbing over abandoned wooden buildings, of which there are plenty in the Japanese countryside.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage Day 10 Iya to Higashi Matsue

I made an early start for the tenth day of this pilgrimage walk, and the approaching dawn heralded another glorious day of fine weather.

I would be visiting 2 temples of the pilgrimage, but many more shrines.

Part of my route will be along an older "shinto" pilgrimage, the Ou Rokusho, that connects 6 of the oldest shrines in this area that used to be the provincial capital when centralized government was first set up.

Kojin would be much in evidence. My route will take me inland along the southern edge of a wide valley, and then back along the northern edge. My starting point and finishing point are only a few kilometers apart.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Minimal Geometric Abstract 2

One weekend one year ago 1483

I'm off walking for a while with minimal internet availability so I will not be able to post, so I leave with a photographic interlude.

One day in Hiroshima 120

Last time I posted similar pictures I received some compliments, but no way am I vain enough to respond to flattery :)


Yin-Yang, positive-negative, and diagonals are basic and elementary design motifs, as are curves. My photography is very simple.

One Day in Izumo9737

Thanks for taking the time to check my humble blog, and thanks to those who comment.


"So then always that knowledge is worthiest which considereth the simple forms or differences of things, which are few in number, and the degrees and coordinations whereof make of all this variety."
Francis Bacon, 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Kojin Altars at Iya Shrine

Like almost every shrine I have visited in this part of Izumo, Iya Shrine has an altar to the land kami Kojin. Most shrines have one, but some have more. Iya has two which suggest that before the government mandated shrine closures of the early twentieth Century these altars would have been out in the hamlets.

Like the Kojins at Adakaya Shrine, which I will be revisiting on the next day of this pilgrimage walk, these kojin have quite large heads. In the above photo you can see the tongue sticking out.

Two rings of bamboo represent the eyes. These may not be the grandest Kojin Ive come across but they are impressive. The amount of work that has gone into their creation and the sheer number of gohei planted in front of them is a clear indication of their importance to the local people.

I have done a lot of research on the similar kami in my region, known as Omoto, and I really want to contact some people up here in Izumo and find out more about Kojin and any differences there are from Omoto.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Iya Inari Shrine

Off to one side of the main Iya shrine is a line of torii leading to an Inari Shrine. Each of the different torii , which can sometimes be so many that they literally form a tunnel, are donated by different worshippers.

As is typical of traditional Japanese religious practises, there are numerous identities and attributes of Inari though in the Meiji Period when many kami had their identities changed or fixed by the government it became mostly associated with Ukanomitama.

Inari is often associated with rice as an agricultural deity, but in time its "wish-fulfilling" properties became associated with success in business and many other endeavors, even becoming the patron deity of prostitutes.

Often referred to as a Fox God, the fox is actually just a messenger of Inari

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Kappa Manholes


The Kappa, one of many mythical creatures classified as "Yokai", is often translated into English as "water sprite", though that does not convey much of the character of these creatures. Stories of Kappa can be found all over Japan, but some areas have a stronger connection to them. The design above is from Tsuyama in Okayama, where the creature is known as Gongo. A Gongo festival is held every year.


South of Tsuyama, though connected by the same river system, is the town of Kumenan. The toen mascot is "Kappy". There were several different designs incorporating Kappa, but I passed through in the dark so the only photo that turned out well was the one above.


Tanushimaru along the Chikugo River in Fukuoka claims to be the original source of all Japanese Kappa. There are many Kappa shrines in the area and statues of Kappa are everywhere. The railway station is also shaped like a kappa.


The photo below is from further south in Kyushu, Satsumasendai in Kagoshima.


The best manhole design of Kappa though is the one from my town, Sakurae, where it is known as "Enko". It can be found here.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Iya Shrine

Iya Jinja

Iya Shrine is a very ancient shrine, said by some sources to be the oldest shrine in Izumo. It is listed in the Izumo Fudoki, menstioned in the Nihon Shoki, and listed in the Engi Shiki. It is one of the "Six Shrines of Ou", Ou being the old name for the district and the site of government in the Nara Period.

The primary kami is Izanami, and near here is the entrance to the underworld (Yomi) where her husband/brother Izanagi fled from after visiting her there. Also enshrined here are Okuninushi, his son Kotoshironushi whose main shrine is across the lagoon at Mihonoseki, and Sukunabikona a sidekick of Okuninushi who "built" the country with him.

The third layer of kami enshrined in the main honden is Takeminakata, the son of Okuninushi who didnt't want to cede the land the the emissary of Amaterasu and who is the main kami of Suwa shrines, and Futsunushi, the ancestor of the Mononobe who was the emissary from Amaterasu.

There are some secondary shrines in the grounds including two Ebisu shrines and a Tenmangu, but the most interesting is the Karakuni shrine. Karakuni means "Korea", and there are quite a few of them in the Izumo area, and they enshrine Susano and his son Isotake. According to Izumo mythology they both came to Izumo from the Korean Penisula and also made visits back there, something that is widely ignored by the nationalists here.

There is also an altar to Kojin and an Inari shrine, but I will post on them next.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Inside Diamond City


Diamond City are a chain of "cathedrals to consumption" located across Japan. This one in Hiroshima is named Diamond City Soleil.


It was built on the site of the former Kirin Brewery and elements from the old brewery can be found inside and outside.


I personally find such places rather bizarre, not only because shopping is among my least favorite activities, but they remind me so much of the settings of so many SF movies from my youth that are set in such gleaming, sterile, environments.


However, such places do offer me the opportunity to take the kind of photographs I like best, minimal, and geometric....


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Chikuyo Shrine

Chikuya Shrine is a very ancient shrine near Iya in HigashiIzumo near the shore of the Nakaumi Lagoon. It is listed in the Izumo Fudoki which means it was in existence before the eighth Century. It is also listed in the 10th Century Engi Shiki which means it received offerings from the central government. It was moved to its current location in 1666 following a massive flood at its previous location about 1K south.

The primary kami of the shrine is Kotoshironushi, the son of Okuninushi who suggested that Okuninushi cede the land to the Yamato envoys. His main shrine is Miho Shrine not far from here on the Mihonoseki Peninsula. Nowadays he is equated with Ebisu.

The secondary kami enshrined here is named Hayatsumujiwake, and I can find absolutely no reference to him except that the Izumo Fudoki lists a Hayatsumuji Shrine, so I suspect that stood here originally until the Chikuya Shrine was relocated here.

As well as a covered sumo ring there are numerous secondary shrines within the grounds including a Tenman Shrine enshrining Tenjin, an Ise-gu enshrining Amaterasu, an Akiba Shrine for protection against fire, a Munetada Shrine, a Meiji era shrine with connections to the Kurozumi-kyo sect, an Inari Shrine, a Kizuki Shrine, Kizuki being the old name for the area where Izumo Taisha is located, a Konpira Shrine, and a Sumiyoshi Shrine.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage Temple 26 Kongocho-ji

Kongoch-ji is the third of a cluster of pilgrimage temples near the tip of Cape Muroto where Kukai practiced austerities as a young man.

The Nio are particularly impressive and seem to have been carved out of a single piece of wood.

The temple was founded by Kukai. The main deity is Yakushi Nyorai. It belonbgs to Shingon.

In the temple grounds is a small museum of whaling artifacts and the temple also owns many objects reputed to belong to Kukai, though these are not usually accessible to visitors.

There are great views down towards the cape.

There are numerous secondary shrines within the grounds including a nice one to Benzaiten-Suijin, and a collection of statues of Doji, quite unusual.

The shukubo, lodgings, at the temple has the reputation of being the best on the whole pilgrimage.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sacred Grove

By mid afternoon I was almost to Iya and passed this grove of sacred trees. It is not marked on the map as a shrine, but it most certainly is a shrine. 100 years ago every single hamlet would have had a similar shrine, but around 100,000 of them were destroyed by the governments aggressive campaign to promote their new Amaterasu and Emperor centered "national" religion.

Some places resisted the government campaign which is why shrines such as this still exist. There was one small structure and several of the trees had an altar in front.

Thge biggest and most used altar was to Kojin, by far the most common kami in the Izumo region. With links to the kami of the hearth, the kami of the rice paddy, and the rough kami of the land, it is represented as a serpent made out of rice straw.

Most literature on "shinto" makes little mention of this kami, probably because it has no links to the national kami. I really need to spend some more time in Izumo asking people about Kojin. In my area the similar kami is called Omoto and is female.

I had known that nearby northern Hiroshima had a similar representation of the land kami, but I was really surprised last week as I was walking the back roads of southern Hiroshima to find a tree with a rope snake wrapped around it.....
All across Japan, from Kyushu to Tohoku, rope serpents are representative of the land kami. Why is it so unknown?