Friday, February 27, 2015

Fossil manholes


The town of Mine in central Yamaguchi is known as the fossil capital of Japan. Dominated now by cement production the area is geologically quite interesting.


It was the site of one of the first copper mines in Japan, in Meiji coal was mined here, and also marble. Now it is known for Akiyoshidai and Akiyoshido, the largest karst and limestone cavern in Japan.


There are two museums, the Fossil Museum, and the local History & Folklore Museum, that have extensive displays of fossils, and the main street has a series of small sculptures based on fossils. It is even possible, for the whopping fee of 100 yen, to look for your own fossils at a local site though you need to bring your own hammers and safety glasses.


Not surprising then that the towns manholes feature ammonites.....

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Kumano Shrine, Honjo

Honjo is a large village on the north shore of the Nakaumi and the main village shrine was a branch of Kumano Shrine. I think this was the first shrine I had come to in the last 2 days of walking that was not either in the Izumo Fudoki nor the Engi Shiki.

The three main kami are Izanami, Hayatamano, and Kotosakano, though usually it is Izanagi associated with the other two rather than Izanami. The shrine had a small but in good condition mikoshi, fairly simple.

In the grounds was a Tenjin shrine, an Inari shrine, and an small shrine with no name.

The Inari shrine had a lot of small kitsune figures, usually white ceramic or plain stone, but also this pair of golden ones. There was also a small pair of figures, Daikoku and Ebisu.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A couple of new masks


Just finished another couple of masks, and rather being something new they are copies of earlier ones that had been ordered. Whereas most kagura masks are made out of wood, for the past hundred years in the Iwami region they have been made out of the local paper, sekishu washi, a UNESCO listed material.


Based on the hanya mask, though with some of my own variations, they remain the most popular of my masks.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Fudo Myo at Ryuo-in


This rather fine Fudo statue is in front of Ryuo-in, a Shingon temple in the Miyaki District of saga Prefecture.


Also known as Saga Naritasan, it was founded in the mid Tenth Century.


The Honzon (main deity) is none other than Fudo Myo-O.


I didn't go into the main hall as it was very busy, so not sure what the Fudo there was like, however there was a secondary hall that has this one.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Barn Built by Giants

Usually when I post about architecture it is about modern structures built in out of the way places during the heady days of Japans Bubble Economy when rural towns were encouraged to build grand palaces of culture using major architects indulging themselves with massive budgets.

This structure I found in the countryside of southern Kagoshima does not fit that pattern. I doubt an architect had much, if any, input. It is a barn of a local farm that is constructed out of huge tree trunks and stumps that look as if it was put together by giants.

The farmer who built it obviously went to a great deal of effort, time, and expense to build it using what appears to be the leftover scrap from some logging of ancient forest.  Obviously there is some  skill in construction and engineering involved, but it would seem to be a fairly impractical way to build a barn. There is obviously a large amount of whimsy and eccentricity at play.

It certainly brought a smile to my face and I'm sure it would do to others who come across this barn by chance.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Kurami Shrine

Kurami Shrine is yet another small shrine with an ancient pedigree. It is listed in both the Izumo Fudoki and the Engi Shiki. Izumo has more shrines listed in the Engi Shiki than any other provinces other than the home provinces of Yamashiro, Yamato, and Ise, an indication of the importance of Izumo in ancient times. The previous group of shrine I had visited today all had a strong yamato influnce in the kami enshrined, and it would be interesting to find out what the historical reasosn were for this. At Kurami we are a back to more Izumo kami.

The primary kami here is Takaokami, formed from the blood that dripped from Izanagis sword after he slew Kagutsuji, the kami of fire that killed Izanami. There are, of course, numerous versions of the story but the most common suggest it is a kami with connection to water and rain and is also considered the main kami of Kifune shrines.

The secondary kami is Hayatsumuji, and he seems to be a kami of wind. There is a mention of him in connection with Amewakahiko, the second emissary sent by Amaterasu to ask Okuninushi to cede Japan to the Yamato and who, like the first emissary chose to stay with Okuninushi. After  Amewakahikos death his body was carried back to the High Plain of Heaven by Hayatsumji.

Other kami enshrined here are Tsurugihiko, a son of Susano but not mentioned in Yamato myths. A shrine to him near Matsue claims he is a kami prayed to for safe return from war. Susano is enshrined here as well as Ukanomitama, another child of Susano most commonly eqauted with Inari, Also enshrined here is Takeminakata, the son of Okuninushi who was against the ceding of the land to the Yamato and who is the primary kami of Suwa shrines.

In the grounds were two aktars to Kojin, neither of which seemed particularly fresh.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Konomine-ji Temple 27 Shikoku Pilgrimage

Konomineji, temple 27 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage is known as both nansho and a sekisho. a "nansho" is a temple that is considered difficult to reach, usually, as in the case of Konomineji,, because it is high on a mountain. Sekisho were barriers on highways that checked your papers. In terms of the pilgrimage they are 4 temples considered spiritual barriers that you will not get past without the correct spiritual attitude.

The Nio in the gate were particularly striking, as was a large statue of Fudo Myoo.

Nowadays the pilgrimage is considered Buddhist, but prior to the Meiji Period such a distinction was not made, with some of the pilgrimage sites being shrines and not temples. Konomineji was founded as both shrine and temple, with the shrine being above the temple. The shrine doesnt get as many visitors.

The temple burnt down in the early Meiji Period, and it was forbidden at that time to build a new temple so the locals found an unused temple in another part of the country and had it dismantled and reassembled here.

According to the legend the shrine and temple were founded by Gyoki in the eighth Century. The main deity is an 11-faced Kannon. It is now a Shingon temple. Konomine Shrine is, in my opinion, worth the extra  climb to visit as it is the okunoin of the temple.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tree cutting ceremony at Kurami Shrine

Visiting Kurami Shrine involved a small detour off my pilgrimage route,  but I deemed it worthwhile as it was supposed to be a fairly important shrine historically.

As I approached the shrine I could see some activity going on in the grounds that as I got closer appeared to be a ceremony of some kind.

The ceremont contained the three elements that I associate with Shinto ritual, offerings, in this case sake which was then shared with the participants, the reading of norito, and purification.

Apparently one of the trees in the grounds needed some serious trimming work doing on it and the priest held the ceremony for the tree and for the men doing the work. I have not seen this before so am not sure how common such ceremonies are. I have seen trees being cut in shrines with no preparatory rituals.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Fudo Myo O of Shikoku part 7


The Daishi-do in Oda Town in the mountains of Ehime south of Matsuyama, is a zenkonyado, a free place for pilgrims to spend the night. Obviously the main statue is Kobo Daishi, but there was also this nice one of Fudo.....


Along the path leading to temple 44, Daiho-ji, in Kumakogen, Ehime.


2 views of the statue on the approach path to temple 45, Iwaya-ji. also in Kumakogen, Ehime.


Iwaya-ji is a mountain temple and had many statues of Fudo, more of which I will post next time.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Take Shrine

Take Shrine, another small village shrine on the shore of Nakaumi, gives the appearance of being abandoned. The grounds have not been kept up and there are no signs of activity. However, it was once a fairly important shrine, being listed in the Engi Shiki, which meant it received offering from the imperial government. Behind the shrine are two altars to Kojin, but they look as if the rope serpent has not been replaced for several years.

The 2 kami enshrined here are Takemikazuchi and Futsunishi, 2 martial kami associated with the ceding of Japan to the Yamato. The Kojiki has Takemikazuchi being the kami that Amaterasu sent down to Japan to ask Okuninushi to cede the land. the Nihonshoki says it was both takemikazuchi and Futsunushi. The Izumo Fudoki mentions only Futsunushi. So why the disparity?

In a nutshell, the Kojiki is really just a family history, a justification for the ruling clans divine right to rule Japan. At the time of its writing one of the most, if not the most, powerful clan was the Nakatomi/Fujiwara, who by this time had appropriated Takemikazuchi as one of "their" kami. The Nihonshoki was the official national history in Chinese style. It is much larger and contains many, many variations on the stories, reflecting the diversity of "histories" that existed at that time just as "Japan" was being formed out of many regional polities. The Fudoki were local gazeteers written to compile local histories, legends, and features.

The Kojiki was pretty much ignored for a thousand years until the Edo Period when National Learning scholars began to analyze the language of it. It really came to prominence with the rise of State Shinto and its focus on the Imperial family.  As noted above, the Nihon Shoki, sometimes called Nihongi, is much more detailed and therefore took longer to be completed but in my opinion is a far more interesting read. The Fudoki are almost completely lost, but the Izumo Fudoki is complete and is largely the reason why Izumo legends are so well known. Futsunushi, mentioned in the Izumo Fudoki was associated with the Mononobe Clan, the ancestor of which is buried near Izumo. The Mononobe were destroyed by the Nakatomi in their rise to power. I think this brief explaination shows why the three different versions of the myth exist.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Obata Ebisu Shrine & Inari Shrine


Obata is a small fishing port just north of Hagi. Like virtually every fishing harbor in Japan there is a small shrine to Ebisu, the patron kami of fishermen.


However, running fromn the side of the shrine is a path running up the hillside lined with red torii, a sure sign of an Inari Shrine.


Halfway up the path was one, and then further up another. It is possible to find single Inari shrines, but more often their will be several. Inari, like Buddhas, are in a sense "universal" deities, but in Japan they are often localized with specific local identities.


The Inari ( or other kami or Buddha) will have different local manifestations, so you have, for instance, hundreds of different Inari shrines at the main Inari shrine near Kyoto, Fushimi Inari.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Junisho Shrine

Junisho Jinja

Junisho Shrine is another small village shrine on the banks of the Nakaumi just about 1k north of Oi Shrine. Junisho means "twelve places" and refers to the 12 different kami enshrined here.

The first two are Izanagi and Izanami, the brother-sister, husband-wife, pair who really are the most important of the Japanese kami. It was they who created the Japanese islands and populated them with a whole pantheon of kami.

Among the kami created by Izanagi and Izanami perhaps the most important are the siblings Amaterasu and Susano, both also enshrined here. Amaterasu is often called the most important Japanese kami, but that is really just a hangover from State Shinto, her importance being that the imperial family claim descent from her. In real terms Susano is more important. He "descended" to Japan long before the descendants of Amaterasu, and there are far more shrines in Japan to Susano and his lineage than there are for Amaterasu and her lineage.

Between them, by "trial of pledge", Amaterasu and Susano created the  Gonansan Joshin, 5 male and 3 female kami, 6 of whom are enshrined here. The three females, often called the Munakata Kami, were kami strongly connected with travel between Japan and the Korean Peninsula. They are Tagitsuhime, Takiribime, and Ichikishimahime. The three male are Kumanokusubi, Ikutsuhikone, and Amenohohi. Its not clear why 2 of the eight are not enshrined here, nor why the only kami enshrined here, Konohanasakuyahime, that is not part of the obvious grouping of twelve.

There is also an altar/shrine to Kojin.