Thursday, September 28, 2017

An Unexpected Art Interlude

While driving along a remote mountain road in the west of Hiroshima Prefecture I was surprised to come across a fairly large, modern factory building. More surprising was that in the parking lot were about a dozen modern art sculptures, all made of metal.

None of the sculptures had labels of any kind and at first I thought maybe the factory specialised in fabricating sculptures for artists and these might be rejects.

Of course its also possible that they were just the private collection of the factory owner. I also thought maybe they were the pet project of someone at the factory.

I never did find out, but they made a great subject for some ad hoc photo studies.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sugao Stone Buddhas

Sugao, on the banks of the Ono River a little downstream from Bungo Ono is home to a small set of relief carved Buddhist statues. There are 4 large figures and a smaller one. On the far left is a Thousand Armed Kannon.

Next to it is a Yakushi Nyorai. The figures are between 180 and 190 cms in height and were believed to have been carved towards the end of the Heian Period, so are roughly a thousand years old.

On the far right is an 11 Faced Kannon, and to its left is an Amida. They are now well protected against the ravages of the weather but the stone is fairly soft so have lost some of their detail to time.

On the far right is a Bishamonten, much smaller than the 4 main figures.

The most well preserved seems to be the central Amida. The pigments are still very clear, though they must have been magnificent when first made.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sasaguri 88 Temple Pilgrimage

Sasaguri, in the mountains just north of the sprawling metropolis of Fukuoka, is home to a miniature version of the famous 88 temple Shikoku Pilgrimage. It is less than 50 kilometers in length, but took me 4 tough days to walk because it is up and down, up and down.

Some of the temples are quite large complexes, in fact the pilgrimage stops at Nanzoin, home to the largest reclining Buddha in Japan. Many of the temples are small, wayside chapels, unmanned but usually with quite a lot of statuary. Surprisingly, in such a small area, the route also passes by many other temples that are not included in the pilgrimage.

Being in the mountains there is a high percentage of temples with waterfalls that are used for ascetic training, consequently there are many, many statues of Fudo Myo,..... literally hundreds of them.
The highest point reached is 680 meters above sea level, to a cave on top of Mount Wakasugi where Kobo Daishi spent time after he returned from China.

A few kilometers are along busy main roads, but most of the route is either well marked walking trails or narrow mountain roads with no traffic. You pass through a lot of bamboo forest including one on the 3rd day that was the most enchanting bamboo forest I've ever been in....

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Kyushu Pilgrimage Day 13 Bungo Ono to Usuki

Friday, February 22nd, 2013, my 13th day walking around Kyushu and my route takes me pretty much downhill back to the coast at Usuki. There are no pilgrimage temples today but plenty of shrines along the route for me to explore.

After lunch I am about 5k from Usuki and arrive at the Usuki Stone Buddhas, a collection of ciff-carved stone statues, 48 of which are registered as National Treasures. The original paintwork is still plainly visible on many of them givin an indication of how impressive they must have been centuries ago.

by mid afternoon I arrive in the city of Usuki, spread out along the coast. My hotel is at the opposite end so walk the length of the main shopping street, somewhat dilapidated as so many businesses have moved out to the outskirts.

I rest up for a while before heading out to the port area for sunset.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Goganji Temple Nakatsu

I made a start on walking the Kyushu Fudo MyoO Pilgrimage, and the night before I set out I stayed in Nakatsu. That evening I went for a walk in the Teramachi and revisited Goganji Temple.

It is famous for its plaster walls which are red rather than white.

According to the story, there was a fight between two groups of opposing samurai just outside the temple, and the white plaster walls became stained with blood. Every time they tried to replaster the walls the bloodstain seeped through, so in the end they decided to make the walls red so it would not be seen.

The temple was founded in the 16th Century and now belongs to the Pure Land Sect. The Honzon is Enmei Jizo.

Monday, September 11, 2017

One Thousand Medicine Buddhas

Next door to Renjoji is the Yakushi Hall, a very long structure containing 998 small statues of Yakushi Nyorai, commonly referred to as the Medicine Buddha.

The hall also contained two large wooden Nio.

Because of its length the hall is often referred to as a copy of Kyotos's famous Sanjusangendo, though that id much, much larger, and contains statues of Kannon.

In the middle of the hall is a triad of statues.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

3000 Buddhas at Isshinji

Isshiteji is quite a well known temple in the Tennoji area of Osaka that is known primarily for its statues made from  bones, but just across the road, and owned by the temple, is a very modern building that houses an experimental theater group and theater.

Part of the building seems to be what I would call a "chapel", and its name is Three Thousand Buddhas. When you go through the doors  you see a large dome built in the interior, and on the exterior of the dome are golden buddhist statues. Not yet three thousand though. When enough donations have been made they will number three thousand.

The interior of the dome very much resembles a church with seats and an altar, behind which is a giant mural.

From the outside of the building you get no indication of what is inside, in fact it looks like a bank or an office building.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Renjoji one of the oldest temples in Japan?


Renjoji is temple 27 on the Shingon Kyushu 108 temple Pilgrimage and is located just outside the town of Mie in Bungo Ono, Oita.

The guidebook to the pilgrimage, and the information signboard at the temple had two different versions of the temples origins. The book says it was founded by a Chinese monk in 546, whereas the signboard says it was founded by a local man who than brought over a monk from Paekche on the Korean Peninsula.

The official version of the introduction of Buddhism into Japan has the king of Paekche sending a statue to the Yamato court in the mid 6th Century, but that ignores the fact that northern Kyushu and the Japan Sea coast, much closer to the peninsula, had extensive contacts and interactions with Korea, and it seems highly unlikely that Buddhism did not appear in these areas before then. Here in Shimane we have two temples that claim an origin that predates the Paekche gift to Yamato.

The main deity here is a small statue of Kannon, but the temple has a strong connection with Yakushi Nyorai, the "Medicine Buddha" and there is a hall containing almost 1,000 Yakushi statues which I will post about next.