Sunday, December 30, 2018

Chichi Sugi... the Boob Cedar

Chichi Sugi, which translates as Boob Cedar is an 800 year old tree on the slopes of Mount Daimanji on Dogo, the biggest of the Oki Islands.

It is an Urasugi, a species that grows on the Japan Sea coast where heavy snowfall causes the trees to produce stronger lateral branches. The rounded protuberances growing down from the branches... which is the origin of its nickname "boob", are believed to help absorb moisture from the air.

Cold air rising from the gaps between the big rocks that form the slope meet warm air from the sea and mean that the area is often misty.

It is one of several sacred trees on the island that are well worth seeking out.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Tsunomaki Shrine

On the 20th day of my walk around Kyushu I was attracted to splashes of color on a hillside. This was Tsunomaki Shrine, and the hillside had been denued of trees and replaced with Azalea bushes which, along with some cherry trees, were blooming.

The shrine has been here for a long time as it is listed in the Engi Shiki, a tenth Century document that listed shrines receiving offerings from the central government.. The kami now enshrined here include Amenominakanushi, Takamimusubi, and Kamimusubi, all kami that the Kojiki lists as creators of the universe, but which only became enshrined in shrines in the late 19th Century when the government removed all traces of Buddhism as well as local deities.

The shrine is known for protection of livestock and includes a memorial to the cows that were slaughtered during a recent outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Seasons Greetings

Seasons greetings to you all. This is the Christmas market and illuminations in front of Kagoshima Station.

Christmas Day is just another workday in Japan for most people, but Christmas Eve is celebrated by eating Kentucky Fried Chicken, and taking your lover to a Love Hotel. Both of these unique and ancient Japanese traditions no doubt date back at least to the Heian period if not much earlier to the dawn of Japanese history.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Kaneko Misuzu

A mural of Kaneko Misuzu in her hometown of Senzaki, Nagato on the Japan Sea  coast of Yamaguchi. Born in 1903, she started writing poetry and nursery rhymes at age twenty. She was in an abusive marriage and her husband passed on an STD to her as well as forbidding her from writing. She committed suicide aged 26. Her work was rediscovered in 1972 and has since been traslated into numerous languages.

The mural is interesting as each tile is inscribed with a message from either a local resident or a visitor to Senzaki. Several other similar murals can be seen around the town and the idea has grown so that now a building has been opened as a modern art installation featuring such tiles along with lighting and projection.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Tour Boats for Marine Alps

Tour boats in the harbor at Nagato on the north coast of Yamaguchi. The coastline of nearby Omi Island is full of cliffs, spires of rock, sea caves etc and is known as the Marine Alps. I first glimpsed the Marine Alps from a small yacht on a misty morning as we sailed by, but they re much more impressive close up. Wishing you all a great Solstice and holiday season and best wishes for the new year.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Heiwa Dori Illuminations

Heiwa Dori is the wide boulevard in Hiroshima City that runs up to the Horoshima Peace park. There are pedestrian park spaces running along either side of the road and during December they are filled with illuminations.

Illuminations are not normally my kind of thing, but we were in the city for the night and not far from Heiwa Dori, so we braved the coldest temperatures of the winter so far to see what was up.

It was surprisingly enjoyable with not so many people out and about and a complete lack of commercialization. The illumination ran for about 800 meters on both sides of the road .

I quite liked the phoenix, but my favorite was a simple one.... a huge tree with spreading boughs......

Monday, December 3, 2018

Hunting the late Fall colors in Omori


Hunting the late Fall colors in Omori.

It has become one of my traditions that I spend much of November walking along some pilgrimage trail or other enjoying the color of Fall. Unfortunately this year a bout of ill health followed by a period of hospitalization meant that I missed much of November.

Statue in Japan.

We took off one day and headed up to the village of Omori in Iwami Ginzan in the hope of catching the last remnants of color and was able to find some. The hillsides still had some color to them, and though most of the ginkgo trees were naked there was still somewhat of a carpet at one of the small temples.

Hunting the late Fall colors in Omori,

A few of the small gardens still had some maples, but the best colors were to be found at shrines.

Fall in Japan.

The big Hachimangu at the northern end of the village still had much to be seen, but the best was at the Ido Shrine on the opposite side of the river, and not usually visited by tourists....

Hunting the late Fall colors in Omori.


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Seiganto-ji Temple at Nachi

The Nyorindo, the main hall of Seiganto-ji, the Tendai temple that is the "buddhist" part of the shrine-temple complex at Nachi, next to the highest waterfall in Japan. The current main hall dates to 1587 and was built by Hideyoshi after the original buildings had been razed by Oda Nobunaga. It's the oldest extant building in the southern part of the Kii Peninsula.

I was here because it is the first temple on the Saigoku Pilgrimage dedicated to Kannon, and probably the oldest pilgrimage route in Japan. According to the legend it was founded in the 4th Century by a monk from India. In the first years of Meiji Buddhism and Shinto were forcibly and artificially seperated but still today the complex occupies the same space.

En No Gyoja, legendary founder of Shugendo, an ecelectic mix of Daoism, Mountain worship, Shinto, and esoteric Buddhism. Seigantoji is part of the Kumano Sanzan, the three sites in the Kumano region that were a major center for Shugendo in historical times.

It's a fairly large complex spread over the mountainside. Previous posts include the trail leading up to the complex, the shrine complex right next door, and of course the pagoda with waterfall behind.

Above the main hall is the Nyohodo, the Hall of Lanterns, dedicated to Daikoku, one of the 7 Lucky Gods.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Original 24 Eyes School

24 Eyes ( Nijyushi no Hitomi ) was one of the most popular Japanese movies ever. The original was made in 1955 and was set in an elementary school on Shodoshima which was also the actual location for the filming.

In 1987 the made a remake of the movie but development had made location filming difficult so a fake village and school was built a few k down the road and is now a  movie theme park...

There were far fewer visitors at the real school.

There are hundreds and hundreds of these old schools abandoned all across the Japanese countryside, a few being conserved, but most not....

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Traditional Buildings of Mimitsu

Mimitsu is a small village on the coast of Miyazaki just south of Hyuga City. In the Edo Period it was an important port town and really only declined with the introduction of the railway in the early 20th century.

At it's peak there were over 1,000 homes, shops, and storehouses, and because the town was pretty much bypassed by development many of these traditional structures remain and the village is a Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings.

Like quite a few of these districts it is somewhat off the main tourist track and so has not been gentrified and turned into twee cafes and gift shops and therefore feels quite authentic.

I passed through quite quickly when I visited while walking the Kyushu Pilgrimage, but in a couple of weeks will be going back and spending the night there so will eb able to do some more exploring.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Yokeiji Temple Shrine Complex

Located on a hilltop overlooking the Yoshii River east of Okayama City, Yokeiji is a Tendai temple complex that I have posted about previously, on the pagoda, and the lotus blossoms.

It was founded in 749 and grew to be quite a large complex with numerous halls, sub-temples, and shrines within its grounds.

As well as the pagoda there are numerous other buildings and statues that are listed as Important Cultural Properties, like this bell tower. In some of the sub temples are nice, but small gardens.

It is quite a pleasant place to wander and explore and is not a major tourist spot so is nice and quiet. Ther are also a number of shrines which i will post about later...

Monday, September 24, 2018

Hyuga City to Takanabe: Day 20

The weather was improved on my twentieth day walking around Kyushu. It was a long day but filled with sights. The route hit the coast at several points during the morning.

The village of Mimitsu was a pleasant surprise. With a historic district of traditional buildings but not a big tourist destination it seemed a little more authentic and lacking in gift shops and cafes.

There were three of the pilgrimage temples to visit today, with one having a delightful waterfall for purification with the attendant Fudo Myo statues.

There were also lots of shrines including the Ichinomiya, the highest ranked shrine of the province, with a nice koi pond and gardens.

I will be walking this section in a couple of weeks on my next leg of the Kyushu Fudo Myo Pilgrimage and am looking forward to doing some deeper explorations of the area.

Monday, September 17, 2018

More Shisa of Taketomi Island

Shisa are the magical creatures found on rooves and gates all over Okinawa. Similar to Japanese komainu, though found most often on homes.

Very much "folk" artifacts, though also made by artisans, most are somewhat comical in appearance.

All these posted here are from Taketomi Island, the small island known mostly for its ox-carts.

Like komainu they are often found in male-female pairs, and in different postures.

Ishigaki Sea Salt

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Eiganji, Kadogawa

The 33rd temple of the Kyushu Shingon Pilgrimage of 108 temples is Eiganji, located in Kadogawa, overlooking a picturesque bay flanked by two peninsulas.

It's a small temple and the main hall is made of concrete, though it claims to originate in the 9th Century.

The honzon is Yakushi Nyorai and is said to be even older, dating back to the Nara Period. It is a Hidden Buddha, and so can not be viewed.

There are a few statues in the grounds including this Kannon, and also a small Inari Shrine.