Monday, April 30, 2018

Kanmon Bridge

The Kanmom Straits, one of the entrances into the Seto Inland Sea, separate Honshu and Kyushu, and at its narrowest is only about 800 meters wide.

The Kanmon Bridge was one of the biggest suspension bridges in the world when it opened in 1973 to carry road traffic across the straits from Shimonoseki to Kitakyushu.

The central span is just over 1,000 meters. Prior to its construction there was a road tunnel beneath the water, as well as a tunnel for trains and even a pedestrian tunnel.

Ferries still connect the two sides as they have for centuries.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Saiki Castle

Saiki Castle

Saiki Castle.

Saiki, on the coast of southern Oita Prefecture was a castle town in the Edo Period. Built in 1606 by Mori Takamasa, Tsuruya Castle, now known as Saiki Castle, was built on top of  Mount Hachiman.

Castle walls.

Most of the castle burnt down in a fire just 11 years later, and was not rebuilt as Mori relocated his headquarters to the base of the mountain, where the main gate of the castle, built in 1637, is the only structure still standing.

Saiki Castle.

After quite a climb up the mountain you can still see a lot of the original stonework . It was not a big castle but had a three storey keep.

Saiki Castle.

It is worth the climb for the expansive views down on the town, across to Shikoku, and across the banjo River.

View of the fortress.

Kabosu Juice From Oita Prefecture

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sasaguri Pilgrimage Honmyoin

Though it is numbered 33 in the 88 temples of the pilgrimage, Honmyoin is often the first temple visited as it is located close to Sasaguri Station.

The honzon is Yakushi Nyorai, the "Medicine Buddha", and there is some connection with temple 33 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage which also venerates Yakushi, though it is a Zen temple and this one is Tendai.

There was lots of statuary considering how small the temple is. Not sure who this is but I like its lack of sophistication.

There were several Fudo Myo's, an indication of how popular statues of him are on the pilgrimage. There is often a priest on duty and it is possible to buy stamp books and other supplies here.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Married Rocks of Kamiura

Meoto Iwa, literally "married rocks" are found at numerous points around the Japanese coastline. A larger rock is connected to a smaller rock by a shimenawa.

The most famous Meoto Iwa, and probably the original one, is on the coast near Ise Shrine up in Mie. This one is at Kamiura, a little fishing village, now part of Saiki City in Oita.

Like most of Japan, once you get away from the heavily industrialized and urbanized areas it really is quite pretty.

The "husband" rock is 17 meters tall, and the "wife" rock 7 meters. The shimenawa connecting them is 65 meters long and weighs 2 tons. It is replaced once a year.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


The first seven temples of the Kyushu Fudo Myo Pilgrimage are located on the Kunisaki Peninsula. Rather than visit them in numerical order I decided instead to walk most of the Kunisaki Minemichi Long Trail, a 137 kilometer route that to a large extent follows the ancient yamabuchi pilgrimage route that winds around the peninsula.

The route starts at Taizoji, actually it starts up above the temple at the largest cliff carvings in Japan. The temple is now uninhabited. There is a lot of statuary,..... the 7 lucky gods,..... the Chinese zodiac animals..... several Fudo Myo's....... quite an emphasis on genze riyaku, praying for "practical benefits".

Behind the main buildings was a new, small building devoted to prayers for luck with the lottery...

It was up the mountainside behind the temple that the real delights await.....

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Tsukumi to Saiki, Day 16 on my walk around the Kyushu Pilgrimage

21st of March, 2013, the 16th day of my walk around Kyushu was a glorious day. Most of the day was along the coast with no big towns.

During the day I past dozens of small shrines to Ebisu,... not surprising with his association with fishing. Not sure what this shrine was on one of the small offshore islets.

Cherry blossom season was in full swing and there were many trees along the road, but I am more impressed with the mountainsides of Yamazakura.......

At Kamiura I stopped to photograph the meoto iwa..... the "married rocks". The most famous ones are up near Ise in Mie I believe but I've come across lots of others like here....

From the Saiki castle ruins there was a great view across the channel to Shikoku.....

Friday, April 6, 2018

Bone Buddhas

When I first heard about Bone Buddhas, Okutsu Butsu, I imagined statues made out of whole bones, shins, ribs etc but that is not what they are. They are made out of crushed bones. The first is believed to be from the early 18th Century and was made by mixing crushed bones with clay, but the most famous ones are at Isshinji Temple in Osaka and are made by casting a mixture of crushed bone and resin.

Since the late 19th Century, when the temple began to run out of space to store the cremains , they have made a dozen statues of Amida, but six were destroyed during the war. The ashes of about 150,000 went into each one.

The head priest at Isshinji is also an architect, and he designed the very unusual main gate into the temple.

The temple is located near Tennoji Park, and not visited much by tourists, but the place is usually very busy.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Evisceration of Rural Japan part 2

Something else closed on March 31st, Museum 104, more commonly known as Mizu no Kuni, a delightful museum devoted to water.  These photos are from my last visit there, about a year ago, though I have been many time. Earlier posts are here... 

It was a delightful place and all the foreign visitors we took there enjoyed it, but it was deserted most of the time. In fact when we first moved here Yoko wanted a job there as there were simply no customers.

It was one of the hundreds of similar projects that came out of a government program back in the Bubble era that literally gave a million bucks to every town in Japan to do with what they wished. All kinds of grand museums and auditoriums and such were built and construction companies made a fortune, but the local towns were left with the coast of maintaining and operating them. Many have closed down.

I'm actually surprised it stayed open as long as it did. I have heard that it is up for sale for the ridiculous price on 1,000,000 yen.... about ten thousand bucks.

Yoko also informs me that our local library has now seriously cut back on its services too...

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Evisceration of Rural Japan part 1

Rural Japan

Yesterday the last train ran along the Sanko Line stopping one more time at my local station. It was one of the prettiest train lines in Japan, winding 90k up the Gonokawa River to Miyoshi. I took it regularly downstream to Gotsu, and several times a year I took the first train in the morning up to Miyoshi and then on down to Hiroshima. It has been replaced with a bus service, at 130% increase in price.

It has been no fun though for the past year or so since they announced it's closure. Extra carriages were put on to cater to the crowds who wanted to ride the train that was going to disappear, an the last few weeks it has been like a Tokyo commuter train with barely any standing room.

Somebody told me that they had read in the local paper that it was the foreign shareholders that caused the closure, but a quick check online reveals that less than 15% of the shares are held by foreign entities. Blaming foreigners is a tradional part of Japanese culture. At the station there were outsiders and locals waiting to see the last train. Special tickets at 4,000 yen a pop had sold out long ago. Everyone was handed flags and as the train approached a megaphone barked out "Stand up!..... Wave!!!"..... shades of North Korea.........