Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year of the Rat

I struggled to find a photo of a rat for this years new year post, so this will have to do. I have always presumed it was a statue depicting the famous artist Sesshu as a child, as it was located near the temple where he trained as a monk and where the legend of Sesshu and the Rat is set, and I am almost certain that is the case, but Ive also seen many statues of cute childlike jizos with each of the 12 animals of the Chinese horoscope, so I suppose there is an outside chance it could be that.

Anyway I wish you all Happy New Year.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Mifune Shrine, Yoshino, Kagoshima

Heading down the busy main road to Kagoshima that runs between the bay and the mountains, at one point the road splits and on the "island" between the lanes was a small shrine set in a grove of trees. The small building was squeezed between 2 large rocks.

Mifune (3 boats) Shrine was founded in 1741, though a small. stone hokora was excavated here suggesting it was a sacred site before 1741. Mifune Daimyojin is considered a kami for protection at sea and also for fishermen. The titel "daimyojin", means, I believe something like "great shining deity" and is applied to many kami. I believe it is a somewhat Buddhist term.

There were numerous smaller altars around the main building, and many of them featured Buddhist statues, like this miniature Fudo Myo.

Was the road rerouted to avoid the shrine? In this case I suspect so, although there are plenty of example of shrines being relocated when they stood in the way of construction projects.

This bottom photo is probably a Benzaiten.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Empty-Handed Fudo MyoO

While on my recent trip to Yamaguchi searching out the autumn colors I came across another unusual Fudo Myo. This statue is at the base of the steps leading up to Ryuzoji, and as you can see he has absolutely nothing in either hand. His hands appear to be in a mudra, which are the hand positions that Buddhas and other Buddhist deities use, often to indicate the nature of the particular figure. Mudras are also used as a meditation technique.

As is often the case with things Japanese, there is no one set of meanings to anything. Some sources say Fudo has nine mudras associated with him, some say ten, and one says fourteen. As far as I can tell this mudra goes by the name of rin in Japanese, though an older pronunciation is ten. I believe it is known as a "power" mudra.

The other thing that was slightly unusual with this statue is that both his fangs are pointing downwards. Normally one is up and the other down, though I have seen quite a few as in this photo..

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Left-handed Fudo Myo

Left-handed Fudo Myo

Fudo myo.

Fudo MyoO, one of my favorite deities, is usually portrayed holding a rope in his left hand and a sword, named Kurikara, in his right. The sword is for subduing demons and cutting through ignorance.

On a recent visit to Shogoin Temple in Kyoto as part of my Kinki Fudo Myo Pilgrimage, I saw this painting of Fudo where the sword is in his left hand. I have been unable to find out anything about this painting, but I am guessing it is fairly modern. I have no idea if there is any significance to this left-handedness.......

EDIT... thanks to a reader in the Netherlands I was able to find out the painting was only given to the temple 2 months ago and is by Yuki Adachi from Okayama. It is done in Yuzen style which is a kind of dye resist painting used for kimonos and obis.....

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Raising the New Shimenawa at Hozanji

Last week  I visited the mountain temple of Hozanji in Ikoma, when I arrived at the main torii there were preparations underway to install a new shimenawa. I headed into the temple and spent some time exploring and as I later came to leave there were crowds of people around the torii holding ropes that were to lift it.

I decided to hang around and watch the ceremony. After a while a procession of priests arrived accompanied by musicians playing the ancient chinese instruments and the music of the ancient imperial court that is featured at shinto shrines sometimes.

A series of rituals and chants then took place, led by a very aged head priest.

Then the shimenawa was slowly hoisted by the crowd.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Kyushu Pilgrimage Temple 43 Hojo-in

Monday, July 29th 2013, the 29th day of my walk around Kyushu on the 108 temple Shingon Pilgrimage. I leave Hayato and head south to reach the northern edge of Kagoshima Bay.

The first port of call is in Kajiki, Hojo-in, a small temple. As is often the case in these small temples there was no-one home for me to ask questions, like the story behind the statue head enshrined in front of the main hall.

These small temples often have nothing much special to attract visitors, but I am usually able to find something interesting. I am guessing this is a small statue of Daikoku, though I have never seen one like it with him standing on three bales of rice rather than the usual two.

I have never found out the purpose of the small windmills placed in front of Mizuko Jizo statues. Mizuko Jizo is a fairly modern phenomenon, a Jizo for children who have passed, but in most cases for abortions.

The rest of the day did not go well, and if you wish you can read my rant about being a pedestrian in Japan here..... https://www.japanallover.com/2014/04/a-walk-around-kyushu-day-29-hayato-to-kagoshima-city/

Friday, December 6, 2019

2019 Fall Colors Part 4 Ryosokuji Temple & Washibara Hachimangu

Next day we visited Ryosokuiji Temple, a small rural temple in an out of the way valley. However, it has grounds extensively planted with maple trees, and so is popular during the fall colors season.

Though it was overcast it did not disappoint, although in terms of architecture and statuary there was not much to see.

The small garden behind the temple and priests house looked intriguing but was hidden by a big fence.

heading back home we stopped in briefly at Tsuwano. Being the highest point on our trip the colors here were just about at peak. We went to Washibara hachimangu Shrine, famous for having the only genuine Yabusame grounds in Japan. Here ther was the classic mix of golden Gingko and red Maple...

Sunday, December 1, 2019

2019 Fall Colors Part 3 Chomonkyo Gorge & Ryuzoji Temple

For the second part of my search for the Fall colors this year we headed to Yamaguchi. First stop was Chomonkyo, a pretty gorge in the mountains, and a section of the Chugoku nature Trail.

It was a glorious day with not a cloud in the sky. At the entrance to the gorge some maples had been planted, but most of the mountainsides were mottled with browns and yellows.

Next we headed to Ryuzoji, a temple at the head of a small valley outside of Yamaguchi City. Here there was a mix of maple and Gingko, though it was not at peak season yet.

The temple is known for a particularly old and large Gingko tree. There is also a waterfall and many statues of Fudo Myo.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

2019 Fall Colors Walk Day 2 Saba Kaido

2019 Fall Colors

On the second day I headed up the Saba Kaido, the old road that ran from Obama on the coast down through the mountains to Kyoto. I started in Ohara and first visited Sanzen-in Temple, and for me, this was my first visit.

The temple is known for it's extensive gardens and grounds, and as the sun peeked over the mountains they were truly delightful and at 8:30 in the morning not yet crowded.

Next I made a visit to Hosen-in, one of the smaller temples nearby. This had a garden to be enjoyed while sitting inside drinking tea, but also an unusual, smaller one that was walked through. This one I found more intriguing. There was more to see in Ohara but I had a long way to go so headed north....

After climbing steadily for several hours, by early afternoon I had crossed the pass and started heading downhill into Shiga. On this side of the pass the autumn colors seemed a little more further along than in Kyoto....

By late afternoon I reached Myou-in Temple in Katsurgawa, one of the Kinki Fudo Myo Pilgrimage temples and my reason for this walk.

Monday, November 25, 2019

2019 Fall Colors Walk Day 1 Kyoto

2019 Fall Colors Walk Day 1 Kyoto

I missed my traditional autum colors walk last year because of a bout of pneumonia, and this year in my eagerness I started a little early in mid November. Crossing the Katsura River early morning in Arashiyama, western Kyoto, the hillside had started to turn......

At Osawa no Ike Pond next to Daikakuji Temple the clouds started to clear away to reveal some color...

On my first ever visit to Ninna-ji Temple there was not much color to be seen yet except in the eastern part of the temple grounds where there are a couple of shrines.

On my first ever visit to Jisson-in Temple in the northern suburb of Iwakura, the gardens were nice enough, but yet again the colors had only just begun....

I took the Eizan Line train to Kurama, and the famed Maple Tunnel where the train slows down for a couple of hundred meters so passengers can enjoy the colors, yet again it was just beginning....

Monday, November 11, 2019

Myotokuji Temple, Toyo Daishi

At the end of my 11th day walking the Shikoku Pilgrimage I had crossed the border from Tokushima into Kochi and was about bto start the long stretch down the coast to the cape. Myotokuji Temple, lo9cally known as Toyo Daishi, is not one of the 88 temples of the pilgrimage, nor is it one of the twenty extra Bangai temples on the route, yet it is well known to walking pilgrims.

Between the temple and a nearby shrine is a small waterfall for practicing purification by cold water. There was evidence of recent use.

The temple had a kind of hand-made feel to it, with not a lot of money spent on it, but lots of effort. It felt more like a "working temple" rather than a tourist attraction. I was particularly taken by a small statue of the 7 Lucky Gods in their treasure boat that had a glass sphere that caught the setting sun.

I spent the night here in my first experience of a tsuyado, a place to stay for pilgrims provided free by a temple. The priest seemed to hesitate before giving me permission, and later asked if I wanted any food.

Before the sun was up loud drumming and chanting came from the small main hall as the priest began the days rituals.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Kagoshima Prefectural Citizens Exchange Center

I'm not exactly sure why, but I found this to be one of the most attractive buildings in Kagoshima. I suspect it may be to do with the proportions, which I often find with modern Japanese architecture to be a little "off"

The space that intrigued me most, photographically-wise at least, was the centra; atrium space.

I have been unable to find out who the architects were....

Friday, November 1, 2019

Miko Mai Rehearsal

While exploring Kagoshima Jingu I watched to miko practising for a ceremony later that night.

Miko Mai, or Miko dance is believed to originate with the dance performed by the goddess Uzume in front od the cave wherein the sun goddess Amaterasu had hidden herself.

It is often sid it is the origin of kagura. I have seen it performed by single miko and by groups of 4 miko, but never by 2.

An earlier post with video of 4 very young girls performing can be found here

The ceiling of the shrine was quite stupendous. The performance of the dance was a little surreal without any musical accompaniment.