Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Weird & Wonderful Folk Statues of Takanabe Daishi

On a hill overlooking Takanabe on the Miyazaki coast are a strange collection of large and small statues. Some of them are Buddhist deities, and some are Kami.

They were the creation of a local man who was concerned about the spirits of the deceased in a series on ancient burial mounds nearby. He employed a sculptor to carve a set of statues, and then after having watched him at work he set about creating his own unique statues and devoted the rest of his life to it.

They are quite primitive and unsophisticated in their execution, but therein lies their charm. At times looking like Native American totem poles, at other like the Easter Island statues, but most of all they are child-like.

For more photos and a lot more information please check out this longer article I wrote

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Drowned Buddhas

Tadaji, an old temple in the hills outside Hamada has a rather strange collection of wooden statues in their main hall.

They were fished out of the sea on the coast down below the temple, and had obviously spent some time in the water. More than likely they had been thrown into the sea, or a river, during the Haibutsu Kishaku, the "destroy Buddhism" campaign in the late 19th Century.

The campaign was officially rescinded, and many areas did not really go along with it, but some places went for it with a vengeance. The Oki Islands, for instance, destroyed every single Buddhist temple.

Experts say some of these statues probably date from the Kamakura Period and so are quite old. The current along the coast comes from the west so these statues were put in the water further west, down in Yamaguchi or somewhere near there......

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Fudo Myo at Takanabe Daishi

On the 21st day of my walk along the KyushuPilgrimage I started out near Takanabe, Miyazaki at a place I had been really been looking forward to visiting.

Takanabe Daishi is a big collection of mostly unusual statues on a hilltop overlooking the town. The statues include some kami and many Buddhas and other Buddhist deities, and included were quite a few of Fudo Myo.

Many of the statues were carved by a fairly skilled sculptor, but the most interesting ones were done by the local man who had hired the sculptor and they really are quite fascinating and unusual.

I will post more photos of the other kami and Buddhas later, but you can read more details in the article I wrote for Japanvisitor here. For now here are just ones that include Fudo Myo.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Takada Kokuzo-do

The Sasaguri Pilgrimage, like the Kyushu Pilgrimage, does not have a lot of big, grand temples. It does have a lot of interesting and surprising one though. Most of the "temples" are too small to have a resident priest, and are more what could be described as "chapels. One thing they do all have though is statuary, especially Fudo Myo.

Temple 21, but the second to visit if you start at Sasaguri Sation, is just such a temple. With 88 temples within only 50k of walking, the distance between temples is often measured in meters rather than kilometers. Takada Kokuzo-do was onky 5 minutes from the previous temple and less than a minute to the next.

There was a Jizo in a little hut, and a couple of Fudo Myo's in the grounds. The Honzon is Kokuzo Bosatsu, not one of the more well-known Bodhisattvas.

It is however the deity that Kobo Daishi prayed to while training as a young man at Mount Tairyuji and Cape Muroto. In the small temple a statue of Kobo Daishi flanks the honzon

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Kyushu Pilgrimage Temple 36 Kansenji

There are many different reasons for doing a pilgrimage. Among my reasons, one is to explore, discover, & learn. On the 108 temple Kyushu Pilgrimage I walked there was not a lot of famous temples like on the Shikoku Pilgrimage or the Saigoku Pilgrimage.

There were also lots of surprises, like Gyoshinji, the temple I had visited a few hours earlier, but there were also lots of run-of-the-mill, small temples with no great architecture or gardens, like Kansenji.

It is rare to find somewhere that does not have something interesting for me to learn. Kansenji had quite a few statues, but one, in particular, struck me. It was of Kobo Daishi, the focus of this and many other pilgrimages in Japan, unusually holding a baby.

This is a Koyasu Daishi and is related to a story from the 61st temple of the Shikoku Pilgrimage where Kobo Daishi met a pregnant woman having a difficult and painful birth. He prayed for her and the result was a successful birth, so this temple is a popular place for expectant mothers to visit.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Return to Round Windows

For some reason, posts of round windows have always been popular, and as all of my old blog posts are now missing photos because I left a particular photo hosting site I thought I would post some recent photos.

The first one is from the former residence of Japans 26th prime Minister Tanaka Giichi, in Hagi Yamaguchi. The second is from Shoji-ji Temple in the Oharano district of Kyoto.

This third one is from the Jippotei, a collection of traditional buildings in YamaguchiCity.

The last 2 are from the former Yoshimatsu Residence in Kushima, Kagoshima.

Monday, April 15, 2019

More Statues at Gyoshinji

Gyoshinji, the 35th temple on the Kyushu Pilgrimage had a large collection of statues lining the forest path that leads to a waterfall used for ascetic training. Reclining Buddhas are not very common in Japan.

I didn't realize until later that the 88 statues represented the honzons of the 88 main temples on the pilgrimage. If I had known I would have paid more attention.

I am getting better at recognizes the different buddhas, bodhisattvas, deities and characters that one finds statues of, but there are so many of them and each may have many variations.

This final one is a complete mystery to me as the hairstyle is ancient Japanese and the figure looks female..... anyone have any ideas?

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Demons Stairway

The Kunisaki Peninsula in Oita remains one of my favorite places in Japan. Taizoji Temple is the starting point of the Kunisaki Minemichi Long Trail, a 135 kilometer trail that roughly follows an old shugendo pilgrimage route. The first group of temples of the Kyushu 36 temple Fudo Myo Pilgrimage are located along, or close to, the trail, so when starting my walk I started from Taizoji.

Behind the temple is a stone stairway eading up the mountainside. Many of the rocks used to construct it are large and it's very much a jumble of uneven rocks because it is said a demon built the stairs in just one night. They lead up to the Kumano Magaibutsu.

Magaibutsu are relief carvings in cliffs or large boulders, and Kunisaki is home to many of them. The Kumano Magaibutsu were carved about a thousand years ago. The largest is of Fudo Myo and is more than 8 meters in height.

The second figure is believed to be Dainichi Nyorai and is more than 6 meters in height. From the magaibutsu the stairs carry on up to a shrine higher up.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Fudo Myo Statues at Gyoshinji

Gyoshinji is the 35th temple on the Kyushu Pilgrimage. Located near Tsuno in Miyazaki, it was founded in the early 20th Century by a monk who had been practising austerities under the waterfall here.

As is common at waterfalls used for shugyo, there were a small group of Fudo Myo statues right at the waterfall.

Along the path from the main temple building to the waterfall there are 88 stone statues, each representing the honzon of the 88 temples on the pilgrimage, and as some of the honzons are Fudo there were several other statues of him.

This was my twentieth day on the pilgrimage and it had already been a good day with many interesting sights, but this temple was unexpected and probably my highlight of the day, fond as I am of Fudo.....

Monday, April 8, 2019

Tsutenkaku Tower

Tsutenkaku Tower is an iconic landmark in the Tennoji area of Osaka. The original tower was built in 1912 and was modelled on the Arc de Triumphe at the base and the Eiffel Tower at the top. It was 64 meters high.

It was damaged and dismantled in 1943, but following public demand a new tower was built in 1956. This newere tower is 40 meters taller and was designed by the same person that designed the Tokyo Tower.

The queue to go up the tower to the observation deck was too long when I visited. The area around the tower is a very popular entertainment district with cheap food.

It's particularly colorful at night.