Friday, June 28, 2019

Kunisaki Autumn Walk Day 3

Kunisaki Autumn Walk Day 3

It had taken me two days to walk across the Kunisaki Peninsula from west to east. For this third day my route would be south and then southwest down the coastline. There were a lot of shrines, many of them with banners flying indicating matsuri time..... it was November and the rice had been harvested..

Kunisaki Autumn Walk Day 3

At one shrine a handful of older men and a priest were preparing for some ceremony. Usually just  a small group of men, usual village elders, attend these. I have been several times to my local shrine. It is generally agreed it is not for women, though I have never received a satisfactory answer why.

One shrine, Shiraishi, was among the sand dunes. Shiraishi means white stone and refers to a stone pulled up from the sea by a fisherman. It is said the stone was a dragons head, and so the shrine enshrines Ryujin, the undersea Dragon King. People pray here for rain during droughts.

There were a lot of smaller Ebisu Shrines, either in the grounds of bigger shrines, or more often, there own little roadside shrines. All the little villages along this stretch of coast had fishing boats hence Ebisu.

After passing Oita Airport I arrived in the castle town of Kitsuki where I had a room for the night.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The cave at Udo Jingu

The shrine, or rather shrines, at Udo Jingu are inside a cave in the cliff overlooking the sea. The main kami is named Ugayafukieazu, though there are variations on the name and its spellings. In the mythology, he was the father of Jimmu, the first emperor.

In the legend his mother, Toyotamahime constructed a birth hut here made out of cormorant feathers. and told her husband Hoori, sometimes known as Hohodemi or Yamasachihiko, not to look while she was giving birth as she would revert to her non-human form as the daughter of Ryujin, the undersea Dragon King.

He peeked and then freaked out at her appearance and she was so ashamed that she left the child and ran away. For some reason the shrine is considered lucky for newly-weds.

Deeper in the cave , behind the main shrine, are numerous smaller shrines that enshrine Yamasachihiko, Toyotamahime, Ninigi, Amaterasu, Jimmu, etc.

In the cave roof are rocks shaped like breasts. It is said that as a baby Jimmu suckled from them. The shrine sells a kind of candy made from the water that drips down the rocks.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Sunset from Mount Kannomine

425 meters above sea level, Mount Kannomine is the highest point on Osaki Kamijima Island in the Inland Sea off the coast of Hiroshima.

I had walked up from the coast below to spend the night at the end of my second day walking along the Aki Nada island chain. I have a fondness for sleeping out on mountaintops where I can get a good view for sunset and then sunrise.

The islands of the Inland Sea are particularly good for this, with great views across dozens of islands and islets. Unfortunately, on this day it was quite cloudy.

The first shot is from part way up and then the shots move from southeast to southwest. In the middle of the second shot you can clearly see some of the bridges of the Shimanami kaido.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Udo Jingu

Udo Jingu is a major shrine in a stunning location on the coast of Nichinan in the south of Miyazaki. The original route to the shrine was over a mountain, and while a few still take this route, most use a big pedestrian tunnel that cuts through the mountain.

The shrine is located in a cave in the cliffs and to reach it the path is along the cifftop with great views out to see. It is connected to the Hyuga myths I posted about recently, and it is believed to be the place where Emperor Jimmu's father was born and some versions say that Jimmu was raised here.

The path drops down before reaching the cave. In the rocks on the shore below is one shaped like4 a turtle. In its back is a depression surrounded by a shimenawa. Visitors purchase small ceramic balls and attempt to throw them into the depression, which brings good luck.

Inside the cave and the story will folow shortly...

Monday, June 17, 2019

Ikuchijima Island-Wide Art Museum

On the second day of my walk from Honshu to Shikoku along the Shimanami Kaido I left Kosanji Temple and started walking down the west coast of the island. On the beach looking westward was this statue, a Jizo I think.

A little further, set on a rock in the water was an unusual modern sculpture, "Wings of the Waves" by Susumu Shingu, one of 17 modern sculptures located around the island in what they call the Island-Wide Art Museum

Sunset Beach runs down the coast almost to the Tatara Bridge which crosses over to Omishima.

At the southern end of the beach another couple of sculptures. In the foreground is "Calm Time-Red form / Inclination by Keiji Uematsu, and in the background "Clairvoyance" by Shin Matsunaga.

Art can take many forms, but this old bus is not part of the Island-Wide Art Museum.

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Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Hyuga Myth Cycle

Part of Aoshima Shrine near Miyazaki is a small museum with tableux displaying the cycle of myths set in Hyuga, the old name for what is now Miyazaki. This cycle of myths are now very well known, but historicaly there were many different versions of the myths. It is only in the modern period that one particular version has been established as the "national" myth. For instance, in this first scene we see Amaterasu, commonly known as the Sun Goddess, giving rice to her grandson Ninigi before his descent to Japan to establish rule over the country. However, several versions of the myth say it was not Amaterasu who sent Ninigi, but another kami. Also, on the 3 tables you can see the 3 imperial regalia, but it seems that for some of the ancient, powerful clans there were only 2 regalia.

Reaching Japan Ninigi took himself a wife and she miraculously became pregnant after only one night. Ninigi suspected the father may not be him and his wife was deeply offended by this. She chose to undergo an ordeal by fire to prove she was telling the truth and in the burning birthing hut she gave birth to 2 sons.

There are several stories about the brothers, but one of them has one brother visiting the undersea kingdom of the Dragon King where he is given some powerful magic objects.

After returning from under the sea he marries a princess who gives birth to a baby boy who grows up to be Jimmu, the mythical first "emperor" of Japan and he sets sail from Kyushu to subdue the tribes of Japan and establish the current ruling dynasty.

There are many variations of the stories, including many versions of the characters names and even their genealogies. There is far more diversity in Japanese myths, histories, cultures, and peoples than the monolithic, homogenous versions being spouted and taught today. In the late 19th Century the people of neighboring Kagoshima were horrified to hear that these myths took place in Miyazaki, as they had similar stories that took place in Kagoshima.

Friday, June 7, 2019

A Shrine Less Visited

Walking the road less traveled one finds a shrine less visited. Early on the morning of my third day walking the Iwami Kannon Pilgrimage, I left the village of Shizuma and headed towards the coastal village and harbour of Isotake. The main road, Route 9, the old Sanin Do from ancient times, was busy and so I preferred to take a small lane that wound through the woods.

I love these type of roads. Very narrow, but with zero traffic, it's like having a nice, wide, smooth hiking trail. I have walked thousands of kilometers along such roads, usually up and over mountain passes, and there is no hassle with undergrowth, uneven surfaces, etc.. It was mid-December and the sun was low and so giving the light usually associated with "the golden hour"

Some overgrown steps lead up to a torii. This shrine is not marked on my maps, neither googlemaps, which sometimes doesn't have smaller, local shrines, nor my topo map which often has historical shrines marked which no longer exist. A path laid with large flagstones leads into the woods.

A wide pathway, ankle deep with dried leaves leads further into the dark woods. I have take paths like this often. Eventually, it comes to a clearing in the woods and the shrine buildings. As well as the main building there is a second one, probably a kagura den. There are no shimenawa nor komainu.

This must be a closed shrine, with the shintai, the object in the honden in which the kami resides when visiting, as well as any komainu etc being removed to another shrine nearby. A little over a hundred years ago this was the fate of half the shrines in the country as the government closed local shrines and expanded national ones. Here the situation would seem to be the result of the continued depopulation of rural Japan.

This was a sacred place for a community, probably for centuries. Does anyone come here anymore? Do the kami know?

Monday, June 3, 2019

Aoshima Shrine

Heading down the coast out of Miyazaki City on the 23rd day of my walk I came to Aoshima Shrine.

The small island is now connected by a short bridge, and much of the island itself is rock formed into parallel ridges like a washboard.

Leading from the main building, a tunnel of ema lead to a grove where you can toss small ceramic discs, representing plates I believe, at a target for good ;uck. Underneath the target is a small mountain of broken pottery.

The island is lush sub-tropical jungle, though some say it is tropical. The two main kami are Hikohohodemi, a grandfather of the mythical first emperor Jimmu, and his wife Toyotamahime. The myth about their story is told in a series of tableaux in the shrine museum, and that I will turn to next.....

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Some more Ema

Ema 絵馬

Votive plaques, called ema in Japanese, were originally paintings of horses given to shrines with prayers. Nowadays they are mostly small wooden plaques and can be seen at many shrines and temples. By far the most common are pictures of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, but some shrines and temples have designs that are specific to their site. This first one is at the biggest shrine on Awaji Island, Izanagi Shrine. The ema shows Izanagi, along with his wife-sister Izanami, creating the island of Awaji, believed to be the first created.

At a temple in the mountains of Yamaguchi, these ema quite clearly are accompanied with prayers for ample breast milk and for good childbirth. I have seen a lot of these around the Sanyo region, the southern coast of western Honshu.

Rituals blessing your car are a staple income at many shrines and some temples. These ema are for traffic safety.

Increasingly popular are ema for finding a good love match. With Japans falling birthrate and growing numbers of singles,  the number of shrines that "specialize" in love matching prayers is on the increase.

Not sure what the meaning of the peach is.....

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