Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year of the Ox


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Yasui Shrine & Sanada Yukimura

Yasui Jinja

Yasui Shrine, a small shrine near Shitennoji Temple in Osaka, enshrines Sanda Yukimura, and is built on the spot where he died in 1615.

Sanada was known as "A hero who may appear once in a hundred years", "Crimson Demon of War", & "The Last Sengoku Hero", and made his name during Hideyoshi's invasion of Korea. He was never called Yukimura, as that name was given him in a modern novel, but, like much historical fiction, has become his most well-known name.

During the Battle of Tennoji in the waning days of the siege of Osaka Castle, he made a last ditch attempt against the vastly larger Tokugawa army that was trying to eliminate the last of the Toyotomi.

Exhausted and sensing defeat, according to the legend he sat on a stool, took off his helmet, and invited his enemies to cut off his head. The subject of movies, plays, and even a video game, the ema photographed below refer to a recent TV drama about him. By the look of it the TV drama probably used a boy band member to play him.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Mount Akahage


325 meters above sea level, Mount Akahage is the highest point on the small island of Chiburijima, a mere 5 miles square and with just 600 inhabitants.

It is the smallest of the four inhabited islands collectively known as the Oki islands in the Japan Sea off the coast of Shimane.

The Oki islands are the remnants of a sunken caldera and this can be clearly seen from the top of Mount Akahage.

There is no flat land on the island, so no rice is grown, however they do raise a lot of cattle, and whereas most farm animals in japan are raided indoors, the slopes of Mount Akahage are home to herds of grazing cows.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Kumano Hongu Taisha


Kumano Hongu Taisha is one of the three shrines that form the Kumano Sanzan, the focus of the famous Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage routes that are now a World Heritage Site.

Though now a purely "shinto" site the Kumano region was home to the Shugendo cult which incorporated daoist and Buddhist elements with mountain worship and kami. 

I was here as the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, probably the oldest pilgrimage route in Japan, now follows the same route s the Kumano Kodo in this section.

Hongu Taisha was moved to its current location on a hill overlooking the river in 1891 following a major flood 2 years previously that destroyed much of the shrine as it was located on a sandbank.

The original site of the shrine nearby is now marked by the tallest torii in the world.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Isshinji Okunoin of temple 3 Kannonji


About mid afternoon on my first day walking the Shodoshima pilgrimage I left the Daish-do and carried on uphill a few more minutes before reaching the okunoin proper, clinging to the cliff overlooking the sea.

This was the okunoin, the inner sanctuary, to temple number 3, kannonji, which lay in the village at the foot of the mountain, and it seemed less visited and maintained than the daishi-do.

There was plenty of statuary around including a fine pair of nio. There was also the remains of a set of steep steps that ran down the mountainside but had been blocked off and disused for a long time. Most surprising was a fairly new three storey building that was once a lodgings.

There were fantastic views across the sea and islands towards Shikoku from about 240 meters above sea level.

The temple hall housed the altar with small statue of Kannon set back in a small cave in the cliff face.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Pagoda at Kinzanji


While walking up a country lane north of Okayama City on the third day of my walk along the Chugoku Kannon Pilgrimage, I spied a pagoda on the hillside ahead. I was quite surprised as while studying maps of my route I did not notice any major temples.

Turns out it was Kinzanji, a Tendai temple that was commonly known as Kanayama Kannonji and was founded by Ho-on Daishi in 749.

The pagoda, a three storeyed one, was built in 1788. Approaching the pagoda you pass through the Niomon, which like the nio housed inside, is much in need of repair and is held together by wooden scaffolding.

Where the huge main hall once stood now all that remaons are the foundation stones. The niomon, main hall, and pagoda line up. There is also a goma-do that dates back to the 16th century.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Reflections of Hunting the Turquoise


Day 1 in Mitsu.

Day 2 in Kaga

Da3 in Kasaura

Day 4 Katae

Day 5 Mihonoseki

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Hunting the Turquoise

 November is my favorite time of the year to go walking in Japan, and I usually spend a lot of time walking pilgrimage routes stalking the autumn colors. For obvious reasons this year is a little different and instead I chose to stay local and explore the coast of Shimane. Whe the sun is shining and the sea is calm then it becomes turquoise....... I went on a five day walk along the eastern half of the Shimane Peninsula in search of this turquoise.

On the first day I walked from Kashima to Kaga, The photo was taken in Owashi.

Day 2 was from Kaga up to Tako. This is the harbor in Okidomari in Tako village.

On the third day while heading for Sagiura, I turned a bend in the road and came to this stunning view looking down on Kitaura.

Before reaching Shichirui on the 4th day I skirted Tamayu Bay.

My destination at the end of 5 days was Mihonoseki.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Masks of Taketomi Island


Taketomi Island is a small island just off Ishigaki Island in the chain of islands now called Okinawa. It is most well known for the water buffalo-drawn carts (click here) that take tourist around the small village which is a preservation district.

Being a mask-maker myself, though admittedly somewhat lapsed, I was intrigued by the masks in the local folklore museum that was housed in the villages small buddhist temple.

There are obvious similarities with the masks I found on nearby Ishigaki Island (click here)

There are also some similarities between Okinawan masks and Japanese masks, with the mask below very similar to a Hannya mask.

Ishigaki Sea Salt

Buy Handmade Masks From Japan

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Senfukuyama Kanrenji Temple 53 on the Kyushu Pilgrimage


Located on a hilltop just north of the main train station in Hitoyoshi, Kanrenji is temple 53 on the Kyushu Pilgrimage that I visited towards the end of my 42nd day walking.

Said to be founded as a zen temple by Taira Shigemori, son of the famous Taira Kiyomori, it was destroyed during the Warring States period and rebuilt as a Shingon temple at the end of the 16th century.

The honzon is an 11 -faced Kannon claimed to date back to the temples founding in the 12th century. The temple is also on the local Kannon Pilgrimage.

This was my last stop in Hitoyoshi. Next day I would start walking the Kuma River further downstream to the coast.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

New Thatch for Yamada Daio Shrine


Since I moved to the Japanese countryside more than 18 years ago, almost all of the thatched farmhouses in my area have disappeared. However, along the upper reaches of the Kuma River in the mountains of Kumamoto there are still a lot of shrine and temple buildings with traditional thatched roofs.

The skill of thatching has not been lost as I discovered when visiting Yamada Daio Shrine. The scaffolding was still up but it seemed that the rethachting of the roofs had been finished.

As far as I could make out the main kami enshrined here was a wealthy local landowner. It was unclear whether he was a vassal of the ruling Daimyo  or a farmer who grew wealthy later/.

Though what is called Shinto has managed to reinvent itself as a "nature" religion, much of its roots lie in deifying political power.