Sunday, March 29, 2020

Ibusuki Sunrise

One of the delights of walking pilgrimages in japan is that you need to get up before the sun and head out. This means you get to see the "Golden Hour", that period of time around the sun rising when the light is golden and the shadows strong.

On the 33rd day of my walk along the Kyushu Pilgrimage, I headed out from Ibusuki and the sun was rising over the Osumi Peninsula to the east.

I have mentioned before that where I have been living for many years now is in a narrow valley and that therefore I normally do not get to see either sunrise or sunset, so for me they are really special as I used to live seeing both everyday. Sorry if these sunrise pics are boring to you.

On this day I would be passing the southernmost point of my walk around Kyushu. The southernmost point of Kyushu is across the bay on the opposite peninsula. I will be stopping at the southernmost railway station in Japan. As yet I am not near the halfway point of the walk.

Friday, March 27, 2020

To Cape Muroto Day 12 Walking the Shikoku Pilgrimage

From Temple 23, Yakuoji, to temple 24, Hotsumisakiji, on the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage it is more than 80k, and is they first of the long distances between temples. For most pilgrims who do it by tour bus or car it is just a couple of hours, but for those walking it is usually 3 days.

The second half of this route is fairly uninhabited with long stretches of road with the sea on one side and mountains on the other. There are a few small settlements and a few small shrines and such, but it is a nice long stretch with nothing but traffic for company.

I i9magine that if the weather is not so good then maybe it is not so enjoyable, but when I walked it the weather was fine, the road was flat, and the views good.

At lunchtime I disturbed a troop of monkeys feeding the trees at the side of the road... I guess about 20 to 30 of them.....

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Nanohanakan Details

As I mentioned last post, here are some more shots of the bizarre architecture at the Nanohanakan sports complex in Ibusuki, Kagoshima.

Like so many similar projects around Japan, it is a monumental piece of architecture spawned by the booming economy of late 20th Century Japan.

Like many of the other examples it is falling into ruin, but for me and the kind of photos I like to take, it is a goldmine.

The architect was Kagoshima-born Takasaki Masaharu, and this final shot is reminiscent of another of his works I have seen......

Sunday, March 22, 2020


While walking towards the Satsuma Denshokan I notices some curved, gleaming-metal shapes sticking up above the skyline not far away so after visiting the museum I headed over to investigate, and was not prepared for what I found.

Nanohanakan is a sports park and complex with some seriously bizarre architecture that is all the more strange because it is virtually all closed down and bereft of all but a few old people playing gateball in a huge indoor arena.

Sites like this are scattered all over the hinterlands of Japan, built with Bubble-era cash and with many now closed down, this place ranks, to me at least, one of the most outrageous. There was a massive indoor swimming pool, numerous arenas for sports, meeting rooms for conferences and such, and even an accommodation block with rooms.

Given the cash by the central government, architects and construction companies made a fortune, but local government was left with the operating and maintenance costs, and the hoped-for crowds never materialized.

This place was designed by architect Takasaki Masaharu, a native of Kagoshima. I have seen another of his structure up in rural Kumamoto. I find these places fascinating, as a photographer, and will post some more pics next....

Friday, March 20, 2020

Sankei-en Garden

Sankei-en Garden is not an old garden, it was constructed in 1993 as part of the redevelopment of the land around the construction of Hiroshima Airport in the mountains NE of the city. It is a stroll-type garden and as the name suggests is divided into 3 zones or "views"

Mountain, village, & sea represent the three landscapes of Hiroshima. The large pond filled with koi represents the Inland Sea with several small islands accessed by bridges. As you enter the garden you start on a building and floating platform that is modeled on the famous shrine on Miyajima.

The village zone has lots of plum, maple, and bamboo as well as irrigation channels, and the mountain zone has lots of natural forests and a waterfall. It is particularly nice to visit in the autumn which is when it gets the most visitors but is usually not at all crowded.

The garden has a large number of different species of Iris and an Iris festival is held in June. Obviously, if you are flying into or out of the airport it is worth a visit.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Shikoku Pilgrimage temple 38 Kongofukuji

Situated at the southernmost point in Shikoku on top of Cape Ashizuri, Kongofukuji Temple, the 38th temple on the Shikoku Pilgrimage was reached after 3 days of walking from the last temple. I arrived on the 23rd day of my walk and as it turns out this was the halfway point.

According to the legend it was founded by Kobo Daishi himself who is also credited with carving the Kannon statue. Like the southern tip of Wakayama, people set off from here to reach Fudaraku, Kannon's paradise.

There is lots of statuary and the colored stones around the pond are impressive. I have heard that some may be petrified wood, but I don't know. Though relatively remote and not so easy to reach it is a surprisingly popular destination.

Its remoteness may have been one of the reasons why it wasn't damaged in the early Meiji years like so many of the other temples. Definitely worth the effort to visit. The temple does have lodgings, sometimes, but there are plenty of hotels nearby.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Satsuma Denshokan Museum

Satsuma Denshokan Museum

Ther Satsuma Denshokan is a private art museum located on the outskirts of Ibusuki in southern Kagoshima. The museum's primary focus is on ceramics produced in Satsuma, the former name of Kagoshima.

The architecture is based on Buddhist temples from the Heian Period, and with the large pool of water makes for some dramatic photography at the right time and under the right conditions.

The museum is a little pricey, but is well laid out, spacious, and with good displays with a fair amount of English.

Satsuma-ware was mostly made for export to the West and like the pottery traditions of many areas in West japan was based on Korean potters "brought" from Korea after Hideyoshi's failed war there.

The museum does have othere examples of arts from historic Satsuma too.....

Saturday, March 14, 2020

The Gardens at Kennin-Ji Temple

The Gardens at Kennin-Ji Temple

Kennin-ji in Gion was the first Zen temple established in Kyoto in 1202. My wife grew up in a house literally next door to the temple so I visited it often. The Chouontei garden is quite well known and features the classic triad of central stones.

Another famous garden in the temple is the Circle-Triangle-Square garden, but I don't show any photos of it in this post.

Seeing is not a passive act. Though we can grasp a scene in a single glimpse, mostly we "read" a scene or a garden. Our eyes move around from point to point and are drawn to specific points and aspects. An artist, or a garden designer, will instinctively know this as part of the process.

I take photos of things my eyes are drawn to. A simple enough thing to say, but less easy to explain.

"God is in the details" is a well-known quote with multiple possible meanings, but if God is truth, and truth is beauty, both two statements that are arguable but which I tend to agree with, then my eyes are drawn to beauty and this is what I attempt to capture with my camera.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Okidomari World Heritage Site

Okidomari, near Yunotsu, is one of the sites included in the UNESCO World Heritage site connected to the Iwami Ginzan silver mine. It is one of two harbors that serviced the mines at the end of the 16th Century when the Mori Clan had control.

When the Tokugawa central government took over control of the mines in the early 17th Century they shipped most of the silver overland to Onomichi on the Inland Sea coast but Okiomari was still used a little.

The small settlement at the port is still in existence though many of the houses are now empty. At the head of the little valley is a grove of bamboo through which a path still passes.

This is the start of the Ginzan Kaido, the "road" that leads inland to the mines. It is about 12k long and is also one of the World Heritage sites. It is a very pleasant walk and I recommend it anyone who wants to get off the beaten track.

At the mouth of the harbor is a small island that once was topped with  fortifications guarding the harbor entrance. The Mori used the harbor as a kind of naval base long before the mines were discovered, and it is said it was earlier the hideout of pirates, though the distinction between pirates and navy at that time was flexible.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Chiringashima Island


Located in Kagoshima Bay about 800 meters offshore near Ibusuki, Chiringashima Island is the largest island in the bay. It is uninhabited, with a circumference of about 3 kilometers, and only 90 meters high.

Between march and October the island becomes connected to the mainland at low tide by a winding sandbar that enables visitors to walk out to the island. The sandbar exists for periods of time up to 4 hours at the longest. I visited in mid-October and wasn't sure if the tide was going out of coming in so didn't risk it.

Because the sandbar connects the two pieces of land and therefore creates  a bond it has become known as a power spot for love and matchmaking, one of many such spots that have sprung up around Japan in recent years.

Apparently the island is registered as one of Japan's Top 100 Aromatic Spots..... an obsession with ranking that continues to bemuse me

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Sunrise at Shirahige Shrine


Shirahige Shrine is located on the western shore of Lake Biwa in what is now Shiga. It is home to one of the famous "floating torii", shrine gates set in water and a place where many people gather to watch sunrise.

It is said that on the equinoxes the sun rises through the gate, though I was here a few days before the winter solstice so it rose to the north of the gate. I was surprised how many people came before dawn to such a relatively remote spot.

Shirahige Shrine is the head shrine of about 300 Shirahige shrines across Japan, but this was the first time I had visited. I had visited other Shirahige shrines before and was intrigued by its origin. This area, called Omi in ancient times, was heavily settled by immigrants from the Korean Peninsula, like the area that later became Kyoto. Shirahige was a Korean deity, and the name means "White Whiskers"

15 years ago this information was easy to find, though nowadays it seems harder. Most sources don't mention the Korean origin anymore. Maybe a result of the dumbing down of the web that now overwhelms us with "popular" and  simple facts, clickbait, and the information and disinformation that  powerful forces in society prefer spread.