Saturday, May 30, 2020

Nitta Shrine Satsumasendai

I visited Nitta Shrine in Satsumasendai very early in the morning. The town's name is Sendai, but it is called Satsumasendai to distinguish it from the more famous Sendai up north. It was the 37th day of my Kyushu Pilgrimage and I had a long way to go today. Also I prefer shrines very early because the light is so good for photography, and there are few people around.

Situated on a hill overlooking the river, it is the main shrine for the town and was in fact the Ichinomiya, the highest-ranked shrine of the former province.. It is thought it was established in the early 8th Century, and the primary kami are listed as Ninigi and Amaterasu.

There are many secondary shrines in the grounds and an enormous, old tree, something common at most of the bigger shrines I've visited in Kyushu.

There are plenty of painted carvings on the buildings and I was particularly impressed with a pair of komainu. There is a tendency nowadays for a homogenity in komainu designs throughout the country, but I delight in finding older examples that have unique features.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

More Kunisaki Cliff Carvings

The Motomiya Magaibutsu are a set of Buddhist cliff carvings in the Kunisaki Peninsula. I had started the day at what are believed to be the biggest cliff carvings in Japan, the Kumano Maigaibutsu, and later in the day after visiting the wonderful statuary on display at Makiodo I carried on walking north .

The figure on the left is a Jizo, next to Jikokuten. In the center of the first photo is a Fudo Myo flanked by his two attendants Setakadoji and Kongaradoji. The figure on the far right is Tamonten. It is believed they were all carved in the late Kamakura Period. Oita, and Kunisaki in particular, has the highest concentration of magaibutsu in Japan.

I was on the first day of my walk along the Kyushu Fudo Myo Pilgrimage, and as the first few temples were all located in Kunisaki I took the opportunity to take a longer walk roughly following the old Kunisaki/Hachiman pilgrimage. Kunisaki remains my favorite area in japan because of the remoteness and huge diversity of ancient religious sites.

The Motomiya Magaibutsu are now protected by a roof, but 20 minutes earlier I had visited a smaller set of Magaibutsu, the Daimonbo Magaibutsu, at the ruined site of a former temple. These magaibutsu are still exposed to the elements and are somewhat more eroded. Out of the photo on the left is a small standing Fudo Myo. The figure on the right is said to be Dainichi Nyorai, but no-one seems sure who the central figure is.

Just beyond the site of the ruined temple is a small Inari Shrine. The sheer number of shrines and temples and such in the area is quite staggering. It is said that there are more than 32,000 stone statues of various sizes in the area..... one for each kanji of the Lotus Sutra. It is thought that the Lotus Sitra is "mapped" onto the landscape of the Kunisaki Peninsula.

This was my sixth trip to the area and I was hoping to get to some of the many sites I had long been wanting to visit.....

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Kenzanji Temple 49 on the Kyushu Pilgrimage

This little man-made grotto/cave with a Fudo Myo is ain Kenzanji Temple located in Hiyoshi, in Hioki on the west coast of the Satsuma peninsula in Kagoshima. It is temple 49 on the 108 temple pilgrimage of Shingon temples on  Kyushu.

It isn't an old temple though it has an historic stone pagoda from an older temple that used to exist nearby. The main hall is a portakabin, something I have never seen before. The main hall burned down apparently

Like many of these small, out of the way, rural temples there is a lot of statuary and such in the grounds, often produced by amateurs.

Eclectic is a word that springs to mind when I visit such places. This was day 36 of my walk along this pilgrimage.... still a few days away from the half way point.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Aizendo Shomanin Temple

This rather colorful Fudo Myo is at Aizendo Shomanin Temple near Shitennoji in Osaka. I had left Shitennoji, the first temple on the Kinki Fudo Myo Pilgrimage, and was heading to a couple of others nearby. This area has quite a few old temples including Aizendo which dates back to the late 6th Century and is credited to Shotoku Taishi, who is also credited with founding nearby Shitennoji.

Seemingly unknown to tourists, Aizendo is very popular with locals and as well as the Fudo has shrines and statues to several different Kannon, several different Jizo, Inari, the 7 lucky Gods, and several other deities all specializing in genze riyaku, usually translated as "this-worldly benefits", or possibly "divine favors". Such things as wealth, health, success, safe-birth, finding a spouse, etc etc.

The main deity is Aizen Myo, housed in the main hall which dates back to the early 17th Century when it was rebuilt by Hidetada, the second Tokugawa Shogun, after the temple had been destroyed by Oda Nobunaga.  Like other Wisdom Kings, Aizen was originally a Hindu deity and he usually appears with a lion in his hair and having multiple arms. Associated with turning lust into enlightenment, he is often seen as a god of love in Japan.

The pagoda is said to be the oldest wooden building in all of Osaka. It was rebuilt by Hideyoshi in 1597. The interior walls of the pagoda have some fine murals. All in all a fascinating temple in a fascinating area for any who want to avoid tourists but get to see some ancient history.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Takeda Shrine & Shimazu Tadayoshi

Takeda Shrine seems to be the main shrine in the area of Kaseda that used to be the samurai district. There are numerous sub-shrines in the grounds including a Gokoku Shrine, but the primary kami is Shimazu Tadayoshi.

Born in 1493 and died in 1568 he rose to became the head of the Shimazu Clan after the inevitable power struggles that occurred between competing branches of any of the large, powerful clans. The Shimazu ruled over the Satsuma Domain which during this time covered a lot of southern Kyushu.

Tadayoshi is remembered today primarily for his poetry. He composed a group of 47 poems in Iroha format which was a late Heian period type of Japanese poetry. The themes were primarily Confucian and were used as a basis for his rule of the domain. He retired to this area though still exercised considerable power while retired.

The poems are inscribed on rocks along a path that leads from the shrine into the forested mountain behind. While I was there some event was going on with be-sashed volunteers handing out information sheets to people walking the path.

Apparentky the shrine also hosts several festivals involving samurai cosplay.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Dangyo Shrine & Waterfalls

Deep in the forested mountains of the interior of Dogo, the largest of the Oki Islands, are Dangyo Shrine and its pair of waterfalls. Just outside the torii are a pair of huge, ancient trees. The story is that when Izumo Taisha was being rebuilt the shrine was ordered to supply any such trees for timbers for the construction. The local people moved the torii forward some meters so that the trees then fell outside the shrine grounds and so were spared the felling.

There are two waterfalls here. The smaller is considered female and the larger male. With Japan's obsession with ranking, the waters here are ranked one of the 100 Best Waters of Japan. The water from the female waterfall is considered "winners" water, and is drunk by competitors in human nad bull sumo tournaments.

a couple of small shrines are inside the overhang over which the male waterfall cascades. The male kami here is Oyamakui, an Izumo kami who is famously enshrined at Hie Taisha below Enryakuji. The female kami is Seoritsuhime, not a well known kami but said to be the kami of waterfalls, rapids etc.

Bronze mirrors and other artifacts have been excavated here suggesting that this has been a sacred site since prehistory. Well worth the effort needed to visit, as are all the Oki Islands.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Kaseda Samurai District

Towards the end of day 35 walking around Kyushu I reached Kaseda in what is now Minami Satsuma City. Earlier in the afternoon I had discovered the Barn Built by Giants, which remains one of my most popular posts.

In the old part of town I wandered around what must have been one of the Satsuma Clans fortified samurai villages like Chiran that I had wandered around early this morning.

Maybe not as well preserved as in Chiran, and not registered as a preservation district, but with all these tell-tale features of a semi-fortified samurai district. Apparently one garden is open to the public.

Tadayoshi Shimazu the Satsuma daimyo at the end of the 15th Century retired to this area, and there was once a castle of sorts nearby, connected to the Heike almost 1,000 years ago nothing now remains.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Echizen-toge Pass

Early on my second day walking the Saigoku Pilgrimage I left the Jizo Jaya Teahouse area and followed the stone path through the forest.

Over one pass, then a short downhill then a short uphill to Echizen Toge Pass. From here it is about a 4k downhill walk to the river about 800 meters lower in altitude. Most people climb up as part of the Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodo, but I was walking the Saigoku Pilgrimage which follows the same route but in the opposite direction. It is said that the climb up to Echizen Toge is the toughest part of the route.

Yesterday I had passed only one soul walking the trail in the opposite direction to me. Today I past several largish groups of chattery people on their way up. They must hve started pretty early and were obviously planning to get to Nachi before the day was too old.

There were, of course, plenty of statues along the wayside. At the river, I started back up as I had another climb and descent before I reached my destination for the day, Hongu.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Mizukarakuri Ningyo at Toyotamahime Shrine

Karakuri Ningyo are a type of mechanical doll that was very popular in the Edo Period. A rarer form was the water-powered mechanical doll, an example of which I found at Toyotama Shrine in Chiran. Behind the glass case displaying this tableau was a small waterwheel that powered the figures' movements.

Unfortunately, it is only operated  for a few days during a festival. Every year a different set up is displayed. This one was about a local legend involving demons.

The shrine appears to be the main one for Chiran, and enshrines Toyotamahime, the "princess" who was a daughter of the Undersea King. The myth is very popular and many shrines in southern Kyushu enshrines the various characters from the story

There was no-one about as it was still early in the morning and I had to head off  and reach the coast before heading north on this my 35th day of walking around Kyushu.