Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Sogi Falls... Niagara of the East

A little before sunset I arrived at my planned destination at the end of my 37th day along the Kyushu Pilgrimage. All day I had pretty much followed the Sendai River upstream and I was bushed as I reached Sogi Falls.

A grand 12 meters in height and about 200 meters across, they are certainly pretty waterfalls, but "Niagara of the East"?

Downstream a short way is the brick facade of a power station built in 1868. Now partially submerged  by a reservoir created by the big dam downstream, the local tourist literature proclaim that it is reminiscent of a medieval European castle........ I personally think these spurious analogies are absurd.

The bridge you can see in the photos a little upstream of the falls has now gone. It has been replaced with a new cable-stayed bridge just downstream of the falls. My plan was to sleep out at the falls, but that was not to be.....

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Shikoku Pilgrimage Temple 39 Enkoji

I arrived at Enkoji, temple 39 on the Ohenro pilgrimage, on December 26th. It had taken a couple of days to walk from the previous temple at the cape. I had chosen a slightly longer route along the coast rather than backtracking and then going over the mountains. Even down at sea level it had snowed some yesterday, Christmas Day.

Enhoji has a fine pair of Nio in the main gate. Reputed to be founded in 724 by the renowned monk Gyoki, like many of the other temples on the Ohenro pilgrimage The honzon is yakushi Nyorai, reputedly carved by Gyoki.

A well in the grounds is famous for healing eye problems, and there is also a statue of a turtle relating to a legend of a giant turtle with a red bell on its back visiting the temple in 901. I was rather taken by the carvings however.

There are a couple of small gardens and in one a pond filled with koi.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Tanokami the God of the Rice Paddy

The god of the rice paddy, literally "Tanokami" , unsurprisingly can be found throughout Japan, though they are never mentioned in any of the ancient chronicles that nowadays are used as historical records. In my area I encountered a small shrine to a tanokami and was told that after the harvest the god returns to the mountains in his role as yamanokami. This seems somewhat widespread an idea.

However, in what is now Kagoshima and part of Miyazaki, in the old domain of Satsuma, ther is a type of tanokami somewhat different and also very prevalent. Believed to date back to the early Edo Period, hundreds of statues of Tanokami can be found, many along the roadsides, and function much as a protective kami in the same way as for example Jizo statues.

On the 37th day of my Kyushu Pilgrimage, I walked from Sendai up the Sendai river and along the way encountered these 4 examples. They are all pretty weathered. Over the next few days I will be encotering many dozens more, some of which are painted......

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Pagoda at Rurikoji

Classed as one of the Three Great Pagodas of Japan, and also a National Treasure, the Pagoda at Rurikoji Temple in Yamaguchi was built long before the temple.

Built in 1442, the 5-storey pagoda is 31.2 meters high and with rooves made of cypress bark. It was built by Ouchi Moriharu to memorialize his brother who died in the Kansai region while fighting against the Muromachi Bafuku.

The Ouchi were a major clan and held a lot of territory in western Chugoku until defeated by the Mori during the Warring States Period. Yanaguch was an oasis of "civilization" during the time of the Onin War that lay waste to kyoto.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Hachiman Daibosatsu


After visiting Hojoji, temple 46 on the Kyushu Pilgrimage, I headed east along route 263 and a few kilometers out in the country came to temple 48, Satsumayakushi Temple. It was a very new and modern main hall, and the honzon, a Yakushi Nyorai statue, was transferred here from Koyasan.

There was a hot spring facility in the temple grounds, owned by the temple I suspect, but most intriguing was the red torii that led to an overhang in the rock wall into which had been cut a couple of altars. The first was to Hachiman Daibiosatsu.

Hachiman was a very important kami with strong links to Buddhism. Originally a north Kyushu kami with connection to Korean immigrants, Hachiman rose to prominence as a protector of Todaiji, the great national temple established in Nara.

Hachiman was the first "kami" to be given the rank and title of Daibosatsu, Great Bodhisattva" and statues of Hachiman were not uncommon in earlier days. Next to the altar for Hachiman was another small altar.

The figure on the left is I believe Bato Kannon, the Horse-head Kannon, and the figure on the right seems to be Benzaiten holding a lute.

Friday, June 19, 2020


Japan has almost 30,000 kilometers of coastline, which ranks it 7th in the world, so it is not surprising that it has thousands of coastal settlements. Takeno is a small town on the Sea of Japan coast in Hyogo.

There is a lovely, white sandy beach that is popular in the summer. Takeno is part of the UNESCO San'in Kaigan Global Geopark.

Now still operating as a fishing harbor, in former times it was a stop along the Kitamaebune trade route that ran all the way down the Japan Sea Coast from Hokkaido, round through the straits at Shimonoseki and then through the Inland Sea to Osaka.

In many ways it is typical of such seaside villages, with narrow alleys between weatherbeaten wooden houses. Pleasant enough for a stroll and exploration

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

A Diversity of Fudo

As any regular reader of this blog will know, I happen to have somewhat of a fascination with Fudo Myo, the fierce, fanged deity surrounded by flames. As I wander around the countryside I am always somewhat reassured to find his countenance, either within a temple or even just along the roadside.

I am also somewhat obsessed with the increasing loss of diversity nowadays.  Certainly, small statues are going to be mass produced, plastic, metal, plaster, concrete, all use molds. Increasingly stone statues or homogenous. Automated and computer-controlled machinery using the same dataset are churning out identical statues everywhere.

so here are a group of diverse statues of Fudo, all found at one temple, Hojoji in Satsuma, Kagoshima, temple 46 on the Kyushu 108 temple pilgrimage dedicated to Kobo Daishi.

The largest one and possibly some others will have been put up by the temple, but the smaller ones will have been dedicated by individual parishioners. Like all the other "deities" you encounter in Japan, Fudo has multiple meanings and powers and is likewise worshipped for a variety of reasons.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Stormy Beaches


On the second day of my walk eastward along the Japan Sea coast was blustery with overcast skies as a typhoon had passed by the day before. Between Asari and Kuromatsu a section of the sea was relatively calm and a sole paddleboarder was out enjoying herself.

Once when I showed some Japanese friends some photos of beaches in Cornwall they wanted to know where the trash was. Here in Japan I often hear that all the trash on Japanese beaches has come from Korea. Its true that the current does flow in that direction and certainly some of the detritus is not Japanese, but the majority of it seems to be from commercial fishing. Every time we have heavy rains and floods the rivers fill with plastic from the riverbanks and makes its way to the sea.

Oshima, meaning Big Island, is just offshore. Uninhabited except by a kami. The shrine at Kuromatsu has no honden, the sanctuary normally found at the rear of a shrine and where the kami resides when it is present. The honden is on the island entailing a wonderful summer matsuri with boats going out to the island to bring the kami to shore.

The second line of wind generators is found on this next stretch of beach. The mountains behind are the edge of the mountains of Iwami Ginzan.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Hojoji Temple number 46 on the Kyushu Pilgrimage

Leaving Satsumasendai I followed the Sendai river upstream into the mountains until reaching the town of Satsuma. Placenames can be quite confusing in Japan with boundaries being redrawn and places given new names. Satsuma was originally a samurai domain that roughly corresponds with what is now Kagoshima Prefecture. At the same time that prefectures were created something called Satsuma-gun was created. This could be seen as a district or county.

Much later many of the towns and villages within Satsuma-gun were amalgamated together to form Satsumsendai City. This left just 2 small towns in the mountains as Satsuma-gun so they were renamed Satsuma Town. This is where I reached temple 46.

Architecturally it was nothing special but it did have a lot of statues, including one of Kobo Daishi the founder of Shingon. He is the focus of this particular pilgrimage.

While documenting my pilgrimages with my camera I sometimes  forget to just look for the "abstract" beauty of light and shadow that used to be a bigger preoccupation of my eyes.

I did encounter 5 different statues of Fudo Myo here, so that is worthy of a separate post.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Typical Japanese landscape

Way back, many years ago, when I started this blog I did a series of posts titled Typical Japanese landscape. Of course they were quite varied, some being urban some rural etc. Unfortunately, all these posts have lost their photos because of a change in hosting.

Usually every May I go for a walk in the mountains somewhere specifically to take photos of freshly flooded nd planted paddies/ The combination of reflection with clear blue skies and fresh green is irresistible to me.

This year because of the pandemic travel was limited so I had to make do with a late afternoon walk around my own village.

These scenes and views are comparable to what can be found throughout Japan right now.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Komyoji Interiors

The main hall of Komyoji Temple in Saijo on Shikoku is entered through a glass corridor that traverses the poolof water surrounding the building. The main construction material is laminated wood. The roof is supported by 16 columns in groups of four.

It was designed by Tadao Ando and he writes that the design evolved but by bit and was influenced heavily by traditional architectural techniques. The result is I think very modern and minimal but certainly retains some feelig of being a traditional temple.

The use of many pieces of wood in the structure of the roof is certainly traditional. However it is much lighter inside than a normal temple.

The interior walls are frosted glass which somewhat mimics the paper screens of tradition,

It is free to enter and would recommend it as an unusual Ando structure. It is a short detour from the Ohenro pilgrimage route that passes through the town.