Friday, July 31, 2020

Along the Ebino Valley


My third day walking up the Sendai River was the 39th day of my walk around the Kyushu Pilgrimage. This would turn out to be the halfway point as iy ended up taking 78 days to complete the pilgrimage, but of course I didn't know that at the time.


There was a mist and the ground was covered in frost as I set out. The mist was not so thick and the bright sun made it quite dazzling as I headed up the river towards the next pilgrimage temple.


On my right were the Kirishima Mountains, and on the lefy another range of mountains whose name I did not now. Later today I would cross over them to a different watershed, the Kuma River.


A main road and an expressway followed the river, but I stayed on the rural roads that primarily passed through agricultural lands...... hoping to find more tanokami, but primarily avoiding the noise and traffic.....


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Kote-e of Kitsuki



Kote-e is a kind of Japanese art we would call plaster relief. a kote is a kind of narrow trowel used by plasterers, and e means picture or painting, so the literal translation would be "trowel picture".


The art developed in Edo and spread throughout the country, though in some places it is more common. Oita is one such place, and the merchant district of the castle town of Kitsuki has numerous examples.


The designs of the kote-e primarily used symbols to either ward off misfortune or attract good fortune. The kanji for water, used to ward off the danger of fire, is very common nationwide.


Being merchant properties, many of the kote-e in Kitsuki invoke good fortune and the accumulation of wealth. Daikoku and Ebisu, two of the 7 Lucky Gods, are therefore common.


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Tanokami of Kiyomachi Onsen part 2


Kiyomachi Onsen is a hot spring resort town and typically the accomodations are quite pricey, certainly more than I could pay. However I did find a really cheap place.3.000 yen for a tatami room with access to a kitchen in a small, old, run down building that a local onsen used. The baths were in a couple of small old building next door. There were absolutely no tourists, the place was used purely by locals, kind of like a sento.


My hosts were very friendly and told me I was the first foreigner who had ever stayed there. I explained that I was walking the Kyushu pilgrimage and that also I had an interest in the Tanokami. He promptly told me to get in his car and then drove me a few minutes away where there was a large collection of Tanokami statues that had been brought in from the surrounding communities.


When we got back I took a bath in my own private onsen bathroom. It may be a cliche, but my experience has been that the further you get away from the main tourist sites and the cities, the more friendly and helpful people become....


Of course its not as convenient or simple, but well worth the effort....


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Early Morning Views of the Inland Sea


After coming down from my night spent on Mount Kannomine I started walking up the coast of Osakikamijima on my third day walking along the Aki Nada chain of islands in the Inland Sea. I love sleeping out at the highest point anywhere, and on the islands in the Inland Sea the views are particularly impressive. Links to posts on Mount Kannomine are here   here   and here.


I was heading up to Kinoe, a port on the East coast of the ilsnad from where I could take a ferry to Takehara on the mainland of Hiroshima. A car ferry also runs from Kinoe across to Omishima and the Shimanamikaido.


This eastern end of the Aki Nada Islands is close to the chain of islands that comprise the Shimanami kaido, and as both are popularly cycling routes it is a way of connecting the two.


Kinoe was in forer times a major port for ships plying the Inland Sea route..... the expressway of historical Japan. Kinoe was well known a place where sailors could purchase the companionship of young women, though Mitarai on Osaki Shimojima was higher-class and busier.


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Tanokami of Kiyomachi Onsen part 1


I dropped down into the Ebino Valley with its great views of the Kirishima Mountains and headed to Kiyomachi Onsen where I had a room for the night. I stopped in at the small tourist office near the station and discovered a group of Tanokami statues that had been collected together from the neighborhood.


This is Miyazaki Prefecture, but historically it was part of the Satsuma Domain which is where a particular culture of Tanokami developed in the Edo Period. Here the Tanokami, "rice paddy god" was seen very much as a tutelary deity, and statues were found everywhere.


You can pick up a map which shows the location of these statues, some of which have been gathered together. Many of the statues are painted.


These last two photos show a particular feature of many of these statues..... the weirdly exaggerated hats which look odd until you view the statue from behind when it all becomes clear. The Tanokami here have an obvious relationship with fertility......


Sunday, July 19, 2020

Taisanji mountaintop temple in Tokushima


Located at about 450 meters above sea level, Taisanji is the first of the bangai temples on the Shikoku pilgrimage known commonly as Ohenro, and the first of the 36 temples on the Shikoku Fudo Myo O pilgrimage. Most pilgrims on the Ohenro don't make the steep detour up to it, as I didn't when I walked it, , but I was on my first day of the Fudo pilgrimage.


According to the legend it is a very ancient holy spot for Buddhism being established in the 6th Century. Later the monk Gyoki, who is credited with founding many of the Ohenro temples, practised austerities here, and later still Kobo Daishi came here and built a building and put a statue of Senju Kannon here. It is said he received the statue from his master when studying in China.


There was a giant, ancient Gingko tree in the grounds but the leaves had all fallen. I had passed through some fall colors on the way up the mountain but at this height it had all gone. I had become intrigued by Taisanji after reading a little about Tachikawa Ryu, a school of Shingon that espoused a type of tantric practise utilizing sexual energy, and Taisanji was one of its centers. It became outlawed and actually classed as heresy by the head authorities of Shingon so all records were destroyed or locked away.


Of course there was no sign of it anywhere I could see.


Friday, July 17, 2020

Beneath a Sea of Clouds with the Rice Paddy Gods


Unkai is a Japanese word that refers to a "Sea of Clouds". When the conditions are right, usually late Autumn/early Winter, Valleys fill up with mist during the night. When viewed from mountaintops above the level of the mist it appears to be like a sea. many Japanese seem shocked that such things occur in many parts of the world.


On the 38th day of my walk along the Kyushu Pilgrimage, I set off from Sogi Falls in the deep mist that filled the Sendai River valley. Once the sun rises the mist gradually thins and disperses.


As I headed upriver I passed a couple of small roadside shrines with statues of Tanokami, the god of rice paddies. Yesterday I passed a bunch of them but they were all fairly weathered, but today they had been painted.


I had been heading west, and by late morning the mist had disappeared. The river now veered sharply south and then later turned back north so it was easier to keep heading west  by cutting across the range of hills and dropping down back to the river near Ebino.


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Kurushima Kaikyo Suspension Bridges


Claimed to be the longest suspension bridge structure in the world, the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge is actually 3 connected suspension bridges. Its total length is a tad over 4 kilometers, a little longer than the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge further along the Inland Sea which also connects to Shikoku and is still, I believe, the longest suspension bridge in the world.


I walked across it on the third day of my walk along the Shimanami Kaido, the route that connects Honshu to Shikoku via a series of bridges across the islands.


If you are on foot like  I was, or cycling or using a moped then the crossing is much more than 4k as a series of gradually rising loops take you up and down to the height of the bridge.


The bridge connects Imabari on Shikoku with Oshima. I had crossed Oshima fairly quickly after spending the night on Michika Island in view of the Hakata-Oshima Bridge. Later I will post some shots of the stupendous views from the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridges....


Monday, July 13, 2020

Shrine of Sogi Falls


Sogi Taki no Jinja is on the south side of the Sogi Waterfall and is now housed in a recent rebuild. The construction if the new bridge over the falls entailed lots of road construction so I guess that was why it was rebuilt.


It is said that the guardian of the falls is enshrined here, and it is listed as Takitsuhime, a variant on Tagitsuhime, who was one of the 3 Munakata Princesses, offspring of Susano and Amaterasu that are normally known for guarding sea journeys.


I spent the night here, sleeping under the overhanging eaves as after dark a heavy mist descended for the night, and though it didn't actually rain, water dripped off the roof all night. early next morning when I set of on the 38th day of my walk the mist was still thick.


Saturday, July 11, 2020

Karakamishiragi Shrine & a serious revising of myth0-history


At the far western edge of the village of Isotake is the small fishing port, and next to it a small, fairly standard, little shrine with modern torii, standard, modern komainu, and the large thick shimenawa typical of the region. What is interesting is the name Karakamishiragi Shrine which translates as "gods from Silla Shrine", Silla being one of the countries that made up the korean peninsula before becoming unified.


The kami enshrined here are Susano and two of his daughters, Oyatsuhime and Tsunatsuhime. His son, Isotakeru, gave his name to the village, but curiously is not enshrined here. According to the local records they all arrived here from Silla and established what later became known as Izumo Culture. It also says they travelled back and forth between here and Korea with local kami, transferring technology.


This is quite different from the mainstream, official version of the mytho-history which has Susano descending directly to japan from the High Plain of Heaven. That version is the one in the Kojiki which nowadays is touted as the oldest book in Japan, but to be quite frank is a very revisionist, political rewriting of the myths to suit a small group of powerful clans who had seized power just before writing the kojiki.


Visiting this shrine not long after moving to the area set me off on a trail of discovery as I followed the local legends and myths that tell quite a different story than the mainstream which became fixed in the early days of the Meiji Period when national myths were needed by the political leaders....It also led me  to a more detailed exploration of Susano, the kami largely dismissed by the mainstream myths in favor of his sister Amaterasu

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Fall Colors... Sunset... & Illuminations at Sogi Falls


At Sogi Falls in the mountains of Kagoshima around Isa City the fall colors were in full swing. A big park is there and that was where I was planning to sleep out, but I did not forsee that the place was lit up at night so there werelots of security guards to protect the generators and lights and such.


As the sun went down I headed across the old bridge and found a suitable place to lay out my bag and then headed back to the park to take some more photos.....


There were very few people and with the illuminations of the waterfalls and the river gorge as well as the foliage it was unusual and a nice surprise


Sogi Falls is not so well known but certainly worth a visit if you are in the area