Monday, August 31, 2020

Along the Kumagawa Valley

After visiting Shinguuzenji Temple I headed east up the valley towards  the next  pilgrimage temple.

The mist and fog was still thick, but as the morning progressed it began to thin.

 After the sun came up the fog retreated into the middle of the valley and just hung over the river.

I visited about half a dozen small shrines along the road that ran pretty much at the base of the mointains.

The views were what I would describe as typical Japan..... though that may be because I spend so much time walking around ther back country and tend to avoid the highly populated areas.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Kumano Hongu Heritage Center

Hongu is kind of the central site of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes and shrines. I arrived there late on the second day of my walk along the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, ostensibky the oldest pilgrimage in Japan, and which follows parts of the Kumano Kodo for the first week.

Hongu is part of the World Heritage Sites, and so a brand new center has been constructed that offers all kind of information for visitors.

It was made out of local timber and for me was actually more interesting than all the historical and visitor information.

After here I headed to Hoingu Taishi for a quick visit before finding my lodgings for the night.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Shinguuzenji the Southernmost Obaku Temple in Japan

On the fortieth day of my walk around Kyushu I woke at first light and brushed the thick coating of frost off my bag and quickly headed downhill to get my circulation going. There was a thick, freezing fog but I guessed it was still well before sunrise. I have no watch nor phone so am never sure of the clock-time.

After reaching the Kuma River Valley I turned  East and headed along the valley on the south side along the edge of the mountains where the traditional settlements were and are and usually where you find the shrines and temples. The next pilgrimage temple should be reachable before the end of the day.

I soon came to a Chinese-style gate and a large statue of Kannon so headed in to explore. There was no-one about as it was still too early.

This was Shinguuzenji Temple, founded in the early 15th century and later converted to the Obaku Zen sect. Obaku was the last of the Chinese zen sects to be imported and so still retained more Chinese style in architecture etc. Apparently, this is the southernmost Obaku Temple in Japan.

The Autumn colors muted by the mist were quite impressive.....

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Okunoin Daishi-do on Shodoshima

After visiting Kannon-ji, temple 3 of the Shodoshima Pilgrimage located in Sakate Town I headed up the mountainside towards the Okunoin, inner sanctuary, passing Beat Takeshi's artwork on the way.

Getting close to the Okunoin I came to a fairly new temple structure with lines of Kannon statues. Apparently this was a Daishi-do, a hall dedicated to Kobo Daishi, the focus of this 88 temple pilgrimage.

I am guessing it must be associated with Kannonji. As well as the line of largish statues there were plenty of small ones too...

As at many sacred sites in Japan there were small collections of statues and figures of all kinds, some very "folksy".....

Friday, August 21, 2020

Hisatsu Line

After leaving Kosenji Temple I face a dilemma in choosing my route. The next temple is almost directly north of where I am, but that is across a mountain range in a completely different drainage. For three days I have been following the Sendai River, and from here the river heads north up to its source high in the same mountains. An obviously logical choice is to take that route.

It would mean a 35 kilometer hike along a moutain/forest road with no settlements or vending machines so I would need to stock up on food and liquids. It would also mean climbing to a tad less than 1,000 meters above sea level. Its the end of November and down here in the valley it froze last night so at 1,000 meters it will be very cold. Not undoable, and an attractive option. My worry is that on the steep slopes on the northern side there may well be lots of snow and ice. The dirt road closes in Winter and may already be closed.

I cautiously decide to backtrack and go over the mountains at a lower point. There is an expressway paralleled by a main road but I really don't want to deal with so much traffic..... especially as there is a good chance that the sidewalk will be non-existent in places. I decide to take the train!!!

The Hisatsu Line is a delightful train line that runs from Yoshimatsu over the mountains to Hitoyoshi in Kumamoto with some great views of the Kirishima Mountains. Its one of the tourist trains with floor to ceiling windows and wooden interiors. On the way up the train stops several times to reverse and negotiate a set of switchbacks. Several time the train stops for passengers to enjoy the views.

On the other side of the pass the line does a 360 degree loop before negotiating another set of swirchbacks. Here I get off and look for a place to sleep out before carrying on down the mountain on foot the next morning

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Hokai-in Temple number 5 on the Chugoku Kannon Pilgrimage

On th third day of my walk along the Chugoku Kannon Pilgrimage I headed north from downtown Okayama City andf soon arrived at themple number 5, Hokai-in, sometimes called Henshoji.

The Nio gate was impressive in size and contained a pair of wonderful nio. I could not find dates for the gate or the nio. The main hall of the temple dates to the mid 19th Century.

The temple now belongs to the Shingon sect and was founded in 729. The honzon is a small statue of Kannon supposedly carved by Shotoku Taishi and is registered as an Important Cultural Property.

It is locted an top of a small hill looking over cetral Okayama.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Diverse statuary at Kosenji Temple

Kosenji Temple in Ebino, Miyazaki has a wide range of statues on display inside and out. Flanking the large Fudo MyoO statue were a pair of very stylized Tanuki statues, the one on the left being obviously male.Not sure of their relationship with Fudo though.

There were several "child-like" Jizo. Known as guardian of deceased children, many have this child-like appearance, but seems to me to be more a part of the general "kawaii" culture that is such a large part of contemporary Japanese culture....

There was a fairly standard statue of Kannon, a deity which has many forms. One forms sees young children around her, but here there were frogs.

The frog is called kaeru in japanese, which is also the same word for "return", so commonly frog statues are a kind of good luck charm for returning safely from a journey etc....

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Fudo Myo at Kosenji Temple

While putting this post together I noticed a curious thing. The Fudo MyoO statues has one eye wide open and one half closed. I had never noticed that before. I looked through some other photos of Fudo statues and most of them have two wide-open eyes, but a few have one eye haf closed. Not sure of the significance, though more research is needed. If ay reader knows, please say in the comments.

This rather fine arrangement of statues centered on Fudo was in the grounds of Konsenji temple in Ebino Miyazaki, number 42 on the Kyushu Pilgrimage, a Shingon pilgrimage and so with quite a few statues of Fudo around.

As well as this large one, there were a couple of smaller Fudo statues in the grounds.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Kosenji Temple number 42 on the Kyushu Pilgrimage

Hachimanyama Kosenji Temple is at the eastern end of the Ebino Valley in the higjlands around the Kirishima Montains in Miyazaki. It is number 42 on the 108 Shingon temple pilgrimage on Kyushu.

It is a fairly modern temple founded in the early Taisho era, so is about 100 years old. I'm no expert, but it seems that the Gingko trees were a little older than that.

It has an unusual hnzon, a statue of Dainchi riding a cow, though I didn't get to see it. Also unusual for the Kyushu pilgrimage is an actual Daishi-do.

There was quite a bit of interesting statuary which I will post on later, and also one building had quite a few masks on display, severa; of which were from the Iwami Kagura tradition.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Keishu-en Garden


Keishi-en is a fairly modern Japanese garden attached to Yoko Museum, a small gallery specializing in Chinese ceramics and art. The garden uses Mifuneyama as "borrowed scenery" behind the garden. It was designed by Kinsaku Nakane whose most well known garden is the one at Adachi Museum in Shimane.

There is a large pond filled with koi, behind which is a karesansui garden with many azalea bushes which bloom in the late spring. Unusually the upper part of the garden is a tea plantation with rows of tea plants following the contours.


The path around the garden passes over a bridge by a small waterfall and also leads to a teahouse where you can get traditional tea and sweets.

Most visitors to the area visit the Mifuneyama Rakuen Garden which is very close by and also uses Mifuneyama as a backdrop, but Keishu-en is well worth a visit, especially if you appreciate the work of  Kinsaku Nakane

Buy dokudami tea from Japan