Saturday, October 24, 2020

Shrine Chickens & other details at Aoi Aso Shrine


Chickens can be found at a few of the bigger shrines, and Aoi Aso is one of them. I have read several theories on the meaning and symbolism of chickens at shrines, but none of them are convincing to me. They sound like things made up in the Meiji and post Meiji periods when Japan was frantically manufacturing "ancient" traditions.

There was also a selection of komainu, something I always seek out hoping to find unique styles rather than the homogenized design that is becoming more commonplace.

In the main gate were more komainu, along with Zuijin. This kind of komainu, smaller and made of wood, were the original kind, with the larger stone ones a later development

Aoi Aso Shrine is quite picturesque and there is lots of decoration to be seen.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Aoi Aso Shrine


Unfortunately, the bridge you see here was severely damaged in the devastating floods that hit this area of Kumamoto earlier in 2020. It leads to Aoi Aso Shrine in Hitoyoshi, but fortunately, the buildings of the shrine were not badly damaged.

As I mentioned in my last post on the Okyu Shrine, there seems to be a lot of thatch in this area, and if you were impressed with the Okyu Shrine gate, then the one here is much bigger. In fact, the 5 main buildings of the shrine are National Treasures, the southernmost in all Japan.

All the structures were constructed in the first decades of the 17th Century, though the shrine was established in the early 9th century as a branch of Aso Shrine located further north at the active volcano Mount Aso.

There are a lot of kami enshrined here, but the main three are obviously the same as Aso Shrine and are Takeiwatatsu, grandson of mythical first emperor Jimmu, Asotsuhime, wife of Takeiwatatsu, and the third is their daughter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Okyu Shrine Taragi


Continuing my walk down the Kuma River I next stopped at Okyu Shrine, a small, local shrine on the north bank of the river. It has a quite impressive main gate  which, like more than a few buildings in this area, is thatched.

Inside the gate are a pair of Buddhist Nio guardians. This would have been fairly common in the days before the government artificially separated Buddhism and Shinto, and though almost never seen in most of Japan is still seen here in Kyushu.

Ther was also a pair of Zuijin, the Shinto equivalent to Nio.

The shrine was founded in 807, and the gate dates from 1416, though it underwent renovation in 1907. There was no info on which kami are enshrined here.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Samurai Gardens of Kitsuki

Kitsuki is a small, historic castle town in Oita. It is claimed to be the smallest castle in Japan. To the west of the castle, on a high bluff overlooking the town, is a former samurai district.

About half a dozen of these former samurai homes are open to the public, and as these were fairly high ranking sanurai, their homes were large and included gardens.

For this post I have chosen to focus on views of the garden from inside the houses.

Kitsuki is on the southern edge of the Kunisaki Peninsula, an area I am rather fond of, and these photos were taken on the 4th day of my walk around the peninsula during a November, so the gardens had some good autumn colors.


Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Views From The Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge


The Kurushima Kaikyo Suspension Bridge(s) are the last of the bridges on the Shimanami Kaido, the road that connects Honshu with Shikoku across a series of island-hopping bridges. A post about this amazing structure I posted earlier.

The views across the island -studded Inland Sea are great from any highish point and the bridges tend to get quite high, so.........

The Inland Sea was once the major transportation route of Japan, and it is still a very busy waterway so you can look down on many boats and ships.

As you approach Shikoku, Imabari is clearly seen to the SE.

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Biggest Statue of Kobo Daishi

As you head down the coast road towards Cape Muroto in the diatance you can see a white statue on the hillside. This is above Raieeiji Temple and is not part of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, but the statue is of the legendary founder of the pilgrimage, Kobo Daishi.

As a young man Kobo Daishi came here and practised austerities in a cave on the seashore, and te statue represents him as at that age.

The statue  was completed in the 1980's and stands 21 meters tall including its pedestal. Right behind it is another largish statue, of the reclining Buddha, or sometimes known as Buddha entering Nirvarna. There are a few recling buddha statues in Japan though it is not as widely seen as in many other East Asian countries, and this one is claimed to be the first gilded one.

The climb up to view the statues is worth it for the great views.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Kanjizaiji Temple 40 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage


On December 26th, 2011, my 25th day of walking teh famous Shikoku Pilgrimage, I crossed the border into Ehime and reached temple number 40, Kanjizaiji.

According to the founding legend, Kobo Daishi visited here and carved three statues, one of them of Yakushi Nyori, the temples Honzon. It is a "hidden buddha" and only shown to the public every 50 years, the next time being 2034.

The buildings are all fairly modern reconstructions, though the nio guardians are obviously much older.

Techncally this is the temple that is furthest from Ryozenji Temple, the starting point for most pilgrims, and depending on the route you take it is a little past the halfway point, in distance, of the whole pilgrimage.

The temple has a tsuyado, a small room offering free lodgings for pilgrims and this is where I stayed.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Jizo & Dragons at Taisanji Temple

Taisanji Temple is a mountaintop temple in Tokushima is that is both the first of the extra "bangai" temples over above thye standard 88, and also the first temple on the 36 temple Shikoku Fudo Myo Pilgrimagr which was the pilgrimage I was walking when I visited Taisanji.

There wasn't an awful lot of statuary there, but several of the Jizo statues were lit with the late afternoon sun and made for some nice photos.

Dragons are commonly used as spouts for water prification basins, but they are usually made of metal or sometimes ceramic, but the one here is most unusual.

Dragons also appeared on the carvings of some of the buildings.

This final photo is a statue of a man taking part bin Rikimochi, an annual festival held on the 3rd Sunday of January and when men compete to see how far they can carry a very heavy New Year rice cake, kagami mochi

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

A Walk Across Akiyoshidai

Akiyoshidai, a karst of about 100 square kilometers in central Yamaguchi Prefecture is the largest limestone plateau in Japan.

About 300 million years ago it was a coral reef under the ocean. With limestone being soluble in water karsts tend to have lots of underground water and therefore lots of caves and caverns. Underneath Akiyoshidai is Akiyoshido, the largest cavern in all of Japan.

The surface of the plateau has lots of sinkholes which makes for a very uneven landscape. There are also loads of rock pinnacle sticking up.

In the late autumn when I walked across it there was a lot of Japanese pampas grass growing. It is a very unusual landscape for Japan. It is semi artificial in that every year the dried grass covering the plateau is burned which tends to inhibit the growth of trees and stops the landscape reverting to forest.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Palace of the Dragon King

Nochigashima is a tiny, rocky islet just off the Hiyoriyama Coast in northern Hyogo. It is home to a collection of structures with a distinct Chinese style. They were built in the 1950's to memorialize an ancient local fairy tale/legend.

The story dates back to the earliest writings in Japan, the Manyoshu, Nihon Shoki, and the Fudoki. Like all such stories it exists in many forms and has been embellished over the centuries but its basic story contains elements familiar to many similar stories around the world.

Urashima Taro was a local fisherman who saved a turtle. He was rewarded by being taken down under the sea to the palace of the Dragon King and was entertained by one of his daughters, a beautiful princess. After a few days he decided to return home. Before keaving the princess gave hima jewelled box but told him never to open it.

Whenhe returned to the surface he discovered that in the few days he had spent in the undersea world  a hundred years had passed up on the surface. He opened the box and suddenly transformed into a very old man. Another version has him transforming into a crane. Both the turtle and crane are Daoist symbols of longevity very prevalent in Japanese culture and art.