Friday, December 31, 2021

Omori Historic Preservation District


Omori is a small village that was the administrative centre for the Iwami Ginzan silver mine, and is therefore a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

However, before it became a World Heritage site it was a Historic Preservation District. Actually the correct designation is "Groups of  Traditional Buildings", but I prefer to use the former.

Before it became a World Heritage site I spent a lot of time in Omori, but since its UNESCO listing I rarely go back anymore, but when I do I am increasingly impressed.

The best thing they did was remove all the goddam ugly power lines and cables, and combined with banning motor vehicles, it makes it a far more pleasant experience. It also helps that Omori is rarely crowded.

I've visited dozens and dozens of these preservation district throughout western Japan, and Omori is one of the best. For a start it is one of the biggest,.... some of them are really quite small.

Secondly there is quite a range of buildings in terms of size and style.

Some of the preservation districts in touristy areas have become quite gentrified and are occupied by cafes and restauraans and such, and in other areas, notable remote, rural sites, most of the historic buildings are empty and uninhabited.

Omori strikes a good balance between these two.

Finally, they continue to restore buildings in Omori.

So far I have not osted anything on many of the preservation districts I have explored, but a few can be found by clicking this link.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

A Gallery of Komainu from the Hita Kaido


The Hita Kaido, the old highway that ran from Kurume to Hita, is also called yamanobenomichi, literally the road that runs along the edge of the mountains.

If you look on mas you will see that these yamanobenomichi are where the majority of the shrines and temples are, at the base of the mountains. I try to take these roads as much as possible for this reason. 

I am trying to document such things as komainu becaise I see the diversity of such things is gradually being replaced with a monocultural, standard, style. New komainu being installed in shrines across the country are all of the one design.

Many of the komainu pictured here are rather chunky in style

All of them are the stone type, placed usually on the approach to the shrine, rather than the wooden, painted ones found inside.

I realize blogs are now an outdated format, and twitter, youtube, instagram etc are more popular, and also that my subjects are not of interest to a wide audience.....

A large part of my reasons for continuing is because I am trying to catalog my photo collection, so that I can quickly find photos bt subject and topic.

Every post has a collection of tags at the bottom, so for instance if you wanted to see more photos of komainu, you click on the komainu tag.

Clicking this link has the same result.

I appreciate you reading this far, and if you have any requests for specific topics or sites please ask and I may be able to oblige as I have more than 100,000 photos not yet posted.

Best wishes for the New Year

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Autumn Splendor at Kigami Shrine


November 19th, 2021, the final stop on our local autumn colors day trip was Kigami Shrine.

Located at the bottom of the village of Omori that was the administrative headquarters of the Iwami Ginzan silver mines, it did not disappoint

It is a Hachiman Shrine, with several smaller shrines within the grounds, including an Inari Shrine.

I wish you all a healthy and happy holiday season and extend my best wishes for the new  year

Friday, December 24, 2021

Kappa of Tanushimaru

Japan Guide

When I reached Tanushimaru along the Hita Kaido, another kind of statue, other than Ebisu,  started to appear, namely Kappa.....

One of the most well-known of the yokai, the kappa is usually translated into English as "water sprite" and is a creature that inhabits rivers, ponds, etc. Legends of kappa are found all over Japan. Nowadays it is often rendered in a "cute" form.

The kappa in the area are depicted in other ways as well as by statues. It is one of the towns that feature them on decorated manhole covers. Our local town also features a kappa, though it is called enko in our area. It is based on a legend from my village and one of these days I will get around to telling it to you.

Kappa throughout Japan have a similar form..... a turtle shell, a beak, webbed feet, and an indented skull with a fringe of hair. I suspect this homogeneity of form began in the Edo period when collections of yokai images were published and then later in the twentieth century at first with the work of folklorist Yanagita Kunio, and then later with the manga and anime works of artists such as Mizuki Shigeru.

I confess to not having done the work to research the actual kappa stories of Tanushimaru.

At the end of the days walk I took the train back to Kurume and was surprised to see the small station of Tanushimaru....

Monday, December 20, 2021

Autumn in Omori


After leaving Chokoji Temple it was just half an hours drive u to Omori In Iwami Ginzan. On arrival we were treated to a classic Autimn scene,.... harvested rice in front of a thatched farmhouse.

Omori is the most visited of the haf dozen sites that make u the Iwami Ginzan UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is the settlement below the mine where the merchants, samurai, and bureaucrats lived.

Omori is primarily a long, single street alongside a small stream. We started at the top of the village and walked down to the bottom where the most important people lived.

There are a couple of side lanes that usually lead to temples, and its here that you find a kittle autumn color.

However, at the bottom of the village is the main shrine, and here we found an abundance of Autumn colr, so that will be next up.....

Saturday, December 18, 2021

More Ebisu on the Hita Kaido


A few days ago I posted 7 shots of Ebisu statues I found along the Hita Kaido while walking day 52 of my walk around Kyushu. There were A LOT of Ebisu staties. here are another seven. That was not all I saw in this one day, and if I had gone looking I am sure I would have found even more.

Usually depicted with a Sea Bream tucked under his left arm, ad a fishing rod in his right, this suggests that Ebisu was originally a fishing god, but by the Edo period, when these statues probably date, he was more well known as one of the Seven Lucky Gods.

Among the Seven Lucky Gods, Ebisu is singled out as being the only Japanese god of the seven. He is very often paired with Daikokuten. Originally a Hindu deity, Daikoku is written with the same Chinese characters as Okuni, so he became equated with Okuninushi. Okuninushi's son, Kotoshironushi, is featured in the ancient myths as always fishing, so the two became equated with Daikoku and Ebisu.

The Meiji government cemented this identification when they decided that the head shrine for Ebisu in Japan was to be Miho Jinja. Located in Mihonoseki at the tip of the Shimane peninsula, a site where Kotoshironushi enjoyed fishing.

In the Kansai region,  a different origin of Ebisu is given. In the origin myths, the first child born to Izanami and Izanagi was Hiruko, the "Leech Child". Born deformed, it was determined that this was caused by Izanami, the female, speaking first in their wedding ritual. They redid their wedding "correctly" and all future children were born OK. Hiruko was cast out in a boat and is believed to have landed on Awaji Island.

The characters for Hiruko can also be read as Ebisu. Ebisu is also an old name to refer to foreigners and in the north of Japan some stories suggest that Ebisu was a "foreign" god of the Emishi/Aimu.