Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Kokin Denju no Ma Teahouse

Kokin Denju no Ma Teahouse

Kokin Denju no Ma teahouse is an old, thatched building with fatastic views out over the large pond in Suizenji garden in Kumamoto. The teahouse is actually a bit older than the garden, but it was not moved here until 1912.

For more than 300 years it had stood inside the grounds of the Imperial palace in Kyoto but it probably had a different name then.

Kokin Denju is an esoteric teaching on classical poetry. Yusai Hosokawa, the grandfather of the man who established Suizenji garden in 1637, was a samurai scholar who passed on the Kokin Denju to his student Prince Hachijonomiya, the brother of the then current emperor. This took place in the teahouse when it was in the Imoerial palace in Kyoto in the 16th Century.

It is now free to enter and enjoy the best views of the garden.

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Sunday, March 28, 2021

Mount Fuji at Suizenji Garden


It is believed that the earliest Japanese gardens, based on Chinese gardens, were representations of mythical and legendary landscapes that were Daoist ind later Buddhist in origin. The extremely common Crane or Turtle Islands being examples.

Later actual famous landscapes, usually again Chinese, that had been immortalized in poetry and painting were the inspiration. Later still came the idea of gardens representing actual jaoanese landscapes..

Suizenji Garden in Kumamoto is said to be based on the 53 stations of the Tokaido, the highway that connected Kyoto with Edo, and the most famous view along that route is of course Mount Fuji.

The garden was built for the tea-drinking pleasure of the Lords of the Kumamoto Domain and also has a Noh stage as well as several teahouses within the grounds.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Autumn Colors at Suizenji Garden


Suizenji garden is probably the most well known garden in Kumamoto and is registered as one of the top 100 scenic spots in Japan.

It is a stroll type garden built originally as a tea retreat for the daimyos of Kumamoto.

The largest part is a representation of the Tokaido, the main road between Kyoto and Tokyo in the Edo period, and perhaps its most famous spot is a representation of Mount Fuji.

I visited at the end of November which meant that this far south the autumn colors were almost at their peak. It also meant the large grassy areas were yellow rather than green.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Honmyoji Temple


At the end of the long approach to Honmyoji Temple, visitors arrive at the Chuomon gate which, to me, looks quite Chinese in design and style. Honmyoji belongs to the Nichiren sect and is the highest-ranking temple of the sect in Kyushu. It was founded by the famous warrior Kato Kiyomasa who was a fervent follower of Nichiren.

It was originay founded by Kiyomasa in Osaka in 1585 to console the spirit of his deceased father, In 1600 the teple was relocated to within the grounds of Kumamoto Castle where Kiyomasa was based. In 1611 Kiyomasa was buried in a grave on the hilltop above where the temple now stands, looking over Kumamototo the castle.

The temple was moved to its present site in 1614. The current main hall however ony dates back to 1884, being rebuilt after it was burned down during the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877. There is a museum devoted to Kiyomasa in the temple grounds. 

The temple and the park around the grave on the hilltop are very popular during the cherry blossom season, and on the last weekend, in March the cherry trees and the approach road up to the temple are illuminated. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Approach to Honmyoji Temple


Honmyoji is probably the most important and most visited temple in Kumamoto City. It was built by the great warlord Kato Kiyomasa and his grave lies above the temple. After climbing an intial flight of steps you pass through the huge Niomon, a modern, concrete structure.

High up in the Niomon are a pair of Nio guardian statues, but they appear small and not at all imposing. From here a long approach heads up the slope to the temple itself.

Lining each side of the approach are twelve smaller temples called Tatchu which were originally small buildings that interred the ashes of head priests but which grew into small sub-temples.

The route is lined with many stone lanterns, and a few of the temples have statues and small gardens. I visited on  Saturday November 39th, 2013 on the 46th day of my walk around Kyushu and so there was still plenty of autumn foliage to be seen.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Modern Ikebana: some works of Shogo Kariyazaki


A few days ago I paid a visit to Yuushien, the Jaoanese garden located on a small island in the Nakaumi Lagoon that is bordered by both Shimane and Tottori.

It was a drizzly day, so I spent more time inside the buildings and the various covered areas scattered around the gardens, and so the large Ikebana displays were perhaps more noticable. I had seen similar displays on previous visits but had not paid them much mind, but these were more attention-grabbing.

For the last ten years a Shogo Kariyazaki has been installing his flower arrangements at Yuushien. I must admit I had no idea who he was, not being a particular fan of flower arranging, nor watching any Japoanese TV, but he is perhaps the most well-known "flower artist" in Japan.

Yuushien is famous for its Peonies, and almost all the Kariyazaki pieces on display featured them. They are in bloom around the garden too and also in a special Peony House.

His work is obviously bolder and brighter than I would have expected Ikebana pieces to be. He has exhibited widely outside Japan and also collaborates with artists and designers in other media. This years exhibition runs until the end of March.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Hosshinmon Oji


Day three of my walk along the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage and I leave Hongu and start to head west towards the coast. It was very misty. The first week or so of the Saigoku pilgrimage follows the same route as the Kumano Kodo, though in the opposite direction.

The next section of the route is by far the most popular of the various Kumano Kodo routes, and I expect to pass lots more people heading in the opposite direction to me.

A few kilometers outside of Hongu and I arrive at Hosshinmon Oji. The 99  shrines along the route are called oji, and on the first few days I passed very few, but the next few days there should be dozens.

Hosshinmon Oji is considered to be one of the gates into the sacred area of Hongu, though for me it signifies i am leaving Hongu. It was known as "the gate of  awakening of the aspiration to enlightenment" and formerly pilgrims would change their staffs at this point. All very Buddhist on what is nowadays touted as a shinto pilgrimage.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Dounzan Temple 1 on the Shodoshima Pilgrimage


The main hall of Dounzan Temple is, like many of the temples on the Shodoshima Pilgrimage, a cave. It is located high up near the top of 434 meter high Goishizan in the SE of the island. It is temple number 1 on the pilgrimage, but very few pilgrims nowadays start here. I reached it towards the end of my first day walking the pilgrimage.

Arriving at the temple you first visit a standard temple building, the Daishi-do, enshrining Kobo daishi, the focus of this 88 temple pilgrimage. From there the path heads up through a stand of giant sugi trees to the first cave, Here is a spring that, like so many springs around the island and also on Shikoku, is sid to have been created by Kobo Daishi himself.

In the cave is a very slender statue of Kannon. A few days on either side of the summer solstice the sun hits the cave in such a way that the shadows create an image on the wall that looks like Kannon. The statue takes the same form. The temple is sometimes referred to as Geshi Kannon because of this.

The path then skirts the cliff face until a set of steps that have been built leading up and in to the main hall, the cave called Zaundo. Before the steps there would probably have been a set of chains hanging down for ascetic pilgrims to climb up into the cave.

Inside the tall cave is an eight-sided shrine housing a statue of Bishamonten, the honzon of the temple.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Maneki Neko Museum


The Maneki Neko Museum is home to more than 700 examples of Maneki-neko, the "beckoning cat" that probably originated in Edo in the mid 19th century, though Kyoto makes a claim for it too.

The Japanese gesture for "come here" looks a lot like the gesture of waving goodbye in western cultures and the maneki-neko has one of its paws raised, either right or left. Some examples are motorized to raise and lower the paw.

They are made out of stone, ceramic, plastic, or papier mache and can be found in a variety of colors. Usually white, which represents general good luck, but red ones symbolize good health, black to ward off evil, and gold or yellow for wealth.

The museum is in a couple of renovated farmhouses up in the mountains north of Okayama City in a village called Kanayamaji, and though there is no public transport to the place the museum is very popular and even gets lots of tour buses.

I visited on my third day of walking along the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Taketomi Island Village

Taketomi 竹富島

Taketomi is a small island a 10 minute  ferry ride from Ishigaki Island in Okinawa Prefecture. The small village on the island of about 300 inhabitants is registered as a Group of Historic Buildings a classification I refer to as Preservation District for simplicity. It is one of only two such districts in Okinawa. For other preservation districts I have covered in this blog please click here.

The defining features of the village architecture are the stone walls surrounding each property, the low, single storey homes, and the tile roofs. However, the tile roofs are a very modern addition, the first one on Taketomi not being until 1905.

Historically tile roofs were only allowed for the elite of Okinawan society. That changed in 1879 when Okinawa became part of Japan, and there are still one or two traditional thatched roofs on Taketomi.

Ishigaki Sea Salt

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