Monday, June 28, 2021

Goishizan Temple 2 Shodoshima Pilgrimage


This is one of the iconic views of the Shodoshima Pilgrimage. Temple number 2, Goishizan is only a few hundred meters from Temple 1, Dounzan, and the car park at Goshizan is a good place to park to explore Dounzan and the okunoin of temple 3.

At the open parking lot there is a view down the mountain and a small, modern, concrete hall topped with an oversize statue of Kobo Daishi, the focus of this 88 site circular pilgrimage.

From here you pass through a torii gate and head along the mountainside until eerging from the trees at another torii. From this torii a step of very steep, rough steps lead up to the Gyoja-do, an ascetic route. From the Gyoja-do you can see a small k9npira Shrine perched on top of a rock pinnacle nearer the summit.

Like the famous 88 temple pilgrimage on Shikoku, on which this Shodoshima pilgriage is modelled, many of these mountain sites would have been Yamabushi sites before becoing incorporated into the pilgrimage .

Carrying on past the torii you come to a small structure that leads into the cave which is the main hall. The hinzon is a Namikiri Fudo, a wave-cutting Fudo Myo.

There is often someone here on duty selling candles, incense, and pilgrimage supplies.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Kinzanji the Oldest Temple in Okayama


According to records, Kinzani Temple was founded bu the monk Hoon Daishi, under orders of Empress Koken, in the year 749, which makes it the oldest surviving temple in Okayama.

Also known as Kanayam Kannonji, I came across the temple quite unexpectedly while walking  through the mountain north of Okayama City and spied a large, old pagoda on the hillside.

Qith its dilapidated Nio gate, onky foundations stones of the formerly huge main hall, and a couple of structures other than the pagoda, it looked like it was obviouslt a very major temple coplex in former times, but now almost abandoned.

However there was a walled compound that was home to a cluster of buildings, including what I guessed was the priests home and a small main hall. It is now a Tendau sect temple and apparently home to one of the infamous "Naked Festivals" where hordes of men and boys in loin-cloths jostle for good luck charms....

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Garden at Kozanji Temple


The garden at Kozanji Temple in Chofu, Yamaguchi, is neither well-known nor well-visited, though the temple itself and its grounds are usually crowded.

It's a large, Zen temple whose main hall is a National Treasure as it is one of the oldest Kara-yo buildings left in Japan. Kara-yo is the Chinese-influenced temple architecture that was introduced along with Zen in the 13th century and so is strongly associated with the Zen sects.

Kozanji is the 19th temple on the 33 temple Chugoku Kannon Pilgrimage, and that was the reason for my visit. While wandering the grounds I was approached by a priest who engaged me in conversation. Foreign visitors to the temple are certainly not rare, so maybe he was intrigued by my pilgrim jacket.

Anyway, it was he who suggested I seek out and visit the garden which is tucked away at the side of one of the main halls and seems to have been designed to be viewed from what I presume to be the abbots residence.

The garden has a pond as well as some shaped azalea bushes, lanterns, etc but was very shaded and primarily a moss garden. Less-manicured than most zen gardens, it was also very shaded.

Far more restrained than the huge Chofuteien stroll-type garden I had visited earlier that morning. Next up I head to the nearby Mori Mansion gardens

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Chofuteien Garden

Chofuteien Garden

Chofu, a former castle town not far from Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi, was a base of the Mori Clan and though not so well known or visited is actually a delightful place for a visit.

Chofuteien is a large stroll-type garden that opened to the public in 1993. These photos are from a visit I made on November 27th, 2014, on my 24th day walking the Chugoku Kannon Pilgrimage. I had been here before in the late spring when everything was green, but the autumn colors were really spectacular.

It is on the site of the former manor of Nishi Yukinaga, the most senior of the Mori vassals.

In the middle of the 31,000 sq meter garden is a large pond, with koi, and a couple of bridges over it as well as stepping stones.

There is a small teahouse looking over the pond and a large summer house as well as a couple of white-walled storehoues, one of which hosts exhibitions.

The path heads up into the woods to a waterfall and heads back down to the storehouses through a bamboo grove and areas planted in a variety of seasonal flowers.

There are two more gardens in the old town, one a temple garden in a large Zen temple, and the other in the Mori Mansion. If readers requested it I could post on them soon.

Buy dokudami tea from Japan

Friday, June 18, 2021

Taketomi Beaches


Taketomi Island, a small island a few kilometers from the larger Ishigaki island in what is now Okinawa Prefecture, is a very popular tourist site that visitors come to primarily to see the picturesque traditional village, and to take a ride in a cart pulled by water buffalo.

However the island also has a couple of rather nice beaches, one a little rocky, the oyjer with fine white sand.

We visited in April, out of season, and so the beaches were deserted. Also it was an overcast day so the colors are not so spectacular.

At low tide, it seemed too shallow for swimming or snorkeling for quite a ways out.

This gentleman was off collecting something, maybe a type of seaweed, maybe shellfish.....

Ishigaki Sea Salt

Buy Ishigaki Bath Salts from Japan

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Tamana Observatory


Taman Observatory is a curious structure located on a small hilltop overlooking a sports park and the town of Tamana beyond. It's not so high and the views are not particularly impressive.

More like an oversized, climbable sculpture than a building, it does have a single room inside the central ovoid shape.

As a photographer I found it exciting as I spent a good hour running around taking lots of geometric, abstract shots.

It is yet another of the Kumamoto Artpolis projects, and was completed in 1992, so an offspring of the bubble-era. Like so many similar projects, the lack of use and deteriorating concrete surfaces do not bode well for the future.

If I was a kid with friends, it would be a great place to play hide and seek, and I would imagine it would be suitable for a paintball contest, with lots of different levels and nooks and crannies.

The architect is a young Kagoshima native, Masaharu Takasaki, who does not seem to be very well known but does have a book written about him. I came across another of his projects earlier in my walk when down in Kagoshima.Nanohanakan  Sports Park is quite bizarre, but also excellent for the kind of geometric, abstract photography I am partial to.. 

It was an excellent place to spend the solstice night to see the sunrise

Monday, June 14, 2021

Down the Kikuchi River


December 20th, the 48th day of my first walk around Kyushu and I left Yamaga to head down to Tamana. First stop was the burial mounds museum I posted about here and here. Pictured above are some of the haniwa reproductions. Haniwa were the ceramic figures placed on top of the burial mounds. Horses and chickens appear here. Houses, deer, and human figures are also common.

My route takes me roughly alog the Kikuchi River, though here the land is fairly flat and the river meansers so the road sometimes cuts straight. I am still surprised by how much agricuture takes place under plastic. I have no idea what was growing here, though being December 20th, the coldest weather had yet to arrive.

A statue modelled on a clay haniwa marks the entrance to a cluster of tombs, the largest being the Etafunayama Mound. The grave goods excavated from the burial chamber included multiple swords, mirrors, and jewels, collectively known as the three symbols of Imperial power, or the Imperial Regalia.

November and December are my favorite times for walking around western Japan. The weather is usually good, the light is great, and the lack of mosquitoes makes sleeping out more pleasant, but the days are somewhat short.

Arched stone bridges would not be particularly noreworthy in many places, but in Japan they are somewhat unusual. Introduced by Chinese monks in Nagasaki most of them seem to be in areas near to Nagasaki. Therevwere several more in Tamana.

Being the solstive eve I found myself a nice high-point to spend the night.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Kumamoto Komainu


Day 48 of my Kyushu Pilgrimage found me walking down the Kikuchi River in Kumamoto from Yamaga to Tamana. As normal I stopped in at every shrine I passed on the way, on the look out for art, stories etc. Usually I would post about each shrine, with details of the kami there enshrined, history, features, etc but these posts do not seem to interest many people, so instead I will just post some photos of the komainu I encountered.

Komainu literally means "Korean Dogs", but they are usually translated as "Lion Dogs. They are a variation on the guardian lions found in China that were transmitted to Japan via Korea. Some of the earliest ones found in Japan are in Yaegali Shrine in Izumo, which attests to Izumo's close connection to Korea.

Most komainu are now found at the entrance to shrines and lining the walkway to the main shrine buildings. However thyese date to the Edo Period at the earliest, and the original versions were places inside thye shrines, or inside the gates where they are often paired with Zuijin.

Komainu are in essence guardians, and can also be found outside temples as well as secular properties. Usually, but not always, one of the pair will have an open mouth, one closed. Like with the Buddhist Nio guardian statues, this represennts the "ah" and "un", the alpha and omega of sanskrit.

Sometimes the pair are male and female, and sometimes the female may be shown with a pup or two. Mostly they are shown in a sitting position, but sometimes, especially in Izumo, one will have its haunches raised like the photo above.

There is more and more standardization of Komainu designs, so I delight in seeking out unusual, local variations like those I discovered further south in Kumamoto.

Quite rarely I have actually found standard lion statues at a few shrines.