Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Way To Kora Taisha

 


While studying maps to set my route as I walked from Kurume Naritasan and the Giant Kannon back to Kurume where I was based for several days I noticed a large mountaintop shrine and so decided on a route that would take me to it.


I must admit that I had never heard of Kora Taisha before. Taisha means Grand Shrine and so it is and was an important shrine. In fact it was the Ichinomiya for the province.


It was a huge temple-shrine complex that while centered on the main buildings near the top of the mountain, had numerous shrines and temples scattered around the base and on the route up to the main shrine.


It is now possible to drive all the way up to Kora Taisha, but I chose to take the stairway that was the original route. I don't particularly enjoy climbing, but it is the only way to get to the top.


There are several small shrines at special trees and rocks on the way up. At its peak more than 1,000 people lived and worked within the shrine, and that included more than 300 Buddhist monks.


Almost all of the Buddhist temples, structures, pagodas, etc that once were here have all been removed, though a couple of gates still remain.


There are also numerous Torii on the way up. The large stone torii at the bottom of the mountain was built in the 17th century, though the other along the way up are not that old.


Next post I will show you around the main shrine, which is said to be one of the largest in Kyushu. I will also delve a little more into the Buddhist legacy.


For those who drive up there is just one Torii to walk through from the parking lot. Coming up the original stairway is I think about 1.5 kilometers.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Fukumitsu Beach

 


About one kilometer further on from Imaura Harbour, I reached the beach at Fukumitsu.


On a sunny day, when the sky is blue, the calm sea turquoise, and the beach golden, its quite pretty. Popular with surfers and local summer bathers.


On an overcast day in the aftermath of a storm, it's not so pretty.


Fukumotsu is not a fishuing village. It has no harbour. It's an agricultural village,farming the river valley that snakes up towards Ginzan. This was all land controlled directly by the Shogunate in Edo, and Fukumitsu would have been prosperous supplying food to the mine.


Thursday, October 28, 2021

Kurume Naritasan Temple

 


Kurume Naritasan is a branch of the famous Naritasan temple in Chiba. A couple of days previously I had visited the Kumamoto branch of Narirasan, and it too had a Chinese influence in the architecture and statuary.


The hinzon of all Naritasan temples is Fudo Myo-o, and as well as in the main hall there are several statues of him in the grounds.


The temple is most famous for its Giant Kannon statue, currently, the 5th tallest statue in Japan, and also is home to a structure based on a famous Indian temple/


There are plenty of other sights within the grounds and buildings. Here I quoate directly from the temples own signboard.... "... is noted as a "migawari Fudoson" ( a place where the victim of some illness or misfortune may pass his discomfort onto the deified being god.) Kurume Naritasan Temple is supposed to provide blessings for traffic safety, fortune increase and protection from evil, business success, family wellbeing, salvation of aborted babies, and the gratification of all desires."


In essence, the focus of the temple, and I might add much of Japanese religious practices, is on "this-worldly benefits".


There is also somewhat of a nationalistic bent, again as there is everywhere in Japan. This display of heroes of Japan is about military and political leaders of the modern state.


Thursday, October 21, 2021

Yet More Deities at Myo-on-ji Temple

 


This is the 4th and final post on Myo-on-ji temple. It is not a famous temple, nor particularly ancient or large. However, it does have a large number of statues in numerous small shrines, due to the fact that it is a pilgrimage temple on the Sasaguri 88 temple pilgrimage in Fukuoka.


Myo-on-ji was the 11th temple we had visited since starting to walk the pilgrimage. It had raken just under 2 hours since starting at Sasaguri Station, and by now I had come to realize that there were going to be a lot of very diverse statuary tp be seen over the next 4 days.


I started out by posting some photos of Fudo Myo, one of my favorite deities, and a figure that is very common on this pilgrimage. So much so that my second post was a much larger selection of Fudo statues at Myo-on-ji, with one of my wordiest posts where I try to explain the complexity and diversity of Japanese deity identities. The third post was on a variety of statues of Kannon, another very popular deity, technically a bodhisattva.


This time I show another group of statues, mostly multi-armed, multi-headed, fierce deities that originated in India. The top photo is Aizen Myo, among other things associated with sex and love. The next three might be various Myo..... or not..... If I was to dig into it I might be able to say with some certainty the names and classifications of these deities, but I don't have the time. Probably some readers would know.


Statues of snakes, often with offerings of coins, are commonly associated with Benzaiten, the complex Buddhist-Shinto deity that among other things is often associated with water and many times is conflated with Suijin, the water god. I have also seen these snake statues at altars to Kojin the land god in Izumo.


Thgis final photo is another deity I cannot immediately identify. though for some reason I seem to think it might actually be a Bato kannon......

From Myo-on-ji the pilgrimage route heads up into the mountains and the temples ar further apart, but some are much bigger than any yet visited...

Monday, October 18, 2021

Shinsekai

 


Shinsekai is the entertainment district around the Tsutenkaku Tower in the south of Osaka City,


On the right of the photo above you can see one of the icons of Shinsekai, a character called Billiken, a good-luck figure whose history dates back to when he was enshrined in the area back in 1912. He is the creation of American artist Florence Pretz.


It is claimed that the northern part of Shinsekai is modelled on Paris and the southern part on Coney Island in New York


The area was once considered quite seedy but recently has been a little gentrified by the development of nearby Abeno Harukas and the homless residents are less in evidence, though not invisible.


I was here because there are plenty of very cheap hotels in the area that seem particularly popular with Asian tourists on a budget. There are plenty of retro pachinko parlors and arcades, and the local specialty is Kushikatsu, deep-fried skewers of battered meats and vegetables.


I visited at the end of my first day walking the Kinki Fudo Myo Pilgrimage which I started at Shitennoji Temple, one of the oldest temples in all of Japan with a little-known garden, I had visited a further three temples of the pilgrimage, number 2, Kiyomizudera, a small but very old temple, number 3, Horakuji Temple which was quite a surprise with its massive tree and with plenty of art, and temple 4, Kyozenji Temple.


There had been other sights other than the pilgrimage temples.  An annex of Isshinji Temple was very surprising, as was Aizendo Shomanin Temple. The most interesting shrine of the day was Yasui Shrine enshrining the samurai Sanada Yukimura.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Kurume Naritasan Mahabodhi Temple

 

Readers of my recent post on the Giant Kannon Statue in Kurume will have noticed the appearance of a distinctly Indian-looking building. 


This is a representation of the Mahabodhi Temple in India, built on the site of where the historical Buddha reached enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Often claimed to be a copy or replica of the original, it is in fact a stylized representation of the original. It stands 38 meters tall, whereas the original is much taller, and the architectural details are somewhat different..


There are numerous similar representations of the original tower in other countries such as Thailand, Myanmar, etc and these copies have also altered the appearance to fit in with their own architectural heritage.


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Funatama Shrine & Tamahime Inari Shrine

 


Funatama and Tamahime Inari are a set of small hokora shrines found along the Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodo. They lie on the Otonashi River, one of the three rivers that meet at Hongu, the centre of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes and shrines.


According to the founding myth, a kami watched as a spider was drowning in the floodwaters nearby. The kami threw some leaves into the water and the spider climbed on one and paddled to safety. This gave the kami the idea of a boat, ad so he carved a dugout canoe from a tree. This was the creation of the first boat.


The shrine became nationally famous around the end of the Edo Period through a popular folk song. It is believed that around this time the Inari shrine was established.


I visited on day 3 of my walk along the Saigoku Pilgrimage in early March, and was surprised that so many of the New Year decorations were still up.


Although Inari is most commonly associated with rice-growing, there is in fact an uncountable number of different Inaris. I believe this one came originally from somewhere in Nara and is associated with men and women.


Monday, October 11, 2021

Kurume Giant Kannon

 

Since I first sighted the giant Kannon statues near Kurume, it still took a couple of hours walking to reach it.



It is  203 feet tall, which by my reckoning makes it the 5th tallest statue in Japan. It was completed in 1982 and cost about 50 million USD.


It is in the grounds of a branch temple of the famous Narita-San in Chiba. Without meaning any disrespect, my impression was that it was more like a Buddhist Theme Park than a temple.


As with many of the giant statues in Japan it is possible to climb stairs within the statues to an observation deck that has windows with views over the surrounding countryside.


Kannon is a Bodhisatva and comes in a multitude of forms. The version here is a Jibo Kannon, representing motherly love.


In East Asia Kannon is usually female, but in south and southeast Asia it is usually a male. There was a lot to see at Kurume Naritasan-ji, so that will be in later posts.