Thursday, March 31, 2022

Izushi Castle Town

Izushi 出石町


Izushi is a small town, now part of Toyooka City, in northern Hyogo that was in earlier times home to a castle/ The ruins of the castle and some reconstructed turrets can be visited, and enough of the town's original architecture remains for it to be registered as a reservation District;


One of the icons of the town, appearing on the draincovers for instance, is the Shinkoro Clock Tower, built in 1871 on the former stone base of a castle turret/ At first it housed a large drum used to mark time. but in 1881 a Dutch clock was installed. It is said to be the oldest clock tower in Japan.

A lot of the historical district is given over to tourist-related gift shops and eateries, and I previously posted a series of photos of these shopfronts This time some different views.

There was a really interesting shop, very much Showa nostalgic, with lot of products from the 70's.... more like a museum than a shop....

Away from the main shopping street there was also some nice traditional architecture, like these earthen-walled storehouses connected to the loca lsake brewery.

Izushi is also famous for soba noodles, with a staggering number of soba restaurants for a town its size. Several of the shop windows show the noodle makers plying their trade.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

A Brief Guide to Museums of Hita

Museums of Hita 日田市

Whisky Museum

I visited Hita, a small, historic town near the border of Fukuoka in Oita, several times, the first being on day 53 of my walk around Kyushu on pilgrimage. I quite enjoyed the town and there was plenty to see in and around the Historic Preservation District, including a range of museums. The Whisky Museum was closed when I was there but it has a collection of 30,000 whiskeys and paraphernalia that have been collected by the owner since he was 13. If alcohol is your thug then there is a sake museum in the local brewery.

Museum in Hita.
Museum in Hita

In the Mamedamachi historic district, there are half a dozen small museums in the old houses and storehouses, including the Hirose Museum, and the Tenryo Hita Museum.

Exhibits include artifacts from wealthy merchants, the samurai bureaucrats who ran the town, and folk art and such.

Not to be missed is the Hita Gion Museum which houses the huge floats used in the towns Gion Festival, as well as other matsuri-related  objects and artworks.

There is a modern museum housing exhibits connected to the famous private academy, Kangien, and its founder , Hirose Tanso. Adjacent to the museum are two remaining buildings of the academy from the Edo period, Shufuan, and Enshiro.

The most popular museum I suspect is the Hina Doll Museum with its collection of more than 4,000 hina dolls, but it also has a few other historical displays not doll-related.

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Saturday, March 26, 2022

Kamano Beach

Kamano Beach

Kamano Beach.

Kamano Beach is immediately adjacent to Fukumitsu Beach, but is separated from it by a rocky promontory.

To get to it the road goes through a small tunnel which I am fairly certain is relatively modern.

Kamanoitself is a very small community with many empty houses and absolutely zero new houses. It would appear deserted except a couple of vegetable gardens that showed signs of life.

There was a large signboard commemorating the most famous son of Kamano, a certain Matsuraya Yohei. During the Edo eriod Kamano was art of the Tokugawa-controlled Iwami Ginzan Territory. The 19th  controller of Ginzan is famous for among other things introducing sweet potatoes into the region to stave off starvation. However, no-one knew how to store the sweet potatoes through the winter for replanting, and so they froze and rotted. Yohei figured out  to bury them deep underground in a large pot, and so became a hero.

From Kamano a narrow lane heads over the hills toward Yunotsu.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Yakatabune of the Mimuka River

Yakatabune, Mimuka River

Mimuka River.

The Mikuma River flows through Hita, in the mountains of Oita near the border with Fukuoka, and has been a transportation route since ancient times. It has also been a source of food, with eels and the ayu fish being popular still today.

In the summer months, It is the site for the traditional fishing method using trained cormorants to catch the fish, and visitors head out in pleasure boats to watch the scene.

The boats, called yakatabune, nowadays ply their trade most nights of the year as they have become one of the prime tourist attractions, especially for the many guests of the waterfront hot spring hotels..

Yakatabune have a long history, being used by the elite aristocrats of the Heian court to hold waterborne parties with plenty of sake drinking and poetry composition.

Yakatabune is often translated as "house boat", but in English, that implies people living onboard, whereas they are really like small Japanses restaurants, with tatami floors, low tables etc.

Around sunset each day the lanterns and electric lights on the yakatabune light up, and guests, usually wearing traditional outfits, arrive and are then taken out to the middle of the river for a few hours of fine wining and dining.

The boats are operated by half a dozen of the waterfront hot spring hotels, but I believe it may be possible to book seats without actually staying at the hotel, though I suspect the tickets are not cheap.

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Sunday, March 20, 2022

Kannonzaka Kannondo Temple 66 on the Sasaguri Pilgrimge

Kannonzaka Kannondo Temple

After leaving Myo-on-ji Temple and it's amazing collection of statues, we headed on along the Sasaguri pilgrimage and arrived at temple 66, literally a short walk uphill.

This unusual, modern, hexagonal building was on the hill just above Kannoinzaka Kannondo temple, but I don't think it is connected to it.

There were gret views looking down on Sasaguri and to the outskirts of Fukuoka beyond.

The temple is , like the vast majority of temples on this pilgrimage, small and unmanned, with just a small "mainhall" and a Daishido.

The honzon is a Kannon, and there are also other Kannon statues around as well as numerous versions of Fudo Myo.

From here the route mostly follows a trail through the forest, and the distance to the next temple is the longest so far on this first day of walking. It is also quite high up in the mountains.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Enshiro at Kangien in Hita

Japan Guide

Enshiro is a small, two-story building built in 1849 as a study. It is one of only two buildings remaining from the Edo Period privatye school in Hita known as Kangien. The other building is the older, larger former residence known as Shufuan which I recently posted about.

It is said that Enshiro was the favorite study of the founder of Kangien, Hirose Tanso, during his later years.

Hirose Tanso (1782 - 1856) was born in Hita, the eldest son of a wealthy merchant family in the town. However, being a sickly child, the family business was taken over by his younger brother and he devoted himself to study.

He studies under the Neo-Confucian scholar, Nanmei Kamei, in Fukuoka before returning home to Hta and opening his own academy.

His academy, which he renamed Kangien in 1817, became very popular and drew students from all over japan, and at times had 200 students, including a few females, studying and staying in large dormitories.

Kangien continued operating after Hirose Tanso's death, and eventually closed down in 1897. Its most famous graduates include Chouei Takano, Masujiro Omira, Hikoma Ueno, Shigyoku Nagshima, and Sanshu Chou.

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Monday, March 14, 2022

Ikutama Shrine

Ikutama Shrine

Ikutama is the common name for Ikukunitama Shrine, a very large shrine in Tennoji, Osaka, that I had not heard of but visited at the start of my second day walking the Kinki Fudo Myoo Pilgrimage. According to legend, it was founded by the mythical first emperor Jimmu.

Ikutama Shrine has multiple sub-shrines within its grounds, including Inari, Tenmangu, Sumiyoshi, etc. This is Seichinsha, renamed from Benzaitensha in early Meiji. The shrine was located in a lotus pond but was moved to Ikutama Shairne when the pond was swallowed up by the construction of the subway. The large glass cover is over a small stream.

Shigino Shrine is another of the more well-known sub-shrines in the grounds. It is said that Hideyoshi's wife was a regular visitor. The symbol on the lanterns and ema is a lock with the florid kanji for "heart" and is said to be a good lace to ray for "connection", though it seems it may have been more concerned with breaking bad connections.

Apologies for adding a photo of a cat to the WWW..... Ikutama Shrine was moved to its current location by Hideyoshi. It was originally located closer to where Osaka Castle now stands and Hideyoshi had the shrine moved while building Osaka Castle.

The two main kami enshrined in Ikutama Shrine are Ukushimanokami and Tarushimanokami, neither of which aear in the ancient chronicles, and seemingly only one other shrine in Nagano enshrnes them.

A statue of Osak writer Sakunosuke Oda. I have never herd of him but the statue had to be a writer as he is wearing the "uniform" of one. Ikutama Shrine is also home to a Hikohachi Festival celebrating Yonezawa Hikohachi who is said to have created the Rakugo style of comedy here at the shrine.

An unusal set of direction signs pointing to the various "attractions" in the grounds of Ikutama Shrine.

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Friday, March 11, 2022

Traditional Japanese Garden in Ohori Park

Ohori Park

At the southern end of Ohori Park in Fukuoka is a large, traditional Japanese garden that is not so well known.

The garden was created in 1984 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Ohori Park.

The gardens were designed by Kinsaku Nakane, who also designed the famous Adachi Museum gardens in Shimane. the garden at Nijo Castle in Kyoto, and numerous other gardens in Jaan and abroad.

The gardens cover 12,000 sq. meters and have a large central pond as well as a meandering stream, and a karesansui, "dry" garden.

The garden is mostly enclosed in low, artificial hills that not only block out views of the city but also the city sounds.

There are several waterfalls, and numerous bridges along the paths for visitors.

There is a tea house built in traditional Sukoya-style where visitors can enjoy a green tea while viewing the teahouse garden.

During the autumn colors season and cherry blossom season Japanese gardens tend to be used by professional photograhers to shoot wedding photograhs. For visitors this is perhas a chance to see quite picturesque scenes.

However, for those who want to photograph the garden itself, these groups tend to hog the most picturesque spots, and can be irritating after a while.

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