Sunday, July 31, 2022

Tashima Oimatsu Shrine

 


Tashima is a small farming hamlet  north of the river in the Chikugo River Plain. I passed through and stopped in at the local shrine while walking between Nanrinji Temple and Joshinin Temple.


It was January 3rd, still well into the period when shrines have most visitors, and I suspect the two young women with girls were making their first shrine visit of the year.


For new year the banners were flying and the shrine had a length of fresh cut bamboo placed along the shimenawa.


This was another Oimatsu Shrine, the vast majority of which are located here in Fukuoka, and which enshrines Sugawara Michizane who died not far from here in Dazaifu. Most shrines for Michizane are named Tenmangu or Tenjin Shrine, and there are also numerous of those in the area, so exactly what the difference is between a Tenmagu and an Oimatsu Shrine, is unknown to me.


Unusually there was a Buddhist pagoda at the shrine. It seemed to be a modern construction, so maybe replaced an original that was removed in 1868?


Friday, July 29, 2022

Joshin-in Temple 90 on the Kyushu pilgrimage

 


About ten kilometers West of Nanrinji, in the middle of the Chikugo River Plain is the small temple-shrine of Joshin-in, temple number 90 on the 108 temples Kyushu  Pilgrimage.


Striking is the torii at the entrance..... usually associated only with Shinto shrines...... in fact in 1868 it became law that only Shinto shrines could have a torii.... according to the little info I could get the temple celebrates shinbutsu shugo, the older more traditional mixture of religious traditions that was abolished in 1868.... which leads me to suspect this temple was founded post 1945.


The honzon of the temle is a Fudo Myo and there are several fudo statues in the small grounds.


Also enshrined here are an 11-faced Kannon, a Dainichi, a Shaka, and a jizo. The temle is also on the Kyushu 24 Jizo pilgrimage.


The torii is because Inari Daimyojin is enshrined here, as a nun was instructed in an oracle from Fudo. A couple of the Ohenro temples on Shikoku enshrine Inari. The Inari here is considered one of the 10 Inari's of Chikuzen


Thursday, July 28, 2022

Nanrinji Temple #6 on the Kyushu Pilgrimage

 


I reached Nanrinji, temple number 6 on the 108 temple Shingon pilgrimage around Kyushu, in the afternoon of my 54th day walking.


Walking along the rural road a few kilometers from the temple a car stopped and it was the priest of the temple and his wife. They asked if I needed a stamp for my nokyo. I said no. temple stamps usually cost 300 yen a pop, and if you multiply that by 108 then the money spent on stamps is equivalent to a week's worth of cheap lodgings, a more sensible use of my very limited budget.


So when I got to the temple it was all locked up, but because I knew no-one was home I sneaked a peek at the garden behind.


As well as the Shingon pilgrimage focused on Kobo Daishi, Nanrinji is also on the Kyushu Yakushi pilgrimage. The honzon of the temple is a Yakushi Nyorai statue supposedly carved by Kobo Daishi himself in 809.


According to the story, while Kobo daishi was on his way to China he encountered a storm and vowed that if he was spared he would then carve 7 Yakushi statues on his return to Japan , this being one of them.

The statue was in a temple much closer to the Chikugo River and was in constant danger of being flooded  so was moved a few kilometers to the current location, not far from where Empress Saimei died in 661.


This temple burned down several times and there seems to have been some sort of a scheme to spread water around the forested slopes around the temple. The year after I visited their was major storms and landslides here and the temple was closed for a while but seems to be open again now, though with concreted slopes all around.


Monday, July 25, 2022

Miyano Shrine established for Military Success

 


Miyano Shrine in Asakura, Fukuoka, is located just a stone's throw from the site of the temporary palace of Empress Saimei who was here in northern Kyushu overseeing an invasion force heading to the Korean peninsula to aid in the restoration of the Paekche after their defeat by the combined forces of Sila and Tang China.


She ordered Nakatomi no Kamatari to set up the shrine and it was built facing Korea for the prayers for the success in the upcoming "special military operation". At the Battle of Baekgang, a primarily naval encounter, the much larger Yamato navy was decimated by the Tang navy, and Japan's military operations in the Korean peninsula were halted for almost a millenium.


The kami enshrined here for military success were Amenokoyane, claimed by the Nakatomi as their ancestor. The other was Okuninushi, the Izumo kami, and a strange choice, although after Izumo became subsumed in the Yamato polity, Okuninushi was enshrined in a protective circle of sacred mountains surrounding the Yamato capital.


Not long after arriving here and setting up the palace and shrine, Saimei died and her son, Tenji, took over. While Saimei had previously been empress Kogyoku, her son and Nakatomi Kamatari had assassinated the Soga who had been the most powerful clan in Yamato. Kogyoku had been a supporter of the Soga. She abdicated and her brother became emperor. He died a few years later and she took the throne again. Some historians think she may have been poisoned when she died suddenly in 661.


After taking over as emperor, one of the things Tenji did was award Nakatomi Kamatari a new family name of Fujiwara. The Fujiwara went on to become the most powerful family in Japan for many centuries along the way wiping out the Mononobe who had been their allies against the Soga. Many of the powerful clans in Yamato, including the imperial family, seem to have strong ancestral ties to the korean peninsula, especially to Paekche, which would explain their interest in military involvement.

I have always been fascinated by the Izumo connection to Sila and how that played out with the Yamato connection to Paekche.


Saturday, July 23, 2022

Oimatsu Shrine

 


Oimatsu Shrine is close to the Waterwheels of Hishino, and seems to be a fairly typical village shrine.


I've gotten pretty good at being able to spot rural shrines at a distance as they are often "islands" of large trees.


I was heading north and northeast away from the Chikugo River towards the first pilgrimage temple of  day 54 of my first Kyushu pilgrimage.


There are quite a few Oimatsu shrines, most seem to be in northern Kyushu, but also western Honshu. The signboard here was not very helpful, but Oimatsu shrines enshrine Sugawara Michizane.


Why it is not a Tenjin or Tenmangu shrine is not clear. Maybe Oimatsu shrines enshrine a different "aspect" of Michizane.


Though located about as far from the sea as its possible to be in Kyushu, ie right in the middle of northern Kyushu, there was offerings of seaweed and small dried fish.


The main hall also had a painted ceiling and a large number of ema in the form of large paintings.


Also unusual was this group of statues.....

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Mizu Shrine & Yamada Weir

 


Down below Esohachimangu Shrine is the Yamada Weir, and immediately next to it is Mizu Shrine.


Yamada Weir was started, by hand, in the mid 17th century and completed in the late 18th century. The Chikugo River is the longest river in Kyushu and classed as one of the three rivers in Japan most likely to flood. The water diverted by the weir runs into a major irrigation canal that includes the Waterwheels of Asakura.


The shrine must have been established at that time as its name, mizu shrine, means water shrine.


The weir is registered as a World Heritage Irrigation Sructure and is said to be the model used by Dr. Tetsu Nakamura who constructed a major irrigation project in the desert of Afghanistan. Since his assassination in 2019 a monument to him has been erected at Yamada Weir

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Eso Hachimangu & the formation of Japan

 


Eso hachimangi lie on the north bank of the Chikugo River, in the southern art of Asakura in Fukuoka. It is said Eso Hachimangu was founded in 661 around the time the "Empress Saimei" died near here at the Asakura temporary palace. It is claimed that the mound on the hill above was the temporary burial site of Saimei before her body was taken back to Yamato for burial, though evidence suggests that in reality it is a 5th century burial mound. "Empress" is in quotes because the title tenno, which is the current title translated as emperor did not become used until after the events of the the mid to late 7th century


As a Hachimangu, it enshrines Hachiman, now considered to be Ojin, god of war. At the time Hachiman was purely a local north Kyushu cult with no association with Ojin. However hachiman would have been familiar to most of the 40,000 strong army assembled here, as most were from Kyushu. later hachiman would spread to the capital area and later still, in the 9th century, become associated with Ojin. Also enshrined here are the "emperors" who succeeded Saimei, her sons Tenji and Tenmu


The empress and crown prince Tenji were here assembling an invasion force to attempt to reinstate the Paekche, one of the kingdoms of the Korean peninsula that had been defeated by another kingdom, Sila, with the help of Tang China. Exactly why this was so important to the Yamato is not explained, though the ruling Yamato clans had extensive ties with Paekche and most likely were related.


In the ensuing battle, Yamato was completely crushed by Sila and Tang who had an army one-quarter the size of the Yamato. The Yamato feared reprisals from Sila and Tang and so began consolidating defenses of Japan and in essence creating a single country modeled on Tang. This included changing the name from Wa to Nihon, installing a centralized, bureacratic state, starting the use of era names, and not long after, writing national histories, the Nihonshoki, and solidifying the ruling clans hold on power with the Kojiki. In a very real sense, this war created the two countries of Korea and Japan out of a more fragmentary collection of kingdoms and confederacies.


Actually, this was Saimei's second stint as ruler. She ruled earlier but abdicated when her son, the future emperor Tenji, assassinated the head of the Soga family inside the palace. The Soga had been virtual rulers for a while, and the links among the ruling clans in Yamato with different Korean dynasties were obviously an important element in the feuding. There was subsequently a lot of feuding and intrigue between Tenji amd his brother Tenmu who later became emperor.


The burial mound above the shrine.


A replica of a "water clock" said to have been invented by Tenji.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Hishino Triple Water Wheels

 


The three waterwheels at Hoshino, along with two further pairs of waterwheels nearby, were completed in 1790 to help irrigate the rice paddies of the area. They are still used today.


Fed by a canal from the nearby Chikugo River, the wheels lift water to allow it to be distributed further away from the river. Originally driven by the waterflow itself, they are now powered by electricity.


It is said to be the only example of such a system anywhere in Japan. These photos were taken in 2014, and in 2017 the wheels were almost completely destroyed by major flooding, but have now been restored.


The wheels have diameters of between 4 and 5 meters. 


an image of the three wheels is the design for the local manhole covers. I imagine if you visit in June when they are operating then they would be more interesting.