Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Takahara Kumano Shrine

Takahara Kumano Shrine

Takahara Kumano Shrine.

Takahara is a mountaintop village located on the Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodo ilgrimage.

The village shrine, a branch of Kumano Hongu, is situated in a grove of ancient trees.

As I understand it, the village was not directly on the pilgrimage route until the route was changed in the Edo period and it became an important way-point.

The shrine was established earlier, in 1403, making it one of the oldest shrines in the area.

It is a very colorful shrine with a lot of paintings and color dating back to the Muromachi period.

The main buildings is built in what is known as Kasuga-style, and has a roof of cypress bark.

I believe this section of the Kumano Kodo is by far the most popular, especially among thos only walking a day or two. I visited towards the end of my 4th day of the Saigoku pilgrimage.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Sekimondo Temple 18 Shodoshima Pilgrimage

Sekimondo Temple

Sekimondo Temple 18 Shodoshima Pilgrimage.

Sekimondo, temple number 18,  is just a one kilometer walk from Hotogekataki, but it is a very steep kilometer. Sekimondo is located at about the midpoint of one of the two walking trails of Kankakei Gorge, and can therefore be approached from the bottom walking up, or from the top walking down.

Sekimondo Temple 18 Shodoshima Pilgrimage.

It is in a narrow, steep valley, flanked on either side by formations of rock outcroppings, many of which have names. Sekimon means “stone gate” and refers to the natural arch stone bridge under which the main temple hall lies and through which the trail passes. Crossing the vermillion bridge over the fast moving stream, the natural courtyard has a thatched bell tower and a statue of gleaming white stone.  


In the cliff face below the natural arch is a cave fronted by glass. Steps lead up and one enters through the floor. Inside is dark and lit by candles and lanterns, not too different really from any other temple, except here the walls and ceiling are of rock. There are several altars, the main one being to Fudo Myo, the fierce, fanged, deity holding a sword in one hand and a rope in the other. Fudo Myo was a favorite of the ascetics who spent time in these mountain hideouts undergoing training, so its not surprising to find statues of him here.

Back outside you can see a large carving of Fudo in the cliff face beside the temple. It looks like a cliff carving but in actual fact is sculpted out of stone blocks and then assembled. More buildings dot the steep and rocky gorge leading upwards, and way up high there is some type of hexagonal hut perched on top of a rock that must have fantastic views down the gorge, but the upper section of the temple grounds is roped off.

From in front of the main hall the path slopes upwards and then passes beneath the great arch of stone overhead and then heads up to the ropeway station at the top of Kankakei Gorge passing several more rock formations.

The Shodoshima Pilgrimage has a lot of these unusual cave temples, including the aforementioned Hotogegataki, and Kiyotakisan, both of which I had visited earlier on this days walk.

Sekimondo Temple 18 Shodoshima Pilgrimage.

Yesterday I visited Goishizan and Dounzan.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Bridges at Shurakuen Garden Tsuyama

Bridges at Shurakuen Garden Tsuyama

Bridges at Shurakuen Garden Tsuyama.

The Shurakuen garden in Tsuyama is an Edo-period stroll-type garden that is dominated by water.

Bridges at Shurakuen Garden Tsuyama.

As such there are numerous bridges across narrow sections, though none of the classic vermillion bridges or Chinese style "drum" bridges found at many gardens.


This is the smallest bridge there.....

Bridges at Shurakuen Garden Tsuyama.

And this kind of walkway is fairly common in many traditional japanese gardens....


But most of the bridges were quite rudimentary, wooden structures....

Though these are not.....

many of these bridges were covered in earth......

As you can see, Water Lillies dominate the garden...... water Lillies here on this link, and more general views of the garden on this link.

Bridges at Shurakuen Garden Tsuyama.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Tojin Memorial Ishigaki

Tojin Memorial Ishigaki 石垣島

Tojin Memorial Ishigaki.

Hidden away on a remote section of the coast of Ishigaki Island in Okinawa is this colourful monument built in Chinese style to a shameful bit of history.

Set in 1852 and often referred to as the Robert Bowne Incident, it concerns the fate of hundreds of indentured Chinese "coolies" aboard an American ship the Robert Bowne.

Tojin Memorial Ishigaki.

American and British companies were engaged in the lucrative human-trafficking trade in indentured Chinese laborers. Little more than slaves, the Chinese were abused and killed on the journey and a mutiny occurred on the Robert Bowne resulting in the death of some of the "cargo" as well as some crew and officers.


The ship floundered on the rocks of Ishigaki Island near the spot where the monument is, and the Chinese were sent overboard. Later many of them were safely shipped home, but in the meantime the British and Americans sent soldiers to round them up. Some were killed and some were captured.

Tojin Memorial Ishigaki.

A detailed article https://www.takaoclub.com/bowne/index.htm here makes uncomfortable reading. The monument was constructed in 1972 to memorialize 128 Chinese who died during the incident. The monument is becoming somewhat dilapidated.


Monday, November 21, 2022

Kitsuki Castle Town Museum

Kitsuki Castle Town Museum

Kitsuki Castle Town Museum.

The Kitsuki Castle Town Museum is a spacious and modern three storey structure on one of the high bluffs in the small coastal town of Kitsuki on the southern coast of the Kunisaki Peninsula in Oita, Kyushu.

Kitsuki Castle Town Museum.

The museum is located between the Hitotsumatsu Residence, a 20th-century mansion, and the Nakane Samurai  Residence

The large model of the town as it was in the Edo Period clearly shows how little the town has changed since then, one of the reasons why the Samurai Quarter is a Preservation District.

There are permanent exhibitions of samurai culture as well as merchant and fishing culture, and also thematic temporary exhibitions.

The lobby is dominated by the colourful carriage used in the town's annual Tenjin Matsuri, and a small garden and pond outside provide a nice break.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Takehara City Museum of History & Folklore

Takehara City Museum of History & Folklore

The Takehara City Museum of History & Folklore is located in a two-storey, pale blue, western-style building in the middle of the historical district.

The museum is located in a two-storey, pale blue, western-style building in the middle of the historical district.

The building was built in 1929 and was the Takehara Shoin Library. It became a museum in 1980. Takehara Shoin was a Confucian academy on this site in the latter half of the Edo period.


Local history and folklore museums in Japan are a mixed bag. Some are excellent and free, some are expensive and quite boring, and many fall in between the two extremes...... this one is average.

It's free, so that can't be bad, although I now read that the second floor exhibition now includes a 200 yen charge.

This is because since I visited NHK has aired a wildly popular drama, Massan, about the "father" of Japanese Whiskey, Masataka Taketsuru, and his Scottish wife. He was born here in Takehara and it is said he used the library. There is now a statue of the couple in front of the museum and I suspect the second floor is devoted to him.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Disappeared Japan Rural Temple Haikyo

Disappeared Japan Rural Temple Haikyo

Disappeared Japan Rural Temple Haikyo.

Nine years ago while approaching Iwami Ginzan while walking the Iwami Kannon pilgrimage I explored this derelict temple. It has now been demolished and removed.

I have actually come across quite a few derelict temples in the Iwami area. As the countryside has become depopulated at an increasing rate, there simply isn't enough people to support so many temples, whose main income is funerals.

Once a traditional Japanese structure is abandoned it doesn't take long for nature to begin its work of returning everything to the earth. The Japanese word for abandoned building is haikyo, and there is quite a sub-culture of people who like to visit them and document their visits.

I found a list of the original temples that made up the Iwami Kannon pilgrimage during the Edo period , and quite a few of the temples no longer existed which is why the current pilgrimage route is quite a different route.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Tosa Ichinomiya

Tosa Ichinomiya

Tosa Ichinomiya.

Tosa Shrine is and was the ichinomiya, the highest-ranked shrine, of Tosa province, now Kochi.


It is located in the NE outskirts of Kochi City, right next to Zenrakuji Temple, the 30th on the Shikoku pilgrimage.

Most of the buildings were rebuilt by Chosokabe Motochika in the late 16th century. The drum tower in the first photo was built in the mid 17th century.

Themain kami is Ajisukitakahikone, said to be a son of Okuninushi and considered to be the ancestor of the Kano clan who ruled the area in the early days of the Yamato government.

Also enshrined here is Hitokotonushu, a kami connected to the Kamo clan in the Katsuragi area of old Yamato and also linked with En no Goja, the legendary founder of Shugendo from the same area. At his main shrine at the foot of the  Katsuragi mountains is is worshipped as a kami who delivers oracles consisting of a single word.