Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Monjuin Temple & Emon Saburo


Monjuin is a small temple to the south of Matsuyama City that is the 9th bangai, or bekkaku, temple on the famous Shikoku Pilgrimage known as Ohenro. bangai are the 20 "extra" temples on top of the 88 regular temples of the pilgrimage.

Monjuin is located between temples 47, Yasakiji, and 48, Saitinji, and was built on the site of the former home of a man called Emon Saburo, whose legend is connected with the foundation of the pilgrimage itself and also the practice of osettai, the giving of alms to pilgrims.

According to the story, Emon Saburo was a very wealthy merchant and one day a mendicant monk asked him for alms. He refused and also broke the begging bowl of the monk who was actually Kobo Daishi himself.

After each of his 8 sons fell ill and died, Emon realized it was caused by his actions against Kobo Daishi and so set off around Shikoku to try and catch up with him to ask for forgiveness. A burial mound near temple 46, Joruji, is said to be the grave of his 8 sons.

After completely traveling around Shikoku twenty times and failing to meet up with Kobo Daishi he decided to reverse his direction of travel and go in an anti-clockwise direction.

On the mountainside between temples 11 and 12 in Tokushima, Emon, exhausted and close to death, collapsed. Kobo Daishi appeared and granted him absolution. He asked to be reborn into a wealthy family so that he could restore a neglected temple.

Later a child was born clutching a stone inscribed with the words "Emon Saburo is reborn". Such a stone is on display at temple 51 Ishiteji, in Matsuyama.

The honzon at Monju-in is a "secret" Monju Bosatsu. I was quite impressed with the number of statues and reliefs on display in the grounds of such a small temple.

The previous post in the series was Yasakaji Temple

Monday, March 27, 2023

Hizen Torii & Other Shrine Details


Day 57 of my walk along the Kyushu pilgrimage was largely along the Nagasaki Kaido from saga City to Takeo Onsen. As usual, I tried to stop in at every shrine I passed in the hope of seeing something or learning something interesting. Usually, I would do an individual post for each shrine and do some research on the shrine history, stories behind the kami enshrined etc, but as these posts were never of much interest to many people from now on I will just post highlights. Noticeable in this first shrine is the Hizen style torii. Torii styles tend to be based on other factors than region, but Hizen is unique in this regard.

Offerings of sake and oranges are common at shrines and temples, with oranges being most popular after the new year. Though this was a shrine, the small altar was with a Buddhist statue, something that was outlawed in early Meiji but which is increasingly found nowadays.

Fukumohachimangu is quite a large shrine on a hilltop in Omachi. It became a Hachiman shrine in the 9th century but the earlier shrine is linked to stories of Yamato Takeru and his fight with the Kumaso tribe, one of the two big "tribes" of Kyushu that resisted Yamato control. A series of torii lead from the main road and then up the hill, but only one was in Hizen style.

What Fukumohachimangu had, that most shrines have, was a large sacred tree. In this case it was marked with a shimenawa rope, but many such trees do not have a shimenawa. One way of spotting a shrine from a distance is to see a grove of unusually large trees.....

Kaido shrine lies on the bank of Yaigome Pond, a large reservoir that feeds the rice paddies of the Saga Plain. The torii still retains an influence of Hizen style. Enshrined here are Toyotamahiko, Toyotamahime, and also others including Sugawara Michizane.

The final four photos all were taken at Inanushi Shrine, very close to Fumyozan Koyaji Temple. According to one source, the Hizen style torii which is dismantled and lying next to the approach road was the first Hizen style torii in Saga on the Nagasaki Kaido coming from Nagasaki.

Horse statues in stone are quite rare. Modern ones in bronze or wooden ones undercover are far more common. It was here that I discovered the unusual komainu statues.

There were several Inari shrines in the grounds, including this small stone one, and also tghis larger one housed in a small wooden hall.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Takeo Onsen


Takeo Onsen is a hot spring resort in Saga whose symbol is the Romon, Tower gate, that stands at the entrance to the public baths.

The gate is an important cultural property and features on the towns manhole covers.

The gate and the building behind it, the Shinkan, were both built in 1915 by local architect Kingo Tatsuno.

The town is home to numerous hotels and traditional guest houses, but the cheapest was the lodgings at the public baths so that is where I booked a room for the end of my 57th day walking around Kyushu.

Kingo Tatsuno is most famous for designing the original Tokyo Station, now known as Marunouchi Station Building.

I am not a big fan of onsens, but while all the guests were having their dinner I was able to enjoy the almost deserted outdoor bath.

Takeo Onsen is the terminal station for the shortest Shinkansen Line in Japan, the Nagasaki Line. It seems Saga is not keen to have a shinkansen and so from Takeo Onsen to Shin Tosu on the main Kyushu Shinkansen Line you need to transfer to a regular train.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Hizen Komainu


Hizen was the name of the province that is now the prefectures of Saga and Nagasaki. The pair of komainu, guardian lion-dogs, in the first three photos are referred to as Hizen style.

They are found in Inanushi Shrine in Koitagata, Saga, close to Fumyozan Koya Temple.

They are almost abstract in design, and not at all sophisticated

All the other photos are komainu I encountered at other shrines on the same day as I walked from Saga to Takeo Onsen.

None of them are at all similar in style to the first pair, leading me to think the first pair are not really Hizen style, but rather just locally created by a less than high level mason.

Hizen certainly has its own style of Torii, shrine entrance gate, and to those I turn in my nest post.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Komyoji Temple 102 Kyushu pilgrimage


Not too long after leaving temple 61, Koyaji, I came to the second pilgrimage temple of the day, Komyoji.

Quite a small temple, and no one home. It was founded in the Edo period but destroyed in the ant-Buddhist movement of early Meiji, then re-established in 1893.

The honzon is a seated Yakushi, and other than the small Inari shrine on the grounds I know nothing about it,

Takeo Onsen, where I had a room booked, was less than an hour away.....

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Fumyozan Koyaji Temple 61 Kyushu Pilgrimage


Koya Temple near Takeo Onsen in Saga, is said to be named after Koyasan, the base of Shingon Buddhism, as the area is similar in appearance.

It is also said to have been founded by Kobo Daishi himself as he was wandering around north Kyushu after his visit to Tang China.

When I arrived in 2014 there was a construction site right inside the main gate. I believe the garden was being built or refurbished.

Unusually there was an exterior, stone statue of Enma, known as the King of Hell. Usually, he is found inside his own hall.

The honzon of the temple is a Thousand-armed Kannon, apparently said to be the largest in Kyushu, but unfortunately, I didnt enter any of the buildings.

There were several Fudo statues in the grounds, including this rather large one. There is also a Fudo hall with a Fudo statue that is known for answering prayers for financial prosperity.

It seems that the buildings only date back to 2006.

The temple is known for its large collection of rhododendron plants.

The garden is now known for Autumn foliage but there is now a 500 yen entry fee to the garden.

The previous post in the series was of Mizuko Jizo at this temple.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Mizuko Jizo at Fumyozan Koyaji Temple.


Though the adjective "unique" is extremely over-used when connected to anything Japanese, in one case it is actually apt. Small Buddhist statues of a child-like figure clad in a red bib and cap are found everywhere.

The red bib and cacan actually be found on many different types of statues, but the most common is Jizo, the bodhisattva known for the protection of children.

However, in the case of one specific type of Jizo, the Mizuko Jizo, the bibs and caps can become far more individualized.

Mizuko literally means "water baby" and referred historically to children stillborn, miscarried, or dying while still a baby. Mizuko Jizo and related ceremonies became very widespread in the mid 20th century when abortion became very common

Mizuko Jizo has spread beyond the borders of Japan, and within Japan some temples, like Mizuko Temle Monjuin in Sasaguri, have been established specifically for the practice.

All these were seen at temple 61 of the Kyushu pilgrimage near Takeo Onsen in Saga.

The previous post in the series was Saga to Takeo Onsen.