Sunday, April 30, 2023

Matsue Buke Yashiki & Gardens


A Buke Yashiki is best translated as samurai residence, and this one in the castle town of Matsue belonged to middle -ranked samurai.

It is located on the north side of the moat around the castle on what is now called Shiome Nawate, and is close to another former samurai residence that was the home of Lafcadio Hearn.

Starting in 2016 the residence and gardens have been restored bsed upon Meiji-era drawings of the property.

The rear garden is in Izumo style.

It was originally built in 1733 and it is believed that Kobei Shiomi, after whom this street is now named, lived here. Higher ranking samurai lived across the moat within the castle walls.

Prior to the renovations, it actually wasn't much of an attraction, but with now it is well worth a visit.

The previous post in this series on Izumo and Matsue was the nearby Lafcadio Hearn home and garden.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Odeonza Theater Wakimachi


Located in the small rural town of Wakimachi in rural Tokushima, the Wakimachi Gekijo is a fine example of an early 20th Century Japanese theater.  

Due in large part to the bombing of most of Japan's major cities during  WWII, and also partly to the late 20th Century Japanese tendency to demolish “old” buildings and replace them with newer, modern structures, very few examples of historic theaters still exist, and those that do are to be found in similar rural environments, like the Kaho Gekijo in Iizuka, Kyushu, or the Eirakukan Theatre in Izushi, Hyogo.

The Wakimachi Gekijo was built in 1934 with a capacity of 750, primarily for kabuki, and other popular entertainments like rokyoku, a form of storytelling with shamisen accompaniment.  

 In the postwar period it was converted into a cinema, though occasionally other types of entertainment would be performed. With the massive rural population drain to the big cities the theater, like so many others in similar situations, became uneconomical to operate and closed its doors in 1995.  

It was scheduled for demolition, but before that happened it was used as the setting and location for a movie about a run-down rural cinema. Directed by Yoji Yamada, the man responsible for the very successful “Tora-san” movie series, and starring Toshiyuki Nishida, the 1996 release of The Man Who Caught The Rainbow (虹をつかむ男 ) sparked an interest in the cinema and led to it being renovated and reopened where it is now often known as Odeon-za, it's name in the movie. Occasional performances do take place, but it is primarily a tourist attraction now.

Open from 9 to 5 and closed on Tuesdays, entry is 200 yen, 100 yen for children. There is also a special reduced price ticket that includes entry to the nearby Yoshida Residence.

140-1 Nishibun, Mima-shi, Tokushima 779-3602

Tel 0883 52 3807

I visited early on the third day of my walk along the Shikoku Fudo Myo Pilgrimage, and the previous post in that series was the 18th Century farmhouse of the nagaoka Family.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Takuan Temple Izushi


Takuan Dera is a popular name for Sukyoji Temple in the former castle town of Izushi, Hyogo.

The name comes from Takuan Soho, a locally-born man who became quite a famous monk and for a while lived at the temple. His name has been given to the daikon radish pickles that it is said he invented while here.

The temple was founded at the end of the 14th Century and grew to be quite a sizable monastery and served as the family temple of the ruling clan. During the Warring States period the temple was mostly destroyed.

Along the approach road to the temple are several other temples with one having some rather unusual, carved wooden statues seen in the above two photos.

Takuan Soho returned to Izushi in 1616 at the request of the new Daimyo and began reconstructing the temple. He stayed 8 years and is said to have designed several of the gardens now at the temple. He is also said to have been a teacher of the famed swordsman Miyamoto Musashi.

The gardens are a popular attraction, especially in the Autumn, but the temple is also known for its "Zen Experience" activities that can be booked in advance.

This includes traditional temple food, including the famed pickles, and also sutra copying and other activities.

The primary activity though is zazen seated meditation, done in a meditation hall under the watchful eyes of a sword-yielding statue of Benzaiten

The previous post in this series on Toyooka and Izushi was the gardens of Sukyoji Temple.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Yuminato Harbour


Yuminato is a small harbor and fishing village at the mouth of the Yusato River.

Now part of Yusato village, the main village is a little way upstream.

The river starts in the mountains visible in the photo above where Iwami Ginzan and the old silver mines are located.

Though there was a harbour with massive concrete walls, most of the boats were drawn up on the beach.

In fact, with the exception of one small boat with a tiny superstructure and cabin, all the boats were very small "open" types.

Yuminato translates as "hot water harbour". It is part of Yusato which translates as "hot water village", which is part of Yunotsu, which translates as "hot water port'.

On this visit, I was on the third leg of my deep exploration of the Sea of Japan coast. The previous post was the Hiso Natural Arch. 

Monday, April 24, 2023

Around Gokurakuojoin at Nomiyama Kannonji

Nomiyama Kannonji

Nomiyama Kannonji is a large complex of temples and shrines high in the mountains above Sasaguri, Fukuoka, that is very popular in its own right but is also on the Sasaguri Pilgrimage. Down below the main site of Kannonji are several large car parks and numerous cafes and restaurants, a clear indication of how popular this remote location is. Across from the car parks are two more areas of sub-temples and shrines, Tennoin, which I will cover later, and Gokurakuojoin the subject of todays post. One structure is the Aizen-do which enshrines Aizen Myo, in the photo above.

Six Jizo Pond actual has 7 statues in it.

Behind the pond, Three Thousand Jizos. One source says these are Mizuko Jizo. Nearby is a whole temple devoted to Mizuko Jizo, Mizuko Temple Monjuin.

The main deity enshrined in Gokurakuojoin is Enma. so-called "King of Hell".

Also pictured here, a small Fudo Myo and a small Thousand-Armed Kannon, also in Gokurakuojoin.

We explored Gokurakuojoin in the afternoon of our first day on the Sasaguri Pilgrimage, and this was the highest point of the walk. From here the route descends down a different road. The previous post in the series was of the Fudo Myo statues at the main area of Kannonji.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Kantele Ogimachi Square Osaka


Originally called Ogimachi Kids Park, this modern building adjacent to Ogimachi Park in Kita Ward, Osaka, is quite distinctive.

Kantele is the nickname of Kansai Telecasting, a local TV station and broadcaster with sudios and offices in the building.

It is also called Kids Plaza after a large childrens science museum inside.

It opened in 1997 and was designed by Yasui Architects & Engineers Inc, not a household name, but designers of hundreds of major buildings in Japan and elsewhere.

I passed by while on my second day of walking the Kinki Fudo Myo Pilgrimage.

The previous post in the series is on the nearby Settsu Kokubunji Temple

Friday, April 21, 2023

Tokei Shrine Tanabe World Heritage Site

Tokei Shrine Tanabe World Heritage Site

Tokei Shrine is the main shrine of Tanabe, Wakayama, known as the gateway to the Kumano Kodo.

In 2016 the shrine was added to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range, most commonly known as Kumano Kodo.

The shrine grounds are home to many ancient Camphor trees with the oldest estimated to be 1200 years old.

The famed warrior-monk Benkei, known primarily as the sidekick of Yoshitsune, was born in Tanabe and a statue in the shrine depicts him with his father and some chickens.

According to the story, Benkei's father was asked for support from both sides of the conflict known as the Genpei War between the Taira and Minamoto clans. Unable to decide, he staged a series of cock fights between cocks with red and white feathers, representing each side of the conflict. The cocks with white feathers won and so he chose to support the Minamoto.

According to the shrine, it was founded in the 5th century, which seems very speculative to me, however the shrine rose to prominence in the 11th century as a branch of the Kumano Sanzan shrines. Pilgrims would pray here for a safe journey into the interior, and in some cases, because the pilgrimage route was at times heavily traveled by bandits and robbers, pilgrims would go no further and "worship from afar" here.

Tokei Shrine enshrines all the kami that are enshrined in the Kumano Sanzan, the three big shrines of Hongu, Shingu, and Nachi, that are the focus of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage, which is why there are so many hondens.

There are also a wide variety of sub-shrines scattered throughout the grounds. many festivals take place throughout the year including the massive  Tanabe Matsuri held in July and also a Benkei Festival.

I arrived here at the end of my 4th day walking the Saigoku Pilgrimage. The previous post in the series was Takahara to Takajirioji on the Nakahechi.