Sunday, May 28, 2023

A Stroll Though Omori


Omori is a major part of the Iwami Ginzan World Heritage Sites in the mountains of western Shimane. Before it became a World Heritage Site it had been listed as a Preservation District because so many historical buildings were still extant.

It is a 40 minute drive from my home, and for many years a good friend lived in the town so I have spent a lot of time there.

This was the administrative headquarters for the silver mining operation. This is where the samurai who controlled the mine lived and worked. It was also home to the many merchants and other trades, but it was not the home of the actual miners. They lived in hovels up in the mountains at the actual mines.

It is actually one of the better preservation districts because it is so extensive and not marred by aboveground powerlines. There are a couple of shops and places to eat but by and large, it is not so very commercialized.

On this visit I was on the 4th day of my walk along the Iwami Mandala Kannon Pilgrimage and there was a small a cluster of temples here. Historically it was the starting point for the pilgrimage, but the modern version follows a different route and has a little different set of temples. Recently discovered documents at an old samurai home near my house also show another Kannon pilgrimage just covering the territory of the silver mine and not the whole of the Iwami Province.

There are a couple of homes open to the public, and an enormous number of temples, necessary for the many funerals that resulted from the brutal life of a being a miner, though many have closed down now.

The previous post in this series on the Iwami Kannon Pilgrimage was Kanzeonji Temple in the lower part of town. Two earlier posts on the preservation district of Omori, and the facades of the preservation district, if you are interested.

This final photo is a great example of kote-e, plaster relief, found on the "treasure house" of one of the temples.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Ishizushi Shrine Nankoku


Ishizuchi Shrine is located in Nankoku near the southern coast of Kochi in Shikoku. I stopped in while walking the Shikoku Pilgrimage between temples 31 Chikurinji, and 32 Zenjibuji.

In the 9th Century the shrine was added to the Engi Shiki, a government document that listed shrines that received offerings from the imperial government.

Behind it is a small shrine built at the mouth to a small cave called Ishido. Ishido Shrine enshrines Zao Gongen, the primary deity of Shugendo mountain worship. The famous Ishizuchi mountain and shrine in northern Shikoku, a Shugendo centre,  is said to be the okunoin.

The entrance to the cave is so small that humans have not ventured inside, but a local story tells of a dog, conveniently with a wooden nametag, chased a rabbit into the cave and seven days later the dog and rabbits corpses were found in a cave far across on the other side of the island suggesting that the cave system extends vast distances.

The three primary kami enshrined here are Ishitsushi no kami, Akatsushi no kami, and Soktsushi no kami. They are now read in the same way as the kami of the famous Ishizuchi Shrine, ut a source I consult a lot regarding Engi Shiki shrines suggest that in earlier times they were read as the three kami enshrined in Sumiyoshi Shrine. Different written sources "read" names in different ways and so give different meanings as do/did different commentators throughout history. The kami now said to be enshrined in many shrines are different from those in historical times,with most shrines taking the Meiji era readings and classifications as the "established" ones.

The previous post in this series that looks at the many sites and sights found between the temples of the Ohenro Pilgrimage was the Makino Botanical Gardens.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Worldly Benefits at Tsubakido Temple


There is a cluster of three related temples called Tsubakido in a small side valley in the mountains of the Kunisaki Peninsula, and they are very popular for the practice of a fundamental aspect of Japanese religious activity called genze riyaku, which translates as praying for benefits in this world rather than for any future world, paradise, heaven etc.

Benefits would include all kinds of success, in health, business, school, sports, love, childbirth, etc etc, as well as protection from disasters and misfortune like disease, traffic safety, fire, angry ghosts and demons, etc.

Many temples, and shrines, specialize in particular benefits, and some have a wide range of deities, altars, statues, etc dedicated to many different benefits. Tsubakido is one such temple.

According to the temple's origin story, Kobo Daishi himself visited this spot after returning from China. He struck the ground inside the small cave that now constitutes the okunoin of the temple, with his staff made of camelia wood and the sacred spring burst forth.

The water is considered healing water and bottles of it can be purchased and taken away. Piles of canes, casts, splints, braces, etc. attest to the miraculous healings that have taken place. Most curious are collections of black hair, said to be more than a thousand, that have been left by people healed by the waters.

There are numerous Kannons enshrined here, including a cancer-cutting Kannon, a Kannon for "mercy to all creatures", pictured at the bottom of this post, a kind of Japanese-Buddhist St, Francis, as well as Kannons for matchmaking, safe childbirth, and so on.

Outside, next to the bell tower is a newer Kannon, one that slows down the effects of senility..... a Kannon that is becoming more widespread as Japan ages rapidly.

As well as Kannon, the other very, very popular bodhisattva in Japan is Jizo, of which Tsubakido has many examples including the modern Mizuko Jizo, and an Osasuri Jizo that you rub on the part of the statues that you desire healing for your own body.

There is a branch of Fushimi Inari Shrine which is for prayers for business success. There are a couple of historical examples of onigawara roof tiles that are used to protect the temple buildings from evil.

Shamoji, the flat wooden spoons or rice scoops are used, like ema, to write prayers upon. This seems to have derived from an early 20th-century practice of praying for military victory.

The temple (s) are part of several pilgrimages, though not part of the Kyushu Fudo Myo Pilgrimage that I was on my second day of. I was also following the Minemichi Long Trail which roughly follows the old yamabushi pilgrimage route around the peninsula.

Worldly benefits temples like Tsubakido are usually very festive and colourful and often offer a staggering number of statues to experience. I suspect they are not hard up for money.

The previous post in the series on my walk around Kyushu on the Kyushu Fudo Myo Pilgrimage was devoted to the many statues of Fudo Myo found here at Tsubakido.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Yokota Folk Museum


Sometimes referred to as a folklore museum, sometimes a local history museum, the Yokota  Museum is housed in a traditional thatched farmhouse that was moved to its current location and re-assembled.

It is located in the south of Yokota, a small town in the Chugoku Mountains of Okuizumo in Shimane.

The farmhouse was originally built in the very early 20th century, but was built in the traditional way. It now has glass windows.

It belonged to a relatively wealthy land-owning farmer and has 4 large tatami rooms.

Outside is a small Izumo-style garden.

The interior of the house is decorated in traditional style, and various everyday items, including clothing, is on display and the kitchen area has both a kamado, traditional cooking stove, and an irori, sunken hearth. The room is also filled with traditional utensils.

In the ancillary building are lots of traditional farming equipment, tools, machines, and clothing.

There are occasional workshops on making a varirty of things out of straw. While I visited there were no staff on hand to explain anything, and the signage was only in Japanese.

Entry is free, and while it might not be worth making a journey just to see it, if you are in the area visiting some of the other attractions, it is worth checking out.

The previous post in this series exploring the remote Okuizumo region was Inada Shrine and the Myth of Princess Kushinada. For a post on another traditional farmhouse, check Nagaoka Family Farmhouse.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Sairinji Temple 48 Shikoku Ohenro Pilgrimage


If you are walking the Ohenro pilgrimage in a clockwise direction, like most, then before you reach temple 48, Sairinji, you pass by the okunoin of the temple built in a nearby pond. Okunoin, or "inner shrine" are very often located in more remote, harder-to-access places, often the original location of the temple before a more accessible structure is built lower down the mountain. In this case, the okunoin marks the spot where Kobo Daishi struck the ground with his staff to create a spring, something said to have happened on countless occasions.

Jonofuchi park surrounds the pond and is a popular spot. The pond has very clear water and many large koi can be seen. Sairinji Temple is about 300 meters to the NE.

Originally founded by Gyoki in 741, at that time it was located some distance away in the mountains to the northeast of the current location. When Kobo Daishi visited he arranged to have it moved to its current location.

The temple burned down in the late 17th century and rebuilding began in 1700. The temple received support from the ruling Matsuyama Clan with more major rebuilding in the late Edo Period. The current Daishido was rebuilt in 2008.

The honzon, said to be carved by Gyoki, is an 11-faced kannon. It is never shown to the public but is said to be placed backwards so some people go to the rear of the hall to offer prayers.

It is not a large temple but has a small garden and also a small koi pond. The temple's full name is Seiryuzan Anyoin Sairinji, and it belongs to the Buzan school of Shingon.

The previous temple was Monjuin, an "extra" temple. Temple 47 was Yasakiji.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Takeo Onsen to Kashima. Day 58 Kyushu Pilgrimage


Sunday February 16th 2014

I head off in the dark as I have a long distance to cover before I reach the room I've booked in Kashima tonight. On the top of a hill to the south of the town I come to my first port of call, the Saga Prefecture Space & Science Museum. I have heard that it is quite good, but I am far too early to be able to go inside, and anyway, it is the architecture that interests me. Like so many of these provincial museums, the architects have indulged themselves and created a modernist collage of protruding shapes and geometric solids reminiscent of a Sci-Fi movie-rendered space structure, freed from gravity. I wander around and get some good shots from all angles before heading off.

 It's good to be off the main roads as I cut across the hills. No commercial properties at all, and very little traffic. I feel much more comfortable as this is the kind of country where I do most of my walking. I notice that a lot of fields have wheat growing in them. I do pass a huge quarry.

As usual, I stop in at the local shrines I pass. At one of them, Uchida Tenmangu, a ceremony is about to take place so I hang back a little. There is a priest and about 8 men, all of them dressed in everyday clothes, so they are not village “elders”. I have attended many village shrine ceremonies over the years, and it is always just men. I have yet to see a woman at such an event. A later shrine was Kifune Shrine in Kawanobori.

As I get close to Ureshino I reach a bigger road and pass under an expressway. I find the place I have been eagerly anticipating, the Ureshino Hihokan, which translates as“Museum of Hidden Treasures”, a euphemism for sex museum. It would be hard to know what it was if you didn't read Japanese, as there was not a lot of signage, the most visible thing being a large golden statue of the Buddhist deity Kannon (pictured in the 3rd photo) flanked by a pair of Nio which made the building appear to be some sort of religious structure. There used to be a lot more of these places, many, like this one, in hot spring resorts, but they are disappearing. This one will be closing next month so I was glad of the opportunity to visit. 

A few minutes after leaving the Hihokan I leave the main road and take a smaller road towards the coast. All morning I had been climbing slightly, but now the road starts to descend. I notice a lot of houses have thatched roofs, rather the thatched roofs that have been covered over with tin. I am not sure when they started to do that, and you will also sometimes see a thatched roof that has been covered in tile. I do see a couple with the thatch uncovered, and one is a very large house with relatively new thatch.


At the junction in the road that leads to Yoshida the bus stop is in the shape of a tea pot. Yoshida is known for its ceramics. Further down the road I stop in at a large shrine with interesting features and history.

As I reach the coastal plain I can see Kashima ahead, a decent-sized town by the look of it. There are two pilgrimage temples nearby as well as some other sites I want to see but the sun is low in the sky so I will leave them till tomorrow. My ryokan is south of the busy town centre, on the edge of the old town so I look for a supermarket to stock up on provisions as I have booked a room with no meals.

This final pic is of a piece of kote-e, plaster-relief near my ryokan in Kashima.

Details of the previous day of this walk can be found in Saga to Takeo Onsen Day 57