Friday, June 30, 2023

Meimei-an Teahouse


Meimei-an is an Edo Period teahouse in Matsue, Shimane, with connections to Matsudaira Fumai, the famous Tea Ceremony Master who was Daimyo of the Matsue Domain and whose castle can be seen from the teahouse.

It was built in 1779 and originally stood nearby in the grounds of the Arisawa Family, high-ranking vassals of the domain. Fumai was instrumental in bringing Tea Ceremony culture to his domain and vassals and he was a frequent visitor to Meimei-an.

It was dismantled and rebuilt in Tokyo in the Meiji Period but later came back to Matsue where it moved several times before its current location where it was restored in 1966.

It is the type of teahouse styled after a rustic mountain hut that was popularized by the great Tea Master Sen no Rikyu.

It is not possible to enter Meimei-an, but can be looked into through open doors and screens.

Immediately adjacent to Meomei-an is the Akayama Tea Ceremony Hall used as a site for various Tea Ceremony groups but also open to the public and where you can have a green tea with sweets while enjoying the view of Meimei-an.

I will cover the gardens around Meimei-an in the next post. Fumai Matsudaira made Matsue one of the three main tea ceremony centres of Japan and there are numerous other sites around the town connected to him and the tea ceremony.

In the nearby Matsue History Museum is a reconstruction of another Teahouse favored by Fumai as well as displays on him and the tea ceremony. Not far from the castle is Gesshoji Temple, the Matsudaira family temple where they were buried. It also has a collection of historic tea ceremony utensils owned by Fumai, as well as one of his favorite gardens.

The previous post in this series exploring Matsue was the samurai mansion just below Meimei-an.

The next post is on the roji, the garden of the teahouse.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Tanjo-in Temple 62 Kyushu Pilgrimage


Tanjo means "birth" in Japanese, and Tanjo-in Temple in Kashima, Saga is built on the spot where Kakuban, known posthumously as Kogyo Daishi, was born in 1095.

The temple was founded in 1405 at the request of the Shogun Yoshimitsu. Nearby is Rengon-in, a temple connected to where Kakuban first studied the Dharma as a child.

At the end of the 16th century, the temple was destroyed during the Warring States Period. At the end of the 17th century, the local Daimyo of the Nabeshima clan tried unsuccessfully to revive the temple.

In 1913 a descendant of the Nabeshima and influential local people succeeded in getting the temple rebuilt. The grounds are quite large and planted with a wide variety of flowering shrubs and trees including Cherry, Wisteria, Azalea, etc.

The honzon is a Fudo Myoo and it has a statue of Kakuban in front. The Fudo came from Negoro-ji Temple in Wakayama which is where Kakuban died and has his tomb.

He is credited with being a reformer of Shingon and his disciple officially set up a "new" branch called Shingi. For a while he controlled Koyasan. He also was a cause of conflict which is why he left Koyasan for Negoro-ji.

The Kondo, built in 1929, enshrines a statue of Kakuban. Tanjo-ji has a reputation as a place to pray for safe childbirth.

It is number 62 on the 108 temple Shingon Kyushu Pilgrimage, and I visited on the 59th day of my walk. A few minutes earlier I had visited Rengon-in, number 63.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Wakimachi Historic Preservation District


Wakimachi is located on the north bank of the Yoshino River in the interior of Shikoku. It is now part of Mima City in Tokushima, the modern name for what was Sanuki Province.

This part of Shikoku became renowned for producing the highest quality indigo in Japan and the trade in indigo made many merchants rich.

Wakimachi established itself as the main trading centre of the area and the old main street of the town was lined with residences and stores of the wealthiest of the merchants.

Enough of the traditional architecture remains so that it is registered as a traditional architecture preservation district, and unlike many such districts, all the above grounds power lines have been buried to give the visitor a more authentic experience.

One of the architectural features that is commonly mentioned in the literature about Wakimachi is udatsu, which are the extensions protruding out from the side of the houses above the ground floor.

Made of plastered earth, their function is to stop fire from spreading from one structure to the next, a kind of firebreak. Udatsu can be seen in many traditional buildings, but here in Wakimachi the merchants competed with each other to build more and more elaborate and grand udatsu as a kind of ostentatious one-upmanship.

Some of the historic buildings on the street are private homes, and some are empty. There are a few gift shops and cafes, and one, the former Yoshida Family Residence, is open to the public as a local history museum.

Built in 1792, the 5 buildings that make up this former indigo merchants property display a slice of historic life and background information on the indigo trade. A ticket to the Yoshida House includes entry to the nearby wooden theatre Odeonza.

The nearest train station to Wakimachi is Anabuki Station, several miles away on the other side of the river, so Wakimachi is not so easy to get to, consequently, it is in no danger of being overcrowded or over-commercialized like some of the more well-known preservation districts.

As mentioned, a historic theatre is located at one end of the street, and a short walk away is a delightful, restored farmhouse worth a visit.

A few miles upstream is the historic Teramachi district with some nice temples that I will cover in the next post in this series documenting the third day of my walk along the Shikoku Fudo Myo Pilgrimage.

The previous Preservation District I covered was the Joto District of Tsuyama.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Rengon-in Temple 63 Kyushu Pilgrimage


Number 63 on the 108 temple Kyushu Pilgrimage is Rengon-in located in Kashima on the Ariake Sea in Saga.

It was originally founded in the late 8th Century and later became part of a large monastic complex named Kongosho-in that had a connection with Kakuban, an important priest in Shingon who was born nearby.

Kongosho-in was a powerful temple with many sub-temples but it was destroyed during the Warring States Period of the 16th Century. Only Rengon-in survived and is believed to currently occupy the site  of the Kondo of Kongosho-in.

The Treasure House contains three statues from the Heian Period that are registered as National Important Cultural Properties, one level below National Treasure. The two Yakushi and one Amida statues are prized as rare examples of Jocho-style sculptures.

Jocho was a sculptor of the late Heian Period who popularized the technique of making sculptures out of several pieces of wood. This enabled more assistants to work. He also standardized proportions, again making production more efficient. His style was dominant for more than a century, though not so many pieces remain.

When I visited the temple was thatched but a few years ago it was completely rebuilt and now looks like any other small temple. I visited in the early morning of my 59th day walking the Kyushu Pilgrimage.

The previous post was an overview of day 58.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Kinosaki Onsen


Kinosaki Onsen is a very popular hot spring resort located near the Sea of Japan Coast in the north of Hyogo;

Part of its popularity lies, I think, with the fact that it is only a couple of hours by express train from Kyoto and Osaka, and is, therefore, relatively easy to access.

For about a kilometer the banks of the river in the narrow valley are lined with Ryokan, traditional guesthouses, and while these all have their own hot-spring baths fed by the same hot water, there are seven public baths of different sizes throughout the town.

Visiting these seven public baths is suggested as the main cultural activity of the town. Putting on traditional yukata and wearing geta, the noisy wooden clogs, you walk around in the daytime and evening from bath to bath watching all the other visitors doing the same.

Of course, along with sitting in hot water, eating local delicacies is another of the cultural traditions associated with hot springs. In Kinosaki, being close to the sea, seafood is plentiful and in winter Snow Crabs are very evident.(photo 4). Local beef is also touted as a delicay.

Photo 2, above, is a display at the town train station featuring geta from each of the ryokan in the town.  Photo 10, below, shows Mandara-yu, one of the 7 public baths.

If eating and bathing is not quite enough for you, then Kinosaki does have some other attractions worth a visit that I will cover in future posts. In the meantime, here is something that I haven't seen covered in any of the numerous online guides to Kinosaki, a delightful karesansui garden

The previous post in the series exploring Toyooka in Hyogo was the Takuan Temple in Izushi.