Monday, July 31, 2023

Kanko Maru


The Kanko Maru was Japan's first modern warship. Following the forced opening of Japan by Perry's Black Ships the Shogunate realized they needed to modernize their defenses and asked their friends the Dutch for help. In 1855 they gave them one of their steamships operating in the Dutch East Indies. It was built in 1853 and was a three-masted schooner with an auxiliary steam engine powering side paddles.

It was scrapped in 1879 but a faithful replica was built from the original plans in 1987. She operated as a tourist boat out of Huis Ten Bosch, the Holland-themed amusement park near Sasebo, Nagasaki. Now she operates out of different ports around Japan. She has a displacement of 400 tons and is 66 meters in length. The original carried 6 cannons.

She was tied up in Nagasaki on the day I visited as part of my walk around Kyushu on the Kyushu Pilgrimage. The previous post was on the nearby  Dragon Promenade.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Misosogi Shrine Kurotsuchi


There are many Misosogi shrines in the Kunisaki Peninsula area, and I recently learned that it was a name given to Rokusho shrines in early Meiji when Buddhism and Shinto were artificially separated.

Not all Rokusho shrines changed their names, and, like Misosogi, there are still many Rokusho shrines in the area.

This is because they are protective shrines for Rokugo Manzan, the unique mountain religion based on a mix of Usa Hachiman and Tendai Buddhism.

Many of these shrines are built into cliff faces.

This one was the former site of Mudo-ji Temple which was moved about 1.5 kilometers upstream at some point in the past and which I had visited earlier.

It was one of ten major pilgrimage temples in the central part of the peninsula and is known now for its wonderful collection of Heian-Period statues.

There was no info at the shrine but I am going to presume that, historically at least, the enshrined kami is Rokugo Gongen.

This was the second day of my walk along the Kyushu Fudo Myo Pilgrimage in which the first few days I followed the old Kunisaki Pilgrimage. The previous post was on the nearby Tsubakido Temple.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Dragon Promenade Nagasaki


Dragon Promenade is a kind of urban park on the roof of a utilitarian building on the quayside in downtown Nagasaki.

The building is a long, narrow, concrete box that operates as a warehouse, and above it is a strange structure with a huge orange sphere at one end.

The south side of the superstructure is dark green and composed of steel plate in a somewhat "stealth" kind of design like found on stealth ships and planes.

The whole structure is meant, I believe, to represent a dragon, specifically the dragon used in the Kunchi Festival here in Nagasaki. The orange sphere represents the head.

It has a wooden flooring like a boardwalk, and is semi covered. I believe events are sometimes held here, though whenever I have visited it was empty.

It has a somewhat dilapidated feel to it and I believe is now closed after dark.

It does, however, offer opportunities for the kind of architectural photos I like to take.

It was built in 1998 and architects Michael Rotondi and Clark Stevens are the architects.

I was here on day 60 of my first  Kyushu walk, a kind of a day off as I felt a day in the city would be more comfortable than walking in the rain down the coast.

The previous post was a Day 59 overview.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Yamata no Orochi


Yamata no Orochi is a mythical serpent with 8 heads that appears in the Izumo cycle of ancient Japanese myths set in the time before the descent of imperial lineage.

In the myth, Susano defeats the serpent and marries a local princess who was to be sacrificed to the serpent, and so and begins the rise of Izumo culture that predates and later contributed to Yamato culture.

All these photos are of a modern sculpture depicting Orochi outside the Okuizumo Tatara Sword Museum, in Yokota, Shimane. Orochi appears everywhere throughout Izumo, on draincovers and giving its name to many products, including the tourist train I took to get here.

Yokota is on the River Hi which runs through Okuizumo and it is generally held that the 8-headed serpent refers to the 8 tributaries of the river that is at times violent and dangerous. Some commentators suggest that Orochi represents a tribe that fought the Izumo, but so much evidence suggests it was the river. Near here is the shrine for Kushinada, the princess saved from the serpent, and downstream are shrines to her parents. Nearby also is one of the sites said to be where Susano "descended", and spots downstream said to be Orochi's nests are found in narrow gorges where the river would have been particularly dangerous.

The idea of sacrificing humans to a river is fairly widespread around the world as well as here in Japan. I found a riverbank monument to a local lord who was praised by locals when he switched from burying live humans in the river bank to burying clay figures, and stories of human sacrifice to protect new bridges and castle walls are fairly common.

The museum here is on the ancient method of making iron and swords, and Okuizumo was a major centre. In the Orochi myth Susano discovers a sword in the tail of the dead serpent and this went on to be one of the Three Imperial Regalia.

Tatara, a kind of forge used to make iron from iron sand, the method used in Japan, was said to be introduced from mainland Asia, and once again the myths suggest that it was Susano who brought the technology over from Korea. A shrine south of here near Izumo Taisha attest to this.

later I will post on the fascinating history of iron and swordmaking on display in the museum, but in the meantime you may enjoy a wild and dramatic display of Orochi in videos of our local kagura.

The previous post in this series exploring Okuizumo was the Yokota Folk Museum.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Around Kashima Day 59 Kyushu Pilgrimage


A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 59 Kashima to Konagai
Monday February 17th 2014

Rain is in the forecast for today so I head off as soon as it is light hoping to minimize the amount of time I have to spend walking in the rain. I find the first pilgrimage temple of the day easily enough on a main road to the south of the town. Rengo-in, temple number 63, is quite a small temple but the main hall has a thatched roof. Though it's early the priests wife is out cleaning and she invites me behind the main building to a newish concrete “treasure house” which she unlocks and lets me in. Inside is arranged as an altar with a group of obviously old statues, the large central one dating from the 12th Century.

Temple 62, Tanjo-in is a few kilometers down the same main road though I miss it first time and have to backtrack as the rear of the temple complex is on the main road, the entrance being “behind” and I didn't see it. Tanjo-in is much larger with quite a few low buildings with gardens between, though they seem somewhat unkempt. There is no-one around so I can't see inside. The main road continues east towards the Ariake Sea and my route heads down the coast towards Nagasaki, but first I make a detour.


5 kilometers south is Yutoku Inari Shrine, one of the three top Inari shrines in Japan and though it will be a 10k detour I can't really be this close and not visit. Part way down the road my eye catches a rather unusual stone gate so I head over to investigate and find an information board. This is Fumyo-ji, a quite large temple with extensive grounds and so I head in to explore. The path does two 90 degree turns and passes by two ponds before the bell gate comes into view. It looks like no-one has done any upkeep in years. The whole place looks and feels abandoned. Many temples and shrines, especially in rural areas, are no longer inhabited and look deserted, but there are usually signs that someone comes in at times and does some upkeep, but here it truly feels as if no-one has been here in ages. It must have been grand in its day. Apparently, it was built by the local daimyo as a family temple and is a copy of manpuku-ji, the first Obaku Zen temple in Kyoto. I poke around but there is little to see except a large hanging wooden fish, a traditional temple bell. Back on the road towards Yutoku Inari and there is still none of the forecast rain.

As I get closer to the shrine the valley narrows and more signs of tourism appear, and the final approach is along a narrow lane lined with shops selling tourist souvenirs much the same as at any other major shrine or temple. The shrine itself is quite impressive. The main building is perched about 5 or 6 storeys off the ground, supported by a lattice of concrete though it must originally have been wood similar to the famous Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. From the top the view over the valley shows a series of paths and viewing platforms on the opposite side that would, I think, offer spectacular views of the vermillion shrine against the green mountainside. Pleased that it still hasn't started raining I run around and explore and take lots of photos. Then its back up the road the way I have just come from.  

Once back at the main road I am in Hizenhama, home to a Historic Preservation District of old buildings.There are a bunch of sake breweries and apparently sake tours are popular. Its quite nice to see historic areas not gentrified and made twee like in Kyoto or Kurashiki. Exploring down a side alley I find a“samurai” house. Large and thatched, it must have been a high-ranked samurai. There is free entrance so I pop in for a look-see. On the other side of the river is an area of lower class houses and there is a group of three very small homes that have been renovated. It is nice to see something that is not of the upper classes as most historic buildings are. I finally reach the coast and start to head south. I had walked up the coast on the opposite shore, but it is not visible in the haze. The water is mirror flat and poles stick out of the water holding nets. Finally the threatened rain begins and I press on quickly. The rain increases. The forecast for tomorrow is heavy rain all day so I decide to hop on a train into Nagasaki as I figure the city will be more comfortable on a rainy day than walking down the coast. A few kilometers before I reach the station at Konagai I pass into Nagasaki Prefecture, though I didn't notice it with my head down.

A summary of the previous day walking around Kyushu on the Kyushu Pilgrimage, Day 58 Takeo Onsen to Kashima.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Jodoji Temple 49 Ohenro Shikoku Pilgrimage


Jodoji Temple is just a couple of kilometers from temple 48, Sairinji, as the pilgrimage route approaches Matsuyama City centre from the south. It is situated at the base of some hills.

To the right of the main hall is the obligatory Daishi-do, but to the left stand an Amida-do and an Aizen-do.

There is a fine pair of Nio in the gate, though they are missing their eyes, said to have been stolen.

The temple was founded in the early 8th century. There is some confusion as some sources say it was a monk named Emyo who founded it, whereas other sources claim Gyoki. Gyoki is climed to be the carver of the honzon, a Shaka Nyorai.

Kobo Daishi came here in the 9th century and rebuilt the temple and converted it to Shingon.

In the middle of the 10th century a famous, itinerant, philanthropist monk, Kuya Shonin, spent three years here helping the local people. Before he left he carved a statue of himself that is now an Important Cultural Property.

In the late 12th century Yoritomo Minamoto prayed here and funded some reconstruction of the temple. The temple propspered and at one point controlled more than 60 sub-temples.

In the early 15th century much was burned down and was later restored by the local Kono Clan.

The main hall, with Ming features, was built at this time though was dismantled and extensively repaired and renovated in 1965.

A graveyard is set among the trees and bamboo on the hillside behind the temple and a path takes you up to an observation platfrom with some far-reaching views.

The previous temple was number 48 Sairinji.