Friday, September 29, 2023

Kojiro-kuji Samurai District


Kunimi Town on the Ariake Sea coast in the northern part of the Shimbara Peninsula is home to a small, little-known, samurai district registered as a Historic Preservation District.

Samurai districts tended mostly to be adjacent to castles, but sometimes, like here, they were established as kind of fortified villages some distance from the castle town. In Kyushu, the ones at Kaseda and at Chiran were quite similar.

This one belonged to the Nabeshima Clan whose headquarters were quite a distance away in Saga. Here in Kujiro they established a jinya , a mansion, in the mid Edo Period near where a castle had stood until being demolished in the early Edo Period.

The Nabeshima mansion is an impressive property which I will cover in the next post. There was little in the way of interesting architecture other than the mansion.

What does remain, and what was deemed worthy of preserving, was the layout of the streets with their canals, stone walls, and hedges. Interestingly all the power cables in the area had been buried which helped in imaging how it looked centuries ago. There is a local history museum nearby where you can see displays connected to the area and pick up a map.

The previous post on this series on day 61 of my Kyushu Pilgrimage was on the two shrines at the castle site on the hill behind the samurai district.

Other than the two samurai districts mentioned above, on this pilgrimage, I also visited samurai districts in the castle town of Kitsuki and the castle town of Obi.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Hanta-ji Temple 50 Shikoku Pilgrimage


Just 1.6 kilometers from temple 49, Jodoji, temple 50, Hanta-ji is located on the hillside to the east of southern Matsuyama City.

Said to have been founded around 750 by Gyoki who is also said to have carved the honzon, a small Yakushi Nyorai.

Later Kobo Daishi visited and changed the name to Hantaji.

In the late 13th century Ippen Shonin studied here and later went on to found the Jishu sect.

The ceiling of the bell tower is decorated with paintings depicting Chinese scenes which I believe represent the 24 Paragons of Filial Piety.

The temple is probably most well known for its statue of Kangiten housed in the Shotendo which is fronted by a torii.

The crossed daikon is one symbol connected to Kangiten. It is said to represent marital harmony, one of the many wishes that Kangiten is known for.

Kangiten, like so many of the deities in Japan, has a long and complex history and identities but is closely connected to the Hindu deity Ganesh.

The statue of Kangiten was donated by Ietsuna, the 4th Tokugawa Shogun.

From the late 14th century the temple prospered due to a connection with the imperial temple of Sennyuji in Kyoto and grew to include over 100 branch temples.

The previous temple on the Shikoku Ohenro Pilgrimage was Jodoji, number 49.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Kojiro Shrine


Kojiro is located on the north coast of the Shimbara Peninsula in Nagasaki, and I visited after crossing Isahaya Bay on the modern dyke.

On the hilltop overlooking the small town are a pair of shrines, Kojiro Shrine and an Inari Shrine.

The Inari shrine was founded in 1757. The Kojiro shrine was probably founded in the early 17th century as it stands at the spot where Tsurukame Castle's main tower stood.

Tsurukame Csstle measured 350 meters by 450 meters and was considered impregnable by attacking forces.

It was demolished when the daimyo were forced to have only one castle per domain.

I believe Kojiro shrine enshrines a member of the Nabeshima Clan who were given the domain, and also Sugawara Michizane. There is not one single piece of the castle to be seen, though there is a samurai district down below where I was headed next.

The previous post was on the Isahaya Bay Dyke.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Chikurin-in Temple Gunpoen Garden


The Gunpoen Garden at Chikurin-in Temple in Yoshino is, along with one of the gardens at Taimadera and the one at Jikoin, classed as one of the Three Great Gardens of Yamato, and while having an intriguing history is hardly known at all.

Yoshino, in the mountains of southern Nara, is and was a centre of Shugendo, the mountain-worshipping cult, but is now most famous for its cherry blossoms, although the Shugendo sites are part of a World Heritage Site.

The small temple of Chikurin-in is now somewhat overshadowed by its lodgings facility, technically a Shukubo, but in essence a ryokan.

Historically the temple was a lodging for Shugendo pilgrims, and it is said many very famous guests have stayed here, including Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Emperor Hirohito.

The temple claims to have been founded by Prince Shotoku which would mean late 6th or early 7th century and it was called  Chinzan Dera. A couple of centuries later Kukai visited and changed its name to Josen-ji.

In 1385 it was renamed Chikurin-in, and in the late 16th century was moved to its current location.

The garden, a stroll-type with a large pond, is said to have been originally designed by Sen no Rikyu, probably the most famous tea master of all, although one of his most important students, the renowned general Yusai Hosokawa, is thought to have done further work on the garden.

What is often mentioned in reference to the garden here is that several cherry trees play a prominent part in the design and that this is quite rare in standard Japanese garden design. When I visited in November, the cherry trees were bare but a few maples were in full colour.

A path leads up to high ground above the garden where there is an archery ground and great views over the Yoshino mountains, the grand Kinpusenji Temple, and the rest of the  town.

The temple was closed down in 1874 with the shiunbutsu bunri edicts but re-opened later as a Tendai sect temple. In 1948 it became a Shingon temple.

Chikurin-in is situated at roughly the boundary between the Naka Senbon area and the Kami Senbon area.

I'm sure that when the cherries are blossoming in the late Spring then the garden is delightful, but a glorious Autumn day was just fine for me. I was the only person in the garden.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Unzen Tara Sea Line


The Unzen Tara Sea Line is a 7 kilometer long road that runs straight across Isahaya Bay on top of a dike.

The Isahaya Bay opens onto the Ariake Sea in Kyushu and separates the Shimbara Peninsula, formed by the volcano Mount Unzen, from the "almost" peninsula formed by the volcanic Mount Taradake to the north.

The dike was built as part of a major "reclamation" project with the bay behind the dike gradually being filled in to creat rice paddies.

Not unsurprisingly this turns out to be an economic and ecological disaster and is covered extensively in Ale Kerr's book "Dogs and Demons"

About halfway across is a rest area where you can get good views looking into the bay and out into the sea as well as up and down the road.

I was walking across to the Shimbara Peninsula on day 61 of my first Kyushu Pilgrimage. The previous post in this series was an overview of day 60

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Kuniga Coast


The Kuniga Coast is a picturesque piece of coastline on Nishinoshima Island in the Oki Island group in the Sea of Japan off of Shimane.

The Oki Islands were made a Unesco Global Geopark and are one of my favorite places to visit in Japan.

The Kuniga coast includes cliffs, rock spires and formations, and the Tsutenkyo Arch.

These shots were taken from a distance as we headed to the north coast of the island. later I will post more photos when we went back and explored the area on foot.

The previous post in this series on the Oki Islands was on the horses and cattle roaming free across the island.