Monday, October 30, 2023

Jimyoin Betsuin Temple


The Sasaguri Pilgrimage is a miniature version of the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage known as Ohenro. All the temples on the Sasaguri Pilgrimage are within the limits of Sasaguri, a town in the mountains east of Hakata, Fukuoka, and the whole route covers about 50 kilometers, yet the walking pilgrim passes by numerous other temples that are not part of the pilgrimage.

Jimyoin Betsuin Temple is one such temple, located along a mountain road to the north of Narufuchi Dam. We visited on our way down the mountain late in the afternoon of the 1st day walking the pilgrimage after having already visited more than twenty temples.

A Betsuin is a direct branch temple, and this one seems to be a branch of a Jimyoin Temple near Nanzoin further east. It is unstaffed and there was little information though it does appear to be relatively new.

What is known is that the temple belongs to the Shingon sect and has a Daishi-do, Yakushi-do, and across the road a Kannon-do.

The main hall enshrines the honzon, a Fudo Myo, and I will cover it and the many other Fudo statues in the grounds in the next post.

Photo 3 shows, I believe, an Aizen Myo, and the statues in photo 4 very much look in what seems to be Korean-style.

Photo 5 is probably Bishamonten, one of the Four Heavenly Kings, and the one most likely found alone without the other three. I'm not sure of the dragon in photo 6, but it looks a lot like Kurikara, the dragon representing the sword of Fudo Myo, except it is usually shown wrapped around a sword.

Photo 7 is the Shichifukujin, the Seven Lucky Gods. Have no idea what photo 8 is although its meaning seems somewhat obvious. Photo 9 is the Nio guardians from the rear looking across the road to the Yakushi-do.

The previous post in this series on the Sasaguri Pilgrimage was on the small  Hagio Amida-do we visited a little higher up the mountain road.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Unzen Hells


Unzen is a hot spring resort high in the mountains of central Shimabara peninsula on the slopes of Mount Unzen. The area was made the first national park in Japan in 1934.

During the influx of foreigners in the mid 19th century, many based in nearby Nagasaki, Unzen became a popular summer retreat during the hot, humid, Japanese summers.

Within the town are numerous areas or barren, rocky areas with steam rising from vents and bubbling springs. The unmistakable smell of sulfur permeates the air.

A network of pipes transports the water to the various hotels that make up the town, and paths and bridges wander around the areas giving visitors a chance to experience them at close quarters.

These areas are often referred to as "jigoku" in Japan, a Buddhist term that is similar to the Christian hell, though there are numerous jigoku, not all of them are hot, and the time spent in them is not eternal.

During the violent suppression of Christianity in the area between 1627 and 1631, 35 Christians died while being tortured in the "hells".

One of the larger "hells" is adjacent to the main shrine of the town which was the subject of the previous post in this series.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Yasaka Shrine Ebie


Ebie is a neighborhood on the bank of the Yodo River in Osaka, west of Umeda. Route 2 crosses the river here and this was the route I was walking west.

The local shrine is a branch of the famous Yasaka Shrine. I visited in 2017 and so a large ema of a Rooster was on display.

There seem to be quite a few Yasaka shrines in this part of Osaka, though I have no idea why. There is no info on the shrine's history, though it is believed to be quite old.

There are several sub-shrines in the grounds including the Ebisu Shrine pictured above, and an Inari Shrine.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Onsen Shrine Unzen


The main shrine in the hot spring resort of Unzen high up in the mountains of the Shimabara Peninsula is now known simply as Onsen Shrine.

However, it was earlier known as Shinmengu Shrine, a reference to the four kami enshrined here known as Oshinmen, the "four faces".

The four kami enshrined here are Shirahiwake, Takehiwake, Toyohiwake, and Toyokujihine.

Thes are what the Kojiki refers to as the four faces of Tsukushi, the ancient name for Kyushu, and are said to be four brothers who rules over the island. Quite probably they were four distinct tribes as Takehiwake ruled over the Kumaso who fought against the Yamato and probably became the Hayato.

There are 17 branch Onsen/Shinme shrines scattered across the Shimabara Peninsula.

The shrine has recently become known as a "powaa spot" because of a pair of persimmon trees growing together that are said to symbolise romantic pairing.

The previous post was on Ryushoji Temple, the primary reason I was in the area.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Kozanji Temple Tanabe


Kozanji is a popular temple complex with large cemetery and grounds in Tanabe, Wakayama.

It is said to have been founded by Kobo Daishi, though another source suggests it was founded much earlier during the time of Shotoku Taishi.

The Tahoto, Shingon-style pagoda, has become the symbol of the temple. It was built in 1816 and is dedicated to Prince Shotoku.

Other buildings include 2 Yakushi-do's, a Daishi-do, a Fudo-do, and a Kannon-do.

During the Warring States Period, in the late 17th century the temple was destroyed during Hideyoshi's invasion of the area, but was rebuilt later and in the Edo Period changed its name to Kozanji.

It was pouring with rain when I visited on my way out of Tanabe heading north along the Kumano Kodo towards Osaka on the 5th day of my walk along the Saigoku Pilgrimage.

Many people visit Kozanji to pay respect at the grave of Ueshiba Morihei (1883-1969), a locally-born  man who is known as the founder of the martial art called Aikido.

With millions of practitioners in more than 140 countries world-wide, some make the pilgrimage to his grave here.

Another of Tanabe's famous sons buried here is Munakata Kumagusu, an eccentric scientist who is gaining in notoriety and is sometimes referred to as the first environmentalist in Japan.

As well as being the site of his grave, the grounds of the temple were a place he spent a lot of time collecting specimens, and where it is believed his campaign against the government program of shrine closures took form.

The previous post in this series on the Saigoku Pilgrimage was the former residence of Minakata Kumagusu.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Ryushoji Temple 64 Kyushu Pilgrimage


Ryushoji, the 64th temple on the 108 temple Shingon Pilgrimage around Kyushu, is  located just off the main road that crosses over the Shimabara Peninsula just south of Unzen Mountain.

The temple is high enough up the lower slopes of the mountain to have great views down and over the Ariake Sea to Kumamoto.

The temple is visible from some distance because of the huge, brightly colored statues of Fudo Myo standing more than 13 meters tall.

At its base are another couple of brightly-painted Fudo statues.

When I first visited in 2014 the newly built main hall was still behind scaffolding and blue tarps, but it opened in 2015. I revisited a few years later while walking the Kyushu Fudo Myo Pilgrimage.

The temple suffered no damage during the eruptions of the 1990's, though it did receive a lot of ash and the road which heads on up to Unzen Hot Springs was closed for a while.

The honzon is a Dainichi Nyorai, but I can find no other information or dates for the temple.

The previous post in this series chronicling day 62 of my walk along the pilgrimage was on the buried houses of the Unzen disaster.