Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Sakurai Family Samurai Mansion


The Sakurai were a samurai family who controlled iron production in an area of Okuizumo in the Chugoku Mountains of Shimane.

Originally from what is now Hiroshima, the family moved here in 1644 from the Kabe district and so were known locally as Kabeya.

Just below the old manor is a modern museum called Kabeya Shuseikan displaying artifacts from the family history.

The main house was built in 1738. The main residence sometimes served as a honjin, a guesthouse for when the Daimyo was traveling in the area

The most notable feature of the manor is the garden, and that will get a full post next....

There were several other samurai families controlling iron production in the region, probably the most important iron-producing region in Japan.

Down the mountains, the Itohara Family Residence is another big samurai manor with a garden and also a museum devoted to tatara iron making.

Near to the Sakurai Residence is more modern version of a tatara forge, and in the town of Yokota is a big museum devoted to tatara and samurai swords

Monday, January 29, 2024

Shrines of Day 66


While walking around the countryside near Sasebo in Nagasaki on the 66th day of my walk along the Kyushu pilgrimage I stopped in at any shrines that I passed. At the start of the day I visited a largish Sumiyoshi shrine in Haiki, and a little later Hasami Shrine next to Tozenji Temple. All the other shrines I visited that day were quite small and no information boards.

These first two photos are of a small Kotohira Shrine. before the Meiji period, they were probably called Konpira. There were a few more Kotohora shrines in the area. Since Meiji the main kami has been identified as a variation of Okuninushi. The main Kotohira Shrine is on Shikoku and was a major pilgrimage destination in its own right and was known for offering protection to seafarers.

Just 100 meters away is Srayama Daijingu Shrine. The small hokora was established in 1487. Unusual was a horse and a komainu rather than 2 komainu.

Apparently, during a famine in 1732 the local people either started to make puppets or started to perform, puppet plays.

With its large vermillion torii, and building indistinguishable from a residence, Suwa Daimyojin was a little unusual.

Sasebo Suwa Shrine was its full name but there is absolutely zero information about it. Obviously a branch of the famous Suwa Shrine in Nagano that enshrines Takeminakata, the son of Okuninushi who was "exiled " to Nagano after being defeated by the envoy of Amaterasu, Takemikazuchi.

The final shrine was Uenomiya Shrine at the base of a hill that once had a small castle on top.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

The Art of Taisanji Temple


Like most of the temples on major pilgrimages, Taisanji, temple 52 on the Shikoku pilgrimage has plenty of art adorning the buildings and grounds.

The Nio Gate is about 600 meters from the temple grounds. Rebuilt in 1305,at  the same time as the main hall, it contains 2 striking Nio guardians.

At the next gate, at the entrance to the main temple complex, there are 4 statues of the Shitenno, the four heavenly kings.

It is not uncommon to find temple gates with the four shitenno

Inside the bell tower are paintings depicting Enma and the other judges of hell and scenes of the tortures and sufferings awaiting those going to hell...

Ema, votive plaques, are a religious practice common to both shrines and temples. There were a variety of different designs at Taisanji, but I was attracted to theFudo.....

traces of pigment can still be seen in this example of relief carving....

Not sure who this statue is, but to my untrained eye it seems to be almost an Indian-style statue...

Small statues of Daikoku, one of the Seven Lucky Gods, can often be found at the ends of roof ridges, or, like here, on a wall toed with kawara.

To me, this final statue aears to be done in Korean style.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Taisanji Temple 52 on the Shikoku pilgrimage


The main hall of Taisan-ji Temple, built in 1305, in the mountains to the northwest of Matsuyama City is a National Treasure and is truly one of the most elegant of the buildings on the pilgrimage.

Number 52 on the Shikoku pilgrimage, it claims to be one of the oldest temples on the pilgrimage.

According to the legend, Mano Choja, a wealthy man from Bungo in Kyushu was heading to Osaka on business in 587. Caught in a storm, his ship was in danger of sinking but was saved by a light shining from the spot where the temple now stands.

Guided to land safely, he climbed the mountain and discovered a miniature statue of Kannon.

He came back with a team of craftsmen from Bungo and according to the legend raised the main hall in one night. Later Gyoki visited and carved a Kannon statue and placed the original statue discovered by Choja inside it. In 739 Gyoki built the temple in the form it is now.

It is said that Shotoku Taishi visited here and there is a statue of him in the octagonal Shtokutaishi Hall.

Later, Kobo Daishi visited and converted the temple to Shingon. The Nio gate also dates back to the temple rebuilding of 1305. In the next post, I will show some of the statues and paintings found here.

The previous post in this series on the Shikoku Ohenro was on temple 51, Ishiteji Temple.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Yonkacho Shopping Arcade


Yonkacho is a shopping street in Sasebo, Nagasaki. It is now covered and pedestrianized so counts as an arcade.

Its name means "four towns", with the word "cho" being translated as "town", but really means a kind of district, or sub-division of a town, and the shopping street passes through four different "cho".

Yonkacho connects directly with Sankacho, another arcade that passes through 3 "towns", and the two combined have a total length of almost one kilometer.

There are longer arcades in Japan, but apparently, they have slight bends or turns in them, but Yonkacho/Sankacho is dead straight, so is known as the longest, straight, arcade in Japan.

I do not consider shopping in any way a fun or pleasant activity, but these shopping streets sometimes are good for finding somewhere to eat, but mostly their use for me is as  a dry route to walk in rainy weather.

The previous post in this series on day 66 of my walk around Kyushu was the nearby Daiichi-in Temple.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Matengai Cliff


Rising 257 meters out of the Sea of Japan, Matengai Cliff is one of the highest sea cliffs in all of Japan, and are part of a UNESCO Global Geopark.

Located on Nishinoshima in the Oki Islands, part of Shimane prefecture, from on top of the cliff there are fantastic views of the surrounding islands but the best views are down onto the Kuniga Coast.

The Kuniga Coast is a scenic coastline of rock formations and sea caves and a footpath connects the area with the clifftop.

Usually grazing on the clifftop are horses, itself an unusual sight in Japan. The cliff can also be seen from the tour boats that view the coastline.

There is no public transport so you will need to use a car or motorbike or possibly a bicycle.

The previous post in this series on the Oki Islands was the Kuniga Coast.