Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The Forest at Oyamazumi Shrine in Sechibaru


This Oyamazumi Shrine is located in Seechibaru Town in the high country north of Sasebo, and is one of several Oyamazumi shrines in the region.

Oyamatsumi was an older brother to Amaterasu and Susano and there are many shrines for him across Japan, the most famous being the one on Omishima Island which has the greatest collection of samurai armour and weapons in Japan in its collection.

What makes this particular local shrine of interest is the forest environment around it which is a rare example of old-growth forest in Japan.

It was designated a Natural Monument in 1972 primarily because it is home to a stand of Japanese Chinquapin trees, Castanopsis cuspidata, a tree related to Beech and Oak, it is an evergreen with edible nuts that grows to 20 to 30 meters in height. Covering less than 3 acres, is is very biodiverse with many other species of trees, both evergreen and deciduous, as well as numerous bushes and smaller plants including a rare fern.

Called Tsuburajii in Japanese, the dead wood of the Japanese Chinquapin is one of the best hosts for shiitake mushrooms and is actually the origin of the word shiitake itself. a combination of the Japanese kanji for tsuburajii(椎)  and take (mushroom)(茸).

The previous post was on Saikoji Temple which lies across the mountain in the valley I had walked up. I was now heading down the valley to the next pilgrimage temple.

Monday, February 19, 2024

From 28 Yakushi-do to 29 Kazaana-an


Yakushi-do, temple 28 on the Shodoshima Pilgrimage is located on the east coast and about halfway down the Mito peninsula that has the southernmost point of Shodoshima at its tip.

It is a fairly small, simple, and new structure that has been moved here fairly recently from higher up the slope. It is said that Crown Prince Taisho visited on his trip to the island in the first years of the twentieth century.

The new location is in front of an older cemetery and right next to the village shrine. It is unnamed with no information but the very small shimenawa is of a kind that still has the ears of rice attached to the ends of the straw.

I sit in the little covered rest area next to the Yakushido and drink a can of coffee from the vending machine while I ponder my route. The guide book I am using is written for car pilgrims and says to keep going south down the coast road and then cross over the peninsula at its narrowest part before heading up to the next temple.

Signs from the Yakushi-do point up through the village and I decide to follow them as my experience yesterday suggests that the walking path is quicker than the car route.

I switch back up through the village and take a path leading up the hillside. Once on top the path follows the narrow ridge before starting to descend down the other side.

I pass by a small altar and believe it to be the okunoin of temple 29.

A pair of dolls seem really creepy..... many Japanese I have spoken with seem very superstitious when it comes to old dolls.....

A little further and I come to temple 29 Kazaana-an. There are great views down the coast and across to Shikoku. I believe this is the southernmost point of the pilgrimage.

It is a modern building and well looked after.

I see a couple of young women heading down the stairs. These are the first other visitors to a temple I have seen since starting three days ago.

The honzon is a Jizo, though it, and several other statues, are locked away. A reclining Buddha covered in blankets is in front of the altar.

There is a small Inari shrine. Representations of Inari are either of a young maiden or an old man. This one is the latter.

The previous post in this series on the Shodoshima pilgrimage was on my walk down the peninsula.

As I reach the road below the temple a young pilgrim is parking his bicycle. Our paths will cross several more times today

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Saikoji Temple 73 on the Kyushu Pilgrimage


Totakesan Saiko Temple, number 73 on the Shingon Kyushu Pilgrimage, is located in the high country north of Sasebo, Nagasaki, not far from the border with Arita in Saga.

The long, straight approach is lined with lanterns, and many of the statues that comprise a miniature 88 temple Shikoku Pilgrimage. The latter part of the approach has a trellis supporting wisteria.

There was a pond with a small shrine, probably a Benzaiten or a Suijin. Like much of the temple grounds, it seemed overgrown and unkempt, although I believe that since I visited a young priest has taken over the temple and has done a lot of renovation work.

A pair of stone Nio guard the main entrance gate.

The temple was founded in 1687 and was supported by the successive lords of the Hirado Domain.

It is said that at a nearby sacred rock and spring a priest had a vision of Kokuzo Bodhisattva, and so a statue of Kokuzo from a temple said to be founded by Gyoki across the mountains in Takeo, was transferred here and became the honzon.

The temple is also number 28 on the Kyushu Kannon Pilgrimage and number 17 on the Kyushu Jizo Pilgrimage.

A branch of Suitengu Shrine is within the temple grounds.

The grounds of the temple include some noteworthy trees that attract visitors. Most notable is a huge Omurazakura which is a cutting from the original Omurazakura lanted at the founding of the temple.

There is also a big Weeping Cherry and a Gyoiko Cherry with unusually coloured blooms, and something called a Turmeric Cherry.

There are also plenty of rhododendrons, and the aforementioned Wisteria.

Since the new priest took over in 2017 I believe the gardens have also been looked after much better than when I visited.

The previous post was on the Giant Fudo Myo statue adjacent to the temple.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Takano Shrine Ninomiya of Mimasaka


Takano Shrine is located on the Izumo Kaido to the west of Tsuyama City on the banks of the Yoshii River.

It is the Ninomiya, the second-highest ranked shrine, of the former province of Mimasaka which is now northern Okayama prefecture.

Said to have been founded in the mid 6th century, the shrine was supported by the Mori Clan when they ruled the area. The current main building was built in 1663 by the 2nd Lord of the Tsuyama Domain. It is built in the local Nakayama-zukuri style.

The shrine is the source of several nationally recognized Important Cultural properties, including a pair of small, wooden komainu dating to the early 9th century, and a pair of wooden Zuijin statues dated to 1125. These are all now in a museum and can't be seen here.

The main kami enshrined here is Ugayafukiaezu from the Hyuga Myth Cycle, father of the mythical first emperor Jimmu.

Also enshrined is Kagamitsukuri no kami, the main kami from the Ichinomiya not too far away, and Onamuchi, one of the names of Okuninushi.

Being such an ancient and major shrine, there are numerous secondary shrines in the grounds including a Kojin shrine, an Awashima Shrine, and a Hachiman shrine. A lower shrine hall enshrines a Hirose shrine, Tokuo shrine, Fukai shrine, Urushiwaka shrine, and a Kunishi shrine.

The previous post in this series on my fifth day walking the Chugoku Kannon pilgrimage was on Soja Shrine.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Great Fudo at Saikoji Temple


This Daifudoson statue is located at Totakesan Saiko-ji Temple in the high country north of Sasebo, Nagasaki.

It is actually located in its own car parking area across the road from the temple grounds as it is known for traffic safety due to the inscription which says "Turn great hardships into small hardships, and small hardships into safety".

Saikoji is a Shingon temple and is number 73 on the Kyushu pilgrimage.

On the altar underneath the statue are several more, smaller Fudo statues.

I have been unable to find out any details about the statue.....I will post more on Saikoji next....

The previous post in this series was on Norito Shrine.