Sunday, March 31, 2024

Saint Francis Xavier Memorial Church Hirado


Located on a hillside overlooking the small harbour in the main town of Hirado Island in Nagasaki.

The church was built in 1913 and reconstructed on its current site in 1931.

Originally called just Hirado Catholic Church, it was renamed the Sr. Francis Xavier Memorial Church after a statue of Xavier was erected in 1971.

Xavier visited Jaan in 1549 and initially stayed in what is now Kagoshima. In 1550 he visited Hirado and it is said that in a few short weeks, he accrued more converts here than in the many months he spent in Kagoshima.

I visited the modern church, actually a cathedral, in Kagoshima much earlier on this pilgrimage.

Hirado has several more historic churches and earlier this day I stopped in at the Tabira Church before crossing the bridge to Hirado.

It seems that like Tabira Church, it is no longer so easy to enter the building, a result it seems of the increasing popularity of Nagasaki's Christian sites since being registered as World Heritage.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Sakurai Samurai Mansion Garden


The garden at the Sakurai samurai mansion in Okuizumo, Shimane, has one of the biggest waterfalls of any Edo Period garden in Japan.

Located high up in the remote Chugoku Mountains, the Sakurai were a high-ranking samurai family who moved into the area to control the very lucrative iron and steel production of the area.

Many of the surviving buildings of their estate date back to the mid-Edo period, as does the garden.

The garden's main feature is the waterfall cascading down the rocky hillside into a carp-filled pool.

The garden and the area around the estate is especially popular in Autumn. However, the site has been used as a location in a popular TV drama called Vivant, and so has recently become popular year-round.

The mansion used to host the Matsue Daimyo when he toured the area.

The most famous Matsue Daimyo was known as Fumai and was a renowned master of the Tea Ceremony. He named the waterfall Iwanami and it is registered as a National Scenic Spot.

The rustic teahouse on the edge of the pond was designed by Meiji-era painter Naoiri Tanomura while staying here as a guest of the Sakurai.

The previous post was on the interior and exterior of the mansion.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Kaigenji Temple 78 Kyushu pilgrimage


Though listed as temple 78 on the Kyushu pilgrimage, Kaigenji is not really a temple at all. It consists of a monument and a roofed area for conducting ceremonies.

It is located next to a small beach on the north coast of Hirado Island and is the site where Kobo Daishi set sail on his journey to Tang China in 804

From the 7th to 9th centuries Japan sent numerous diplomatic missions to China. The one in 804 consisted of 4 ships, only two of which reached China.

A small number of monks were often included in the mission, and in this case not only Kukai, as he was known, but also Saicho were on the trip.

Saicho returned a little sooner than Kukai and he went on to found  Tendai Buddhism. Kukai founded Shingon.

On the hill above the beach is a giant statue of Kukai. The previous post was on Saikyoji Temple, marking the spot Kukai performed a ceremony after returning from China.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Enmyoji Temple 53 Shikoku Ohenro pilgrimage


Enmyoji, temple 53, is just a couple of kilometers from temple 52, Taisanji, and is located in the northern outskirts of Matsuyama City.

It is much smaller than Taisanji but has an unusual pair of Nio in the gate.

It is yet another temple attributed to Gyoki who carved the Amida statue while in the area in the mid 8th century.

At that time it was located closer to the seashore.

When Kobo Daishi visited later in the 9th century he revived the temple.

It burned down numerous times during the Kamakura period and was moved to its current location in the early 17th century.

The temple fell into disuse after 1868 with the anti-Buddhist and separation of Buddhas and kami movements but began rebuilding at the end of the 19th century.

As well as the Nio and their quite remarkable eyes, other things to look out for are the roof decorations.

On the Daishi-do in particular, photos 6 and 7 above, there are some delightful creatures and figures.

Also noteworthy is the statue of Binzuru in front of the main hall. Rubbed smooth by petitioners, this red statue is fairly common at many of the henro temples.

Also worth seeing is a "Maria Kannon". These were a kind of statue worshipped by Hidden Christians during the time Christianity was outlawed. With a lantern placed on top the cross form became obvious and the carving of Kannon was often conflated with Mary.

Enmyoji is also quite famous as the home of a copper ofuda, Pilgrim name slip, dated to 1650, the oldest known of such an object.

The previous post in this series on Ohenro temples was Taisanji. A second post on Taisanji focussed on the artwork at the temple.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Saikyoji Temple 77 Kyushu pilgrimage


Saikyoji Temple is located on a hillside overlooking the harbour of the main settlement on Hirado Island.

It is built on the site of where Kobo Daishi performed his first Goma ceremony after returning from China in 806.

It is a Shingon temple and because of its size is sometimes referred to as the Koyasan of the West, although it must be said I have come across numerous other temples with the same nickname.

It was established in 1607 by the local daimyo Shigenobu Matsuura, who was a fervent believer in Shingon. However, at that time a zen temple existed on the property.

The zen priest refused to leave and so Matsuura burned down the temple with the priest inside. For years Matsuura was haunted by ghosts of the murdered riests until one day they were scared away by the sound of a baby crying. This is said to be the origin of the "Crying Baby Sumo" event held every February at Setsubun. Most Naki Sumo events are held in shrines in May.

The honzon is a statue of Kokuzo Bodhisattva, not one of the more famous bodhisattvas, but important to Kobo Daishi. Kokuzo was the focus of the ascetic practices that Kobo Daishi undertook as a youth.

Within the grounds are an Ebisu Shrine and an Inari Shrine.

Between the main temple and the Okunoin, the path is lined with 88 statues representing the Shikoku pilgrimage.

The temple was well supported by the Matsuura clan and the temples Treasure House museum has many delightful paintings and statues, unfortunately some of which were looted from Korea during Hideyoshis invasions.

The temple is number 77 on the Kyushu pilgrimage and also on the Kyushu Kannon pilgrimage.

Number 78 on the Kyushu pilgrimage is a few kilometers away and is the site where Kobo Daishi set sail on his journey to China. It is an unmanned site so pilgrimage stamps need to be gotten here.

Hirado is an interesting place with a lot of historical connections. William Adams, the English sailor immortalized in the novel Shogun, is currently attracting a lot of interest because of the new remake of the TV drama.

He lived and died in Hirado.

The previous post was on the pagoda at the okunoin of the temple.

Hirado is well worth a visit if you are in the area, and Saikyoji is well worth a visit if you are in Hirado.