Showing posts with label Ichiki. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ichiki. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Concrete Tree


Josen-Ji, the temple from yesterdays post has a most unusual piece of art. A concrete Giant Cedar!!!


The Hamada Expressway passes overhead, and one of the massive support pillars was built on the temple property, so they decided to decorate it. The original idea was to paint a tree onto the pillar, but for various reasons it was considered impractical, so instead they chose to cast a relief onto the pillar. The priest told me how much it cost, but I forget except it was a huge sum.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

New Komainu, Old Dragon


For many years I only visited shrines, not temples. I think I got into this habit whenI first came to japan and lived in Kyoto where the temples charged admission prices and shrines didn't.

I recent years I have started to enjoy the art on offer at local temples, like Josen-Ji, in Ichiki.

The main hall had been recently rebuilt, so the wood was fresh. Its unusual to see Komainu, alternatively called shishi, this color.


The temple has one of the top 3 temple gates in Iwami, and this has old weathered wood. This is the standard dragon carvibg found on many temples and shrines.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mt Fuji with dragons.


I spend as much time as I can wandering the back roads of Japan exploring. I pay a visit to every shrine I pass. As well as being a place to learn about the history and mmyths of a place, shrines are also like art galleries. There are statues, and carvings, often gardens, and sometimes paintings, like this exquisite one I discovered at Ichiki Shrine up in the mountains.

The design, of dragons and Mt Fuji, is one that is thought to bring good luck.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sugio Hachimangu, Ichiki.


The village of Ichiki lies on the upper reaches of the Yato River at the base of a mountain that has a small ski resort on it. The Hachiman shrine lies in the centre of the village.

There are a lot of smaller, secondary shrines within the grounds of the main shrine. There is a shrine to Konpira, a very popular kami that originally came from India, a Kannayago Shrine, the kami of metal-workers, the ever popular Inari, the god of harvests (and geisha!), and an Omoto Shrine, the local land-kami. Every 6 years Omoto Kagura is performed here.


100 years ago most, if not all, of these secondary shrines would have been scattered about in small local communities. That was the essence of the traditional religion, local, mostly nature-based gods. The government began a program that closed half of the shrines in the country. They didn't close any Hachiman shrines, as the God of War was an important national kami, and that was the point. The small local shrines were all moved into a central "national" shrine, where national rituals and national kami would become the focus of peoples attention.

On my walks around the backcountry of Japan I have been pleasantly surprised to see a few local shrines being re-established.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A walk along the Yato River


The Yato River starts at about 900metres up in the mountains of the Mizuho Highlands, right where there is a small ski area. It then travels 30K until it reaches the Gonokawa River and enters it on the opposite bank to my village. One of the first walks I took when I moved to this area was along the Yato, hoping to reach the source in one day. Walking upriver I passed through Kawado, Oda, and Ichiyama. After Ichiyama the river does a couple of S-bends, and on the outside curves it is deep and still (above photo).


Next comes the small village of Yato, and a short distance after that Yato Dam. At 44metres in height, its not a huge dam. Built in 1958 its main purpose was to stop flooding downstream. It also supplies drinking water to the villages downstream and generates some hydroelectric power. Behind the dam the artificial lake stretches like 2 narrow, windy, crooked fingers. It's called Sakurai Lake as the Yato river valley has been known as Sakarai-go since the 8th Century. It's a great place to walk as the road has no traffic and the banks of the lake are uninhabited. In the winter thousands of ducks come from Siberia and settle on the lake.


As I got closer to where the "lake" ends and it becomes a river again the light of the low winter sun came streaming across and through the forest illuminating a scene of glorious fall colors. After passing through a small, sleepy village I reached a main road, and in a few kilometres it and the river turned 90 degrees and went along a long straight valley. High up in the mountains running parallel to the river runs the Hamada Expressway whose concrete purpose seems to be to bring hordes of tourists from the urban conglomeration around Hiroshima to the fine, sandy beaches of Shimane in the summer.


In the town of Ichiki stands a curiosity. A small temple lies literally underneath the expressway, and on one of the massive concrete towers that support the expressway is a relief of a giant cedar tree. Before the expressway was built there stood a giant cedar tree in the grounds of the temple. Often at shrines, and sometimes at temples one can still find these ancient giant trees, many more than 1,000 years old. This particular beauty stood directly in the path of the intended expressway, so was chopped down and memorialized in concrete. Somehow poignant and ironic.


I only made it a few more kilometres before the river turned up the mountain and became much steeper. The day was getting late, and my tired legs did not relish a steep climb, so I ended short of my hoped for destination.
One sight I saw a lot on this and most other walks I make around the countryside is abandoned houses. One often reads that Japan is a small, overcrowded country, and thats why most people live in very small concrete boxes, but that is a bit of a lie. The cities are very crowded, and most Japanese live in cities now, but the countryside is filled with thousands and thousands of big, empty houses. Problem is no-one wants to live in the countryside. Whereas in Europe and the U.S. many people want to escape the cities and live in the countryside, but can't afford to, the Japanese countryside continues to depopulate. People seem to WANT to live in the cities.