Showing posts with label hirado. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hirado. Show all posts

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Ikitsuki Giant Kannon


Japan is home to many monumental Buddhist statues, perhaps the most well-known being the one at Todaiji in Nara, though another in Kamakura is also very famous. The ones in Kamakura and Todaiji are quite old, the one in Nara dating all the way back to the 8th Century, however, the late 20th century and early 21st century saw many newer ones erected. like the enormous reclining Buddha in Sasaguri. 

The Bodhisattva Kannon, known to many as a "Goddess of mercy", has had numerous truly gigantic statues of her erected not just in Japan but also across East Asia. Many of these Giant Kannons are depicted standing and are constructed out of modern building materials rather than cast in bronze or carved in wood or stone. The one in Kurume is a good example, or the now demolished one on Awaji Island.

The Giant Kannon on Ikutsuki Island in Nagasaki is among Japan's largest seated bronze statues. It is also one of the least-known.

It stands 18 meters tall including the 3-meter pedestal. It weighs 150 tons. It was erected in 1990.

It was erected for World Peace, the spirits of mariners and fishermen, and to pray for the safety of the fishing boats embarking from the harbour below.

Underneath the statue is a small temple with a 1:10 scale replica of the statue, many other Kannon statues, and a fine pair of Nio guardians.

Ikitsuki Island is accessible via a bridge from Hirado Island which is itself accessible from the Nagasaki mainland. The previous post was a short guide to Hirado.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Hirado, a Brief Guide.


Hirado is an island just off the coast of what is now Nagasaki prefecture, that though not so well known or visited was in historical times a major point of contact between Japan and the outside world.

Since 1977 a suspension bridge has connected the island to the mainland, but a small ferry also still runs across the 600-meter-wide strait and connects to the Tabirahiradoguchi station on the Matsuura Railways Nishikyushu Line, incidentally the westernmost railway station in Japan until the opening of the Okinawan Monorail. Buses from Hirado also connect with Sasebo.

The main town and harbour is quite picturesque and overlooked by Hirado Castle. The Union Jack fags are commemorating the 400th anniversary of the establishment of trade between Jaan and England in 1613. The man largely responsible for this was William Adams, the historical model for the fictional character in the novel and subsequent TV series Shogun. Adams spent the last 11 years of his life in Hirado. After a few years, the English gave up trade with Japan, ignoring Adam's advice, but gave Japan the sweet potato while here. Adams's grave, the site of his house, and the site of the English trading post are all well marked.

The Portuguese had been a presence in Hirado long before the English arrived. Portuguese traders arrived in 1549, and in 1550 the missionary Francies Xavier spent some time here. That is memorialized by the St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church on a hill overlooking the harbour. There are several other churches on the island as a reminder of the "Hidden Christians" who lived here during the Edo period. Following a fracas with local samurai that left 14 Portuguese dead, the Portuguese moved to what is now Nagasaki and were banned from Hirado

The Europeans with the biggest presence in Hirado were the Dutch. An accurate replica of their factory has been opened housing a museum. The Dutch arrived in 1609, the same time as William Adams, and stayed until 1641 until they were ordered to Dejima by the Shogunate. A monument has been erected to the Japanese wives and children of the Dutch traders who were exiled to Djakarta when the Dutch were moved to Dejima. A "Dutch Bridge"  that crosses to the former samurai district was not built until long after the Dutch had left Hirado.

Long before the Europeans arrived Hirado was an important point of contact with China. In the early 9th Century missions to and from China used Hirado. The most famous of these involved the monk Kobo Daishi, and the spot where he set sail is memorialized, and where he conducted a goma ceremony on his return from China is now the impressive Saikyoji Temple. In later centuries many other monks left and returned from China through Hirado, most famously Eisai, the introducer of Zen to Japan.

Hirado was controlled for almost a millennia by the Matsuura Clan. Though they never became one of the greater clans, they managed to keep control of Hirado. Involved in the defence of the area against the Mongol Invasion, they fought on the losing side at the Battle of Dannoura. Operating pretty much as pirates for some time, they also fought in Hideyoshi's invasion of Korea. Their former mansion above Hirado is now an excellent museum as is their castle overlooking the harbour.

Often overlooked by visitors, Hirado has plenty of interesting sites and is well worth a couple of days exploring. This was my second visit, while on Day 68 of my walk around Kyushu on the 108 temple Shingon pilgrimage.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Hirado Castle


Overlooking the main harbour on Hirado Island, the castle was controlled by the local Matsuura Clan for its whole history.

A small castle was originally built here in 1599, but it was burned down by the Matsuura themselves in 1613 as a show of fealty towards Tokugawa Ieyasu who they had fought against at Sekigahara. Unusually, they were allowed to hold on to their small domain.

Also unusually, they were given permission to build a new castle in 1704 and it was completed in 1718.

It stood until the ending of the Han system in 1871 when most castles in Japan were demolished. All that remained of Hirado Castle was a gate and one yagura (turret). Again, as with many such destroyed castles, a shrine honoring the former Daimyo and his ancestors was built on the site.

In 1962 the 5-storey keep, ramparts, and 4 yagura were reconstructed.

The keep now houses a museum showcasing the history of the Matsuura clan and the castle and has an intriguing 6th century sword. One of the reconstructed yagura is now available as high-priced  lodgings.

The Hirado domain was controlled by the same clan since the 13th century. 

Though he died almost 100 years before the castle was built in 1718, William Adams, the character of John Blackthorne in the Shogun novel and TV series, he probably did visit the earlier castle that was destroyed in 1613. He died in Hirado in 1620.

The previous post in this series on day 68 of my walk around Kyushu was on the historic Catholic Church in Hirado.

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.

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.

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.