Showing posts with label kumano kodo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kumano kodo. Show all posts

Friday, December 29, 2023

Kashima Shrine Minabe


I came into Minabe at the end of a rainy fifth day of my walk. I was on the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, claimed to be the oldest of the major pilgrimage circuits of Japan. For this first week, the route also followed the Kumano Kodo, though in reverse. This was the Kiiji section which runs from Tanabe up to Osaka and Kyoto.

The main shrine was a Kashima Shrine, with numerous secondary shrines and a small Inari shrine at the entrance.

According to te shrine history it is a branch of the famous Kashima Shrine up country, brought here in the early Nara Period.

However, it was located on a tiny uninhabited island just offshore and was known as Kashima Myojin.

During the Meiji Period, possibly 1909, the kami was transferred to the land and the shrine built, which explains the somewhat "meiji" feel of the shrine.

The main kami is Takemikazuchi, although Amaterasu and Susano are also listed. That may be a Meiji addition.

In the grounds are a Tenjin, Ebisu, another Inari, and a couple of other shrines.

The previous post in this series was Kozanji Temple in Tanabe.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Minakata Kumagusu Residence


Minakata Kamagusu was a Japanese eccentric and maverick who is considered by some to be Japan's first environmentalist. The house he lived in from 1916 until his death in 1941 is open to the public right next door to a modern museum to him in Tanabe, Wakayama.

In the previous post on the memorial museum, I wrote a little about him, but in this post I want to concentrate on the topic that made him famous, the shrine closure program of the government that began around 1910.

The shrine closure program only ran for a few years, and some areas resisted it quite strongly, but somewhere between 35 and 45 percent of all shrines throughout Japan were closed down. These were all local, nature-based deities that were moved, often quite some distance, to a "national" shrine.

Previously during the Meiji Period the government had "separated" the kami and the buddhas, destroying more than a millenia of religious development and in the process installing imperial connected kami in place of deities with Buddhist, Taoist, or non-imperial identities. They also began a program of creating major imperial shrines, some of which, like Meiji Jingi, Kashihara, and Heian, are now very popular.

The shrine closure program was part of this effort to create a new imperial-centered religion but also had a couple of secondary aims. One was to reduce the number of festivals that Japanese celebrated as this interfered with the industrial-oriented work ethic that the state wished to create.

Another factor was the"resource-rich" forest land that these traditional shrines encompassed. There was a lot of valuable timber on these lands when one considers the massive deforestation that the castle and town building of the Edo Period had created. It was this final point that caused Minakata to get involved, although he went on to argue an ecological viewpoint that included the destruction of culture in the formation of the state and national identity. For a more detailed look please click this recent online journal article about him.

The house is shown as it was when he lived there, thanks in large part to his daughter who kept all his possessions, research papers etc which can be accessed in the museum next door.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Minakata Kumagusu Museum


While doing my initial research, many years ago, on any interesting spots to visit in Tanabe to visit I came across the Minakata Kumagusu Museum and was instantly attracted to the architecture.

I have not been able to find out who designed it, but it reminded me somewhat of Ando Tadao's wooden temple in Shikoku, Komyoji.

I had never heard of Minakata Kumagusu, but since visiting I have come across him in various books and he has become more and more intriguing. He is often portrayed as a naturalist, and specifically an expert on slime mould, but he is also credited with being  Japan's first environmentalist. Certainly he was a maverick and an eccentric.

He was born in Wakayama in 1867. He studied at a school in Tokyo and passed the entrance exam to university but instead chose to travel to the U.S. and study independently in 1886. He enrolled briefly at an Agricultural College, but, as would occur repeatedly throughout his life, incidents caused by drunkenness meant he didn't stay long. He studied by himself and traveled to Florida, Cuba, Jamaica, and other countries to collect samples. After 6 years he moved to London and spent a lot of time at the British Museum. He continued to study and became well known among many scientists and other public figures and published extensively in the journal Nature. In 1900 he left London and returned to Japan.

He lived a few years in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula, continuing his research and collecting. In 1904 he moved to Tanabe and in 1906 married and started a family. He continued to publish in both English and Japanese and became a well established authority and at one point gave a lecture to Emperor Hirohito. He never did graduate from university and continued to get into trouble through his drinking. He passed away in 1941 and is buried in nearby Kozanji which is where another famous Tanabe resident, the creator of Aikido, Ueshiba Morihei, is also buried. I will cover Kozanji later.

When his daughter died she left a massive collection of notes and research materials to the town and they built this place as an archive of his materials, a museum about him, and as an ongoing research facility.

Next door is the house he lived in and it is also open to the public. When I post on that I will delve into the most intriguing aspect of Kuagusu, his fight against the shrine closure movement of the early 20th century which was his legacy which is why he is considered an environmentalist.

I visited at the start of the 5th day walking the Kumano Kodo as part of the Saigoku Pilgrimage. The previous post was on Tokei Shrine, part of the Kumano Kodo World Heritage sites and linked with the family of Benkei.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Tokei Shrine Tanabe World Heritage Site

Tokei Shrine Tanabe World Heritage Site

Tokei Shrine is the main shrine of Tanabe, Wakayama, known as the gateway to the Kumano Kodo.

In 2016 the shrine was added to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range, most commonly known as Kumano Kodo.

The shrine grounds are home to many ancient Camphor trees with the oldest estimated to be 1200 years old.

The famed warrior-monk Benkei, known primarily as the sidekick of Yoshitsune, was born in Tanabe and a statue in the shrine depicts him with his father and some chickens.

According to the story, Benkei's father was asked for support from both sides of the conflict known as the Genpei War between the Taira and Minamoto clans. Unable to decide, he staged a series of cock fights between cocks with red and white feathers, representing each side of the conflict. The cocks with white feathers won and so he chose to support the Minamoto.

According to the shrine, it was founded in the 5th century, which seems very speculative to me, however the shrine rose to prominence in the 11th century as a branch of the Kumano Sanzan shrines. Pilgrims would pray here for a safe journey into the interior, and in some cases, because the pilgrimage route was at times heavily traveled by bandits and robbers, pilgrims would go no further and "worship from afar" here.

Tokei Shrine enshrines all the kami that are enshrined in the Kumano Sanzan, the three big shrines of Hongu, Shingu, and Nachi, that are the focus of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage, which is why there are so many hondens.

There are also a wide variety of sub-shrines scattered throughout the grounds. many festivals take place throughout the year including the massive  Tanabe Matsuri held in July and also a Benkei Festival.

I arrived here at the end of my 4th day walking the Saigoku Pilgrimage. The previous post in the series was Takahara to Takajirioji on the Nakahechi.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Takahara to Takijirioji on the Nakahechi

Takahara to Takijirioji on the Nakahechi

Takahara is a small mountain village in the mountains of Wakayama and on one of the Kumano Kodo routes.

Since being registered as  World Heritage Site, the Kumano Kodo has become very, very popular, and Takahara is now home to a bunch of guest houses and cafes.

Life-size "scarecrow" type dolls greet the walkers as they enter the village.

I was walking west, so from Takahara the trail drops down to Takijiri Oji, the shrine that is considered the starting point of the Nakahechi Trail, and met quite a few walkers heading uphill with rooms booked in Takahara.

I was going in the opposite direction because I was walking the Saigoku pilgrimage that starts at Nachi. This was coming to the end of my 4th day of walking.

Across from Takijiri Oji Shrine is a Kumano Kodo Information Centre, and around the shrine are several stores selling pilgrim supplies.....

The previous post in the Saigoku series is Takahara Kumano Shrine

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Takahara Kumano Shrine

Takahara Kumano Shrine

Takahara Kumano Shrine.

Takahara is a mountaintop village located on the Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodo ilgrimage.

The village shrine, a branch of Kumano Hongu, is situated in a grove of ancient trees.

As I understand it, the village was not directly on the pilgrimage route until the route was changed in the Edo period and it became an important way-point.

The shrine was established earlier, in 1403, making it one of the oldest shrines in the area.

It is a very colorful shrine with a lot of paintings and color dating back to the Muromachi period.

The main buildings is built in what is known as Kasuga-style, and has a roof of cypress bark.

I believe this section of the Kumano Kodo is by far the most popular, especially among thos only walking a day or two. I visited towards the end of my 4th day of the Saigoku pilgrimage.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Chikatsuyu to Takahara on the Nakahechi

Chikatsuyu to Takahara

The Kumano Kodo are hundreds of kilometers of routes that converge on the sacred sites of three shrine-temple complexes in southern Wakayama. The Nakahechi is certainly the most traveled of these routes nowadays, and it seems like this section is the busiest of them all with many visitors who just do a one day or one night "experience".

This was day 4 of my walk along the Saigoku Kannon pilgrimage that for the first week also follows the same route as the Kumano Kodo, but I was walking against the flow as most people are walking west to east

From Chikatsuyu, where the trail drops down and a fairly large settlement with many guesthouses provide a convenient stopping point, the trail once again heads up into the mountains and over several passes.

Most of the route is just mountain trail and passes several oji, wayside shrines.

The bulk of the forest is sugi, Japanese Cedar, planted fairly recently, though there are glimpses of remains of old growth. Like so much of the mountainsides of Japan that have been clearcut and monocultured with tree farms, landslides are now common....

By late morning I had reached Takahara, a mountaintop settlement that has benefited by the surge of tourism since the Kumano Kodo was made a World Heritage site.  I will cover Takahara in the next post in the series. previous posts can be found here.