Showing posts with label miyoshi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label miyoshi. Show all posts

Thursday, March 17, 2011



This is the draincover for Miyoshi, a town in the mountains of Hiroshima, and upstream from us on the Gonokawa river. It depicts cormorants as ukai, the traditional method of river fishing using trained cormorants is still practised here in the summer.


I don't have any photos of the ukai, but I hope to see it later this year. I do have a few photos of wild cormorants though, this one was along the moat of Okayama castle.


In front of a house a few meters away from where I took the draincover photo I did find this rice-straw model of what I believe is a cormorant sitting on top of a turtle.


Miyoshi is not particularly famous, but like a lot of places off the beaten track it is possible to spend a day or two there and find enough to see. Miyoshi dolls are still produced here, made of clay, and there is a nice free museum with a big display and its alos possible to visit workshops where they are made.


Miyoshi also has a connection with the Chushingura, the story of the 47 Ronin. The wife of the Lord who was avenged by the ronin came from Miyoshi and after they committed ritual suicide she spent the rest of her life caring for the families of the 47. At her burial place in Miyoshi are statues of her and the 47 ronin as well as a cherry tree reputedly planted by the leader of the 47.

Previous posts on Miyoshi, mostly about the shrines, can be found here

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tengu Mask


The earliest form of Tengu in Japan was a half-bird half-man creature, the Karasu (crow) Tengu, but the commonest form is the red faced, long nosed version that has come to be associated with yamabushi, the "mountain warriors" of Shugendo. Like all the masks, it is often used to ward off evil spirits. Like all my masks, this one is for sale at a very reasonable price :).

One weekend one year ago 1573

I've only seen the Tengu mask used in one kagura dance, and I've only seen it performed once.

One day on Miyajima 4559

This wonderful carved mask is in the temple on top of the mountain on Miyajima.


Another carved wooden mask, this one was over a metre in height, so obviously not meant to be worn. It seems the mouth is made to move. It was at a shrine in Miyoshi.


The tengu with it's huge nose is an obvious phallic symbol. This was one of a pair of masks guarding a "vagina" rock at a fertility shrine on Mt. daisen.


A tengu leads the procession at Tsunozu Matsuri

Kagura mask index

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Otoshi Shrine, Miyoshi.


Like so many shrines and temples, Otosho shrine in Miyoshi is at the top of a flight of steps.

Otoshi, one of Susano's many sons, is a tutelary kami of grains, and therefore Otoshi shrines are fairly common.


It was New Year when we visited, so the mikoshi were on display.

Like all the old-time kami, Otoshi sired many kids by many mothers. A good proprtion of his offspring are kami that were known to be worshopped by immigrant groups in ancient Japan.


It was here that I first really noticed shimenawa (sacred rope) made of artificial materials. The traditional material for shimenawa is rice straw, but nowadays one sees more and more made from various types of plastic.

Shrine Index

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Matsubara Inari Shrine, Miyoshi


Inari shrines are immediately recognizable by their "tunnels" of vermillion Torii. Inari is primarily the kami of rice harvest, but this one is in the middle of an urban area, surrounded by bars, snacks, restaurants, and other forms of "entertainment".


This can be explained by the fact that Inari is the patron kami of geisha and prostitutes, and therefore shrines can often be found in the traditional "water trade" areas of town.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Shrines in Temples ?


In contemporary Japan there is a hard distinction between shrines and temples. Shrines are shinto, and temples are buddhist. This distinction came about when the government "seperated" the buddhas and the kamis in the late 19th Century.


In my opinion it was a bit like trying to unscramble eggs, as for most of Japanese history the religious practises were a hybrid of various local cults mixed in with buddhism, daoism, confucianism, and other influences from Korea and even India.


All these photos are from 2 buddhist temples in Miyoshi, Hiroshima. The top photos shows a small Inari shrine. The second photo is intriguing, anbd I haven't been able to find out anything about the figure, but the gohei (wand with paper streamer) indicates this is a shinto shrine.


As buddhism was adopted by the ruling families in central Japan they used it to extend their control over the whole of Japan. As buddhism became more commonplace, temples were built next to shinto shrines so that the buddhist priests could pray for the kami and lead them to enlightenment. Later, shrines were built inside the grounds of the temples and the kami used to protect the temples. The first record of this latter type of shrine-temple was here in Miyoshi.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Takahirayama Shrine, Miyoshi


When I go walking and exploring I usually follow a route that takes me from shrine to shrine. Sometimes, in remote areas, the maps are outdated and the shrines no longer exist. This shrine is close to the center of Miyoshi, and was abandoned. The torii had been taken down, the shintai removed from the hondens, but the buildings were still intact, though boarded up.


I checked on Google maps last night, and now these structures have been razed. I haven't been able to find out why. Sometimes shrines are moved to make way for construction of roads, tunnels, etc but this was not the case here. It was a fairly substantial shrine too, with several secondary shrines in the grounds.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine, Miyoshi.


Miyoshi is a large town in the mountains of northern Hiroshima that lies upstream of my village in Shimane on the Gonokawa River. Three rural rail lines meet at Miyoshi, and this has led to its growth. Wakamiya Hachimangu is not far from the railway station.

Hachiman is the God of War, and there are more than 30,00 shrines to him throughout Japan. Hachiman was adopted by the samurai as their tutelary deity, and as the samurai ruled Japan, everywhere they were they built a Hachiman Shrine.


We were there in the first week of January, and so the shrine was decorated for Hatsunode, the first visit to a shrine of the year, a popular activity. Many shrines stay open on New Years Eve for the many visitors who come after midnight. The symbol on the purple banner in the photo above is the Triple Tomoe, the symbol of Hachiman.


For Hatsunode many shrines will display their Mikoshi, sacred palanquins, or portable shrines. They are used to carry the kami around the community during Matsuri.


Many shrines will have statues of horses in their grounds. This comes from a tradition started by an Emperor in ancient Kyoto who donated a horse to Kibune Shrine in return for prayers for rain. A gift of a white horse was made for prayers for good weather, and a black horse when rain was wanted. Over the years paintings and sculptures replaced expensive horses, and this eventually led to the creation of "ema", the small painted boards left at shrines with prayers and requests written on them.