Showing posts with label tanabe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tanabe. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Kozanji Temple Tanabe


Kozanji is a popular temple complex with large cemetery and grounds in Tanabe, Wakayama.

It is said to have been founded by Kobo Daishi, though another source suggests it was founded much earlier during the time of Shotoku Taishi.

The Tahoto, Shingon-style pagoda, has become the symbol of the temple. It was built in 1816 and is dedicated to Prince Shotoku.

Other buildings include 2 Yakushi-do's, a Daishi-do, a Fudo-do, and a Kannon-do.

During the Warring States Period, in the late 17th century the temple was destroyed during Hideyoshi's invasion of the area, but was rebuilt later and in the Edo Period changed its name to Kozanji.

It was pouring with rain when I visited on my way out of Tanabe heading north along the Kumano Kodo towards Osaka on the 5th day of my walk along the Saigoku Pilgrimage.

Many people visit Kozanji to pay respect at the grave of Ueshiba Morihei (1883-1969), a locally-born  man who is known as the founder of the martial art called Aikido.

With millions of practitioners in more than 140 countries world-wide, some make the pilgrimage to his grave here.

Another of Tanabe's famous sons buried here is Munakata Kumagusu, an eccentric scientist who is gaining in notoriety and is sometimes referred to as the first environmentalist in Japan.

As well as being the site of his grave, the grounds of the temple were a place he spent a lot of time collecting specimens, and where it is believed his campaign against the government program of shrine closures took form.

The previous post in this series on the Saigoku Pilgrimage was the former residence of Minakata Kumagusu.

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.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Ajijoji Nightlife District Tanabe

Ajijoji Nightlife District

Ajijoji Nightlife District.

Usually located adjacent to the main train station in Japanese cities and towns can be found "nightlife districts", focused primarily on selling alcohol, food, and female entertainment, and "companionship".


I sometimes pass through such districts, but have neither the money nor inclination to be a customer, however at the end of my 4th day walking the Kumano Kodo trail, I spent the night in Tanabe, and they advertise themselves as having the most densely concentrated of such districts in Japan, so felt compelled to have a look.

Eat out in Ajijoji Nightlife District.

The Ajijoji district has over 200 establishments packed into less than one square kilometer. There are a few restaurants, a few izakayas, and some bars, pubs, girl's bars, hostess bars, nightclubs, snack bars... which have nothing to do with snacks.....

Ajijoji Nightlife District.

I have only a vague notion of what the difference is between all these types of establishment, except they are usually very small, expensive, and have complex etiquettes.


Tanabe is classified as a city but is, in reality, a town, however, it is also the largest city in Kansai, in terms of area, 396 square miles, most of which is uninhabited mountains. With a population of about 70,000 it is also the 2nd biggest city in Wakayama.

Ajijoji Nightlife District.

Tanabe is the main gateway into the Kumano Kodo area for most visitors, and a big chunk of the Nakahechi trail falls within its boundaries. There are a few noteworthy sights I will cover later.....

Japan is great for a piss up.