Showing posts with label world heritage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label world heritage. Show all posts

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Ido Shrine


Ido Shrine in Omori, part of the Iwami Ginzan World Heritage Site, was established in 1888 and worships the deified spirit of Ido Heizaimon, a former magistrate of the district who is known as the "Potato Magistrate".

He became the magistrate of the district in 1731, and in the following year, the Kyoho Famine struck western Japan. Officially there were 12,000 deaths attributed to the famine but in reality, the number was much higher, probably about 169,000. The causes of the famine seem to have been a combination of bad weather and insect infestation leading to a massive increase in the price of rice.

Before receiving permission from the Shogunate, Ido opened the government granaries and distributed the rice to the local population, but mostly he is known for introducing Sweet Potato into the region, hence ensuring that no one in Iwami died from famine.

There are more than 500 monuments in Shimane, Tottori, Okayama, and Hiroshima to the introduction of sweet potatoes by him.

On this visit I was walking the Iwami Kannon Pilgrimage and the previous post was on the 500 rakan of Rakanji Temple.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

500 Rakan at Iwami Ginzan


Rakan, sometimes called arhats, are said to be the disciples of the historical Buddha, and groups of 500 statues representing them can be found all over Japan.

The collection of 500 rakan found in Omori, part of Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine, is unusual in that they are housed in several man-made caves dug into a hillside by miners working at the silver mine.

The rakan here at Iwami Ginzan were made to pray for the repose of the souls of those miners who died, and as the work was brutal and harsh, the life of a miner was usually quite short, which is why there were so many temples in the area.

One feature of Rakan is that every single one has a different features and expressions, and it is often said that while looking at rakan statues you will always find some that remind you of someone you know. The rakan here are included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

All the rakan here were made over a period of about 25 years and were completed in 1766. They were all attributed to a stonemason from nearby Fukumitsu with the pseudonym Toshitada, who is also credited with creating the 3 arched bridges that cross the stream to reach the rakan caves. It is thought that members of his family and other apprentices had a hand in the work

Rakan-ji Temple was established across from the rakan caves in 1764. It is a Shingon temple and the honzon is an Amida. A Yakushi hall was moved to the grounds from higher up in the valley.

Rakanji Temple is one of 10 "guest temples" on the Iwami Kannon Pilgrimage. Kannon pilgrimages usually have 36 main temples and a few "extra" temples, but this Iwami pilgrimage has a total of 49 temples so is often referred to as Iwami Mandala Pilgrimage.

The previous post in this series was Seisuiji Temple, located further up the valley closer to the mine. A recent post that also featured rakan statues  was Togakuji Temple in Matsue.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Tomogaura Tomokan


Tomokan is the name given to a couple of refurbished buildings in the tiny fishing village of Tomogaura, part of the World Heritage Sites of the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mines as it was one of the ports that serviced the mines.

It is thought they were originally built in the early to mid 19th century. The outbuilding is open all year round and has exhibitions connected to the port and the route to the mine.

The main house is only open from March through November. Tomokan is unmanned and free to enter.

If you are in the area then it is a good opportunity to look around a small, traditional home. My house was built about a hundred years later but used a similar construction . What is unusual is that both buildings are completely clad in sheets of cedar bark.

I earlier posted on the old harbour itself.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Tomogaura World Heritage Site


Tomogaura is a small fishing harbour in a narrow inlet and is part of the Iwami Ginzan World Heritage Site.

In the 16th century it was one of three ports used to service the mine and take out the mined silver. When the Tokugawa government took over the mine at the start of the 17th century it continued to be used to service the mines, but the silver was taken out overland to Onomichi on the Inland Sea.

It was the closest port to the mine, and is believed to have been the first. The 7k  route from the port to the mine is also part of the World Heritage Site.

The other two ports were Okidomari and Yunotsu. where I had left early this morning on this walk.

Right next to Tomogaura, now accessible through a small tunnel in the cliff is the expanse of Kotogahama Beach. The previous post in this series documenting my walk along the Sea of Japan coast was the walk from Yuminato Harbour.

Friday, August 4, 2023

Seisuiji Temple 7 Iwami Kannon Pilgrimage


Seisuiji Temple is a small place up in the middle of what used to be the silver mine in the World Heritage Iwami Ginzan sites.

It is number 7 on the Iwami Mandala Kannon Pilgrimage route, but used to be number 1,  the starting point of the original Edo Period Iwami Kannon Pilgrimage.

It was located high up on the mountain and was probably the most important temple for the mine back in the late 15th, and early 16th centuries.

It was moved to its current location at the base of the mountain in 1878. The gate was moved here in 1931 from a defunct temple that administered the main shrine of the mine. 

The honzon is an eleven-headed Kannon, and the main gate houses a wonderful pair of guardian statues, a Fudo Myo and a Bishamonten. Seisuiji is a Shingon temple.

During the heyday of the mine, the temple received many donations and much support from merchants, samurai, daimyo, and even the Shogun.

This visit was on the 4th day of my walk along the Iwami Pilgrimage, and the previous post was of my walk up through the preservation district of Omori, the town that serviced the mine.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Yuminato Harbour to Tomogaura Port


After leaving Yuminato I need to cross the Yusato River before I can continue u the coast. The first bridge is a little upstream and after crossing I need to head further upstream towards Yusato as the next section of the coast is rocky headlands and narrow inlets with no settlements or roads. Though it is October, Morning Glories are still in flower.

The river flows down from the mountains that contained all the silver ore that made it one of the richest mines on the planet and why the area is now a World Heritage Site. Up ahead I see the village of Yusato with the new expressway, the main San-in Rail Line, and Route 9, the main road from Kyoto all crossing the river in about the same place.

I stop in at the local village shrine, a fairly standard Hachiman Shrine with nothing notable or unusual, and just as I reach the edge of Yusato I take a narrow road up into the mountains. Only wide enough for a single small vehicle, I love these roads as there is never any traffic and its like having a  wide, paved hiking trail and there is only forest, no buildings, no other sign of humans.

After 15 minutes walk the road drops down into the tiny settlement of Kitahata which has a huge compound that i would call a manor house, that has always struck me as incongruous with its location. Obviously belonging to a wealthy and powerful family, its remote  location has always puzzled me. Though this is not the actual old Ginzan Kaido, the road that connected the Silver Mine with the nearby port of Tomogaura, it is very close to that road and so I'm sure it must be connected.

Kitahata has a small beach that is protected by thousands of tons of concrete that is reminiscent of Normandy beaches in 1944. Though it is an unpopular idea to many, one cannot help but think that Japan is at war with nature, though it is couched in the vocabulary of defense.

Climbing out of Kitahata along the narrow road that runs alongside the railway, a sign points to a trail that leads into Tomogaura. This is the old Ginzan Kaido and from it I look down on the little settlement that runs down to the World Heritage Port.

The previous post in this series documenting my walk along the Sea of Japan coast was Yuminato Harbour.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

A Stroll Though Omori


Omori is a major part of the Iwami Ginzan World Heritage Sites in the mountains of western Shimane. Before it became a World Heritage Site it had been listed as a Preservation District because so many historical buildings were still extant.

It is a 40 minute drive from my home, and for many years a good friend lived in the town so I have spent a lot of time there.

This was the administrative headquarters for the silver mining operation. This is where the samurai who controlled the mine lived and worked. It was also home to the many merchants and other trades, but it was not the home of the actual miners. They lived in hovels up in the mountains at the actual mines.

It is actually one of the better preservation districts because it is so extensive and not marred by aboveground powerlines. There are a couple of shops and places to eat but by and large, it is not so very commercialized.

On this visit I was on the 4th day of my walk along the Iwami Mandala Kannon Pilgrimage and there was a small a cluster of temples here. Historically it was the starting point for the pilgrimage, but the modern version follows a different route and has a little different set of temples. Recently discovered documents at an old samurai home near my house also show another Kannon pilgrimage just covering the territory of the silver mine and not the whole of the Iwami Province.

There are a couple of homes open to the public, and an enormous number of temples, necessary for the many funerals that resulted from the brutal life of a being a miner, though many have closed down now.

The previous post in this series on the Iwami Kannon Pilgrimage was Kanzeonji Temple in the lower part of town. Two earlier posts on the preservation district of Omori, and the facades of the preservation district, if you are interested.

This final photo is a great example of kote-e, plaster relief, found on the "treasure house" of one of the temples.