Showing posts with label yamabushi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label yamabushi. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Mumyo Bridge Tennenji Yaba & Yamabushi Mountain Training

Mumyo Bridge

Mumyo Bridge.

The pinnacles of rock that rise behind Tennenji Temple and the Kawanaka Fudo are called Tennenji Yaba, and clearly visible spanning a precipitous gap is the unusual Mumyo Bridge. When I first saw it, almost twenty years ago, it was very much off limits to visitors, but nowadays it is possible to climb up, though you are repeatedly warned that you do so at your own risk.


Coming down towards Tennenji from Choanji Temple you catch glimpses of the cliffs and rock formations that are typical of the Kunisaki peninsula. Anywhere such landscapes can be found in Japan, you will find sites connected to Yamabushi, the mountain ascetics who were drawn to such places of spiritual power.
it rocks.

Many of these areas will still have the remains of training routes used by the Yamabushi. This rock formation above is adjacent to the Mumyo Bridge and you can see the chains used by the monks to clamber along these "pilgrimage" routes.

Rock on.

Many of these sites in the Kunisaki peninsula were connected along a pilgrimage trail that began at Usa Hachimangu and then wound its way around the peninsula. This ancient route has been revived by the creation of the Kunisakihanto Minemichi Long Trail which closely follows the route. There is not much in the way of infrastructure along the route, and certain sections do involve having to use chains to get up and over steep sections.

I was on my second day walking along the route which I was using as a rough guide to get me around the peninsula to visit the first seven of the temples on the Kyushu Fudo Myo pilgrimage which all are found in the Kunisaki area.

After leaving Tennenji the route heads over the ridge to the next valley and passes close to the Mumyo Bridge, however, I was carrying a full pack for a multi-night hike and decided not to take the side-route to the bridge as I did not fancy descending loaded up with so much weight. Several times I would have to navigate such steep and dangerous sections and didn't want to push it.

Mumyo Bridge, Tennenji Yaba, & Yamabushi Mountain Training

The trail was hairy enough as it was, and I would certainly not recommend it to inexperienced hikers, however, the views from the pass over the ridge were spectacular.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Iwayaji Temple 45 on the Shikoku Ohenro


Iwayaji, temple 44 on the Ohenro pilgrimage in Shikoku, is located among towering cliffs and spires of rock high in the mountains of Kumakogen in Ehime.

The surroundings are what I would consider a  classic shugendo environment, and any similar -looking places I have ever seen have all been yamabushi sites. I subscribe to the theory that much of the Shikoku pilgrimage is based on a series of Yamabushi training areas that became linked.

When I met a young priest I commented to him how jealous I was of the location of his home, clinging to the base of the cliff with great views down and across the mountainous countryside.

According to the story, when Kobo Daishi visited here he found a female hermit already living here. He carved two statues of Fudo Myo, one is the honzon in the main hall, and the other is enshrined higher up the mountain in the Okunoin. Because of the snow I decided against climbing up to the Okunoin.

A fire destroyed all the main buildings in 1898. The Kokuzodo, a small structure below the main shrine on the path up, and the Niomon, a little distance from the main temple at an older entrance, both survived and date back to the 18th century.

The current main hall was built in 1927, and is unusually smaller than the Daishido which was built in 1920. The Daishido is registered as an Important Cultural Property because it applarently incorporates numerous western elements into its traditional temple architecture.

There are numerous caves in the area that were used by the ascetics. A ladder leads up to one with a wooden platform where a small structure, the Hokke Sennindo, used to be. From here the views are remarkable.

Below the main hall is an entrance into a narrow 10 metre deep cave with an altar and several statues.

Next up some photos of the Fudo Myo statues and carvings here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sword Dance Extraordinaire

I am a huge fan of kagura, and have seen hundreds and hundreds of dances over the years, most, but not all, Iwami kagura from my local area. While it is still fascinating seeing the variations of dances that different groups perform, it is nowadays rare to see a dance that I had not see before.

So it was with great anticipation I saw something at a performance by a kagura group from down near Masuda. There are basically two types of dance, masked-theatrical which was in earlier times performed by the villagers as entertainment in between the shinji, ceremonial dances, usually performed by the priests. There is a lot of crossover between the two, one being the use of torimono, objects carried by the dancers. Swords are often used as torimono.

I had never seen this kind before, 2 groups of 6 blades, crossed over and held together with material so they could be held. These are real blades, maybe not razor sharp, but still dangerous. At first the solitary dancer performed with these blades in his hand. later a shorter, double pointed blade was held between his teeth while he danced.

The finale to the dance was completely unexpected as the dancer started doing somersaults on the floor while holding all the blades. The roots of the dance is obviously with the shamanic, trance dances that are ultimately the origin of modern Iwami Kagura.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Shikoku Pilgrimage Temple 32 Zenjibuji

Located on a hilltop on the Pacific coast south of Kochi City, Zenjibuji is temple number 32 of the 88 temples that make up the pilgrimage.

The grounds contained a lot of rocky outcroppings and is said to resemble Fudaraku, the paradise of Kannon placed in southern India.

The honzon of this Shingon temple is an 11 faced Kannon, said to be carved by Kobo Daishi who is also claimed as the temples founder, though other sources attribute both to Gyoki.

While I was visiting a group of modern day yamabushi were in the process of leaving. In their immaculately clean costumes and air-conditioned tour bus it was hard for me to reconcile them with the yamabushi of old.