Showing posts with label yatsushiro. Show all posts
Showing posts with label yatsushiro. Show all posts

Thursday, March 4, 2021

A Couple of Mysteries Solved


Heading north through the paddies north of Yatsushiro I was surprised to see tractors planting in flooded paddies. I had read that in the far south of Kyushu some places were able to squeeze two crops of rice a year because it was so warm, but late November seemed a weird time to be planting.

Later, a closer look at some paddies and it sure didn't look like any kind of rice i had seen before. Another mystery was that as I walked through each small settlement scattered across the plain there was the incessant clatter of machinery coming from farm buildings.

I was finally able to peer inside one of these buildings and suddenly all became clear. It was not rice being grown around here but a plant called Igusa, a kind of rush-grass, and the material that makes the mats that cover tatami flooring.

The area around Yatsushiro has been growing Igusa for 500 years and is now the main source for the material domestically. I have seen a few, small tatami workshops, and there are some high-end manufacturers, but most tatami in Japan now is mass-produced in Chima.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Yatsushiro Monument Kilali

Yatsushiro Monument Kilali

Day 45 of my first walk around Kyushu and it's time to head north out of Yatsushiro towards Kumamoto City. My first stop is the Shinkansen station a little outside the city, Shin Yatsushiro Station.

Standing in front of the station on the east side is Monument Kilali, a project of Kumamoto Artpolis.

It looks quite flimsy and is roughly the size and shape of a small house. Its not a building, though I guess it could be called a shelter. It seems to be made of steel but in fact is made of thin sheets of concrete.

It was built in 2004 and designed by the young architect Kumiko Inui. I liked it

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Shohinken Teahouse & Garden

Shohinken Teahouse

Shohinken is an Edo-period garden and teahouse not far from Yatsushiro Castle in the south of Kumamoto.

It was built in 1688 by Naoyuko Matsui, the third Matsui Daimyo of the domain, for his mother. I believe the site was originally a temple md the basis of the garden may have already been in existence.

It is sometimes known as Hama no Chaya, "Beach Tea"house", as it was adjacent to the beack of the tidal Kuma River, though now it is more than 1K from the river.

A large part of the 9,000 sq m garden is a large pond with small bridges and stepping stones.. In 2002 it was registered as a National Scenic Spot.

There are many planters in the pond and they come alive in early summer when thousands of Irises bloom. There are also lillies and lotus plants. The shoin-style teahouse is unusual in that it has two floors. I am pretty sure the glass was added in the early Meiji Period.

Under normal circumstance the main building cannot be entered, but there is a small museum attached with tea ceremony articles and other artifacts connected to the matsui Clan.

Buy dokudami tea from Japan

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Yatsushiro Municipal Museum

Yatsushiro Municipal Museum

The Yatsushiro Municipal Museum in Yatsushiro, Kyushu was one of the earliest projects of Kumamoto Artpolis, a prefecture-wide program of innovative architecture. It was built in 1991 and designed by Toyo Ito.

It appears very light with its sweeping canopies, and to my mind is reminiscent of one of his most famous earlier projects, Steel Hut.

It appears to be a single storey building, but the artificial hill it stands on contains a lower floor.

The large cylindrical form on top is actually a storage space. Traditionally museums have storage in the basement, but the water table here is quite high.

I've been here twice but on both occasions it was closed so I cannot report on the museums content.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Yatsushiro Castle

Yatsushiro Castle

Yatsushiro castle was completed in 1622 after three years of construction. It replaced a nearby castle that had been destroyed by an earthquake. Like most castles in Japan, it was dismantled in the first years of the Meiji Period so could not be used as a base to threaten the new government.

The moat and impressive stonework still remain, though when built the dressed limestone would have been quite bright and gleaming. From the mid 17th century until its decommissioning in the late 19th century the castle was controlled by the Matsui Clan.

Where the castle buildings once stood is now a shrine. The castles of Edo Japan were the symbol of political authority, and when they were destroyed a shrine was often built on the site. Many times they enshrined the last Daimyo, but also common were new Gokoku Shrines, the local branch of the infamous Yasukuni shrine, both types of shrine being very much of the "political" aspect of shinto. The shrine here is also a political one, enshrining Prince Kaneyoshi, a son of the 14th century Emperor Godaigo.

Yatsushiro was the second castle in the Kumamoto Domain, unusual because Tokugawa law stated only one castle was allowed per domain, but Kumamoto, was allowed a second one to strengthen defense against three threats, the powerful Shimazu Clan to the south, Christianity, which was powerful in Kyushu, and foreigners, who traditionally had entered Japan through Kyushu.

Yatsushiro catle is now a park and is free to enter.

Read more on Yatsushiro & tatami production

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Io-ji Temple 54 on the Kyushu Pilgrimage


Io-ji temple is not very large and is located not too far from the ruins of Yatsushiro Castle in Yatsushiro. The temple was patronized by the Matsui Clan who rued the area from the mid 17th Century. The chunky stone Nio guarding the temple are very much in Kyushu style.

The honzon of the temple is Yakushi Nyorai, housed in a seperate Yakushi-do. There are several Kanno statues in the grounds and a couple of Fudo Myo.

There is a shrine to Ashite Kojin, and many ema in the shape of legs and hands were left there.

There was a statue and a painting of some deity riding a white horse, but I have no idea who it is.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Yatsushiro Myokensai


I arrived at Yatsushiro Shrine in late November on the 44th day of my first walk around Kyushu. A few days earlier was the Yatsushiro Myokensai Festival which originates from the shrine. On display at the shrine are some of the "creatures" that are paraded during the festival.

It is one of the major festivals of Kyushu and one of the 33 festivals that are registered as intangible cultural assets with UNESCO. It features horses predominantly and of course mikoshi and such.

The most unique creature is perhaps the genbu which is kind of a cross between a turtle and a serpent. It is the daoist symbol for the north, and as this is a festival to Myoken, the Buddhist deity associated with the Pole Star and Big Dipper, it is not surprising.

If I had been here a few days earlier I could have seen the festival, but for sure I would not have been abe to get a room.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Yatsushiro Shrine

Yatsushiro Shrine

Yatsushiro Shrine is the major shrine of Yatsushiro in Kumamoto and was established towards the end of the heian Period. Until 1868 it was known as Myoken Shrine and enshrined Myoken, a Buddhist deity who was a manifestation of the Pole Star and Big Dipper. Myoken Shrine was in the middle of a complex of more than a dozen temples.

The Pole Star and Big Dipper figure in most ancient religions of the northern hemisphere, and in Japan in its earliest form seems to have been primarily Daoist. Myoken, the Buddhist version, seems to have arrived later and one credible source suggest that here in Yatsushiro was where it was introduced from the continent,

There were hundreds of Myoken shrines throughout Japan and in 1868 they were all renamed and 2 obscure shinto kami were enshrined in them, Amenominakanushinokami, and Kuninotokotachino. Like much of the "new" shinto of modern Japan it was Hirata Atsutane who decided this.

The current buildings at yatsushiro Shrine date from early and mid Edo period. It is thye home of the Yatsushiro Myokensai, one of the most important festivals in Kyushu. More info about Myoken can be found on my posts about Nose Myokensan, here and here.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Furufumotoinari Shrine


Immediately adjacent to Shunkoji Temple was a series of vermillion torii heading up the hillside straddling a steep staircase.

Vermillion torii can found in front of grand, imperial-connected shrines, as well as small roadshide shrines, but when there are lots of them close together it is usually indicating, as it does here, an Inari Shrine.

On the climb up there are several smaller hokora type inari shrines, and quite high up a series of larger buildings. At the high point of the hills beyond there used to be a small castle, so it's possible this shrine was connected to it.

From the main shrine the path, and torii continued up the mountain to a smaller, less visited shrine. This was in all probability the original shrine. There were great views down onto Yatsushiro.