Saturday, November 20, 2010

Second Fall colors walk


9 a.m. and the sun starts to burn off the mist that fills the valleys and blankets us all night long. It promises to be a fine day as I head across the river to catch the train downstream to Gotsu Honmachi where my mountain walk begins.

I head out of Honmachi by the ancient San'indo, the road that once connected the capital in Asuka with this region. Then I head up the slope of Star Mountain.


It takes less than an hour to reach the pass at 300 meters, and from then on its downhill all the way to the river at Kawahira.

I love these mountain roads. More like wide hiking paths as there are no vehicles.


The forest and vegetation is thick, and only rarely can I catch glimpes of a vista, so for Fall colors best to look up.


There are no villages up here in the mountains, nor hamlets, only the occasional isolated homestead. If 2 or 3 are in close proximity then for sure they are relatives. A different breed of people. More independent, more self-sufficient.

Maybe half the homesteads are now empty.


About halfway down there is a small shrine on the hillside across from a big Gingko tree. When I first walked this way some years ago I stopped in at the shrine, as is my habit, and found it fairly dilapidated, so I was surprised this time to hear the sound of hammering and power tools as it appears it is being renovated. I would guess there are about 6 families left in this area, so it is good to see that they still care about the shrine.


Getting lower in altitude the valley starts to widen a little and I reach the "suburbs" of Kawahira.

To be continued

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fall colors walk


As the sun burned off the mist early this morning the day promised to be fine, and as it has been pretty lousy weather for a few weeks I decided to get out and try and photograph some Fall colors.


I had to meet someone in Oda City in the afternoon, so I decided to head up early and spend a few hours exploring the Honmachi district.


Honmachi means "oldtown" and there are a half dozen or so temples and 3 or 4 shrines to explore.


There wasnt a lot of color about, but enough to satisfy me.


Going upriver on the train home the setting sun highlighted the mountaintops so I resolved to head up into the mountains for a walk tomorrow.


Thursday, November 18, 2010


Mine-Ji is an ancient mountain temple looking down on Unnan Town in the Okuizumo district south of Lake Shinji.
I previously posted on the Nio and Fudo Myojin statues here.

Reputedly founded in 658 by the legendary En no Gyoja, considered to be the founder of Shugendo, the temple was reputedly visited by Kobo Daishi and has been a Shingon Temple since then.

There are a lot of nice statuary in the extensive grounds, and several shrines, one to Inari, and one to Suijin. The shugendo tradition continues here and in April a Himatsuri (fire festival) is held.

With advance reservations the temple is one of the few in the region that offers shukubo (temple lodgings) and shojin ryori (vegetarian buddhist meals) There is a nice garden that can be enjoyed while drinking tea, and an interesting library and an altar for Tibetan Buddhism.


This felt very much like a "working" temple, active in many areas, whereas so many temples are simply funerary sites. There is no public transport to the temple but Kisuki Station is about 2k away, and the temple is only at about 180 meters elevation, so not so hard to walk to.


I dont usually find painted screens all that appealing, but this one in the temple really struck me.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The views from Fukuoka Tower


From 123 meters above ground the observation deck of Fukuoka Tower offers stunning 360 degree views.

Right down below in the Momochi Beach and Marizon, a pier with expensive restaurants and a wedding chapel.


Looking up the coast towards downtown. Numerous hi-tech companies have buildings in the Momochi district. The largest high-rise visible is the Hilton Hotel, formerly the JAL Seahawk.


Fukuoka City is home to about one and a half million people. Ranked 14th in the worlds best places to live, most people seem to live in apartments.


Bombed heavily towards the end of the war, like most Japanese cities there is little left of prewar architecture.


Another view of the Hilton.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Phallic Hokora


Hokora are small roadside shrines found all over Japan.


Often the doors are closed, but sometimes they are open and one can see the shintai which is usually a stone, sometimes a small statue.


This one I found in a village in southern Okayama is obviously a small fertility shrine.


They were much more common in earlier days, though one can still find them in the countryside.

Each carving would have been made by a local person to ask the kami for a baby.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Some views of Kobe in yellow


A series of 4 manhole covers from the city of Kobe.


Located an a narrow strip of land between the sea and the mountains.


The top left design shows the Kobe Port Tower and the Maritime Museum, both of which I have bloogged about previously. The top-right design shows the port of Kobe.


The view from Meriken Park


More views of the tower, one of the ropeways up Rokko Mountain, the bridge to Rokko Island, and various other sights I have no idea what...



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Inside the Fukuoka Tower


The views looking up inside the Fukuoka Tower are pretty impressive, and I would have liked to spend some time taking photos, but unfortunately I only had a few seconds.


We were kept behind a rope until the elevator was emptied and then herded across the open space by a team of uniformed young ladies in white gloves. I was scolded for pausing for a few seconds to take these shots.


More details on the tower can be found here in an earlier post


Looking down can sometimes have its rewards too.....


Monday, November 8, 2010

Vacation 2010 Day 10: Wurzburg, the afternoon


The old main bridge across the River Main was built in the 15th Century. The statues were added in the 18th Century.

For my last afternoon in Wurzburg we headed back across the river and up to the Fortress Marienberg sitting atop the hillside looking over Wurzburg.


There were fortifications on this hilltop since the 14th Century that have been gradually expanded and added to until its present size.


It was completely burned out in 1945, and reconstruction was only finished in 1990.


Lots of light and shadow, which is what photography is about, right?


There are fantastic views over the River main and the whole of Wurzburg.



Saturday, November 6, 2010



The eighth, and what turned out to be the last, matsuri for me in October was at Sano, a village up in the mountains behind Hamada. It was my first time at this matsuri and I accompanied a group of non-Japanese tourists, so the shrine, yet another Hachimangu, was quite crowded.

sano2Align Center
Because of the foreign guests could only stay a few hours the kagura group chose to play the opening shinji (ritual dances) later and started straight in with the theatrical dances. First up was Tenjin, the deified spirit of Sugawara Michizane a high-ranking courtier and poet who was banished to Kyushu by Fujiwara no Tokihira in 901. Sugawara died shortly thereafter and a series of disasters befell the Fujiwaras and the court and it was decided that Sugawara's vengeful spirit was responsible so he was deified and posthumously elevated in rank.


The dance is primarily a standard fast-paced battle between Sugawara and Tokihira.


The next dance up was everybody's favorite, Orochi, the piece that most typifies what Iwami kagura is all about, color, speed, drama, and excitement. This is usually the finale of a matsuri night of kagura performed at around 5am.


As is typical, only 4 serpents danced instead of the full complement of 8. Space in shrines is usually too small.


Halfway through the serpents gig an old gentlemen walked into the writhing mass and in turn lifted up the head of each dragon and gave the dancer a glass of sake....... no-one seemed to mind.


"I aint afraid of no dragon"

I had hoped to visit at least 12 matsuris this year, but unfortunately scheduling conflicts, the weather, and a trip to Kyushu meant only 8......... still, there is always nect year :)