Monday, December 13, 2010

The phallic stones of Asuka Nimasu Shrine


There is a collection of phallic stones at the Asuka Nimasu Shrine that I would guess have been collected from the surrounding area.

A few of them are paired with a "female" stone.


I think there is a good chance that these, or some of them at least, are Dosojin.

Dosojin, sometimes called Sainokami, were phallic stones placed at the roadside at community borders.

Often referred to as protective deities of travellers, their original use seems to be protecting the village from evil/pollution rather than protecting travellers.


Later the dosojin became rocks carved with a male-female couple, and later still Jizo statues took over some of their functions.


In some places Sarutahiko is associated with Dosojin.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Twins Momochi


Twins Momochi is an unusual building located, not surprisingly, in the Momochi district of Fukuoka.


The buildings looks like a single building, but there is a gap of a few centimeters between the East and West wings.


It was built in 1996, but I have been unable to find out who the architect was.


One wing is home to the Twins Momochi Hotel, and the other is home to offices.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Tengu masks of Kunisaki


The oldest type of Tengu had a face that was bird-like, with a beak. Over time this became a long nose, and was probably incorporating elements of Sarutahiko, so long-nosed, red faced masks are sometimes called tengu, sometimes Sarutahiko.


The Tengu became associated with yamabushi, the ascetic monks of Shugendo. If the mask is wearing a small black cap. then I would call it a Tengu. Without a cap it might be a tengu, it might be Sarutahiko.


All of these masks were in shrines in the Kunisaki Peninsular in northern Kyushu.


The Sarutahiko mask will often be found paired with a round-faced female mask and its phallic/fertility association is clearer. The female is Uzume, Sarutahiko's wife.


More tengu masks, including some of mine, can be found here

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Monkey Watch


I heard the calls of the monkeys in the forest outside my house so I watched out the window for a minute or two until I saw an adult jump down from the fence and head past my house.

I snuck outside with my camera and caught this guy gleaning my compost pile.

Probably a male.


Sitting on the fence watching was another adult, female I think.


It was not the whole troop, which numbers 20-30, but a family. There were 2 adults, 2 juveniles, and 2 babies.


The mom stood guard while the kids scavenged around.


Ive been fortunate to have lived places where encountering wild animals is the norm.


I spent a good 30 minutes watching the family. One of these days Im going to set up a hide with my camera on a tripod and take some better shots.....


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Vacation 2010 Day 11: King's College Chapel


While I was in Cambridge I took one of the guided walking tours on offer so I could get inside the chapel at King's College.


It has the largest fan vault ceiling in the world as well as some wonderful stained glass.


Construction began in 1446 and it took more than a century to complete, spanning the reigns of Henry VI, Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VII, and Henry VIII.


The Master Mason John Wastell was the architect of the ceiling which was constructed in just 3 years. It has been called "the noblest stone ceiling in existence".


The superb organ dates from the 17th Century.


The chapel escaped damage during WWII but the stained glass was removed and repaired as a precautionary measure.


The detailing is also incredible.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Inaka Ilumi


Uzui is a tiny village up in the mountains near to the border with Hiroshima Prefecture.

If there is more than 100 people in the village I would be surprised.


It does, however, have a railway station, on the Sanko Line, the line that follows the Gonokawa River past my village. 5 trains a day in each direction.


The station is not actually IN the village, rather above the village. 6 stories above.

Incidentally, there is no escalator, only stairs.


This last weekend Uzui hosted "Inaka Ilumi", and the station and other places around the village were lit up.


It may not match the illuminations of places like Kobe, Disneyland, or the new Tokyo Sky Tree, but it was fun and a surprising number of people visited.


As well as the station, the 4 little bridges across the stream were lit up, several paddies had illuminated domes in them, the forest at various points up the valley were floodlight, and even the stream itself had strings of lights floating on it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Asuka Nimasu Shrine


Asuka Nimasu Shrine in Asuka, the ancient capital of early Japan is a very old shrine and is one of the possible sources of the name of Asuka.

The three main kami enshrined here are Kotoshironushi, Takamimusubi, and Kayanarumi.

Kotoshironushi is an Izumo kami, one of Okuninushi's sons, nowadays equated with Ebisu. Kayanarumi is a daughter of Kotoshironushi, and Takamimusubi is one of the three "creator" kami. In some versions of the Kuniyuzuri myth that explains the ceding of Japan from Okuninushi to the Yamato, it is Takamimusubi who orders the process and not Amaterasu, and in fact Ninigi who descends to rule over Japan is the grandson of both Amaterasu and Takamimusubi.

Kayanarumi is the most interesting of the three, and an alternate name for her is Asuka no Kannabi mi Hime no kami, and this relates to what happened after Kuniyuzuri. Okuninushi decided to place himself and several of his relatives in the Kannabi (sacred mountains) surrounding Yamato, and Kayanarumi was placed in a mountain in Asuka, so it seems likely that she was the original main kami of the shrine.


There are a lot of secondary shrines within the grounds, enshrining Onamuchi (the name of Okuninushi enshrined in nearby Miwa), Oyamazumi, an Asuka Yamaguchi Shrine, and Sarutahiko.


There is also an Inari Shrine, one for Konpira, one for Daijingu, and one for Shirahige, a Korean god brought over with immigrants who settled in the Lake Biwa area.


When we look at some of the things for sale in the small office of the shrine it becomes clear what the focus of the shrine is,..... fertility!

This is a male/female sake cup.


The shrine is home to a famous matsuri, the Onda matsuri, which includes a performance with masked dancers that includes explicit representations of the sex act.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Japanese Marten


I found this little guy recently stretched out on the road. It wasnt squished and I couldnt see any injury, so maybe he died of a heart attack!

Its a Japanese marten, Ten in Japanese, (martus melampus).

The first time I saw one was back when we first moved to the village. Someone gave us a single hen to raise for eggs, and one night I heard a commotion so went outside with a flashlight to check and caught a marten exiting the coop with the dead hen clamped in its jaws.

It ran off into the forest and a few minutes later I heard 2 different animals screaming at each other, so some other forest critter that likes chicken was obviously trying to take it from the marten.

Friday, December 3, 2010



Korakuen garden in Okayama City is ranked one of the top 3 gardens in Japan.

With its large lawns it is more like a park than a usual Japanese garden.


Earlier I posted on some of the details in the garden as well as the Lotus blossoming.


In the 133,000 square meters of garden are 6 shrines, tea houses, an archery range, several ponds, various groves, bridges, waterfalls, a greehouse with cactii, and a crane aviary.


The garden was completed in 1700 for the pleasure of the local Daimyo whose castle overlooks the garden.


The garden is open from 8 to 5 and entrance is 350yen. There are two entrances, one from the castle, and one from the south.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Yanai Kingyo Chochin Matsuri

Yanai Goldfish Lantern Festival

Yanai Kingyo Chochin Matsuri.
When I first saw these drain covers in Yanai, a small town on the south coast of Yamaguchi Prefecture, I wondered what relevance owls had to the town. But, it turns out they are of course not owls, but goldfish, or goldfish lanterns to be exact.
Yanai Kingyo Chochin Matsuri.
Goldfish lanterns are a local craft product, so its not surprising that the towns annual matsuri features them. On August 13th every year the town holds its Kingyo Chochin Matsuri when teams parade with extra-large versions of the lanterns on floats.
Yanai Kingyo Chochin Matsuri.
Before and after the matsuri the town is decorated with more than 2,000 regular sized goldfish lanterns.

Access - Getting There

Yanai is located on the JR Sanyo Line between Hiroshima and Tokuyama (both of which are on the Shinkansen line).