Monday, January 10, 2011

The obligatory annual snow pics


Its that time of the year again...... its been snowing off and on for a couple of weeks, though it tends to melt during the day....


For the new year most of the local graves have had fresh flowers...


My hamlet.


Snow on bamboo always makes for a good shot.


The neighboring valley of Tanijyugo where I was heading for Tondo matsuri...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Seahawk Hotel


The Seahawk Hotel in the Hawkstown area of Fukuoka was until recently owned by JAL, the national airline. As part of the companies bankruptcy restructuring they had to sell off all their hotels, so now it is owned by Hilton.


With more than 1,000 rooms it was the biggest hotel in Japan, but that is now one in Tokyo, though it comprises 3 separate towers.


There are 34 floors above ground, rising to a height of 143 meters.


It was built in 1995 and designed by Cesar Pelli.


The hotel is way out of my price range, but it does have a fantastic atrium that I went in, so will post on that on my next architecture post.



Saturday, January 8, 2011

Shichifukujin The 7 lucky gods

All of these statues of the 7 lucky gods of Japan are at Taizo-Ji, a temple at the southern end of the Kunisaki peninsular. This first one is Daikoku, usually equated with Okuninushi, though originally a Hindu deity, Mahakala, a war god. In japan he is associated with agriculture, rice farming and the kitchen. He is usually depicted carrying a magic mallet, standing on a pair of rice bales and with a sack of treasure over his soldier.
The reason these statues are silver is that they are covered with little silver papers that visitors purchase from the temple and apply to the statues while making their prayers/requests. On the silver paper are bonji, a japanese version of an ancient sanskrit script.
This is Fukurokuju, god of wisdom and longevity and sometimes credited with the power to revive the dead. He is a manifestation of the southern Pole star and is linked to a myth of a Chinese Taoist sage. He is a later addition to the seven, replacing Kichijoten.
Benzaiten, a Hindu deity called saraswati, is usually depicted holding a Biwa, Japanese lute, and is associated with all that flows,... water, words, music etc. Often equated with the shinto kami Ichikishimahime
Ebisu is often considered to be the only Japanese god of the seven. The god of fishermen, workingmen, and good luck. He is immensely popular and is often depicted paired with Daikoku as a manifestation of the father-son pair Okuninushi and Kotoshironushi. He is usually depicted carrying a fish.
Bishamonten is a god of war and warriors, so obviously popular with samurai. Originally Hindu, he is the leader of the Shitenno, the 4 heavenly kings of Buddhism and protector of the north.
Jurojin, another Taoist god of wisdom and longevity, often confused with Fukurokuju and said to inhabit the same body.
Hotei, known as the Laughing Buddha in the West, is probably based on a real Chinese Zen monk. He is the god of happiness and the patron of bartenders!!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Vacation 2010 Day 12: St. Ives


I got off the sleeper in Penzance to black skies and a howling wind, but a quick bus trip to St Ives on the north coast brought clearing skies and a bit of sunshine.

Not a tetrapod in sight!


The inner harbour was much calmer.

I spent a winter living not too far from St Ives, but it had been many years since I had been back.


Not much had changed, the same narrow streets and alleys with stone buildings that will in all probability still be here in another hundred years.


The one addition, and the only really modern building in the town was the Tate West, a gallery of contemporary art that I had never been to. The art and the architecture were OK.


On the hillside above the gallery a huge cemetery provided its residents with a great view.


Next was a revisit to Barbara Hepworths old house and studio, now a museum and sculpture garden to the world famous sculptress who lived and died here.


A little bit of wabi sabi that you are unlikely to find in Japan.......

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hatsumode, January 2nd, Kyoto, Part 2


We wanted to visit Okazaki Shrine, but even on the afternoon of the 2nd the line waiting to get in was several hundred meters long. The reason is that the shrine has a famous statue of a rabbit. It is connected with fertility, so maybe we will see a spike in births in Kyoto in about 9 months.


Next up was Kumano Wakaoji Shrine, located at the southern end of the Philosophers Walk.

Here we were given some Amazake, a delicious warm sake drink with masses of ginger added.


Just behind the shrine were several small shrines and a nice little waterfall. The offerings here were less ostentatious.


You cannot go far in Kyoto without coming across Japanese umbrellas used in front of shops and restaurants.


Then on to Awata Shrine, a nice neighborhood shrine in the hills above Gion that seemed to be only visited by locals, and not tourists.


I lived in Kyoto when I first moved to Japan, but I didnt really explore it much. It is nice to come back and play the tourist and see it with different eyes.


The giant torii of Heian Jingu with snow falling on the mountains to the north.


Last stop was Yasaka Shrine, and even as evening approached on the second day of the new year it was still very crowded.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hatsumode, January 2nd, Kyoto


Though technically Hatsumode refers to the first shrine visit of the year, and of course there can only be one first, many people, myself included, take the opportunity to visit more than one.

The first place we went in Kyoto was Yoshida Shrine where there were no lines of people.


There are quite a few sub-shrines scattered around the hillside, all with offerings laid out in front of the honden.


Omota Sha is a shrine I have been wanting to visit for a long time, but is usually closed, it only opens a few days a year. It features a unique octagonal building.


Omoto Sha also features shrines for all of the provinces of Japan.


The sunny day caused the snow on the roofs to constantly melt and drip.


Nearby is Munetada Shrine, again not so many visitors.


Here we were given Omiki.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hatsumode, January 1st, Nagaokakyo


Hatsumode is the Japanese custom of the first visit of the new year to a shrine or temple.

We were up in Kyoto visiting Yoko's family, and our first visit was to Nagaoka Tenmangu, a big, and therefore popular shrine.

It was late afternoon, and still the line waiting to get to the shrine was over 400 meters long.


Most of the bigger shrines will hire many temporary miko to help out over the new year period. For these shrines Hatsumode supplies the biggest chunk of their annual income.


Next we headed to Hashirita Shrine, the local shrine for my sister-in-law's family, nestled on the hillside above Nagaoka. It was a far more intimate and friendly affair.


Every small altar within the grounds had their own offerings.


Around the other side of the hill a small, unmanned Inari Shrine.



We walked further along the edge of the bamboo forest and as dusk settled visited Komorikate Shrine where I was able to chat with 2 older gentlemen from the shrines ujiko (parish group) about the history of the shrine that was moved here from Nara when Nagaoka was the capital of Japan.


Each year a local man makes a sculpture out of bamboo of the new years animal. Behind this years rabbit you can see last years tiger and 2009's boar.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Year of the Rabbit