Thursday, May 12, 2011

Vacation 2011 Day 1: Kokura


After exploring Yahata it was time to head to Fukuoka, but first I spent a quick hour revisiting Kokura. Around the castle moat the cherry blossoms were out so I was able to have a little ohanami before leaving the country.


Below the castle is a branch of Yasaka shrine, and as I have a keen interest in komainu I couldnt resist taking some snaps.


In front of the castle was a small Inari shrine and several buddhist statues clad in gaily colored bibs with offerings of fresh flowers.... the late afternoon sun and shadows made for good pictures.


The main reason to revisit Kokura was to check out Riverwalk, the complex designed by Jerde. Ive posted about it before, but at a different time of the year and a different time of the day, and a new lens, it was possible to take some new shots.


And finally, walking across the river back towards the station the pleasure boats lined up to have their picture taken....


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mundane Manhole Mandalas

Usually for my ongoing series on Japanese manhole covers I post a design and then show photos of the subject, but sometimes the designs are not particularly interesting, so today just a collection of less than inspiring designs.


Misumi Town, Shimane.


Yasugi. Shimane.


Iwami Town, Shimane.


Hamada City, Shimane


Kamo Town, Shimane,

To see more interesting designs click here

Monday, May 9, 2011

Peony Porn


I am not usually a huge fan of photos of the sexual organs of flowers, but today I make an exception.


Yesterday we visited Daikon Island in the Nakaumi, the lagoon that straddles the border of Shimane and Tottori, to see the peonies in bloom.


They have been cultivated on the island since the Edo Period, and Daikon Island is now the largest producer of them in Japan.


Called Botan in Japanese, they were introduced into Japan from China as a medicinal plant in the eighth century. During the buddhist proscription against eating meat "botan" was a euphemism for wild boar meat.


Apparently they bloom all year round but the peak is around now.


A strange woman followed me around the garden so I asked her to pose next to a bloom to give an idea of the scale.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Kawado Suijin Matsuri


Not only was Thursday Childrens Day and the Kawado Childrens Matsuri, but also the annual Kawado Suijin Matsuri. Following the ceremony in the shrine the mikoshi procession heads down to the river. The men on the right are carrying a huge length of giant bamboo which has an Onusa (purification wand) attached to it. It will replace the previous years one and will project out over the river to purify the area Suijin is believed to like to spend time.


To the accompaniment of drum and flute the procession heads along the riverbank to the two traditional wooden river boats waiting to take them upstream.


The smaller boat will carry the young men and a bunch of bamboos with banners attached. Each banner has been offered by a household that has a new child or grandchild born since last years matsuri.


The main boat carries the heavy mikoshi, 2 musicians, 3 priests, a village representative, a local TV cameraman, and 2 boatmen.


Both boats head upstream a few hundred meters to where further ceremonies will be held.

More details and photos can be had in earlier posts by clicking on the suijin tag below.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Kawado Childrens Matsuri


Thursday was the annual Childrens Matsuri acroos the river in Kawado. As well as a small mikoshi, the kids pull a small float of a family of Enko, the local name for Kappa.


The matsuri begins, as all matsuris should, with a ceremony in the local shrine. This year it seemed to be better attended than last.


And then they are off, parading the mikoshi and float around the village to the accompaniement of drum and flute.


I dont have the stats to hand right now, but the birth-rate here in the countryside is just about sustainable. Its in the cities, Tokyo especially, that the birth rate is way below the level needed to sustain the population.


Anyway, the kids had a great time, and if they didnt then their parents did


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Children's Day Koinobori

Today is Children's Day, and for the past week or so the koinobori, carp streamers, have been flying around Japan.
Our local Chamber of Commerce puts up 2 strings of them across the Gonokawa river.
This is the spot where the Suijin Matsuri will take place on May 5th.
Though it is called Childrens Day, really its Boys Day as the girls celebrate Hina Matsuri, the Doll Festival.
The carp symbolize endurance and strength as they swim upstream.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Suetsugu Shrine


Suetsugu Shrine is located on the shore of Lake Shinji right next to the main bridge coming into Matsue, though as the shrine is listed in the Izumo Fudoki it has probably been in existence for a millenia before Matsue was built.


The two main kami enshrined here are Susano and his "mother" Izanami, and there is also a group of three uncommon kami, Hayatamano, Kotosakano, and Kukurihime, who are all connected to Izanagis visit to see Izanami in the underworld, Yomi.


There are numerous small shrines within the grounds to various aragami including kojin, and also an ebisu shrine.


Right next to the main building is a small shrine that seems particularly popular that I think may be to Benzaiten as there were several small depictions of snakes on the altar.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kujira Studios Exhibition


Went upriver yesterday to visit a friends ceramic exhibition. Operating under the name of Kujira Studios he opens his house and studio once a year for an exhibition of his latest work.


While the emphasis this year was on less expensive, more utilitarian works, there was still plenty of more arty pieces.


Photos from a previous exhibition can be found here


The exhibition runs until May 8th. and the studio is in Kamino village, Misato Town, about 40k from Miyoshi and Oda City.


A whole range of pieces were done in a new "Misato Blue" glaze.


Hakudo Hashimoto can be reached on 090 8361-8065, or

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sheep shearing & Cherry Blossom Viewing


A friend in a nearby village has started raising a small flock of sheep and we went up to visit while they started the shearing. Good job I did. They started by two people holding on to a poor sheep while one of them worked on it with some electric clippers.

First thing I showed them were the 2ways to tie up a sheep so it can be sheared by a single person.


Next I showed them how to shear most efficiently so that the fleece comes off pretty much in one-piece.

It sure was good to be covered in lanolin and sheepshit again......


Also took the opportunity to do a bit of cherry blossom viewing. I was out of the country for the mania that is Ohanami in Japan. Seems to be a thing for city-dwellers, and Ive never really gotten how getting drunk while sitting on a blur tarp indicates a unique Japanese love of nature, but up in the hills there was still lots of cherry trees in bloom on peoples farms and hillsides.


The upper photo is a Shidare Zakura, a species of Weeping Cherry and the pink/red hue was really intense. The lower photo is a Yae Zakura, with big solid groups of blossoms. I prefer both species to the standard one.


We also came across a huge pile of discarded wood that once cut and transported down the valley to our place should just about see us through next winter for firewood.

A good day.