Friday, June 17, 2011

Big Roof Kawara


Kawara are ceramic rooftiles originally brought in from Korea to roof the first Buddhist temple in Japan in Asuka. Initially produced by immigrant artisans, they were only used on temples.


During the Heian Period is was stipulated that senior members of the court must roof their homes with them, but most people still used thatch or cedar-bark shingle until the Edo Period when mass production began.


There are currently more than 1,000 different styles.


The Iwami area and specifically Gotsu is a major producer of kawara, mostly in the distinctive red-earth color, though many colors are now available.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nagi Moca "Earth"

Nagi is a very small town in the mountains of Okayama Prefecture that is home to a very unusual Museum Of Contemporary Art.


The museum was designed by renowned architect Arata Isozaki and is unusual in that the architecture was designed in collaboration with a group of artists to display works that could not be displayed in a normal museum context.


The three sections of the museum are named Earth, Sun, and Moon, though these names have nothing to do with the art within but rather the orientation of the buildings. The first one encountered is "Earth", and it was my favorite.


The artwork "Utsurohi" is by artists Aiko Miyawaki. Steel rods are planted in beds of stones. Some of the stones are under water, some not. Some of the artwork is outside, some not. The combination of textures, steel, stone, water, and concrete combining with light, shadow and reflection gives an ever changing display as you walk around it and as the sun and clouds move across the sky.


Nagi is a little off the beaten track but is well worth a visit. We were there on an overcast day and I hope to go back on a day with better weather and light.


Btw, Aiko Miyawaki was Arata Isozaki's wife when the museum was designed.

The other two building/artworks that make up the museum are Sun, and Moon.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Shimogamo Shrine


Shimogamo Shrine is a major shrine complex in Kyoto and a UNESCO World heritage site.

The proper name is Kamomioya Shrine, and Shimogamo means Lower Shrine as opposed to Kamigamo, Upper Shrine, another major shrine complex not far away.

Shimogamo is located where the kamo River and the Takano River meet and the shrine was founded probably in the sixth century, many centuries before Kyoto (Heiankyo) was founded.


It was founded by the Kamo family when they moved here from the Nara Basin to control the immigrant clans who had settled this area. Some believe the Kamo were themselves of Korean origin and they certainly have close links with the Hata clan who were certainly of non-Japanese origins.

The Kamo, and the Hata, both also have strong connections with Izumo. In Katsuragi, where the Kamo moved here from, is enshrined one of Okuninushi' sons, and this is generally interpreted to mean that the area was settled by people from Izumo, and it has been suggested that the Hata spent time in Izumo before moving to the Yamato area.


The shrine is located within all that remains of the Tadatsuno mori, and ancient forest, and many of the older trees have shimenawa around them. There are numerous sub-shrines within the grounds.

When Kyoto was founded the Kamo shrines were chosen to protect the palace from the NE, which is where evil was believed to come. With Imperial patronage the shrine grew to its current impressive size.


The shrine contains many examples of Edo Period architecture, including this bridge, the Taikobashi.

Shimogamo is also one of the sites of the famous Aoi matsuri.


The main kami enshrined here are Kamotaketsunumi and Tamayorihime Kamotaketsunumi is considered the founder of the Kamo clan. He is equated with Yatagarasu, the three-legged crow that guided the mythical first Emperor Jimmu to Yamato. One genealogy, in the Kogoshui I believe, has him being a descendant of Okuninushi, once again strengthening the connection to Izumo.

Tamayorihime was one of his daughters who "lay" with the Thunder God Honoikazuchi and gave birth to Wakeikazuchi who is enshrined at Kamigamo Shrine.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Kagura Interlude


Got the chance to see a little Iwami kagura when we were at the Shunki Taisa down in Tsuwano a few weeks ago. A group from Masuda were performing, and as I had never seen any kagura from this area I stopped in while Jinrin was being performed. This is Takamaru the aide to Tarashinakatsuhiko, the name of the "emperor" known posthumously as Chuai. They are the good guys.


The bad guys are a horde of demonic invaders from a "foreign" country led by Jinrin. In this dance there were just 2 demons, this one is not Jinrin.


A furious and frenetic battle ensues.....


Until evil is defeated by the good guys....


The next dance was Kakko, and he wore a style of mask I hadnt seen before.....

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Manhole Fruit

Manhole Fruit

Manhole Fruit.

Found this one outside of Yanai in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Not sure which fruit it is other than a citrus.

Mito Town down in the west of Shimane is known for its Yuzu, a member of the citrus family that ripens in December.

Asahi Town is up in the mountains a few miles away from my village. They are known for their Nashi, Japanese pears. Much tastier than the pears we have in Europe.

Higashi Izumo seems to favor Kaki, persimmons.

Omishima, a small island in the Inland Sea, part of Ehime grows a lot of different citrus. Not sure which one this is meant to be.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Infini Garden


Infini garden is a 16 storey block of flats, or if you prefer american, apartment block, with 389 units.

In Japanese its called a Manshon, derived from the english word mansion, though it bears little resemblance to the english meaning.


Built in 2008, its located on Island City, a man-made island in Hakata Bay, Fukuoka.


Apartments are very popular in Japan, though I can think of nowhere worse to live.

I have asked friends who live in apartments in local towns where there are an abundance of big, empty, houses, why they dont choose a house, and most say that it is the wife who prefers the apartment as there is less housework and maintenance to do.


Island City is part of a big urban renewal project for Fukuoka. As well as residential areas and a huge park there is a new container port and businesses with links to mainland Asia are encouraged to move here.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Vacation 2011 Day 3 Slough


The second day of my vacation was a long one spent mostly in airports and on planes. It was made longer by the fact that BA aircrew wouldnt fly into Narita because of radiation worries and so we had to divert to Korea to change crews.

Day three found me in Slough!!!.... not a place I had ever been to before, and nothing particularly noteworthy about the place except its where the comedy series " The Office" is set. I headed south along footpaths towards the Thames. Brick building are appealing after so long in Japan....


I walked along the Thames a few miles into Eton, home of the famous school that has "educated" the ruling classes of Britain for centuries.


Dont have much interest except again there was a lot of nice brick architecture.


After Eton I crossed the river to Windsor and visited the castle, somewhere else I have never been before. Ridiculouslu expensive and packed with tourists from all corners of the globe, I was disappointed not to be invited in for tea, but guess the queen was not home that day.

Built by William the Conqueror, though much added to since then, it is the longest continuously inhabited castle in Europe.


I felt absolutely no compulsion whatsoever to stand next to the guard and make peace signs with both my hands. Obviously not been in japan long enough.


The Long Walk, 2.65 miles, runs from the castle out into Windsor Great Park, most of which is now public.


Took the train back to Slough. The new bus station looks to be an interesting building when its finished. Apparently Slough is getting a facelift.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Some Buddhas of Kunisaki

The Kunisaki Peninsular in northern Kyushu was home to an unusual branch of Shugendo based on a mix of Tendai Buddhism with "shinto" of Usa Hachiman. The whole peninsular was laid out as a pilgrimage route as an expression of the Lotus Sutra. There were 28 main temples, one for each chapter/verse of the sutra, and more than 32,000 stone statues, one for each kanji/character of the sutra.


This is a statue of the Yakushi Buddha at Iwato-ji. It is in the Ko do, a study hall. It was carved out of a single zelkova tree sometime in the 11th Century. Iwato-ji is my favorite of all the temple-shrine sites on Kunisaki.


The Kunisaki Peninsular radiates out from the highest point, Mount Futago, and the temple here , Futago-ji, is a large complex. Im afraid I dont know which buddha this statues is.


Also at Futago-ji is this statue of Amidanyorai. Its made out of cypress and was created at the end of the Kamakura Period. Behind it is a beautiful painting, a copy of one at Enryaku-ji.


Also at Futago-ji is this statue of the 11 headed Kannon. It was made in the latter part of the twentieth century.


At Fuki-ji, the oldest wooden building in Kyushu, is this statue of Amida. Made of Zelkovia wood in the Heian period, it was originally painted or lacquered and traces of red are still on it.


I dont know which buddha this is, or even the name of the temple. It was not a major temple on the tourist maps but we stopped in and were surprised by the modern paintings on the ceiling and we were served tea by the priests wife.


Maki Odo has a fine collection of sculptural treasures including this Amida, carved in the Heian period out of Zelkovia.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hiyoshi Taisha part 2


The first shrine building to be built here was probably built around the latter part of the seventh Century. For a brief period the “ emperor” known as Tenji moved his court from the Yamato Plain to Otsu a few miles south of Hie, and he brought with him and enshrined in what is now the western compound of Hiyoshi Taisha the kami of Miwa, Onamuchi, the Yamato aspect of Okuninushi. So both of the first kami enshrined here trace their roots to Izumo.


The Mikoshi of Hie are quite famous, and a special storeroom/museum exists to display examples of older ones. Enryaku-ji had become a powerful economic and political force by the 12th Century, and the monks used the mikoshi to “attack” Kyoto to coerce the government to accede to demands. The mikoshi were taken up and over Hiezan and the monks marched on Kyoto and left the mikoshi at various points around the city. Kami were feared as well as revered, and fear of the anger of the kami in the mikoshi put pressure on the government.


Under the control of the Tendai monastery Enryaku-ji there developed the cult of Sanno at Hie. Known as the Mountain King, developed from the center of Tendai in China, the messenger of Sanno is the monkey.


In all a total of 108 upper and 108 lower shrines were constructed here. 108 is a significant number in Buddhism. many of the shrines have long gone, but many remain. Some of the shrines are Usa, enshrining hachiman, Shirayama, enshrining Izanagi and Izanami, Otoshi, the father of Oyamakui, the shrines main kami , and a Suga, enshrining Susano, Oyamakuis grandfather.


The frounds of Hiyoshi are very large and many visitors come for the Fall foliage. There is even a restaurant and tea room within the forest.


Hiyoshi has a unique torii. Often referred to as symbolizing the mountain, the triangle actually symbolizes the unity of buddhas and kami. It was removed in 1869 with shinbutsubunri, but reinstated after WWII.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

State of the garden


This is my main garden, about 100 meters from the house. We pay 1,000yen a month for it including a parking space. It was constructed when all the rice paddies of the village were relaid and was made of fill brought from elsewhere. After 8 years of taking out stones and rocks and adding organic material the soil is starting to become better. Its been a cool, wet spring, good for winter and spring crops but not so good for summer crops.
Under the net is zuccini. A little red bug that attacks and damages pumpkins completely destroys zuccini, and I have found no solution other than net. usually we are eating zuccini by now, but not this year. The poles are supporting cucumbers. The steel cages are supporting tomatoes. In the foreground are edamame and some very small eggplant plants.
In the background are potatoes. Lots of potatoes. They are ridiculously expensive to buy in Japan and I like to eat them everyday. Then a couple of mounds of kabucha, Japanese pumpkins followed by sweetcorn. In my second garden down on the river bank I will plant blue corn and butternut squash. In the foreground are recently planted sweet potatoes.
Carrots are doing great, as usual. The poles have green beans. I usually plant bush-type but I thought pole type will give a bigger yield so I tried then this year. On the left young eggplants and green peppers.
In the background edible-pod peas. Did great this year because of the extended cool period. Picked more than a kilo. In front of them some Lima beans, lettuce, also producing well because of the cool. Spring onions, and some more pumpkins.
More Lima beans. Producing well, though because of the cool they are not as big as usual. Also a damn mole has killed off about one third of the plants bu tunnelling through the shallow roots. The mole has also eaten a bunch of onions and killed off some potatoes. It will die. Behind the beans are regular onions, garlic, more spring onions, and more potatoes. Down in the river garden I have more tomatoes, green peas, more lettuce, more potatoes, and cabbages. Up around the house more tomatoes and more pumpkins.