Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hunting the Autumn palette


Late October is still a little early for the display of fall colors, the hillsides around my village are just beginning to show a little color, but I figured at higher elevations it should be a little more advanced, so we headed into the Chugoku Mountains to Taishaku Gorge in the NE of Hiroshima.

Sure enough, the Gingko had already started to turn as at the local Tojo Shrine.


At Eimyoji temple the maple had begun its transformation...


In the upper gorge at Onbashi, the largest natural bridge in Japan, the palette was well on the way.....


Wider vistas of color were on view at Shinryu Lake, the resevoir created when the gorge was dammed.....


In the next few days I will be heading back to even higher elevation in the Beech forests around Hibayama, the home of the Hibagon, Japans version of the Yeti and Sasquatsch. I will be sleeping out on the mountain, so if this ends up being my last post you will know what has happened to me......

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Nio of Manidera

The Tendai mountain temple near Tottori City, Manidera, has a wonderful Niomon and pair of Nio.


Anyone who follows this blog knows I have a thing for Nio, lots of photos of them can be found here

I suspect this pair who created and installed when the local daimyo rebuilt the temple in the early 17th century.


What I find intriguing is the way in which the effects of age and weather have stripped away layers of paint to reveal the wood beneath......


The earlier post on Manidera is here

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Maruyama Inari Shrine


Located on a hilltop adjacent to Oasahiko Shrine in Naruto, Tokushima, Maruyama Inari is a massha of that shrine.


To get to it you pass the German Bridge, so named as it was built by prisoners of war during the First World War. Most of the prisoners were German, though there were also Austrian and Hungarian prisoners at the nearby POW camp.


Fairly typical of Inari shrines, the path leading up to it is flanked by red banners...


... and of course a "tunnel" of vermillion torii....


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Typical Japanese Landscape 29


Its been a while since I posted anything in this series so here are some views from near or on Mount Tairyuji in SE Shikoku.

The first shows typical land use..... flat areas along rivers will be settled and planted, while mountains tend to be left forested....


There are thousands of small islands and islets around the coast of Japan.... some inhabited, some not....


River valleys filled with mist.....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011



The design of Fukuokas manhole cover is modern and abstract. It is meant to convey the dynamism of Fukuoka. The design incorporates buildings, birds, and a yacht.

It was the winning design of over 700 submitted for a competition.


Fukuoka is actually my favorite city in Japan. It feels quite different from all the others. A little more open and cosmopolitan.


It has lots of interesting architecture as well as history that goes back much further than many places in Japan due to its connection with the mainland of Asia....


Monday, October 24, 2011

Inside Meteor Plaza


This is what Meteor Plaza was built around, its the Mihonoseki meteorite, a 6.8 kilo piece of rock that smashed through a house in the nearby fishing village of Sozu on the night of December 10th, 1992.

There were violent thunderstorms that night so the residents didnt notice it until they found the holes in their roof and floors next morning.


The meteor is diplayed inside the conical section of this unusual building. The section of the building modelled on the shape of the meteor itself houses a 500 seat auditorium. I think they were a little optimistic about how many visitors would want to come and see the meteor. When we visited we were the only ones there in the vast, cavernous space.


Inbetween showings of a short movie about the meteor the hall is lit with a kind of light and music show.


Adjacent to the auditorium is a small museum showing photos and press clippings as well as sections of the roof and floor that the meteor passed through.


The strange interior shape of the auditorium lent itself to photos of unusual geometric shadow patterns...

Meteor Plaza was designed by architect Shin Takamatsu, and photos of the unusual exterior can be seen in this previous post.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Gokurakuji Temple 2 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage

The second temple on the pilgrimage route is only a short walk from the first. Gokurakuji translates as Pure Land or Paradise temple and like most it belongs to the Shingon sect.

Like many of the 88 temples, the legend says it was built by Gyogi in the eighth century, but there is no historical evidence that Gyogi ever visited Shikoku, and historical evidence suggest the temple was established in the thirteenth Century.

The main deity is Amida Nyorai and the statue was reputedly carved by Kobo Daishi, though again experts date it later in the Heian Period. According to the legend such a bright light emanated from the statue that it interfered with fishing in Naruto bay so the fishermen built an artificial hill to block the light.

A story from the Meiji period tells of an Osaka woman who after suffering several miscarriages undertook the pilgrimage travelling counter-clockwise and when she reached this temple successfully gave birth. The temple is now visited by expectant women to pray for safe childbirth.

The giant cedar tree in the grounds is reputedly 1,200 years old and is said to have been planted by Kobo daishi. Also of note are the giant carvings of the Buddhas footprints.

The main buildings are at the top of a flight of steps, but the lower level has plenty of garden landscaping and statuary.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vacation 2011 Day 7 Into the Jebel Sahro


We were up early and headed off into the Jebel Sahro, the high country between the mighty Atlas Mopuntains and the Sahara Desert. The way took us past small farming villages and abandoned Kasbahs.


We travelled light as the mules carried everything we would need for the next 10 days.


I was so happy to be back in the desert, with rock underfoot and wide open vistas. This was my second time to the Jebel Sahro, but this time we were taking a different route, so some of the country would be new to me...


Occasionaly we followed rough 4-wheel drive tracks, but mostly we followed mule trails..


Every now and then we past a shop... there is no escaping Coca Cola......


In the middle of the afternoon we reached the place we would set up camp and stay the night.... actually "we" didnt set up camp, the muleteers set up camp, and cooked the food....


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kanzui matsuri


October means matsuri, and matsuri means kagura!! usually by the middle of October I have been to half a dozen all-night matsuris, but this year because Ive been spending a lot of time on Shikoku, when I am back home I have too much work to catch up with so matsuris have had to take a back seat. But last saturday I did go up into the mountains to Kanzui....

kanzui is actually only a few kilometers from my village as the crow flies. there used to be a path connecting the two villages, but it has not been walked for many, many years. By road its about 10 kilometers.

There is no "centre" to kanzui, no shops, its really just a scattering of mountainside farms along a narrow mountain valley. My kind of place.

I arrived about 10pm, and the dancing began a little later. At a usual matsuri the first dance is always a purification dance to purify the dance area in preparation of the kami to descend. usually this dance is the Shioharae, a ceremonial dance done without masks. Here at Kanzui the first dance was Akumabarai, a different type of exorcism/purification dance most commonly performed in the Bitchu area of Western Okayama and eastern Hiroshima.

It is danced by Sarutahiko, and consists of three sections. In the first video he is dancing with Gohei (wand) and fan. The objects carried by the dancers in kagura are called torimono, and traditionally they are objects through which the kami "enter" the dancers.

In the second video he dances with an Onibo, a "demon stick" usually carried by demons.

In the third video he dances with two swords. Ive read that in Bitchu kagura the sword dancing predominates and has developed into a wider variety of styles.

During the Edo period akumabarai would sometimes be danced at the head of a wedding procession to purify the road ahead .

Monday, October 17, 2011

disturbed at breakfast


Walking down Route 55 along the SE coast of Shikoku early one morning I disturbed a troop of monkeys in the trees along the roadside.


I guess there was about 30 in total. I stood still for a minute and gradually they reappeared and carried on with their breakfast.