Saturday, December 3, 2011

On the henro trail


Sorry for the scarcity of posts recently. have been down in Shikoku on the henro trail.

Normal service will resume shortly

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Oasahiko Shrine

A more than 15 meters tall torii marks the beginning of the 800 meter long approach road to Oasahiko Shrine. The road itself is lined with dozens of stone lanterns.

The exact date of the shrines founding is unkown, but it is listed in the Engishiki of the early tenth century, and the shrine grew in importance during the next millenium.

In the middle of the main shrines compound is a huge Camphor tree believed to be over 1,000 years old.

The main kami enshrined here are Oasahiko no Okami and Sarutahiko. Oasahiko is the enshrined name of Ame no Tomi, an ancestor of the Imbe clan who was sent by the mythical Emperor Jimmu to find land suitable for hemp cultivation.

Hemp was a very important plant in Japan until Shogun Macarthur outlawed it during the occupation.

Hemp is not mentioned at all at the shrine, and in fact the importance of hemp in Japan has been almost completely removed from history.

Monday, November 21, 2011



Well, this is something you probably thought you would never see on this blog, and it is something that surprises me too. Cosplay!


Last week I went up to Enchoen, a huge Chinese garden in Tottori, and when I walked in I was surprised to see lots of kids dressed up in cosplay. Apparently I had stumbled in to the 11th Annual Pan-Asian Cosplay Competition.


There were kids from China, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, and of course Japan. They all had tons of high-end camera equipment and spent their time posing and shooting....


I dont read manga nor watch anime, so I have absolutely no idea who any of these characters are...


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Typical Japanese Landscape 30


Probably my favorite landscape views of Japan are from on high looking down on mist filled valleys.


All these shots are from dawn a couple of weeks ago up on Mt Hiba and Mt Eboshi, at around 1200 meters in the Chugoku Mountains stradding the border of Hiroshima and Shimane.


Someone wrote me and suggested I give more detailed info on the locations of my posts, so I have started to add google maps at the bottom of the posts. Is this helpful?


In actual fact, as is the case with much of life, the best Japan has to offer is not easily accessible.


View Larger Map

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Onbashi. The biggest natural bridge in Japan

Tojo Town is a small town in the mountains of NE Hiroshima Prefecture. Its draincover depicts maple leaves and the Taishaku River flowing through Onbashi, the biggest natural bridge in japan.

Onbashi is 90 meters wide, stands 40 meters high, and is 18 meters thick. It is composed mostly of limestone as it is in a karst.

It is believed to be the third biggest natural bridge in the world, though I suspect there are different ways of measuring bigness.

Onbashi means "male bridge", and its female counterpart, Menbashi is further downstream though it is now under the surface of Shinryu Lake, a reservoir created when the gorge was dammed in 1924

Being a karst, there are other natural bridges and a multitude of caves in the area.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kamo Culture Hall


This is one of the more bizarre buildings I have come across in rural japan, its the Kamo Culture Hall in the small town of Kamo, now part of Unnan Town up in Izumo.


Kamo has a population of about 6,000, and yet has this huge concert hall and conference center. many smaller towns and villages in Shimane have such facilities. Maybe we in Shimane are an especially cultured people, or maybe before the bubble burst japan poured insane amounts of money into useless construction.


There is an element of fantasy in the design, and it also seems to be a mishmash of influences. I must admit that on first viewing from a distance I though it might have been a nuclear power station or some sort of industrial complex.


It was built in 1994 and the architect is Toyokazu Watanabe, not someone I have heard of before, but seems fairly well known for his "Breast House" in Kyoto.


Kamo is in the area of Izumo where the Yamata no Orochi myth is set, and according to the architect this was an influence on his design....


Monday, November 14, 2011

Konsenji Temple 3 Shikoku Pilgrimage

Konsenji Temple 3 Shikoku Pilgrimage

The third temple on the pilgrimage route, only a few kilometers from the second, is in Itano Town and its name means Golden Spring Temple.


It belongs to the Shingon sect, and the main deity is Shaka Nyorai, the historical Buddha known as Sakyamuni in English.

Legend has it that the temple was founded by Gyogi, and also that he carved the main sculpture.


Legend has it that later when Kobo Daishi visited he struck his staff into the ground and sacred, healing water gushed forth. This same story occurs often throughout Japan.


The temple was burned down, like so many others, by Chosokabe in the late 16th Century and was rebuilt later.

There is a large rock in the grounds known as the Benkei Stone, that legend says was lifted by Benkei as a show of strength when he and Yoshitsune stopped here.


Konsenji has a fine Niomon Gate with Nio, a lovely lotus pond,  a fine Pagoda, and my favorite statue, a Kurikara, the sword of Fudo Myo with entwined serpent.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vacation 2011 Day 8 To Ali's Gate


I was so excited to be back in the desert that I slept little so was able to climb to a high point to watch the sunrise....


Mother earth was naked, pure rock with no clothing of vegetation. The homes were built out of the same material and blended in as well as being lost in scale....


As a general rule the Berber do not like to be photographed, but there are exceptions......


We climbed gradually and steadily all day, further into the Jebel Sahro


By lunchtime we reached bab'm ali, Alis gate, two huge outcroppings...


We camped at an intersection of 4-wheel drive tracks. There was a small gite here with a cafe....


Sunsets were as awesome as the sunrises.....

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kanzui Matsuri 2

For various reasons I only managed to get to one matsuri this Autumn, so I thought I would post on each dance in a little more detail.

The second dance is kamimukae, the welcoming of the gods.


kagura, like other "entertainments" at shrines is put on primarily for the kami, but fortunately the kami enjoy the same kinds of things as we mortals. After the space has been suitably purified the kami are welcomed. This is a shinji, a ceremonial rather than theatrical dance and is usually danced by 4 dancers, though I haver seen it danced with a single dancer.


Here at kanzui it was danced by only three, and like some other shrines Ive been to it was presented by the youngest members of the troupe, and is usually one of the first dances learnt by beginners.


The kids were very nervous, its possible that this was the first time they had performed this dance publicly, and the leader was seated just offstage to offer prompts. 2 of the dancers were girls. In recent years girls have started to dance kagura, though as yet I have not seen any dance any of the theatrical pieces. Girls playing the instruments is far more common.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

On top of the world


Just got back from a few days up on Hibayama, straddling the border between Shimane and Hiroshima. I started out at about 750 meters from Kumano Shrine, an ancient shrine considered the gateway to the tomb of Izanagi on top of Hibayama. From the main building, constructed in the early eighth Century, the trail heads up past the Iwasaka, the sacred rock that was the original shrine, past numerous smaller shrines surrounded by 1,000 year old cedars.


About halfway up the mountain i paused at Nachi no Taki, a picturesque waterfall. Another hour and I was on top of Mt Ryuuouzan, a tad over 1200 meters. I came upon a derelict campsite and decided to camp there for the night. I was not attacked by the Hibagon!!.... actually the Hibagon has never attacked anyone, and since 1982 there has been no sightings of it or its tracks. If you are interested in this Japanese equivalent of the Sasquatsch or Yeti, this site has the most complete information in English.


A few hours before the sun I was up and on my way and got to the top of Hibayama not long after the sun rose. The entrance to Izanamis tomb is flanked by 2 ancient yew trees. Izanami was the female of the creator-pair that created the Japanese Islands. The Kojiki places her tomb here on Hibayama. The Nihonshoki places it in Wakayama.


From the top of Eboshisan, the neighboring peak, the views down into Hiroshoima and Shimane were stunning......


The slopes of Hibayama are covered in forests of beech, and now leafless, it allowed the sun to penetrate and bath the mountain slopes in glorious golden morning light.....


Descending down towards the park headquarters with its campsites, ski-lift, and onsen, the tree farms of cedar begin, but remnants of the beech forest survive....


Down at the park center the fall colors are in full swing......


Continuing down for a few more hours I reach Yuki where I catch the train down through Okuizumo and home.....