Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Seen along the way


One of the pleasures of walking alone is the opportunities to encounter other creatures. On the second day of my Shikoku Pilgrimage I came across this kamakiri, Praying Mantis. All the ones I had seen before were green and I have no idea why this one was brown, Maybe it was old, maybe it was male,.... more info on kamakiri can be found here


This little frog was ensconced in the coin-return lever of a drinks vending machine. I used the correct change so didnt need to disturb it.....


While taking a rest at Fujiidera another kamakiri explored my backpack.


While enjoying the view from my campsite this pair of grasshoppers/crickets/locusts..... having some difficulty identifying exactly what they are. Whatever they are, what they are doing is obvious enough. One of the species, called batta in Japanese, was the inspiration for the kids TV show character Kamenrider. Other sources describe them as Inago, a very popular food source in past times, though still available nowadays, most japanese have not eaten them.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Plethora of Phalli


There are literally thousands of ceramic votive phalli at Mara Kannon Shrine in Tawarayama, a small onsen town in the mountains of northern Yamaguchi Prefecture.


Mara is crude slang for the male member, and Kannon is the Buddhist goddess of mercy but now a torii stands in front so it is classifies as a shrine.


The phalli are left by people who are praying to have a child, so it is known as a fertility shrine now, but it has a rather macabre origin which I will explain in a later post.....


Fertility shrines are a pet interest of mine and though the vast majority of them disappeared in the early Meiji Period there are still quite a few hidden away in the backwaters of rural Japan...


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Vacation 2011 Day 17 last morning in Marrakesh


Sunrise from the roof of Hotel Ali on our last morning in Marrakesh.


We had a few hours to wait for the van that was going to take us to Essouira on the coast so I tagged along with friends who went shopping.


We didnt go to the souks, rather to the upmarket tourist shops that offered a shopping experience more comfortable to those who didnt like haggling. The prices were corespondingly higher.


I personally take no pleasure in shopping so I just wandered around snapping photos....


The red color of Marrakesh dominates everywhere..... and the bright sun created strong shadows..... kind of hard not to take good pictures.....


Friday, July 6, 2012

A new Gotsu manhole cover


Recently came across a new design on Gotsu City's draincover. It shares many elements with the earlier design, (seen here)  at the top is "Star Mountain" a post on which you can find here.
Below it is the new double decker bridge across the Gonokawa, and the official flower of the city, tsutsuji (azalea)


The three figures at the bottom are new.Some years ago my town, Sakurae, was incorporated into Gotsu City and the design from Sakurae's draincover  is the Enko, known more commonly as Kappa. The two human figures are Kakinomoto Hitomaro and his wife, Yosami no Otome was from what is now Gotsu and there are claims that some of Hitomaros poems are based in Gotsu.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

P & G Building


Rokko Island is an artificial island constructed in the bay off Kobe and after twenty years of construction was completed in 1992.


Proctor & Gamble, the giant multinational corporation started by an Englishman and an Irishman built their Japan headquarters there.


131 meters high, with 31 floors, it was completed in 1993.


I have seen it described as a rip-off of Norman Foster, and it was designed by the Takenaka Corporation.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Shikoku88 Temple 12 Shosanji


The twelfth temple, Shosanji, is the first mountain temple of the pilgrimage and the first classified as difficult to reach. It is at almost 800 meters in a wonderful setting of giant cedars that on the day I was there were poking into the clouds.


Shosanji means "buirning mountain temple" and refers to the founding legend which has the famed ascetic En no Gyoja, credited with being the founder of Shugendo, subduing a fiery dragon on the mountain and then founding the temple in the late 7th Century. A hundred years later Kukai came to the mountain and did the same thing. The Kukai legend, not surprisingly, is more common nowadays.


The temple now belongs to the Shingon sect and the main deity is Kokuzo Bosatsu.


Kokuzo Bosatsu is a "wish granting" buddha and was very important to Kukai in the early stages of his path to enlightenment when he was chanting the morning star mantra. Kokuzo is associated with venus, the morning star, and dawn.


Shosanji is the second highest of the 88 temples, and for me at least the temple itself was overshadowed by the forest around it.....


Friday, June 29, 2012

Kanzui Matsuri part 8


This is the second half of a post on the Oeyama dance as performed at last years matsuri up in Kanzui, The first half can be found here.

The group of heroes dressed as yamabushi find their way to the demons lair and after convincing the demons that they are real yamabushi are invited to spend the night,


There are 4 heroes, and the boss demon and three aides, so a total of 8 dancers packed into the tiny performance space. The king of the demons is distinguished by his oversized mask.


The heroes share the drugged sake with the demons and when they are drunk the fighting begins, each hero putting paid to one demon.

The final scene is when the king demon is confronted by the main hero. But the demon has a trick up his sleeve,..... a demon spider....

I had not seen the spiderweb and spider used in the Oeyama dance before...


The hero of course defeats the spider and the demon and so the world is once again safe.....

It was now 3:30 am and the kagura would be going on for another 3 hours but I left as I felt I neede to put in an appearance at my own villages matsuri which was also being held this night....

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Nio of Kunisaki: Final post


A final look at some of the intriguing Nio to be found at shrines and temples on the Kunisaki Peninsula in northern Kyushu. This first one is not a real nio but a sculpture used as a comment/message box at Maki Odo temple.


In the temples treasure house/museum there were a pair of old wooden nio that once stood on guard there.


At Taizoji, the small temple at the foot of the steps that lead up to the giant Kumano Magaibutsu, a smallish pair of stone nio.


This final pair of big, wooden Nio were in the museum of  Usa Hachimangu museum.
before the separation of buddhas and kami they would have stood guard at the shrines entrance.


Usa Hachimangu had long been a syncretic site incorporating buddhism with kami worship, but whereas many of the shrines in Kunisaki seem to have escaped the rigid separation of buddhas and kami, Usa because of its imperial connection did not/


Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Walk from Honshu to Shikoku Day 3


I woke at first light and was already over the bridge onto Oshima when the sun came up. My route took me along the coast a little before pretty much heading straight through the middle of the island. the current running along the coast was very, very strong. There were a couple of shrines to visit along the 10k route, but not much else.


At the southern end of the island I came to the final section, the triple Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge, three connected suspension bridges that together make the longest suspension bridge structure in the world. The bridges are a hair over 4k long, but with the long, windy, access path for cyclists is closer to 7k.


The views from the height of the bridges were stupendous.... it helped that the weather was glorious...


I got to Shikoku around noon. There were a surprisingly large number of people walking over the bridges....

It had taken me 3 days to walk the 70k..... actually an afternoon, a long day, and a morning, so it could be walked in 2 days, but 4 days would be better to give time to explore.....


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ube Shrine

Ube Shrine is located a little south of Tottori City and was/is the Ichinomiya, first-ranked shrine, of the former Inaba province. In the Meiji period is was classified as the second rank of government supported shrines.

The main shrine building and a picture of the enshrined kami, Takenouchinosukune, were printed on the 5 yen note in the early twentieth century. He is usually depicted with a full, long beard. (very handsome if I do say so myself :)

Within the grounds is a massha, secondary shrine, Kofu Shrine that enshrines, among others, Takemikazuchi, Yamato takeru, Izanagi, and kukurihime.

The main kami, Takenouchinosukune, was of royal descent and served 5 emperors and is most well known for serving the mythical Empress Jingu on her mythical invasion of the Korean Peninsular. He lived to be almost 300 years old, and a set of rocks in the shrine grounds is supposedly where he left a pair of shoes.

28 Japanese clans claim descent from him, most notably the Soga and the Katsuragi.

Now he is known as a guardian of children and while we were there several ceremonies were held for kids even though it was a few weeks after the "official" shichigosan.