Monday, December 17, 2012

Onomichi Temple Walk


Before I headed off on my walk to Shikoku along the Shimanami Kaido I spent the morning walking Onomichi's temple walk.


Though a relatively small town, Onomichi is home to 25 temples that, like the town itself, are mostly located on the steep hillside running down to the sea.


The route, only 2.5 k long, is easy to follow, especially with the free maps from the towns tourist information office. An easy half-day wander, mostly along narrow lanes and up and down steps.


As well as the temples, some of which are not particularly impressive, there are also a handful of shrines as well as other funky old buildings and other tourist sites.


There are also lots of nice views down over the town and across to Mukaishima across the narrow channel.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Iwami 33 Kannon Pilgrimage: Kitahachimangu


Though I have yet to finish walking the Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage Ive started walking the Iwami 33 Kannon. Being local it means I can do it in one day sections when the weather window allows. I had wanted to do the old Iwami 33 but many of the temples on it no longer exist... victims of Haibutsu Kishaku I suspect.


The old and the new pilgrimages both share a majority of temples but the older one started in Iwami Ginzan and the new one starts in Oda. On my way from Oda Station to the first temple I stopped in at Kita Hachimangu.


A fairly typical Hachiman Shrine, though it was founded in the ninth century, much earlier than many others, and unusually is a branch of the original Usa Hachiman rather than the Kyoto Iwashimizu Hachiman. There are many secondary shrines in the grounds, Ebisu, Aragami, Awashima, Konpira etc


The most interesting of the secondary shrines is this Kinashi Shrine. It enshrines Susano and connects to when he stopped here on his journey from Sila to Izumo. According to local legends he, along with local kami, travelled back and forth between Izumo and Korea from a point a few miles down the coast... Even more interesting is that this shrine was the original shrine here before the Hachimangu was established.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Fall Colors walk: Yaeyama Falls


Down below Yaeyama Shrine the valley leads up to Yaeyama Waterfall, a popular area even though it is remote. There is a big car park and plenty of picnic tables. To get to the waterfall is a 1.5k walk up the valley.


Everywhere I go this woman seems to be following me.....


There are numerous smaller falls along the way including this one in a narrow cleft in the rocks...


Lots of running water....


and some natural fall colors as opposed to the profusion of maple trhat had been planted at the lower end


The trail end at Yaeyama Falls.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fall Colors walk: Yudani Gingko


Winter has arrived early this year, and with being extra busy and the Fall weather being wetter than usual I didnt get to do as much walking in November as I had hoped, but I did make a Fall Colors walk up the Yudani Valley that ends at the Gonokawa near Kawamoto and starts up near Mihara. First stop was this abandoned temple that I had hoped to explore inside of but it has already begun to collapse and their were construction workers there to stop me from entering a "dangerous" place....


Further up the valley a farmer had a grove of gingko trees and he was busy collecting the nuts from underneath...


Solitary gingkos in a background of green are perhaps the most typical image of fall colors round here for me...


I had been told that the huge gingko at the temple in Mitani was particularly spectacular but it had only just begun its metamorphosis from green to gold....


The shrine in Mihara.....

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mysterious Sea Creature


I had never seen this creature before and I have been unable to find out what it is, so if any of you have any ideas please let me know.


It was about 15cms long and was swimming on the surface in a small harbour on the south coast of Yamaguchi in August.


Its coloration was more vivid than these photos show, and its movement can only be described as elegant..

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Omiwa Shrine, Tokushima


Coming to the end of my fourth day on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, between temple 17 and 18 it began to rain so I took shelter in this large shrine.


It is believed to be a branch shrine of the famous Omiwa Shrine in Nara, though it was written with different kanji, but the main kami is Onamuchi, more commonly known as Okuninushi, the main kami of the Nara Omiwa Shrine.


It is an old shrine, being listed in the Tenth Century Engishiki, and it is also a "soja", a shrine where the local government official gathered together all the shrines of a district into one site so he didnt have to travel around to visit them annually.


Small shrines like this surrounded by water are usuallky a Suijin or Benten shrine. This one is an Enoshim-sha, the main kami of Enoshima Jinja being Benten.


The second kami enshrined here is Oyamakui, one of the kami of Hietaisha, a grandson of Susano, and known to be a kami worshipped by immigrant clans in ancient Japan. Interestingly, to me at leat, that the two main kami are both Izumo kami.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Susanoo's Unusual Komainu

Scattered across the remote mountains of Inner izumo are a series of mountain shrines to my favorite kami, Susano. Finally i was able to visit Yaeyama Shrine located on Mount Yaeyama .

I will post more on the shrine at a later date, but for now I just want to show you the rather unusual komainu.

As I wander the backroads of rural japan I am always on the lookout for diversity.... homogenity is such a sickness :). and in the "arts" of local shrines is one place where diversity can be found...

The faces of these komainu are not so unusual, but the stance and body forms are....

The author of a book I have on the komainu of izumo believe these were carved by a man in Yunotsu, but doesnt give any dates. He also believes that originally they were located inside the gate.

Incidentally, a pair of komainu at another Susano shrine, Yaegaki near Matsue, are believed to be among the oldest in japan....

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Japanese Fire Engines


I recently came across this unusual draincover up near Oda City. There is a kind of primitive, folk-art aspect to it.


Up in Yasaka in the mountains south of Hamada they must have big, modern fire trucks...


As of course they do in Osaka....


At Soja in Okayama the firefighter doesnt look too happy,.... but then why would you if you were fighting a fire...


and last, no fire truck, just firefighters, in Takamatsu on Shikoku...

For more draincover firefighters with trucks click here

Monday, December 3, 2012

Falls' End


It seems to have been a short, cool, and wet autumn this year....


early this morning while driving back from a friends place upriver we stopped briefly at a riverside temple to snap some shots...


Fortunately it was clear skies...


No idea of the temple name, and when I first visited it many years ago it was non-existent but it seems a new temple has been built here....


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Akiyoshidai: the biggest karst in Japan


Compared to some countries Japan does not have a great diversity of landscapes. The first place  I visited in Japan that struck me as unusual for Japan was Akiyoshidai in central Yamaguchi.


It is a karst, a limestone plateau, and is in fact the largest karst in Japan with an area of about 130 square kilometers.


Some 300 million years ago it was a large coral reef which rose above the sea and became limestone. Being soluble the limestone is easily eroded by water and has created the unusual  landscape of rolling hills with sinkholes and unusual protruding rocks. It also is home to hundreds of caves, including Akiyoshido, the largest in Japan.


Off in the distance the more usual Japanese landscape can be glimpsed.


The early Japanese eventually cut down the forest that stood over the plateau and replaced it with Susuki, Japanese Pampas Grass, which they used as fodder and thatch. To stop the forest from regrowing the plateau is burned every February.


There are numerous trails all over the plateau and it offers an unusual landscape in any season of the year.