Saturday, June 28, 2014

Kyushu 108 Temple Pilgrimage Temple 8 Ryushoji

Following the suggested route, temple number 8 is the third temple to visit on the pilgrimage. A small temple on the hillside above Umi, Ryushoji.

It is quite a new temple, being founded in 1968.

Like all the temples on this pilgrimage that is connected to the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi, it is a Shingon sect temple.

As well as being number 8 on the Kyushu 108 pilgrimage it is number 22 on the 23 temple Kyushu Jizo pilgrimage.

The Jizo is a Tatee Jizo, prayed to for recovery from illness. There are several Fudo Myoo in the grounds and a large altar to Kannon.

The honzon of the temple is a Dainichi Nyorai, flanked by a Fudo and a Kannon. There is also a Yakushi Nyorai.

The previous post in this series on day 1 of my walk along this pilgrimage was on the nearby Naka Homan Shrine.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage Temple 17 Seijyo-ji

Perched right on top of 450 meter high Hoshikamiyama, Seijyoji is probably the highest of all the temples on the Izumo Pilgrimage.

All that remains is the single main hall, which burnt down in 1951, a single stone pagoda, and a single statue.

It is now a Soto Zen temple, but was earlier a Shingon temple. The statue of 11 faced Kannon was supposedly carved by Gyoki which would suggest that it is older than Shingon.

Though it looks abandoned, villagers come here at the end of January for a ceremony that involves making and then carrying up the mountain a huge mochi, rice cake.

There are fantastic views, east towards Daisen 40k away (above) and also west towards Sanbe.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mokoso Shrine

Mokoso Shrine, located in a grove of trees just south of Yakumo is an ancient shrine listed in the 8th Century Izumo Fudoki where it is called  Momino Yashiro.

The three main kami are listed as Kunitokotachi, Kuninosazuchi, & Amenohohi. Kunitokotachi is one, if not the, primal kami that came into being after the separation of heaven and earth, I first encountered it/him at Ayo Shrine and more info can be had in that post. Kunitokotachi was an important kami in Yoshida Shinto, and also in Tenrikyo. Kuninosazuchi I had not encountered before. As with most kami there are a variety of different versions, but most agree that it is one of two patron kami of hills and passes that came out of a union between Oyamatsumi, a kami of mountains, and Nozuchi, another name of Kayanohime, a kami of grasses. Amenohohi was the first emissary sent from the High Plain of Heaven to negotiate the hand over of the land from Okuninushi to the Yamato, and is considered the ancestor of the Izumo Taisha priestly lineage.

There are numerous secondary shrines in the grounds, including Shiogami, Sagi, Inari, and most interesting of all, Toshitokujin, the kami of the New Year with roots in Onmyodo, the Japanese name for Yin-Yang divination. Toshitokujin has connections with Tondo matsuri,... link here

There was also an altar to Kojin, a rope serpent wrapped around the base of a tree. Like Omoto in my region, Kojin is immensely popular in eastern Izumo, yet is not well known elsewhere or in towns. The land kami represented by a straw serpent can be found the length and breadth of Japan....

The shrine had a small Zuijinmon that typically included a pair of old, wooden komainu. The small wooden komainu found inside gates and sometimes flanking the honden or in the main building are much older than the nowadays more common stone komainu found flanking the pathway into shrines which mostly seem to only date back to the Edo Period.

Monday, June 16, 2014



Decided to take a break from the interminable sequence of garden chores that go along with the rainy season here and took advantage of a break in the rainy weather to spend the afternoon on the coast.


We went down to Shimoko near Hamada where Tatamigaura is located.


In 1872 the Hamada Earthquake occurred. The epicenter of the magnitude 7 quake was just offshore, and one of the results was that a section of seabed rose up and is now exposed at all but the highest tides.


The name tatamigaura comes from the fissures in the flat rock that supposedly resemble tatami flooring. As well as lots of tidal pools, there are various strange rock formations, fossils, and sea caves. Access to the shore is via a tunnel that passes through the biggest sea cave that houses a small Buddhist shrine.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Shisa of Okinawa


If there is one icon for Okinawa, it must be the Shisa. They can be seen everywhere, usually in pairs, on roofs, flanking gateways etc.


Like their relatives in mainland Japan, the komainu, shisa are a variation on Chinese guardian lions, often the pairing having one open mouthed, one closed, one female, one male.


Of course, what fascinates me, is the great diversity of styles that have developed, especially in the area of "folk" art.


So this is the first of many posts on the subject :)


Friday, June 13, 2014

Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage Day 7 Yakumo to Hirose

The seventh day of my walk along the Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage promised to be yet another fine May day.

My route is going to take me southeast into the mountains where there is a mountaintop temple to visit before dropping down the other side into the Hirose valley.

There are no settlements of any size along the route, so no shops, although I have never been down this road before.

Once the road ascends into the higher country the number of farmhouses drops, and there are just isolated farmhouses..... some abandoned.

Some not yet abandoned.

I will be stopping by at all the roadside shrines and altars I pass on the lookout for interesting statues etc.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Kifune Shrine, Saigi, Usa


Wandering around the countryside in the Fall it is easy to notice shrines and temples by the brilliant foliage of ginko trees. Unfortunately this small village shrine in Saigi near Usa station,  had no signboard and there was no-one around to ask for details, so all I know is  it is a Kifune Shrine.


200 meters away and 1 kilometer away were two other shrines named Kibune, though they were written with different kanji, but all three are in all probability branches of the Kifune Shrine in Kibune, just north of Kyoto.


The two main kami are Takaokami no kami and Kuraokami no kami, both connected to water sources and according to myth created from the drops of blood when Izanagi killed the kami of fire that killed Izanami.


There were several smaller shrines in the grounds, including this one to another type of water kami. The door was open and the shintai, the object that the kami resides in when it descends, was a rock. The vast majority of the shintai I have seen have been rocks.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage, Temple 16 Fusai-ji

The 16th temple of the pilgrimage is just a few hundred meters from Kumano Taisha, and not surprisingly it has historical links with the shrine.

All that exists is the single Kannon Hall enshrining an Eleven Faced Kannon. It is a Soto Zen temple and is in the grounds of Joe-ji, a temple founded by the Amago Clan. It is also a Soto temple.

Fusaiji was moved here from its original site about 100 years ago. It was located on Tengu Mountain, the mountain behind Kumano Taisha that was the original shrine enshrining Susano. The Kannon was associated with a water source on the mountain.

So, almost halfway through the temples, but less than halfway distancewise It was time to head home fro a break. From the temple down into Yakumo was just a few kilometers, and from there I could catch a bus.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Ohama, Osaki Shimojima Island


Up at the crack of dawn I crossed over the bridge from Teshima onto Osaki Shimojima Island and started to walk around the south coast towards Mitarai.


It was so early the local inhabitants were not up and about, choosing to sit on the sea wall.....


In the village of Ohama I stopped in at the two village shrines.


There were a few small fishing boats in the little harbor but no activty....


Looking back to Ohama, the sun about to poke above the mountains...... It promised to be a fine morning walk.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Kumano Taisha

Kumano Taisha

Kumano Taisha was the most important shrine in Izumo for centuries before Izumo Taisha supplanted it in the late Heian Period. Empress Saimei ordered the shrine built in the mid 7th Century. Before that the shrine was the mountain behind it.

The kami is Susano, which is not surprising since it is located in the heart of Susano country. There are numerous other shrines within the compund, the two major ones being to Izanami, Susano's "mother", and Kushinada, his "wife".

No one can know for sure why Saimei ordered its construction, but it seems likely to me that she was engaged in attempt to unify the provinces under Yamato control to fight against the threat of Sila. She died leading an army in Kyushu on the way to the Korean Peninsula to help their ally (relatives?) in Paekche who was threatened by Sila. After her death the Yamato forces suffered a humiliating defeat by Sila so it is not often mentioned in histories.

An unusual building with a thatched rood and walls covered in cedar bark houses sacred fire-making tools used in rituals at Izumo Taisha, the fire made from the tools is used to cook rice to be offered to the gods. Before Meiji the fire would also have been used to cook the food for the new head priest rituals.

The annual Sankasai ritual is when the priests come from Izumo Taisha to borrow the fire-making tools. They bring with them a long rice cake as an offering. The Kumano priests complain about the rice cake and insist it should be made according to their specifications, but eventually relent and make it themselves as it is too far for the Izumo taisha priests to go back to make a better cake, but the Kumano priests insist that next year the Izumo priests must make a better cake.