Sunday, January 5, 2020

Terukuni Shrine

The main shrine in Kagoshima City is Terukuni Shrine, marked with a huge torii.

Perhaps its most distinguishing feature is the tree in front pruned into the shape of a bird with outstretched wings. It is not an ancient shrine, being founded in 1863 and enshrining the daimyo of Satsuma, Shimazu Nariakira who ruled for 7 years until his death in 1858.

Like many of the modern shrines that worship rulers, politicians, generals etc I find it quite a sterile place. I personally can find nothing in his story that would make him an object of worship for me, but then I find authority based on violence and or wealth an unpleasant and disagreeable concept. He was one of the daimyo that supported the overthrow of the government and a return to Imperial rule, so it was an imperial decree that enshrined him as Teruluni Daimyojin

There is a museum in the shrine that does have a good collection of historical artifacts connected to the Shimazu rule though.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Raked Gravel and Rock

Raked Gravel and Rock

Raked Gravel and Rock.

Considered quintessentially Japanese, gardens with raked gravel and rock are ubiquitous in Japan. Generally called "karesansui" they are often known in English as "Dry Gardens". Heavily associated with Zen, they are found not just in Zen temples but almost anywhere, secular or sacred.

Great gravel.

The first photo is from Kanyoji Temple in the mountains of Yamaguchi Prefecture. I believe it was designed by Mirei Shigemori, one of the great garden designers of the 20th Century. The second photo is from the Yuushien Gardens on Daikon Island in the Nakaumi Lagoon between Shimane and Tottori. An excellent garden well worth a visit.

Rock on.

This third one is within the entrance area to a hot spring resort in the Okuizumo area of Shimane.

There is no shortage of karesansui gardens in Kyoto, but this 4th photo shows one of the lesser known ones. It is in front of the main hall of Shogo-in, a monzeki temple, which means it was home to a member of the imperial family.

Dry Garden.

This last one is also not such a well known garden, bgut also one that is well worth a visit. It is in the grounds of the ruins of Tokushima Castle and was part of the palace there.

Rock garden.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year of the Rat

I struggled to find a photo of a rat for this years new year post, so this will have to do. I have always presumed it was a statue depicting the famous artist Sesshu as a child, as it was located near the temple where he trained as a monk and where the legend of Sesshu and the Rat is set, and I am almost certain that is the case, but Ive also seen many statues of cute childlike jizos with each of the 12 animals of the Chinese horoscope, so I suppose there is an outside chance it could be that.

Anyway I wish you all Happy New Year.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Mifune Shrine, Yoshino, Kagoshima

Heading down the busy main road to Kagoshima that runs between the bay and the mountains, at one point the road splits and on the "island" between the lanes was a small shrine set in a grove of trees. The small building was squeezed between 2 large rocks.

Mifune (3 boats) Shrine was founded in 1741, though a small. stone hokora was excavated here suggesting it was a sacred site before 1741. Mifune Daimyojin is considered a kami for protection at sea and also for fishermen. The titel "daimyojin", means, I believe something like "great shining deity" and is applied to many kami. I believe it is a somewhat Buddhist term.

There were numerous smaller altars around the main building, and many of them featured Buddhist statues, like this miniature Fudo Myo.

Was the road rerouted to avoid the shrine? In this case I suspect so, although there are plenty of example of shrines being relocated when they stood in the way of construction projects.

This bottom photo is probably a Benzaiten.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Empty-Handed Fudo MyoO

While on my recent trip to Yamaguchi searching out the autumn colors I came across another unusual Fudo Myo. This statue is at the base of the steps leading up to Ryuzoji, and as you can see he has absolutely nothing in either hand. His hands appear to be in a mudra, which are the hand positions that Buddhas and other Buddhist deities use, often to indicate the nature of the particular figure. Mudras are also used as a meditation technique.

As is often the case with things Japanese, there is no one set of meanings to anything. Some sources say Fudo has nine mudras associated with him, some say ten, and one says fourteen. As far as I can tell this mudra goes by the name of rin in Japanese, though an older pronunciation is ten. I believe it is known as a "power" mudra.

The other thing that was slightly unusual with this statue is that both his fangs are pointing downwards. Normally one is up and the other down, though I have seen quite a few as in this photo..

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Left-handed Fudo Myo

Left-handed Fudo Myo

Fudo myo.

Fudo MyoO, one of my favorite deities, is usually portrayed holding a rope in his left hand and a sword, named Kurikara, in his right. The sword is for subduing demons and cutting through ignorance.

On a recent visit to Shogoin Temple in Kyoto as part of my Kinki Fudo Myo Pilgrimage, I saw this painting of Fudo where the sword is in his left hand. I have been unable to find out anything about this painting, but I am guessing it is fairly modern. I have no idea if there is any significance to this left-handedness.......

EDIT... thanks to a reader in the Netherlands I was able to find out the painting was only given to the temple 2 months ago and is by Yuki Adachi from Okayama. It is done in Yuzen style which is a kind of dye resist painting used for kimonos and obis.....

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Raising the New Shimenawa at Hozanji

Last week  I visited the mountain temple of Hozanji in Ikoma, when I arrived at the main torii there were preparations underway to install a new shimenawa. I headed into the temple and spent some time exploring and as I later came to leave there were crowds of people around the torii holding ropes that were to lift it.

I decided to hang around and watch the ceremony. After a while a procession of priests arrived accompanied by musicians playing the ancient chinese instruments and the music of the ancient imperial court that is featured at shinto shrines sometimes.

A series of rituals and chants then took place, led by a very aged head priest.

Then the shimenawa was slowly hoisted by the crowd.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Kyushu Pilgrimage Temple 43 Hojo-in

Monday, July 29th 2013, the 29th day of my walk around Kyushu on the 108 temple Shingon Pilgrimage. I leave Hayato and head south to reach the northern edge of Kagoshima Bay.

The first port of call is in Kajiki, Hojo-in, a small temple. As is often the case in these small temples there was no-one home for me to ask questions, like the story behind the statue head enshrined in front of the main hall.

These small temples often have nothing much special to attract visitors, but I am usually able to find something interesting. I am guessing this is a small statue of Daikoku, though I have never seen one like it with him standing on three bales of rice rather than the usual two.

I have never found out the purpose of the small windmills placed in front of Mizuko Jizo statues. Mizuko Jizo is a fairly modern phenomenon, a Jizo for children who have passed, but in most cases for abortions.

The rest of the day did not go well, and if you wish you can read my rant about being a pedestrian in Japan here.....

Friday, December 6, 2019

2019 Fall Colors Part 4 Ryosokuji Temple & Washibara Hachimangu

Next day we visited Ryosokuiji Temple, a small rural temple in an out of the way valley. However, it has grounds extensively planted with maple trees, and so is popular during the fall colors season.

Though it was overcast it did not disappoint, although in terms of architecture and statuary there was not much to see.

The small garden behind the temple and priests house looked intriguing but was hidden by a big fence.

heading back home we stopped in briefly at Tsuwano. Being the highest point on our trip the colors here were just about at peak. We went to Washibara hachimangu Shrine, famous for having the only genuine Yabusame grounds in Japan. Here ther was the classic mix of golden Gingko and red Maple...

Sunday, December 1, 2019

2019 Fall Colors Part 3 Chomonkyo Gorge & Ryuzoji Temple

For the second part of my search for the Fall colors this year we headed to Yamaguchi. First stop was Chomonkyo, a pretty gorge in the mountains, and a section of the Chugoku nature Trail.

It was a glorious day with not a cloud in the sky. At the entrance to the gorge some maples had been planted, but most of the mountainsides were mottled with browns and yellows.

Next we headed to Ryuzoji, a temple at the head of a small valley outside of Yamaguchi City. Here there was a mix of maple and Gingko, though it was not at peak season yet.

The temple is known for a particularly old and large Gingko tree. There is also a waterfall and many statues of Fudo Myo.