Thursday, March 5, 2020

Shurin-ji Temple 35 on the Sasaguri Pilgrimage

Shurin-ji is a small temple in Sasaguri, but it was the largest temple so far on my first day walking the Sasaguri Pilgrimage. It was the only one so far that was big enough to have a priest's home. It belongs to the Jodo, Pure Land,  sect, and its honzon is Amida

However, the part of the temple that is the site for the pilgrimage is a small shrine in the grounds called Yakushi-do, which houses this statue of Yakushi Nyorai, commonly known as the Medicine Buddha. Temple 35 on the Shikoku pilgrimage has Yakushi as its honzon, so the corresponding number 35 here in Sasaguri is the same.

There is also a small Kannon-do housing a nice Kannon statue and several other statues in the grounds.

This one has been adorned with a traditional pilgrim hat.

I have no idea who this statue represents but it could be a rakan, a disciple of the historical Buddha.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Treasures of Makiodo

The Treasure Hall at Makiodo Temple in the Hunisaki area.

Makiodo was built on the site of Makisan Denjo-ji, a large temple in the Kunisaki Peninsula area of Oita. The temple burned down in the early 14th Century but some of the statues were saved and are on display now at Makiodo.

Amida Nyorai flanked by the 4 Shitenno
Makisan Denjoji was reputed to be the biggest of the Tendai temples in the Kunisaki area that was home to a Tendai version of Shugendo. I visited it on the first day of my walk along the Kyushu Fudo Myo Pilgrimage. The first group of temples on the pilgrimage are located in the Kunisaki area and as I had been long wanting to walk the old Kunisaki Pilgrimage I used this opportunity. The Kunisakihanto Minemichi Long Trail approximately follows the old pilgrimage route.

Rare Statue of Daitoku Myo at Makiodo
All the statues on display in the Treasure House are obviously more than 700 years old and include a seated Amida Buddha with the four Shitenno, Heavenly Guardians, flanking it. What is believed to be the biggest example of A Daitoku Myo in Japan, seated astride an ox, and a wonderful Fudo Myo with his two attendants.

Fudo Myo at Makiodo in Kunisaki
In a separate building are other artworks and a pair of Nio guardians. Makiodo is located less than 3 kilometers north from the Kumano Magaibutsu, and like many of the really interesting places in Japan , not really served by public transport.

Ancient Nio statue on display at Makiodo

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Tsukiyomi Shrine Sakurajima

Tsukiyomi Shrine is not a big shrine, but it is the largest shrine near Sakurajima, the active volcano and former island across the water from Kagoshima City.

The shrine was moved to its current location after lava flows overran its previous location. It is just a short walk from the ferry port so gets many visitors. From the shrine there are good views of the volcano.

As the name suggests, the main kami at the shrine is Tsukiyomi, common ly known as the kami of the moon. Tsukiyomi came into being when Izanagi purified himself after visiting the underworld. Amaterasu and Susano were created at the same time. Amaterasu and Susano are much more well known. Tsukiyomi barely gets a mention in the ancient chronicles

Also enshrined here is Konohanasakuya Hime, who was the first wife of Ninigi, the grandson of Amaterasu sent to earth to rule over Japan. She is considered the kami of Mount Fuji and all volcanoes.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Gokuraku Jodo Garden at Shitennoji Temple

Hidden away in a corner of Shitennoji Temple in Osaka is a rather unusual garden. Called Gokuraku Jodo Garden, its is based on a description of what is known in English as the Western Paradise of Amida Nyorai, often called the Pure Land.

There are two largish ponds and a meandering stream that connects them. There is also a "dry" garden based on Fudaraku, the "paradise" of Kannon Bosatsu.

The garden was built in the 17th Century. There are two tea-houses in the garden as well as an octagonal pavilion. I visited in December and there was a little bit of Autumn color. There are a lot of cherry trees so would be good to visit in April.

The entrance to the garden, which needs an entry fee, is in the NW of the temple grounds. Very close to Shitennoji is another seldom visited garden, Keitakuen.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Path in Autumn

The path through the garden at the former Chikurin-in Temple in Sakamoto. December 2019.

Sometimes I think I will just post a single photo that I like. I have about 150,000 to choose from.

My own tastes are for photos that I think look like paintings and/or of details......not the big picture. Often leaning towards the abstract and/or geometric.....

Of course my photos are available for purchase, either in print form, or digitally.

I have sold some photos for book and CD covers, etc, and licensed  a lot for different websites, but I would like to sell more......

Monday, February 24, 2020

Garden Borders

Japanese Gardens

Japanese gardens have borders and edges. In some traditional gardens the walls or fences are an integral part of the aesthetic. Where the garden meets a building is also an important border that also has architectural input.

Temple architecture was imported from China and Korea, but because of the heavier rainfall in Japan one of the modifications was to extend the roof out further away from the edge of the building to protect the foundation stones.

These 4 photos show different ways the garden border where it meets the building have been practically and aesthetically designed at Kannon-ji Temple in Tottori

The garden at Kannon-ji is well worth a visit.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Kabura-Sugi The Turnip Tree of Dogo

Kabura Sugi

This unusual tree is called Kabura Sugi and it can be found on Dogo, the largest of the Oki Islands in the Japan Sea off the coast of Shimane. Kabura is a kind of Japanese turnip-like vegetable with a round body with numerous stems rising vertically.

Kabura Sugi

This particular tree has 6 trunks and rises to about 42 meters. It is estimated to be about 600 years old.

Kabura Sugi

I believe it a species of cypress called Urasugi that is found on the slopes of the mountains on the island. It's more famous cousin found nearby is the Boob Cedar.

Kabura Sugi

Thursday, February 20, 2020



Sakurajima is the large volcano clearly visible across the water from Kagoshima City and a landmark of the area. It is the most active volcano in Japan with plumes of smoke and ash visible many times a year.


The name Sakurajima means "Cherry Blossom Island" though it is no longer an island. A major eruption in 1914 resulted in lava flows that connected the island to the mainland and so it is now a peninsula.


Visiting Sakurajima is one of the most popular activities for visitors to the area, and a constant stream of ferries shuttle back and forth from Kagoshima.


Obviously visitors are not allowed too close to the volcanoes but a small tour bus goes to an observation point so you can get a closer look.


A major eruption is expected within 30 years.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Gardens at Gokuraku-ji Temple

zen garden
Karesansui style Zen garden at Gokurakuji Temple in Kinosaki Onsen
Gokurakuji Temple, in a back street of the popular hot spring resort of Kinosaki Onsen, has some nice, small gardens, one of which is quite unusual.

zen garden panorama
Panoramic view of the gardens at Gokurakuji Temple in Kinosaki
Outside the temple gate is a small hillside garden with miniature waterfalls and a lot of statuary, but inside the gate the whole courtyard is given over to 2 karesansui dry gardens.

karesansui with 2 color gravel
Unusual 2 color raked gravel in the garden at Gokurakuji Temple
One of the gardens has raked gravel of two different colors, white, and grey, with theb two being separated by rooftiles set vertically. I can't remember ever having seen the two colors before like this, though using rooftiles to separate sections is fairly common in many types of garden.

Paths extend between the two gardens so they can be viewed from many different angles. The temple also offers zazen classes followed by green tea while viewing the gardens from inside the temple.

801 Kinosakicho Yushhima, Toyooka-shi, Hyogo 669-6101
Tel: 0796 32 2326

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Shiryokan Izushi History Museum


japanese traditional interior
The Shiryokan History Museum in Izushi housed in a traditional residence.
Izushi is a small castle town in northern Hyogo, now a part of Toyooka City. The old town contains about 50 acres of Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings, and here is located the Shiryokan, the local history museum.

traditional genkan
Genkan entrance hall of a wealthy merchants house from the Edo Period
It's in an Edo Period residence of a wealthy merchant family, a cluster of connected buildings with lots of art and artifacts on display, but for me, it was the architecture itself, especially the interiors, that were the star of the show.

Irori and tokonoma
small irori in the floor with tokonoma behind
Spread over 2 floors, there is a veritable warren of rooms to explore filled with tatami, shoji, tokonoma, irori, fusuama, and all the traditional features of Japanese interiors. Somewhat unusual was the reddish hue of many of the walls, which comes from local clay.

Traditional chigai-dana shelving
Chigai-dana, traditional shoin-style shelving
A large storehouse also has displays of samurai weapons and armor.

Inside Izushi History Museum
sunlight through summer lattice windows cast strong shadows on tatami
Izushi History Museum
78 Izushicho Yoida, Toyooka-shi, Hyogo 668-0232
Tel: 0796-52-6556
Open 9:30am to 5pm every day except Tuesdays and over the new year
Entry 300yen for adults, 180 yen for kids