Monday, November 23, 2020

A Daimyo Garden at Hirata Honjin


Honjin were a kind of lodgings used by daimyo, feudal lords, as they travelled around their domain. They were usyually the homes of wealthy merchants or farmers who could provide the luxury that the daimyo needed.

One such honjin is in Hirata, near the shore of Lake Shinji in Shimane, the former Matsue Domain. The honjin was the home of the wealthy Honkisa family who made their money from cotton and sake and for which Hirata was known. For the Matsue lords one of the facilities needed seems to have been a nice garden.

I am by no means an expert, but it seems to me that the stone pathways, or tobi-ishi, in Izumo-style gardens are somewhat more prominent. I have read that one distinguishing feature of Izumo-style gardens is the combination of rounded and rectilinear stones.

The honjin and its garden were actually relocated to its current spot. Hirata is also home to a unique type of art called Isshiki Kazari and I highly recommend checking out these recent posts on it.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

10,000 Dahlias at Yuushien Garden


I recently visited Yuushien Garden on Daikon Island for an evening illumination event as part of a 10,000 Dahlias festival.

I arrived at sunset and so was able to see the dahlias in the last of the natural light.

I believe a city in China has been having a 10,000 Dahlia festival and that this one was in some way connected.

The main pond of the garden was covered in the blooms as well as other areas near the entrance to the garden. I have posted on the garden before here.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Takuno Hachimangu

Takano Hachimangu

On day 3 of my walk along the Iwami Kannon Pilgrimage I eft Isotake and carried on down the coast into Takuno where there was the next pilgrimage temple.

Right next to the temple was the main shrine for the village, a Hachimangu. A pretty standard village Hachimangu, though there were quite a few different styles of komainu.

Hanging inside was an ema, a painting of a kitamaebune, one of the cargo  boats that plyed the major trade route along the Japan Sea coast. I had often thought that Takuno must have been propserous in earlier times as there are a few large merchant houses and warehouses.

If it was a kitamaebune port that would make sense. Just outside the mouth of the harbor are a couple of small islets that would have made the port a safe haven in a storm. According to myth these islets were the boats that Susano and his family came in from the Korean peninsula.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Sending the gods away at Mankusen Shrine


It's that time of the year again,... in Izumo known as Kamiarizuki, the month with the gods, and in the rest of the country Kannazuki, the month without the gods. Often repeated that ALL the gods of Japan visit Izumo Taishi at this time, in fact only most of the gods visit, and they visit a wide range of shrines scattered across the old province of Izumo.

Many years ago I visited Mankusen Shrine on the banks of the Hi River not too far from Izumo Taisha to see a unique ceremony that sends the kami away at the end of their AGM. A youn priest eplained it to me that the kami are particularly fond of the sake made in the area around the shrine, and were therefore reluctant to leave. It very much reminded me of closing time in an English Pub when the landlords have to try and get everyone out of the premises. He asked if I would like to observe the ceremony, nd of course I said yes as the public are not allowed to watch.

First, a camera crew from the local TV station and myself were given the white vest that signifies that we were temporary "staff" of the shrine, and then he performed a purification for us. The first part of the ceremony to send the kami home takes place in the usual part of the shrine and involved purification and reading of norito etc.

It then moves to an adjacent building purpose-built for the ceremony. Here, hidden from public view, is a kind of altar with two big, heavy doors, open while the kami are in residence.

At the end of the ceremony/ritual, the heavy doors are closed. Interestingly the building for the ritual is a Meiji-period creation. Prior to that, the ceremony took place in a grove of trees.

Friday, November 13, 2020



Near the very tip of Cape Muroto in Kochi, Shikoku, is a pair of small caves near the shore that, while not in any way impressive, still get lots of visitors and pilgrims because of their history.

In the first years of the 9th Century a young man named Mao had been trying to achieve Buddhist enlightenment for some years and brought himself to the cape and within these caves set about a grueling program of austerities and meditation.

At the age of 30 he achieved his aim and changed his name to Kukai, a combination of "sea" and "sky" which is what he could see from inside the confines of the cave. 

The mani is now known as Kobo Daishi, a name bestowed on him long after his death, and he is probably the most well-known religious figure in Japanese history, founding the Shuingon sect, and the focus of the Shikoku Pilgrimage.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Fuki-ji Temple the Oldest Wooden Building in Kyushu


Fukiji Temple on the Kunisaki Peninsula is certainly an elegant structure and is the oldest wooden building still standing in all of Kyushu, and is therefore registered as a National Treasure.

It is believed to have been built in the early 12th Century, part of the huge Tendai-Hachiman-Shugendo pilgrimage area that extends over the whole peninsula. It is believed the temple was built for the priests of Usa Hachiman. Like almost  all the shrines and temples in the region there are a fine pair of stone Nio.

The main hall houses a statue of Amida Nyorai, and is classed as one of the top 3 Amida Halls in Japan. The interior walls of the hall have remnants of colorful murals depicting the Western paradise of Amida.

I was here on the first day of my walk along the Kyushu Fudo Myo Pilgrimage, and while Fukiji is not one of the pilgrimage temples it did have a Fudo statue.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Okuizumo Orochi Train


Okuizumo is the region of Shimane wherein is set one of the most swell known of the Izumo myths, the slaying of the 8-headed serpent Yamata no Orochi by Susano. The Kisuki Line is a railway line that runs from lake Shinji up into the Chugoku Mountains and pretty much follows the Hi River which is the site of many of the Orochi stories.

The Orochi Train, a scenic, reservation-ony, train runs between Kisuki and Bingo Ochiai and has just two carriages. However the trainis only ever half-full as a reservation gets you two seats, one in the enclosed car, and one in the open car.

The line roughly follows the Hi River and mostly has great views. When it passes through tunnels the interior of the carriages are illuminated. As it approached the Chugoku Mountains they appear impassable, but at Izumo Sakana Station the train goes back and forth up a series of switchbacks, some of the few still remaining in Japan.

The train then follows a 190-degree curve followed by a 170-degree curve in the opposite direction before arriving at Izumo Minari Station, the highest station in the JR West network. You also catch a glimpse of the Orochi Loop, a road that corkscrews down the river below.

At Bingo Ochiai it connect with the Geibi Line which runs between Niimi and Miyoshi.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Ryuko-in Bangai Temple 6 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage

Ryuko-in is the sixth "bangai" temple, one of twenty extra temples on the 88 temple pilgrimage. I arrived there late on the 27th day of my walk.

It is located at the top of an impressive sset of steps and has great views over the town of Uwajima and of the small castle. In fact the temple was constructed to guard the NE direction of the castle, the so-called "demon gate" from where misfortune arrives.

It is a Shingon temple, and of course has a Daishi-do as well as quite a largish Inari shrine. The honzon is an eleven-faced kannon.

There is a miniature 88 statue pilhrimage in the grounds, but the most noteworthy aspect of the temple is the views.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Hitoyoshi Castle Garden

Right next to the ruins of Hitoyoshi Castle, in the grounds of what is now the Sagara Gokoku Shrine, are the remnants of a traditional Japanese garden.

I suspect this was the location of the Daimyo's "Palace", and the gardens are not very well maintained, but are particularly pleasant in the Autumn.

There seems to be very little information about it, but I have seen it referred to as a stroll type garden. There are two bridges over the pond to the island and a waterfall^arrangement of rocks behind the pond.

It is always open, and free to enter.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Hitoyoshi Castle


Hitoyoshi Castle, like most castles in Japan, is pretty much a ruin having been dismantled in the early meiji Period. However the remaining stonework is quite impressive, especially in the context of its location.

It is built on the banks of the Kumagawa River and uses it and a tributary as a moat. The form it is in now dates back to the early 17th Century. A gate and a small yagura have been rebuilt in modern times.

The originalcastle on the site was built in the 13th Century. The castle nd the surrounding area is unusual in that it was held by the same clan, the Sagara, from the 13th Century until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

It is free to enter and is particular spectacular in November when the autumn colors are in full swing