Saturday, January 9, 2021

Kyusendo Suspension Bridge

Kyusendo Bridge

The Kyusendo Suspension Bridge is a rather long, pedestrian brisge that crosses the Kumagawa River in Kumamoto, just below Kyusendo Cave.

The cave is on the main road from Hitoyoshi to Yatsushiro, but the railway station is on the opposite bank near a "vacation Village" of holiday cottages, etc.

There is a small road bridge a little further downstream so its possible to take a taxi from the station.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Kyusendo Vacation Bungalows Kumamoto Artpolis


Kyusendo is a cave located along the Kumagawa River, and on the opposite bank is a vacation village with numerous cabins and chalets. Two of them are quite unique and are part of Kumamoto Artpolis.

Kumamoto Artpolis is a prefecture-wide program that attempts to use innovative architecture as part of rural regeneration. There are about 100 projects in total and as I walk through the prefecture I have planned my route to try and visit as many of them as I can. A few days previously I had visited the Manga Museum in Yunomae.

The cube-shaped one is called Mokuban and is constructed out of huge blocks of wood and looks somewhat like a giant version of Jenga. I was able to see inside through the windows.

The second one is called Mokuban R2 and is also made out of wood, though thinner, vertical slats with gaps in between. the whole thing seems to be encased in a type of translucent resin. Photo of the interior look quite nice with lots of light, and at night when lit on the inside it looks cool from the exterior.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Shibatatehime Shrine


Located on the bank of the Kuma River, Shibatatehime shrine, as the suffix "hime" suggests, enshrined a maiden. As the sculpted pillar also suggests it is primarily a fertility shrine.

People pray here for fertility, safe childbirth, relief from ailments of the "lower body", and "womens problems". There is a story about the founding of the shrine that involves incest and murder.

A rich man and his daughter were traveling in the area and became exhausted. They had sex together, and next day were totally refreshed and invigorated. Later, when they again became exhausted, the daughter wanted sex again, but the father, feeling profound guilt it is said, murdered her. The shrine was established by local people to pray for the soul of the murdered daughter.

I suspect this modern version of the legend has been somewhat altered to become more palatable to late 20th century Japanese sensibilities. I seek out fertility shrines while wandering off the beaten track, and while they are far fewer than in pre-Meiji days, there are still plenty of them to be found.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

On Foot down the Kumagawa


On the 43rd day of my first walk around Kyushu I left Hitoyoshi and headed down the Kuma River towards Yatsushiro. The Kumagawa is classed as one of the three fastest rivers in Japan.

After Watari the valley nrrowed an there were several sections of whitewater. In season there is a lot of rafting here, but not this time of the year, late November.

As with other mountain river valleys there is a main road on one bank and a smaller, narrower road on the other. No guessing which I chose. Traffic consisted of the occasional postman on a moped, deliver truck, and a few kei trucks.

In many ways it remided me of my own river valley, the Gonokawa. I do prefer walking downhill than uphill......

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year of the Ox


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Yasui Shrine & Sanada Yukimura

Yasui Jinja

Yasui Shrine, a small shrine near Shitennoji Temple in Osaka, enshrines Sanda Yukimura, and is built on the spot where he died in 1615.

Sanada was known as "A hero who may appear once in a hundred years", "Crimson Demon of War", & "The Last Sengoku Hero", and made his name during Hideyoshi's invasion of Korea. He was never called Yukimura, as that name was given him in a modern novel, but, like much historical fiction, has become his most well-known name.

During the Battle of Tennoji in the waning days of the siege of Osaka Castle, he made a last ditch attempt against the vastly larger Tokugawa army that was trying to eliminate the last of the Toyotomi.

Exhausted and sensing defeat, according to the legend he sat on a stool, took off his helmet, and invited his enemies to cut off his head. The subject of movies, plays, and even a video game, the ema photographed below refer to a recent TV drama about him. By the look of it the TV drama probably used a boy band member to play him.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Mount Akahage


325 meters above sea level, Mount Akahage is the highest point on the small island of Chiburijima, a mere 5 miles square and with just 600 inhabitants.

It is the smallest of the four inhabited islands collectively known as the Oki islands in the Japan Sea off the coast of Shimane.

The Oki islands are the remnants of a sunken caldera and this can be clearly seen from the top of Mount Akahage.

There is no flat land on the island, so no rice is grown, however they do raise a lot of cattle, and whereas most farm animals in japan are raided indoors, the slopes of Mount Akahage are home to herds of grazing cows.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Kumano Hongu Taisha


Kumano Hongu Taisha is one of the three shrines that form the Kumano Sanzan, the focus of the famous Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage routes that are now a World Heritage Site.

Though now a purely "shinto" site the Kumano region was home to the Shugendo cult which incorporated daoist and Buddhist elements with mountain worship and kami. 

I was here as the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, probably the oldest pilgrimage route in Japan, now follows the same route s the Kumano Kodo in this section.

Hongu Taisha was moved to its current location on a hill overlooking the river in 1891 following a major flood 2 years previously that destroyed much of the shrine as it was located on a sandbank.

The original site of the shrine nearby is now marked by the tallest torii in the world.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Isshinji Okunoin of temple 3 Kannonji


About mid afternoon on my first day walking the Shodoshima pilgrimage I left the Daish-do and carried on uphill a few more minutes before reaching the okunoin proper, clinging to the cliff overlooking the sea.

This was the okunoin, the inner sanctuary, to temple number 3, kannonji, which lay in the village at the foot of the mountain, and it seemed less visited and maintained than the daishi-do.

There was plenty of statuary around including a fine pair of nio. There was also the remains of a set of steep steps that ran down the mountainside but had been blocked off and disused for a long time. Most surprising was a fairly new three storey building that was once a lodgings.

There were fantastic views across the sea and islands towards Shikoku from about 240 meters above sea level.

The temple hall housed the altar with small statue of Kannon set back in a small cave in the cliff face.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Pagoda at Kinzanji


While walking up a country lane north of Okayama City on the third day of my walk along the Chugoku Kannon Pilgrimage, I spied a pagoda on the hillside ahead. I was quite surprised as while studying maps of my route I did not notice any major temples.

Turns out it was Kinzanji, a Tendai temple that was commonly known as Kanayama Kannonji and was founded by Ho-on Daishi in 749.

The pagoda, a three storeyed one, was built in 1788. Approaching the pagoda you pass through the Niomon, which like the nio housed inside, is much in need of repair and is held together by wooden scaffolding.

Where the huge main hall once stood now all that remaons are the foundation stones. The niomon, main hall, and pagoda line up. There is also a goma-do that dates back to the 16th century.