Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Nobara Hachimangu


The Hachiman shrine in Nobara near Arao in Kumamoto is a fairly typical local shrine, though the entrnce gate is larger than most. The banners suggest that a matsuri has recently, or will soon, be held.

I previously posted about the two pairs of komainu I found here, There was a pretty big tree in the grounds, but otherwise not much else to see. However, I read that there are several small burial mounds within the grounds.

Since arriving in Japan I have read continually that "shinto" considers death very taboo and will have nothing to do with it, leaving such things to the Buddhists to deal with, however, in Izumo, here in Kyushu, and also on Shikoku I have come across shrines built on top of or in close proximity to ancient burial mounds/

The shrine was founded about 1,000 years ago at the end of the Heian Period. Hachiman shrines are the most common village shrines in Japan. The Hachiman cult was originally based in northern Kyushu, and did spread in Kyushu in ancient times.

However, it was when Hachiman was taken up to Nara to protect the new "national" temple of Todaiji, that it began to spread more widely. When an oracle proclaimed that the true identity of Hachiman was in fact Emperor Ojin, the cult became much more powerful.

Some hachoman shrines claim to be derived from the original in Usa, Oita, but apparently two thirds of Hachiman shrines in Japan claim to be derived from Iwashimizu Shrine south of Kyoto and not directly from Usa.Not all Hachimans are equal it seems. There is no mention of the origin of this particular Hachiman shrine, though I do know of Hachiman shrines in Kyushu that went all the way up to Iwashimizu to bring back the "divided spirit" from that shrine rather than get it from the much closer Usa hachman.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Megaliths in the Bath House Ruins


Megaliths in the Bath House Ruins is the title of this installation by the art collective Teamlab at Mifuneyama in Saga, Kyushu.

Mifuneyama is a park and hotel near Takeo Onsen, and each year Teamlab put on a series of installations, some indoors, but mostly outdoors throughout the patk.

The interior pieces can be viewed by visitors during the daytime, but most people will visit in the evening.

The installations mostly consist of computer controlled lights, sounds, and projections. While the technology is certainly state-of-the-art I do find Teamlabs stuff to be somewhat retro and 70's-ish

The original bath house for the hotel is no longer operational, but for the artwork they fill the pools up with water.

I visited in the winter of 2019 while walking the Kyushu Fudo Myo Pilgrimage, but I read today that the exhibition, called A Forest Where Gods Live: Ruins & Heritage, is open again from now until November.

I have posted earlier about another Teamlab installation I saw in Tokushima called Luminous River.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Komainu at Nobarahachimangu


Nobarahachimangu was a relatively small shrine on the outskirts of Arao that I stopped in at on day 49 of my first Kyushu walk.

It had a relatively large entrance gate that housed two rather nice wooden komainu.

Along the approachway were also two stone komainu, the female of  the pair was depicted with a pup.

I'll show pics of the shrine itself next....

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Pagoda at Rengein Tanjoji Temple


The pagoda at Rengein Tanjoji Temple in Tamana, Kumamoto, is one of only two 5-storey pagodas in Kyushu made exclusively out of wood.

It stands 35 meters high and was completed in 1997 after ten yars of construction.

It is made out of Aomori Hiba, a kind of cypress, and is favored for shrine and pagoda construction because of its resistance to insects and humidity.

The pagoda is primarily a Chinese piece of architecture, but in Japan it was modified by having the roofs extend out much further to stop the excessive rainfall of Japan from undermining the foundations.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Rengein Tanjoji Temple


Rengein Tanjoji Temple is a very large and relatively new temple in Tamana that I discovered by accident while walking the Kyushu Pilgrimage. I previously posted on the large gate housing the biggest Shitenno statues in Japan.

After passing through the gate a long, lantern-lined promenade leads to a statue of the founder and the main buildings. In 1930 the priest Zeshin Kawahara was instructed in a vision by Saint Koen to rebuild the temple that had previously stood on this spot. The first building was completed in 1937.

Saint Koen, who is enshrined here, was born on this spot in the late 11th century. He went on to become a monk and rose to be abbot of the great Tendai complex on Mount Hie. His most famous disciple was Honen, the founder of the Pure Land sect.

The original temple was built under orders of Shigemori Taira in the 12th century but was destroyed at the end of the 16th century. The new temple has grown with a 5 storied pagoda being built in 1997 and more recently a Tahoto pagoda.

Later an Okunoin was constructed a few miles away in the mountains. It is also a large complex with impressive buildings and also houses what is said to be the biggest bronze bell in Japan. It is part of the Kyushu Fudo Myo Pilgrimage that I walked a few years ago. Rengein Tanjoji Temple is the head temple in Kyushu of the Shingon Risshu sect.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The Magnificent Shitenno of Renge-in Tanjyoji Temple


Heading out of Tamana in Kumamoto on day 49 of my walk, I spied a tall pagoda, and heading over to investigate discovered this huge temple, Renge0in Tanjyiji. In the next post I will delve into the background of the temple, but for now I will just focus on the splendid gate. 15 meters tall and built solely out of wood in 2011, it houses the 4 Shitenno, the Heavenly Kings, Guardians of the 4 directions.

Standing more than 4 meters in height, they are said to be the biggest Shitenno statues in Japan. Zochoten. Guarding the south, Zochoten is associated with prosperity and spiritual growth. His season is summer, his colour is red, and his element is fire. Depicted with one hand on his hip, and the other holding a pole weapon.

Jikokuten means Guardian of the Nation, and he usually carries a sword and a staff, but not in this statue. He guards the east and his element is water. Associated with strength, he is either blue or green, and his season is spring.

All the Shitenno are depicted stepping on small, demonic creatures called Jaki or Jyaki, symbolizing their suppression of evil.

Tamonten is often known as Bishamonten and was adopted by the samurai and hence acquired an identity as a God of War. Guardian of the north, his element is earth and his color is black. All-knowing and all-hearing he is also associated with wealth and is usually depicted with a pagoda on one hand.

Guardian of the west, Komokuten sees through evil. He is usually depicted holding a scroll and a brush. His colour is white and his element is metal and season is autumn.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Hanegi Hachimangu


After leaving my night time perch at the Tamana Observatory I crossed the Kikuchi River and started to walk through Tamana. The first stop, in the area known as Hanegi, was the hachiman Shrine.... seemingky the most important shrine in the area.

Most impressive was the tower-gate. I'm not sure what the architectural provenance of this style of gate is, though I very much associate them with Hachiman shrines. Hachiman-zukri is an archirecrura style linked to Hachiman shrines, ut it seems to be about a certain roofing style.

This gate was built in the early 17th century, and unusually houses Nio buddhist guardians, somethng more common in Kyushu than in other parts of Japan I believe.

Hachiman shrines are the most common type in japan. Originally linked to the deity of an immigrant group in north Kyushu, and not mentioned in the ancient chronicles, it was heavily influenced by Buddhism and became prevalent nationwide after determining that the deity was in fact a former Emperor, Ojin. Unusual because emperors were not enshrined as kami until the modern period.

There was lots of carving in the woodwork, including several example of "strong men/ sumo wrestler/ demon figures supporting beams. 

During the Satsuma Rebellion, Saigo Takemori's rebel army marched north from theor siege of Kumamoto castle and met an Imperial army in this area. During the battle, Saigo's younger brother was killed by a stray bullet

On a small hill behind the shrine is an Inari Shrine.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Shinnozan Kyozenji Temple 4 Kinki Fudo Myo Pilgrimage


It was late on my first day walking the Kinki Fudo Myo Pilgrimage when I visited Kyozenji Temple. Like the three previous temples of the day it was in the middle of Osaka so heavily urbanized.

It's in an area called Kuwazu in Higashi Sumiyoshi. The temple has no website, there was no information board at the temple, and unlike most of the other pilgrimages Ive walked  I did not buy the small guidebook for this one, so I can find absolutely no information on the temples history.

It was right next door to Kuwazu Tenmangu shrine, and there was a smal park between them, so I would guess they were closely related in the past.

As well as being on the Kinki Fudo Myo Pilgrimage it is all on the Settsu 88 pilgrimage, Settsu being the bame of the former province.

None of the buildings were old, and it looked like even the Nio guardians were fairly new. That was it for this first day and I headed back to my hotel near Shitennoji.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Misty Mountains of Kumano Kodo


Before moving to Japan I had lived many years in a desert environment, so one of the most different and dramatic landscapes I encountered in Japan was the mists and clouds clinging to the forested mountainsides.

This was the setting for my third day walking the Kumano Kodo in the first days of March. I left Hongu, deep in the mountains, and headed roughly West towards the coast along the Nakahechi route.

The most travelled of the various routes that make up the World Heritage Kumano Kodo routes, After a couple of hours I had still nt met anyone else, though it was early in the "season", and I was walking in the opposite direction to most.

I was actually walking the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, but for walkers at least, the route followed the same route as the Kumano Kodo for the first few days.