Saturday, October 9, 2021

Japanese Gardens at Osaka Expo Park

Osaka Expo Park

The Japanese Garden in Expo Park, Osaka, is just over fifty years old, but is huge, measuring about 64 acres in total.

In fact it should really be considered as several gardens as it was buult for the World Expo70 and its purpose was to introduce foreign visitors to the history of garden design in Japan for the past 1000 years and more.

It is divided into four areas, the Ancient Garden, Medieval garden, Early Modern Garden, and the Modern Garden.

The Ancient Garden reflects the style of Heian Period gardens such as the ones at Byodo-in in Uji or Shinsen-en in Kyoto. Heavily Chinese in style.

The Medieval garden showcases gardens of the 12th to 16th centuries. This was the time of Zen influenced garden design, especially karesansui, the dry gardens of raked sand. It was also the time of the tea ceremony and the gardens here are home to several tea houses, though some are only open during the peak autumn leaves season.

The Early Modern garden focuses on the great daimyo gardens of the Edo Period. This was the time of the great strolling gardens, usually around a largish pond The largest pond at Osaka Expo is called Shinji Ike.

There is a large, covered rest area with great views of\ve the central part of the garden.

Any time of the year is good to visit, though obviously you can check and see what is flowering when. All these photos were taken in mid-Aptil.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Best Vantage Point in Japan


Japan is home to a multitude of observation decks atop high-rise buildings and towers, with Tokyo Skytree being the tallest and most famous. Most of the high-rise buildings are in the biggest cities, but the many towers are often found on the coast with views along the seashore.

At 289 meters in height5, the observation deck on top of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is taller than most of the others, and the views are astounding.

The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge opened in 1998 and connects the main island of Honshu with Awaji Island. It has the longest central span of any suspension bridge in the world at almost 2 kilometers. The total length is almost 4 kilometers.

To visit the observation deck you must book well in advance as there are a very small number of places on the tour and though relatively little-known is quickly booked up. After being kitted out in a hardhat and hi-viz vest you first have a lecture on safety protocols and how the tour will be conducted. Then you get a guided tour of the bridge museum which showcases the amazing technology that went into building it. Then you are taken out under the bridge on a walkway to the public observation deck below the bridge, 50 meters above the sea below.

Then you walk out about 1 kilometer under the bridge to the base of the tower on the Akashi, Hionshu side of the bridge where a small elevator takes you up to the top of the tower.

The observation deck is open to the elements, and there is no glass or fence obscuring your views. This makes it somehow more exciting.

The views are 360 degrees, as well as down on the bridge roadway and the ships passing underneath. Akashi is the closest view, and then west along the Okayama coast, then east to Kobe and Osaka beyond that.

I should really amend the title, as I have seen some amazing views from the tops of mountains on islands in the Inland Sea, but the views from the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge are the best I've seen from a man-made vantage point.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Jyokoji Temple 8 Shodoshima Pilgrimage


I reached Jokoji, number 8 temple on the 88 temple Shodoshima Pilgrimage, after coming down from the mountains visible in this first photo where I had visited the amazing mountain cave temples of Dounzan and Goishizan high up in the mountains.

The large, walled compound and belfry gate was quite a contrast, and I think this was the biggest temple I had visited on my first day walking the Shodoshima Pilgrimage.

The temple was founded in the mid 8th century by Gyoki, though it was located furter up the side of the mountain. It was destroyed in the 16th century when a Christian daimyo held sway over the island and destroyed many temples.

The temple was rebuilt in the mid to late 17th century. The small Yakushi-do in the precincts dates to 1665 The main hall was rebuilt in 1986. The honzon is a Yakushi Nyorai and the temple belongs to the Shingon sect.

Flanking the Yakushi statue is a statue of Fudo and one of Kobo Daishi. The ceiling is covered in paintings done by members of the temple. They seem to be mostly fruit, vegetable, and flowers..

It seems it was once a very rich and poerful temple. In the mid 19th century a Christian believer was found in the parish and the temple was punished by having the tax-free status of its lands rescinded. In the Meiji Period with Shinbutsu Bunri, it lost control of several shrines, and in the postwar land reforms, most of its properties were confiscated.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Fudoji Temple 10 Kyushu Pilgrimage


Dainichisan Fudo-ji, temple 10 on the Kyushu Pilgrimage is located in a residential district of Nishimuta, south of Kurume in Fukuoka. The sun had just risen as I arrived.

The honzon of the temple is a Fudo Myo, but the main hall was locked and I figured it was too early to disturb the priest, but there were a couple of other Fudo statues in the grounds.

The flames of one were sporting a thick coating of frost.

It is a fairly new temple, being founded in 1984 by a nun who had a revelation while visiting India.

Even so, they have made themselves quite active as the temple is also on the Kyushu Kannon Pilgrimage and the Kyushu Jizo Pilgrimage. There are 33 Kannon statues around the Kannon Hall, and 88 statues of the Shikoku Ohenro.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Lost in the Mountains Day 3 of the Chugoku Kannon Pilgrimage


Well actually lost is a bit of an exaggeration. I knew exactly where I was, I was in Mitsukitano, a rather secluded mountain village north of Okayama City. The problem was the road I had planned on taking simply no longer existed, and the alternative was a lengthy detour.

The Chugoku Kannon Pilgrimage is a fairly modern invention, made I believe in 1985. This means that there are no well-established, historical routes between the temples, and in fact the guidebooks are written for drivers, though public transport access to each temple is often given.

This means that when planning my walks along it I have to figure out my own route, usually with the aid of googlemaps, but often also with the Japanese official topo maps, whose website is now much more useful. 

There are many factors that influence my choice of routes, I prefer smaller roads if possible, and I prefer to do as little climbing as possible, and often I am tempted to make detours that take me to interesting sites.

On day 3 of my walk  I had chosen not to take the obvious route but had instead detoured up some narrow mountain roads so I could visit the Maneki Neko Museum. I had no particular interest in Maneki Neko, but I partially funded my walks by writing articles for a large Japanese tourism website, and so I try to visit such sites. By taking that detour I had accidentally discovered Kinzanji, the oldest temple in Okayama, with its magnificent ancient pagoda.

So, here I was in Mitsukitano, and across from me I could see the golf course scarring the hillside. My destination lay down there about 1k away between the two mountains, but the road that googlemaps told me should exist did not. It probably did exist at some point in the not-too-distant past. This was not the first time I had been put in this position by following maps, and it would certainly not be the last.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Bairinji Gaien the Outer Temple Garden


The Gaien is the outer gardens of Bairinji Temple in Kurume. Mostly situated to the north of the temple along the bank of the Chikugo River.

In 1958 the temple gave it to the city asa public park. It is most famous for more than 500 Plum trees of about 30 different species, asa well as azaleas. I visited in late December so there wee no plum blossoms ready yet.

As the first photo shows, there was evidence of maple trees, and the last photo shows evidence of Gingko, so there must have been some nice autumn colors a month or so before.

Even without the seasonal displays, I found the gardens nice to visit.

The buildings inside the walls seem to be closed to the pub;ic, but there still remains some zen gardens in the outer garden.

A previous post with details of the temple and its history can be found here.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Bairinji Zen Temple


Bairinji Zen Temple.

Situated on the bank of the Chikugo River in Kurume, Fukuoka, Bairinji is a long established temple of the Rinzai sect that I would call a monastery as many Buddhist monks, priests, and laypeople come here for training .

Bairinji Zen Temple.

The temple originated in Fukuchiyama, northern Kyoto, and was named Zuiganji. It was moved to Kurume in the early 17th century by Toyoji Arima after he was given the Kurume Domain for his part in the battle of Sekigahara.

Bairinji Zen Temple

Zuiganji was where his father had been buried and the remains were also brought along so the temple could continue to be the family temple.

It was renamed Barinji after the posthumous name of his father. The cemetery contains the tombs of  the Arima famiy.

There seems to be some fine buildings, but the gates to most of them were closed. Some of the fates had some fine carvings. The temple is apparently home to many treasures..... but seems ,ostly closed to visitors.

However, the larger "outer" garden of the temple was made into a public park, and to this I return in the next post...

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