Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Finding Koyo at Chokoji Temple


After visiting Kannabiji, we decided to head away from the river up into the mountains to check out Chokoji Temple. Famous for its large ginkgo tree, every time we have visited previously we were either too early or too late, so maybe this year we will be lucky.

And we were. Chokoji is a small temple in quite a remote location. Now there is a small hot spring next door. It was a family temple of a branch of the Ogasawara Clan who ruled the small domain here in the Muromachi period. I believe they were also connected to Kannabiji.

During the Edo Period, the area was controlled directly by the government in Edo as it was part of the Iwami Ginzan solver mine and the government appropriated all mines in Japan.

Koyo is the Japanese word that refers to the changing colors of the Autumn leaves, though I believe it originally referred specifically to the Japanese maple with its red leaves, it now applies to the fyll range of colors including of course the golden yellow of the ginkgo .

There was a little splash of mape at Chokoji....

As we were only about 30 minutes from Iwami Ginzan we decided to head there next.....

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Ebisu Along the Hita Kaido


Christmas Eve, 2013, and I begin the 52nd day of my walk along the Kyushu Pilgrimage. With totally clear skies I begin heading out of Kurume with everything still in shadow covered in white frost.

The route I will be following is eastwards up the Chikugo River on the south side towtds Hita in Oita. It was a major transportation route in the Edo Period sometimes called the Hita Kaido, sometimes the Bungo Kaido.

What became apparent after only a few kilometers of walking were the large number of Ebisu statues along the route.

Ebisu was primarily a kami connected with fishing and whaling. In many parts of the country every little fishing harbor will have a small Ebisu shrine.

In the Edo Period, with the rise in popularity of the Seven Lucky Gods, of which Ebisu is a member, he also became associated with business success.

Along this route I found Ebisu statues in every little shrine, on the sidewalk in the villages, and alongside the rice paddies.

I know that along the Nagasaki Kaido as it runs through what is now Saga there was a cult of Ebisu, and as the Nagasaki Kaido connects with the Hita Kaido, maybe this is an extension of that cult.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Kannabiji Temple's Gingko

Kannabiji Temple's Gingko

Kannabiji Temple's Gingko.

It's that time of the year when I post some pics of this year's autumn colors. About three weeks ago Yoko had a day off that coincided with a beautiful sunny day so we headed off on a local trip to see if we could find some color. The first stop was Kannabiji Temple, a few kilometers upstream on the Gonokawa River.

The first stop was Kannabiji Temple, a few kilometers upstream on the Gonokawa River.

Kannabiji moved to its present site at the end of the 19th century. Formerly it was a large monastic complex on the mountainside that dated back to the Heian period.  About twenty years ago a friend took us on a bushwacking hike up to the old site where the foundation stones of the main hall still remained in a small clearing in the forest.

Kannabiji moved to its present site at the end of the 19th century.

At the end of the 16th century, many of the buildings burnt down. I suspect this was part of the Warring States conflicts but have not had that confirmed. The temple continued on its mountain site until the late 19th century. In 1872 a big earthquake closed the spring that supplied the temple with water, and in combination with having much of its land confiscated by the new Meiji government, it was decided to relocate the temple at the foot of the mountain.

At the end of the 16th century, many of the buildings burnt down.

All that remains now is the main hall, a large residence for the priest, a gate, and a large storehouse. I went inside the main hall many years ago and was surprised by a mural on the ceiling and the brightly-painted woodwork. I really want to go back and take a lot of photos. I've also been inside the old priest's house though he now lives in a newer house in front of the temple.

Gingko leaves.

The gate contains a fine pair of Nio guardians and is overshadowed by a large Gingko tree. We were a little early. In a few weeks, the whole temple will be carpeted in golden leaves. The storehouse holds the temple treasures, foremost of which is some samurai armour. Apparently, it is the third-oldest samurai armour still existing, and suggest how important the temple once was.

Main Hall of the temple.

Koinobori & Children's Day in Japan

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

A Brief Guide to Kurume

I must admit I had never heard of Kurume and knew nothing about it when I visited in the latter stages of my first walk around Kyushu, however, I ended up spending a bit of time there as a base for several legs of the pilgrimage.

It is located on the banks of the Chikugo River which runs through the large Tsukushi Plain of northern Kyushu. It was a castle town, important I believe as a crossroads of several major transportation routes through Kyushu.

There seems to be little of the old left standing. Kurume did get bombed a little at the end of the war, but most destruction has been at the hands of construction companies and developers. The top photo shows a view looking down on Kurume from Kora Shrine, a mountaintop shrine that has an old approach,.

Not sure what the store in the second photo was selling, but the frontage impressed me.The third picture is a Science Museum, and the 4th is an Art Museum that had a fine garden in its grounds.

Near the Science Museum was another park that included a small Chinese-style garden. Other notable gardens include the riverside one featuring plum trees at the monastery of Bairinji, and Henshoin, a modern creation to honour a samurai political hero.

There were several more shrines in the town, and plenty more temples, but probably the main tourist attraction is a little outside the town. The Giant Kannon statue, one of the biggest in the world, is at a branch of the Naritasan Temple.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Toyogahashi Bangai 8 on the Shikoku Ohenro


Eitokuji is a small temple between temples 43 and 44. immediately adjacent to a bridge, Toyogahashi.

It is the eighth bangai site on the pilgrimage. I have never read a convincing explanation why there are 88 temples on the pilgrimage. 88 is not a significant number in Buddhism. However, when you add twenty extra temples, known as bangai, you end up with 108 which is a significant number in Buddhism.

Some of the bangai temples entail a diversion from the main route, and most pilgrims don't visit them. However, some, like Toyogahashi, are directly on the main route, and so most pilgrims stop.

Underneath the bidge is a big altar, with the focus being a statues of Kobo Daishi asleep. The statue was wrapped in a new, thick, duvet when I was there.

According to the legend, Kobo Daishi could not find lodgings for the night and so had to spend the night under the bridge. From this legend come the tradition that pilgrims do not hit the floor when crossing bridges as Kobo Daishi may be sleeping underneath.

The temple has a small tsuyado, so that is where I spent the night.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Nakano Park Kurume


Nakano ark in Kurume, Fukuoka, is home to the Kurume City Aer Museum, the Shojiro Ishibashi Memorial Museum, and the main library.

The area behind the Art Museum has a large pond with bridges and koi.

A large section is landscaped as a traditional Japanese garden and includes a small waterfall.

When I visited in mid-winter it was the most enjoyable of the gardens in Kurume,...

Though at other times of the year I suspect the garden at Bairinji Temple, and the nearby Henshoin Garden would be more attractive.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Yakumo Honjin Museum


Yakumo Honjin is a large, Edo-period residence formerly owned by the Kowata Family that also functioned as a honjin, a guesthouse for the Daimyo while he was traveling. It has aso been epanded with the addition of various high-ranking samurai residences that were dismantled and moved from Matsue.

I previously posted  more info and a series of photos of the interiors. This time I will show you some of the displays of artworks and artifacts that were owned by the family.

There was the obligatory suit of samurai armour, but no swords. There was a palanqui, pictured above, and a series of lanterns.

Much of the art in traditonal Japanese residences was in the form of painted folding screens and painted sliding doors, some examples of which you can see in the previous post, but I was intrigued by this object. Not sure what it is, but seems to be a crane ridden by I presume a Daoist "immortal".

There were quite a few examples of hanging scroll paintings.

However, the most interesting displays for me were the collection of old masks. The first is either a tengu or Sarutahiko. The second one of the "strong men" heroes, and the third a Kitsune, fox.

Yakumo Hoinjin is located in Shinji about halfway between Izumo and Matsue, on the south shore of Lake Shinji.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Henshoin Garden


At one end of Teramachi in Kurume is a largish garden called Henshoin. Henshoin still exists , but the garden is a modern creation built adjacent to the temple.

It is a stroll^type garden with a large pond with a bridge. It was designed and built in the 1960's. It also ahs a small tea room which had been brought from Kyoto.

The garden was built to memorialize an Edo-Period samurai called Takayama Hikokuro whose grave is here.

He is said to have influenced Yoshida Shoin, one of the architects of the Meiji Restoration, and was considered an example of an imperial loyalist in the patriotic education of the 1930's. There is a famous statue of him at sanjo bridge in Kyoto.

In the dead of winter when I visited  the garden was not so colourful but I suspect it looks better in spring and autumn.