Sunday, December 26, 2021

Autumn Splendor at Kigami Shrine


November 19th, 2021, the final stop on our local autumn colors day trip was Kigami Shrine.

Located at the bottom of the village of Omori that was the administrative headquarters of the Iwami Ginzan silver mines, it did not disappoint

It is a Hachiman Shrine, with several smaller shrines within the grounds, including an Inari Shrine.

I wish you all a healthy and happy holiday season and extend my best wishes for the new  year

Friday, December 24, 2021

Kappa of Tanushimaru

Japan Guide

When I reached Tanushimaru along the Hita Kaido, another kind of statue, other than Ebisu,  started to appear, namely Kappa.....

One of the most well-known of the yokai, the kappa is usually translated into English as "water sprite" and is a creature that inhabits rivers, ponds, etc. Legends of kappa are found all over Japan. Nowadays it is often rendered in a "cute" form.

The kappa in the area are depicted in other ways as well as by statues. It is one of the towns that feature them on decorated manhole covers. Our local town also features a kappa, though it is called enko in our area. It is based on a legend from my village and one of these days I will get around to telling it to you.

Kappa throughout Japan have a similar form..... a turtle shell, a beak, webbed feet, and an indented skull with a fringe of hair. I suspect this homogeneity of form began in the Edo period when collections of yokai images were published and then later in the twentieth century at first with the work of folklorist Yanagita Kunio, and then later with the manga and anime works of artists such as Mizuki Shigeru.

I confess to not having done the work to research the actual kappa stories of Tanushimaru.

At the end of the days walk I took the train back to Kurume and was surprised to see the small station of Tanushimaru....

Monday, December 20, 2021

Autumn in Omori


After leaving Chokoji Temple it was just half an hours drive u to Omori In Iwami Ginzan. On arrival we were treated to a classic Autimn scene,.... harvested rice in front of a thatched farmhouse.

Omori is the most visited of the haf dozen sites that make u the Iwami Ginzan UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is the settlement below the mine where the merchants, samurai, and bureaucrats lived.

Omori is primarily a long, single street alongside a small stream. We started at the top of the village and walked down to the bottom where the most important people lived.

There are a couple of side lanes that usually lead to temples, and its here that you find a kittle autumn color.

However, at the bottom of the village is the main shrine, and here we found an abundance of Autumn colr, so that will be next up.....

Saturday, December 18, 2021

More Ebisu on the Hita Kaido


A few days ago I posted 7 shots of Ebisu statues I found along the Hita Kaido while walking day 52 of my walk around Kyushu. There were A LOT of Ebisu staties. here are another seven. That was not all I saw in this one day, and if I had gone looking I am sure I would have found even more.

Usually depicted with a Sea Bream tucked under his left arm, ad a fishing rod in his right, this suggests that Ebisu was originally a fishing god, but by the Edo period, when these statues probably date, he was more well known as one of the Seven Lucky Gods.

Among the Seven Lucky Gods, Ebisu is singled out as being the only Japanese god of the seven. He is very often paired with Daikokuten. Originally a Hindu deity, Daikoku is written with the same Chinese characters as Okuni, so he became equated with Okuninushi. Okuninushi's son, Kotoshironushi, is featured in the ancient myths as always fishing, so the two became equated with Daikoku and Ebisu.

The Meiji government cemented this identification when they decided that the head shrine for Ebisu in Japan was to be Miho Jinja. Located in Mihonoseki at the tip of the Shimane peninsula, a site where Kotoshironushi enjoyed fishing.

In the Kansai region,  a different origin of Ebisu is given. In the origin myths, the first child born to Izanami and Izanagi was Hiruko, the "Leech Child". Born deformed, it was determined that this was caused by Izanami, the female, speaking first in their wedding ritual. They redid their wedding "correctly" and all future children were born OK. Hiruko was cast out in a boat and is believed to have landed on Awaji Island.

The characters for Hiruko can also be read as Ebisu. Ebisu is also an old name to refer to foreigners and in the north of Japan some stories suggest that Ebisu was a "foreign" god of the Emishi/Aimu.

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.