Saturday, January 15, 2022

Rakusuien Garden Hakata


Rakusuien is a small garden in downtown Hakata, located next to the Sumiyoshi Shrine.

The garden and house were built in 1906 as a second residence for a wealthy businessman.

The property is surrounded by a Hakatabei wall, that has rooftiles and other recycled building materials embedded in it.

After the war it operated as a ryokan, but in 1996 it was bought by the city and opened to the public as a garden.

A path encircles a large pond and crosses it via a small bridge, and the garden includes a small waterfall.

The rooms of the former villa that look out over the garden are open and visitors can enjoy a cup of green tea while viewing the garden.

I visited in early December and the autumn colors were still on display.

Like most Japanese gardens, Rakusuien is planted with a variety of trees and including Cherry, so has plenty of seasonal variation.

As well as the main house, there is also a small, rustic, traditional tea room that I will post about soon.

It is open every day from 9 to 5 except Tuesdays. Entry is a mere 100 yen, with matcha and seasonal sweet available for 500 yen.


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Thursday, January 13, 2022

Mishima Shrine & Misosogi Shrine


I was excited to start day 2 of my walk along the Kyushu Fudo Myoo pilgrimage. A good chunk of the days walking would be along mountain trails. After waking early at my stopover at Nameshi Dam, I walked across the dam itself and headed into the woods.

The first seven temples of the pilgrimage are all located in the Kunisaki Penisula, but to visit them I decided to walk the Kunisakihanto Minemichi Long Trail, a route that closely follows the old yamabushi pilgrimage route that circumnavigates the peninsula. This was my third visit to Kunisaki and I would be revisiting some sites but visiting many more for the first time.

Not far into the forest I come upon the first stop, a shrine set against a cliff with the honden and a secondary shrine both under a rock overhang. The map says this is Mishima Shrine, though there is no information about it.

I am very fond of shrines that cannot be accessed by motor vehicle. From here an ancient road leads up a little higher before crossing over a pass and dropping into the next valley.

The Kunisaki Peninsular is a roughly circular volcanic cone, and from the central high point a series of 28 valleys raditae out. What this means is that to walk around the peninsula involves an awful lot of ups and downs.

As I approach a qiute large temple I first pass by a substantial shrine. My map says this is Misosogi Shrine, but another says it is Choanji Rokusho Shrine. Choanji is the temple nearby connected to this shrine, and Rokusho is the name of several shrines in the area, related I am fairly sure, to  Rokugo Manzan, the Tendai- Hachiman syncretic cult that formed the areas unique religious landscape.


Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Suitengu Shrine Kurume

Kurume 久留米

Suitengu Shrine in Kurume is the head shrine of all Suitengu shrines in Japan. It was founded in the 13th Century and moved from various sites until its current location on the bank of the Chikugo River in Kurume.

It felt like a "national", political shrine and researching it has confirmed my feeling.

Suiten is a water deity, originally Varuna, a Hindu deity, and was imported into Japan with Buddhism. In 1868 all the deities in shrines that had a Buddhist origin, and there were very many, were replaced with Japanese kami that usually had imperial connections. All the very popular deities, Inari, Konpira, Myoken, Ebisu, etc were changed to imperially-connected kami.

Now enshrined here are Amenominakanushi, the kami who created the universe and who  is enshrined in hundreds of shrines but only since 1868, Next is Antoku, the child emperor who drowned at the Battle of Dannoura. Prior to 1868 emperors who not enshrined in "shinto" shrines. Emperors who died violently, like Antoku, were enshrined in Buddhist temples, many of which were "converted " to shrines after 1868. Also enshrined are Taira no Tokiko. wife of the famous Taira Kiyomori, and their daughter, Taira no Tokuko, the mother of Antoku.

A large part of the shrine is now devoted to Yasuomi Maki. He was a priest at the shrine, but also a samurai involved in the early stages of the civil wars that led to the Meiji Restoration. Pictured above is the Maki Shrine in the grounds.

In 1862 he was involved in an anti-government "disturbance" in Fushimi in Kyoto and was briefly held under house-arrest. Pictured above is a replica in the shrine grounds of the house he was held in.

Also known as Maki Izumi, in 1864 he took part in fighting in what is known as the Kinmon Incident when pro-imperial forces attempted to take control of the imperial palace in Kyoto. After suffering defeat Maki took his troops to Tennozan and committed suicide.

The grounds of the shrine are quite large and pleasant, with lots of trees, but like many of what I would call the political shrines, it is quite sombre and austere and not much sign of local peoples involvement.

The one exception is the pair of Hizen komainu, which are quite distinctive, and like many statues are used for prayers for healing by rubbing the part of the statues that corresponds to the su\ickness.


Friday, January 7, 2022

Kingenji Temple


Kingenji is a very small temple in a remore location, high up in the Okuizumo area of the Chugoku mountains.

The small main hall is thatched and is quite picturesque. It is said to have been established around 1300, and is currently a Nichiren sect temple.

However, what brings visitors is the large gingko tree in front. Probably about 300 years old, in the Autumn its golden leaves cover the thatched roof and carpets the ground in front of the temple..

A rice paddy immediately in front of the temple is flooded in October, and so the reflection doubles the attractiveness.

In recent years the scene has been illuminated at night.

I visited in late November, and at this elevation, the autumn colors had passed and the paddy had been drained, but there were a few vestiges of color.....


Thursday, January 6, 2022

Taishi-ji Temple 5 on the Kyushu Pilgrimge


Taishi-ji was the only pilgrimage temple I visited on day 52 of my walk along said pilgrimage. It is numbered as 5, but the numbering system does not seem to correspond to any logic.

It is located in the small town of Tanushimaru, famous for its Kappa. The temple is small and was quite hard to find in the maze-like narrow lanes of the old part of town.

It is not an old temple, being founded in 1914 to commemorate the 1100 year anniversary of the establishment of Koyasan, the headquarters of the Shingon sect.

The honzon is a Fudo Myo, but I didn't go inside the main hall. There were several Fudo statues in the grounds though, including a quite large one.

There was also a small Jizo hall, and the temple is on the Kyushu Jizo Pilgrimage .

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Omori in 2D


Most the photos in the previous post on Omori used perspective quite strongly.

For this series, I want to concentrate more on flat, two-dimensional compositions.

Traditional Japanese architecture  tends to have quite pleasing proportions and ratios, as well as combinations and contrasts of differing texture. and I think this is true of many traditional architectures around the world.

The vast majority of new Jaoanese houses are quite ugly.

Another thing that contributes to this flat, geometric comosition is the decoration done by the inhabitants of a building.

Sometimes these are quite formal and follow a rigid set of rules.

At other times they can be quite individualistic and idiosyncratic.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Miscellaneous Statues along the Hita Kaido

Statues along the Hita Kaido

One of the subjects I focus on finding as I walk the roads and lanes of Japan is sculptures. On my walk along the Hita Kaido, the old highway running East out of Kurume, I encountered a huge number of them  I've posted about the large number of Ebisu statues along the road. Ther were so may I did a second post. One town along the way had lots of Kappas, and of course, I recently posted a lot of Komainus.

This time I want to show you a selection of other statues from that day's walk that don't fit the other categories.

The top photo is of a small shrine that has a diverse collection of statues left by different parishioners over time. In this particular instance, all the statues are Buddhist, but very often they are a mix of Buddhist, Shi to, Daoist, secular, and occasionally, Christian statues.


Shrines tend to not have as many statues s temples. Earlier they would have had a lot of Buddhist staues but most were removed in the seperation of buddhas and kami. Other than komainu, I think the second most common category of shrine statues would be Zuijin. Usually nrightly ainted, but sometimes lain wood, Lafcadio Hearn says they were a shinto response to Buddhist Nio guardians, though many shrines had Nio, and in some places, like the Kunisaki Peninsula, they still do.

I have to admit I jave no idea who or what this pair represent......

You will sometimes find a white, wooden horse, usually inside a small structure. These derive, I thnk, from the ancient tradition of offering horses to shrines for rain, and probably, in my opinion, from an earlier time when animals were sacrificed. Some shrines have rather realistic, bronze statues of hotses, made in the modern period I believe. This stone horse was quite funky, and I am not sure of its purpose or meaning.

Finally, I came across this phallic statue. Once very widesread, now mostly extinct, though I do keep finding them, mostly in remote locations. Mostly fertility objects, but many were also for prayers to heal sexual ailments and diseases, and I recently came across a very popular shrine devoted to prayers for "sexual vigor".

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