Sunday, April 24, 2022

Choanji Flower Temple


Choanji is a mountain temple in the Kunisaki area that is known locally as a flower temple because of its extensive gardens.

In ancient times it was the most important temple in the region as it was the head temple of Rokugo Manzan, the syncretic shugendo sect based on Hachiman and Tendai Buddhism that dominated the area.

In the heyday of its power and wealth more than 1,000 monks were based here. Excavated in the grounds have been 19 bronze plaques inscribed with the Lotus Sutra. These sutra burials were popular in the late Heian period, though occurred mostly in areas outside of the capital area.

During the Warring States period a warlord built a small castle above Choanji. When he was defeated control of the Rokugo Manzan was shifted to Futago Temple, where it remains to this day.

When I visited in early May, 2016, the gardens were not well kept and there was no-one around, though it was only 7:30. I had arrived from down the mountain, following the trail that roughly follows the old shugendo pilgrimage route. This was my second day walking along the Kyushu Fudo Myo-o pilgrimage

I was impressed with how many pairs of stone Nio there were. More photos of colours and statues will come next.....

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Friday, April 22, 2022

Onigami Shrine Another Origin of Susano

Onigami Shrine

Yjos large rock in front of Onigami Shrine in Okuizumo is called Iwafune Daimyojin, and is said to be the stone boat used by Susano and his son Isotakeru to sail from Shiragi on the Korean mainland. If this sounds familiar, I refer you to an earlier post on Karashima Island down the coast in Iwami, which has a similar version of the myth.

Behind the rock is Onigami Shrine, not surprisingly enshrining Susano-o and Isotakeru. On the hill behind the shrine is said to be the tomb of Isotakeru.

Not far from here is Inada Shrine, dedicated to the "princss# that Susano saves from the fearsome 8-headed serpent Yamat no Orochi. A little further downstream is a shrine dedicated to her parents, and several spots on the river are said to be the lair of Orochi.

One of my first long walks in Shimane was a three day walk down the Hi Rover to Izumo Taisha in  which I hunted out sites connected to the Susano stories, though Ongami Shrine was a little too far from the river for me to visit.

If you draw a line roughly West from here to the shrines around Karashima Island, and another line North to where Matsue now sits, then in the land between those two lines are all the major shrines to Susano..... Susa, Suga, Yaegaki, Hinomisaki, and of course Izumo Taisha, which switched from Susano to Okuninushi just over 400 years ago. There are also a whole slew of smaller, mountain shrines dedicated to Susano, like Karakama Shrine.

The Yamato-centric national myths usually portray Susano as a bad boy kicked out of heaven for his offenses, and never mention his arrival in Japan from Korea. Around here though he is seen as a Culture Hero who brought things from Korea. Okuizumo is famous as the home of swordmaking and early steel and iron production. Karakama Shrine translates as Korean Forge Shrine, and suggests that iron production was introduced from Korea...... which historians say is how it happened...

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Sunday, April 17, 2022

Things Noticed Along the Way

Along The Way

The way of Japan.

October 8th, 2011, the 15th day of my walk along the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Up early, I headed off from Hagimori-san's zenkonyado and followed the path along the coast. The sunrise was hidden by cloud, but was nice anyway. I have mentioned before that where I live is in a narrow, steep valley and so I never get to see sunrise or sunset.


Later I passed by one of the famous "henro huts", shelters, often with interesting architecture, built as rest areas for pilgrims by local people. Some discourage pilgrims from staying the night, but this one had blankets and mats for overnight use.

Japan is cool.

The next three shots are all forms of advertising I found along the way.... not sure about the first although I was attracted to the "Gauguin-esque" style of painting.


I think this was a fishing tackle shop

And this was next to a masons that produced various kinds of stone statuary....

Heading towards the first pilgrimage temple of the day, Dainichi-ji , the route skirts around the base of Mount Sanpo, on top of which you can see a replica of an old Spanish castle. Called Chateau Sanpo, it was part of a short-lived tourist attraction, all of which has been demolished except the castle.

Crossing the valley between Dainichi-ji and Tosa Kokubunji, the next temple, a shopkeeper came out of his little store and handed me a bun. This was an example of Osettai, the Shikoku tradition of giving support to pilgrims. Or, as I prefer to believe, he was just being human.

Several times that day I saw small groups of pilgrims walking carrying just day packs.  As the route gets closer to Kochi City the temples are closer together and I think maybe these groups use a van or bus to cover the longer distances or may just be walking a shorter segment of the pilgrimage.

Another piece of advertising.  On these old enameled signs I am guessing that some colors deteriorate faster than others so you get these kinds of mix of rust and color. I may be using the term incorrectly, but to me this is a version of wabi-sabi.

After visiting the third temple of the day, Zenrakuji, the route heads into Kochi City, the first big city since starting out in Tokushima 15 days ago. I visited about a dozen shrines on day 15, and I will cover them in future posts.

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Thursday, April 14, 2022

Daihoji Temple 44 on the Shikoku Ohenro Pilgrimage

Daihoji Temple 44

Daihoji Temple 44.
Daihoji Temple 44

I reached Daihoji early in the morning on January 4th, 2012, after a a snow during the night. Being temle 44 of an 88 temle pilgrimage it was in a sense a halfway point, though it was my 32nd day and I guessed about two thirds of the way in actual distance covered.

At 579 meters above sea level it is considered a mountain temple, but doesn't feel such because it is located just on the edge of a town, Kuma Kogen. However, it had been a lot of uphill walking f0r two days since the last temple, the bangai temple, Toyogahashi.

The path through giant trees up to the temple showed footprints of two people who had preceded me that morning. There are very few walking pilgrims in the winter months, for obvious reasons, but walking the pilgrimage in that season has its own rewards.

The Niomon gate was impressive, but the Nio were behind some thick, chicken-wire screening and so I found iit best to shoot out of focus.

According to the founding legend, a monk from Paekche left a statue of Kannon on the mountain in the 7th Century. It is not clear if it was a Korean monk or a Japanese monk who had returned from studying in Paekche. I suspect the former.

In 701 the statue was discovered by a hunter who placed it in a small hut to worship it. When Emperor Minmu heard about it he ordered that a temple be established. Kobo Daishi is said to have visited in 822.

Like most temples, Diahoji burnt down, but in 1156 it was restored as a large monastic complex by Emperor Go-Shirakawa who attributed prayers at the temple to his successful recovery from an illness. It was later burned down by Chosokabe, who destroyed so many Shikoku temples. The last reconstruction from fire was in the late 19th Century.

In 1934 a small statues of Kannon was excavated from under a 1,000 year old tree along with more tan 100 stones inscibed with the Lotus Sutra. Sutra burials such as this were common in the late Heian and earky kakakura periods. This statues is now enshrined in the temple.

Visiting this deserted and snowy temple in the golden light of early morning was a wonderful experience.

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Monday, April 11, 2022

To The Source

Gonokawa River to the source

Due to the travel restrictions caused by the pandemic of recent years I decided to start another walking project locally. My intention is to walk from the mouth of the Gonokawa River to the source, and then back along the opposite bank. The Gonokawa, the longest river in Western Honshu, is 194 kilometers long, yet its source on Mount Oasa is a mere 40 kilometers as the crow flies. It meanders along a great curve passing through Miyoshi, the only inland city in Hiroshima.

The first bridge, carrying Route 9 across the river in Gotsu, was not built until 1950. Earlier they ahd tried a pontoon bridge but it didnt last long. Before that the only way across was ferry. Route 9 is the national highway that starts in Kyoto and roughly follows the old Sanin-do, the ancient imperial highway. The bridge is 488 meters, making it the longest bridge across the Gonokawa.

Sanin Line Railway Bridge

Slightly upstream is the  Sanin Line Railway Bridge. This was opened in 1918 and built of American steel. It is the longest iron bridge on the San-in Line, and the oldest existing bridge on the river.

Heading upriver I will be following the route of the old Sanko Line which follows the river from Gotsu to Miyoshi. This was my local line and was a truly beautiful rail journey but was closed down a few years back.

The third bridge that crosses the river in Gotsu is the New Gonokawa Bridge, a monster double-decker. The lower deck carries a local rad that is very rarely used. The upper deck carries the Gotsu-By-Pass that hooks up with the San0In Expressway, only parts of which have been completed. It is always very busy.

Along my walk I plan to revisit many of the sights that are to be seen, as well as see how things have changed in the last twenty years. The right bank I will be walking is the least inhabited side of the river with mostly very small roads. and I suspect I will find many crumbling, abandoned houses,... and first up is Hoinmachi, the original Gotsu town protected from the sea by hills.

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Thursday, April 7, 2022

Gardens at Yakumo Honjin

Yakumo Honjin 八雲本陣

The Yakumo Honjin is a former wealthy merchant's house from the Edo Period located on the south shore of Lake Shinji about halfway between Izumo and Matsue.

The title "honjin" indicates that it was used as a guesthouse by the local lord as he traveled around his domain.

I had expected the gardens to be more interesting than they turned out to be, though that may be because it was in the winter and the sun was low and cast big shadows,

Like other Izumo gardens I've visited, there seemed to be a big emphasis on the stones laid out as paths.

Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure if visited at the right time of day and year the gardens would be more impressive.

On the other side of the lake there is another honjin in Hirata, and it's garden is much better tended to.

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Monday, April 4, 2022

Kumadaniji Temple Revisited

Kumadaniji Temple 熊谷寺

The Tahoto, two-storied pagoda, at Kumadaniji Temple. Built in 1701, it is an Important Cultural property of Tokushima. The Tahoto is usually found at Shingon and sometimes Tendai temples.Kumadaniji is Shungon.

It is temple number 8 on the Shikoku Ohenro pilgrimage, but I was revisiting it on day 2 of my walk along the Shikoku Fudo Myoo pilgrimage which followed a similar route for the first day and a half.

Earlier I posted about the impressive Niomon gate that stands out in the valley. At the Sanmon, Mountain gate, of the temple there were a pair of Shitenno guardians, Jikokuten, I believe, pictured above.

The main hall of the temple burned down in 1928, but the Daishido, pictured above, survived. It was built in 1774.

A statue of Kobo Daishi as a mendicant monk stands in front of the bell tower.

A statue of Bishamointen, another of the Shitenno, at Kumadaniji Templenin Tokushima.