Tuesday, June 7, 2022

From Kamano Beach into Yunotsu


To get from Kamano Beach in Fukumitsu to Yunotsu there is no coast road and so I have to head over a small group of hills. It's only about 2k and doesnt rise very much. No cars pass me. I delight in these little roads that are really more like 3 meter wide asphalt hiking paths with vehicles passing a few times a day.

The road comes into the narrow inlet that Yunotsu lies at the head of through a side-inlet lined with small fishing boats.

Across on the other side of the channel is the official fishing port with ice machine and offices. Behind it is the narrow valley that is home to the historical hot spring resort that Yunotsu is named after and now a World Heritage site connected to the Iwami Ginzan silver mines.

At the actual head of the inlet where the small river enters is the newer part of town where I can catch the train home at the end of this my second day exploring the nooks and crannies of the Japan Sea coast.

On the north side beyond the hots spring town is the old port of Okidomari, one of the two original ports that served the silver mines and that are also part of the World Heritage sites.....

On the way to the station I stop in at Anrakuji, a small temple with a rather nice dragon sculpted in plaster in the eaves. This kind of decoration is called kote-e, " trowel picture" and I have posted more examples.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Raion-ji Hagio Yakushi-do, Temles 49 & 76 Sasaguri Pilgrimage

Raion-ji Hagio Yakushi-do

Raion-ji Hagio Yakushi-do Hagio Amida-do.

After leaving Kannonzaka Kannondo, temple 66 on the Sasaguri pilgrimage, the route heads up the mountain valley for about 3 kilometers before reaching the next temple, actually a cluster of three, in the mountain settlement of Hagio.

Rice paddies.

What is remarkable about that is that the first three kilometers of the pilgrimage, as far as Kanninzaka, included a full 12 temples.


The route sometimes followed the narrow mountain road, and sometimes a trail through the forest including some decent bamboo groves.


Around Hagio, none of the three temples were large. There was temple 49, Raionji, temple 76, Hagio Yakushido, and temple 47, Hagio Amidado.


There were, however, just like the other small temples so far, a lot of statues, especially of Fudo Myo.


Raionji was the largest, and this is the main statue, a Shaka Nyorai, the "historical Buddha".


Raionji also has this nice thousand-armed Kannon,....

Raion-ji Hagio Yakushi-do Hagio Amida-do.

... and several nice Fudo....

Raion-ji Hagio Yakushi-do Hagio Amida-do.

The Yakushi-do obviously enshrines Yakushi Nyorai, the Medicine Buddha...


And the Amida-do's main statue is an Amida....

Raion-ji Hagio Yakushi-do Hagio Amida-do.

The Sasaguri pilgrimage is an excellent opportunity to both get a taster of what walking a pilgrimage is like, and also an excellent series of mountain walks close to the big city of Fukuoka.

Ema Votive Plaques

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Houonin Temple 5 Kinki Fudo Myoo Pilgrimage

Houonin Temple

Houonin Temple 5 Kinki Fudo Myoo Pilgrimage.

Houoninji was founded in the late 17th century with tee erection of the Kitamukizanfudoson, the North-Facing Fudo.

Houonin Temple 5 Kinki Fudo Myoo Pilgrimage.

Located in central Osaka, not far from Ikutama Shrine, it is temple number 5 on the Kinki Fudo Myoo pilgrimage and I visited on the second day of my walk along that pilgrimage.


The statue stands against a camphor tree that was planted at the same time, and when the temple buildings were burned to the ground in WWII, only the tree and statue survived.

Houonin Temple.

On the other side of the tree is now a "south-facing Fudo", though I can nt discover when this dates from.

Buddhist statue.

It is a very compact, urban temple with only a few small buildings, but in one was another Fudo statue.

There was also this statue of who I am fairly certain is En no Gyoja, the legendary founder of Shugendo


Green Tea

Monday, May 30, 2022

Ajijoji Nightlife District Tanabe

Ajijoji Nightlife District

Ajijoji Nightlife District.

Usually located adjacent to the main train station in Japanese cities and towns can be found "nightlife districts", focused primarily on selling alcohol, food, and female entertainment, and "companionship".


I sometimes pass through such districts, but have neither the money nor inclination to be a customer, however at the end of my 4th day walking the Kumano Kodo trail, I spent the night in Tanabe, and they advertise themselves as having the most densely concentrated of such districts in Japan, so felt compelled to have a look.

Eat out in Ajijoji Nightlife District.

The Ajijoji district has over 200 establishments packed into less than one square kilometer. There are a few restaurants, a few izakayas, and some bars, pubs, girl's bars, hostess bars, nightclubs, snack bars... which have nothing to do with snacks.....

Ajijoji Nightlife District.

I have only a vague notion of what the difference is between all these types of establishment, except they are usually very small, expensive, and have complex etiquettes.


Tanabe is classified as a city but is, in reality, a town, however, it is also the largest city in Kansai, in terms of area, 396 square miles, most of which is uninhabited mountains. With a population of about 70,000 it is also the 2nd biggest city in Wakayama.

Ajijoji Nightlife District.

Tanabe is the main gateway into the Kumano Kodo area for most visitors, and a big chunk of the Nakahechi trail falls within its boundaries. There are a few noteworthy sights I will cover later.....

Japan is great for a piss up.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Kiyotakisan Magnificent Cave Temple

Kiyotakisan Magnificent Cave Temple

Kiyotakisan Magnificent Cave Temple.

Above the main gate into Kiyotakisan Temple on Shodoshima is this unusual carving of a cat. I have been unable to find the story behind it.

Kiyotakisan Magnificent Cave Temple.

Alongside the steps leading up to the gate are statues, and after entering you pass a large altar with a statue of Kobo Daishi above. The 88 temple pilgrimage on Shodoshima is dedicated to Kobo Daishi and is a small version of the famous pilgrimage on nearby Shikoku. Kiyotakisan is number 14.


Kiyotakisan Temple is a little more than  450 meters above sea level and is the highest of all the temples on the pilgrimage. The views, consequently, are stunning


There are a huge number of statues scattered around the nooks and crannies of the area around the temple, including numerous Fudo Myo statues, not surprising as this was a site for yamabushi training.

Kiyotakisan Magnificent Cave Temple.

It can take a while to find all the side trails that lead to overhangs and crevices where even more statues abound.


For the adventurous, there are chains to be used to help climb the really steep sections.

Kiyotakisan Magnificent Cave Temple.

The main hall enshrining a "hidden" Jizo leads into a cave at the base of a towering cliff.

Jake Davies image.

Another cave houses a Fudo and this is where the Goma fire rituals are held. Unfortunately when I visited it was locked and there was no staff around.


This is the largest of the Fudo statues, measuring 10 meters from the base up to the top of the flames.


I was there at Christmas, so the red foliage had passed, but the views are worth it any time of the year.

Japan Book Reviews

Monday, May 23, 2022

Christmas Morning on Shodoshima Day Two of the Pilgrimage

Christmas Morning on Shodoshima Day Two of the Pilgrimage

Christmas Morning on Shodoshima Day Two of the Pilgrimage.

Friday 25th December, 2015.

Christmas day, and I'm awake at 4am, not, as when I was a little child, to eagerly explore what Santa had brought me, but because I have a very long day ahead of me. Its still pitch black when I take the first bus a few kilometers to the convenience store where I stock up on hot coffee and food for the day as there will be few opportunities to shop later.

 Before it lightens and I can begin to find my way to the first temples I explore the big shrine on the hill near the conbini. When it's light enough I head off the main road into the maze of narrow streets and find the first couple of temples. Nothing much of note.

I pass a small soy sauce factory and recognize the name.... its the brand my wife buys, organic, not so common in Japan. I start to head up a small river that runs down from the mountains where I will be heading. They are still shrouded in cloud.

The next temple has a pyramid of gravestones. These are muenbotoke, gravestones for those deceased souls who have no descendants to look after their graves.


The next temple is quite large and is approached along a path lined with miniature bonsai pine trees. Looking up at the mountain the mist is clearing and against the ochre cliffs I see a glint of vermillion and turquoise, Kiyotakisan, the highest temple on the pilgrimage that I am heading to next. The road climbs out of the town and narrows as it becomes farmland.

When I reach the dam the sun has broken through and I can enjoy the colorful reflection in the reservoir behind. Another kilometer and I leave the road and start up the mountain trail.

I am really pleased that so much of this pilgrimage is on trails rather than roads. It's a warm, sunny day as I climb up through the forest.

Crossing a stream that gurgles over rocks, there is a small statue of Fudo Myo. Further still the remains of an old teahouse that used to provide refreshments to pilgrims on the trail. There are still pilgrims, like myself, who walk the trail, but the vast majority of pilgrims will travel by car or tour bus.

The last few hundred meters are the steepest and I emerge on a big mountain road with the temple complex under the cliffs across the road. There is a lot to explore and see here,.... many statues, a couple of cave halls, and of course fantastic views across the sea and the island below.

I will post on Kiyotakisan next time......

Leaving the temple the road starts to descend. Rounding the bend I can see in the distance the buildings at the top of Kankakei Gorge, where I will be heading to later. It appears to be just a little higher than where I am now. As the road continues to descend I become disheartened. I didn't realize I was going to have to go back down quite so far as that means more climbing later.

When I reach the next temple,Hotogekataki, I am surprised that it look like a regular temple. There are buildings and bell towers, and an old lady sweeping the steps. But it's another cave temple. Going in through the narrow entrance it opens up to a dome shape with a natural pillar of rock in the middle. Most curious is the woodstove burning away. The little old lady show me around and points out the various altars and gives me half a dozen small oranges as Osettai, gifts for pilgrims. From the covered platform in front of the cave there are sweeping views over the lower part of the Kankakei Gorge.

From here the road carries on down down a few hundred meters to a junction. From here I have two choices. One kilometer away is the ropeway up to the top pf the gorge, from where I can take the trail down to the next temple, or I can take the trail up to the next temple and then carry on to the top of the gorge and take the ropeway down......

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