Saturday, July 23, 2022

Oimatsu Shrine

Oimatsu Shrine

Oimatsu Shrine is close to the Waterwheels of Hishino, and seems to be a fairly typical village shrine.

I've gotten pretty good at being able to spot rural shrines at a distance as they are often "islands" of large trees.

I was heading north and northeast away from the Chikugo River towards the first pilgrimage temple of  day 54 of my first Kyushu pilgrimage.

There are quite a few Oimatsu shrines, most seem to be in northern Kyushu, but also western Honshu. The signboard here was not very helpful, but Oimatsu shrines enshrine Sugawara Michizane.

Why it is not a Tenjin or Tenmangu shrine is not clear. Maybe Oimatsu shrines enshrine a different "aspect" of Michizane.

Though located about as far from the sea as its possible to be in Kyushu, ie right in the middle of northern Kyushu, there was offerings of seaweed and small dried fish.

The main hall also had a painted ceiling and a large number of ema in the form of large paintings.

Also unusual was this group of statues.....

Japan Goods

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Mizu Shrine & Yamada Weir


Down below Esohachimangu Shrine is the Yamada Weir, and immediately next to it is Mizu Shrine.

Yamada Weir was started, by hand, in the mid 17th century and completed in the late 18th century. The Chikugo River is the longest river in Kyushu and classed as one of the three rivers in Japan most likely to flood. The water diverted by the weir runs into a major irrigation canal that includes the Waterwheels of Asakura.

The shrine must have been established at that time as its name, mizu shrine, means water shrine.

The weir is registered as a World Heritage Irrigation Sructure and is said to be the model used by Dr. Tetsu Nakamura who constructed a major irrigation project in the desert of Afghanistan. Since his assassination in 2019 a monument to him has been erected at Yamada Weir

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Eso Hachimangu & the formation of Japan


Eso hachimangi lie on the north bank of the Chikugo River, in the southern art of Asakura in Fukuoka. It is said Eso Hachimangu was founded in 661 around the time the "Empress Saimei" died near here at the Asakura temporary palace. It is claimed that the mound on the hill above was the temporary burial site of Saimei before her body was taken back to Yamato for burial, though evidence suggests that in reality it is a 5th century burial mound. "Empress" is in quotes because the title tenno, which is the current title translated as emperor did not become used until after the events of the the mid to late 7th century

As a Hachimangu, it enshrines Hachiman, now considered to be Ojin, god of war. At the time Hachiman was purely a local north Kyushu cult with no association with Ojin. However hachiman would have been familiar to most of the 40,000 strong army assembled here, as most were from Kyushu. later hachiman would spread to the capital area and later still, in the 9th century, become associated with Ojin. Also enshrined here are the "emperors" who succeeded Saimei, her sons Tenji and Tenmu

The empress and crown prince Tenji were here assembling an invasion force to attempt to reinstate the Paekche, one of the kingdoms of the Korean peninsula that had been defeated by another kingdom, Sila, with the help of Tang China. Exactly why this was so important to the Yamato is not explained, though the ruling Yamato clans had extensive ties with Paekche and most likely were related.

In the ensuing battle, Yamato was completely crushed by Sila and Tang who had an army one-quarter the size of the Yamato. The Yamato feared reprisals from Sila and Tang and so began consolidating defenses of Japan and in essence creating a single country modeled on Tang. This included changing the name from Wa to Nihon, installing a centralized, bureacratic state, starting the use of era names, and not long after, writing national histories, the Nihonshoki, and solidifying the ruling clans hold on power with the Kojiki. In a very real sense, this war created the two countries of Korea and Japan out of a more fragmentary collection of kingdoms and confederacies.

Actually, this was Saimei's second stint as ruler. She ruled earlier but abdicated when her son, the future emperor Tenji, assassinated the head of the Soga family inside the palace. The Soga had been virtual rulers for a while, and the links among the ruling clans in Yamato with different Korean dynasties were obviously an important element in the feuding. There was subsequently a lot of feuding and intrigue between Tenji amd his brother Tenmu who later became emperor.

The burial mound above the shrine.

A replica of a "water clock" said to have been invented by Tenji.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Hishino Triple Water Wheels

Japan Guide

The three waterwheels at Hoshino, along with two further pairs of waterwheels nearby, were completed in 1790 to help irrigate the rice paddies of the area. They are still used today.

Fed by a canal from the nearby Chikugo River, the wheels lift water to allow it to be distributed further away from the river. Originally driven by the waterflow itself, they are now powered by electricity.

It is said to be the only example of such a system anywhere in Japan. These photos were taken in 2014, and in 2017 the wheels were almost completely destroyed by major flooding, but have now been restored.

The wheels have diameters of between 4 and 5 meters. 

an image of the three wheels is the design for the local manhole covers. I imagine if you visit in June when they are operating then they would be more interesting.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Kakurega no Mori the 8th largest tree in Japan


Some of the biggest trees I have encountered while walking around Western Japan have been Camphor trees, Cinnamomum camphora, kusunoki in Japanese.

This example is found near the Chikugo River in Asakura, Fukuoka, and is named Kakurega no mori, which means "hideaway forest" and is believed to refer to the wooded area that stood here in earlier times when it was a barrier or checkpoint and people hid in the forest until nightfall when they could then slip through unnoticed.

It is said to be 1500 years old, though the ages of giant trees are very often exaggerated. It is registered as the 8th largest tree in Japan.

At chest height, the trunk has a circumference of 18 meters, at ground level the roots measure 34 meters in circumference, and it is 21 meters high, though before being damaged by  a typhoon in 1991 it was said to be somewhat taller

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Yoshii Juku Historic Preservation District

Yoshii Juku Historic Preservation District

The last post town on the Hita Kaido, or the first if you are leaving Hita and traveling west, was Yoshii, now a part of Ukiha.

Compared to Kusano, the former post town I have been showing you the last week or so, there is much more of Yoshii still remaining

So much, in fact,  that the area has been registered as a historical preservation district one of the topics I became intrigued by in recent years.

In the mid 17th century a canal was constructed to bring water from the nearby Chikugo River and this vastly increased the productivity of the agriculture in the area.

Around the same time a post station was established here, and the combination of both factors led to the growth and prosperity of the town.

The town suffered from three major fires, and so in the late 19th century, after the last big fire, the residents and merchants used white plaster to fireproof their buildings, leading to the appearance of "shirakabe", literally white walls, a common feature of many wealthy merchant districts in historical Japan.

Many of these preserved shirakabe streets are located in touristy areas and include many gift shops and other touristy establishments, but Yoshii is far enough off the beaten track that it appears more authentic.

The road from Yoshii ran along the south bank of the river into Hita, but just across the river was the main road that ran from Fukuoka to Hita, so some used that route.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Kusano Juku Hita Kaido Post Town


Kusano, a little east of Kurume, was in the Edo period a post town on the main road known as the Hita Kaido, sometimes the Bungo Kaido. This is the former Kage family residence, built in 1780, the oldest building now in Kusano.

This second photo shows just how deep their property was compared to the frontage.

The road runs along the edge of the Mino mountain range. Most settlements were snuggled against the bottom of mountains, hence their names as "yamanobe"

This old house of a less wealthy family is now a cafe and gallery.

The local history museum is housed in the former bank, a western-style building painted pale blue like the nearby culture centre.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Yamabedo Cultural Center Kusano


The Yamabedo Culture Centre has a permanent exhibition on local festivals, puts on a variety of exhibitions and events, and serves as a kind of tourist information centre with bike rentals.

It is located in Kusano, a former post town on the Hita Kaido, just east of Kurume.

It is a fine example of a western-style building that was popular in the Meiji period, though usually, some Japanese features were incorporated, like the roof tiles.

The building began construction in Kurume but was dismantled and moved to Kusano in 1914 and completed in 1918. It was originally a hospital.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Susanoo Shrine Kusano


Susanoo Shrine Kusano.

Susano Shrine in Kusano near Kurume is sometimes read as Susanoen Shrine.

Susanoo Shrine Kusano.

Kusano was a post town on the Hita Kaido during the Edo period.

Susanoo Shrine Kusano.

The shrine was established at the end of the 12th century and is also known as Gion Shrine which means it is a branch of the famous shrine that is now called Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto.


The architectural style is "Gongen Zukuri", which is a blend of Buddhist and Shinto styles.


The main gate is most impressive, not just in scale but also in the number of carvings adorning it. The other buildings are similarly decorated.

Susanoo Shrine Kusano.

The buildings were rebuilt in the Meiji period, and its not clear if they were painted at any time, but in many ways, the shrine seems more like a Toshogu shrine than the temple across the road that has that reputation.