Monday, August 29, 2022

Cape Oganzaki

Cape Oganzaki 石垣島

Cape Oganzaki lies at the tip of the Yarabu Peninsula on the western side of Ishigaki Island in Okinawa.

When we visited in April the Easter Lillies were blooming, according to the locals this is a sign the coming summer will be hot.

A local song says this is one of the places where the gods arrived.

It is a popular spot for watching the sunset, though it is nowhere near any settlements or bus routes so you need a car to visit.

It is said on a clear day you can see Iriomote Island 20 kilometers away.

Like much of the Okinawan islands, when the sun is shining the sea is turquoise and glorious, but on cloudy overcast days.......

Buy Ishigaki Bath Salts from Japan

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Kitsuki Teramachi


One of the new rules set up by the new Tokugawa Shogunate when they gained control of Japan following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 was that each of the daimyo, the great lords who controlled their own territory, would be limited to having just a single castle in their domain.

An associated edict was that all the samurai belonging to the lord must reside in said castle town. Both these laws were meant to make the daimyo less of a potential threat to the government and also resulted in the rapid growth of urban areas.

These castle towns generally followed similar layouts, with the highest ranking samurai living in the immediate vicinity of the castle, surrounded by lower-ranked samurai, and then the trades, merchants, and other commoners necessary to support these towns of samurai were usually grouped together in planned areas. sake brewers for instance tended to be built in the same area, and famously the sex industry was confined to specific locations.

To serve the needs of the growing urban population the towns would need many new temples and these would often be built right next to each other in an area named Teramachi, or "temple town". Many former castle towns will have a street now called teramachi.

Kitsuki, the small former castle town on the southern edge of the Kunisaki Peninsula in Oita, Kyushu, has a teramachi to the west of the main part of the town.

Some of the temples are quite large, and as is typical, a wide range of sects are found adjacent to each other. Teramachi tend not to have many famous temples, they are after all relatively modern and were primarily established to serve the funerary needs of the commoners. The daimyo would usually establish their own family temples and these would usually not be in the teramachi.

However, an exploration of teramachi will often result in finding interesting statuary, small gardens etc.

This final photo of a Fudo is not from the teramchi in Kitsuki, but another temple, Komyoin, that I had visited on a previous trip to Kitsuki.

Ema Votive Plaques

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Takehara in 2D


This is the latest in a series of posts on traditional Japanese architecture where I look at proportion, ratio, and composition in two dimensions,.... the division of 2d space, one aspect of aesthetics, the theories of beauty.

This time the photos are from Takehara a small town on the south coast of Hiroshima that was a major merchant town during the Edo period. It is one of what I term "preservation districts" but which are officially termed "groups of traditional buildings".

For a closer look at some of the buildings of Takehara with their interiors and gardens, I suggest looking at the Morikawa mansion and its gardens, the Kasai residence,

As well as the geometry of the architecture, I am also intrigued by the composition of the decoration, that is to say, things like the arrangement of noren curtains and other objects in the front of buildings.

Objects made of bamboo are particularly common in Takehara, not surprising given its name.

Similar posts you might be interested in are the small town of Hita in Oita, or Omori in Iwami Ginzan, or the castle town of Izushi in Hyogo.

I will be doing a couple of more posts on Takehara, and some more posts on these kinds of photograhic composition.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Ginzan Kaido & Iwami Castle


Mid-January, 2013, early morning along the Shio River in Nima and the start of day 4 of my walk along the Iwami Kannon pilgrimage.

The next few temples on the pilgrimage are at  Iwami Ginzan, the World Heritage listed former silver mine in the mountains inland. The road I will take is now the fastest way to visit the mine, though it is not one of the two ginzan kaido, mine roads, that are part of the World Heritage site. There were many ginzan kaido radiating out from the silver mine as it was the most valuable silver mine in Japan in its heyday.

A couple of kilometers up the road and you pass a rocky outcropping with a couple of shrines at the base. On top of the 154 meter "mountain" is where Iwami castle stood.

A natural fortress, the Ouchi Clan built the original fortifications in the early 16th Century and it was taken over by the Mori Clan a few years later when they gained control of the mine.

After 1600 when the Tokugawa Shogunate took control of the mines and the surrounding lands the castle fell into disuse. The site is now one of the numerous sites that are World Heritage listed.

The red label on the map above shows the location of the castle. The grey-blue area is the silver mine, and the two routes are the ginzan kaido that are listed as World heritage sites.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Tateyama Shrine

Japanese shrines

The torii on Rte 55 in Konan, Kochi, leads to Tateyama Shrine, almost one kilometer distant.

With two pairs of komainu flanking the torii it is obvious that it must have been an important shrine in earlier days.

It was the fifteenth day of my walk along the famous Shikoku pilgrimage commonly known as Ohenro, and I was on the way to Dainichiji Temple, but while the vast majority of pilgrims concentrate only on visiting the 88 temples of the pilgrimage, I tended towards visiting any and every shrine and interesting site along the route between the temples as well.

The most unusual thing about the shrine was the grass-covered mound in the shape of a keyhole tomb in front of the shrine. It seemed too small to actually be a burial mound but what exactly was it? There was no information at the shrine and I have been totally unable to find any info since.

There was almost no information at the shrine except a sign explaining about the annual festival that features a Shishi dance. The primary kami is Tateyamanokami, of whom there is absolutely nothing known, and the secondary kami is Kuninotokotachinokami, one of the earliest kami to be created and of which there are no stories.

These last two photos illustrate one of the reasons why I visit so many "unimportant" local shrines,... to find intriguing bits of "art", and to find suitably interesting subjects for my photos.....


Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Mumyo Bridge Tennenji Yaba & Yamabushi Mountain Training

Mumyo Bridge

Mumyo Bridge.

The pinnacles of rock that rise behind Tennenji Temple and the Kawanaka Fudo are called Tennenji Yaba, and clearly visible spanning a precipitous gap is the unusual Mumyo Bridge. When I first saw it, almost twenty years ago, it was very much off limits to visitors, but nowadays it is possible to climb up, though you are repeatedly warned that you do so at your own risk.


Coming down towards Tennenji from Choanji Temple you catch glimpses of the cliffs and rock formations that are typical of the Kunisaki peninsula. Anywhere such landscapes can be found in Japan, you will find sites connected to Yamabushi, the mountain ascetics who were drawn to such places of spiritual power.
it rocks.

Many of these areas will still have the remains of training routes used by the Yamabushi. This rock formation above is adjacent to the Mumyo Bridge and you can see the chains used by the monks to clamber along these "pilgrimage" routes.

Rock on.

Many of these sites in the Kunisaki peninsula were connected along a pilgrimage trail that began at Usa Hachimangu and then wound its way around the peninsula. This ancient route has been revived by the creation of the Kunisakihanto Minemichi Long Trail which closely follows the route. There is not much in the way of infrastructure along the route, and certain sections do involve having to use chains to get up and over steep sections.

I was on my second day walking along the route which I was using as a rough guide to get me around the peninsula to visit the first seven of the temples on the Kyushu Fudo Myo pilgrimage which all are found in the Kunisaki area.

After leaving Tennenji the route heads over the ridge to the next valley and passes close to the Mumyo Bridge, however, I was carrying a full pack for a multi-night hike and decided not to take the side-route to the bridge as I did not fancy descending loaded up with so much weight. Several times I would have to navigate such steep and dangerous sections and didn't want to push it.

Mumyo Bridge, Tennenji Yaba, & Yamabushi Mountain Training

The trail was hairy enough as it was, and I would certainly not recommend it to inexperienced hikers, however, the views from the pass over the ridge were spectacular.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Tennenji Temple & Misosogi Shrine


Located above  the Kawanaka Fudo Magaibutsu, Tennenji Temple and Misosogi Shrine are in essence the same place.

They are fairly rudimentary structures, one with a thatched roof. A flood in 1941 washed the original temple away and there have been no resident priests since then and the remaining statues have been looked after by local people.

These 4-5 meter long torches are in readiness for the Shujo Onie fire festival in early February where dancers dressed as demons dance with fire to bring good fortune. These fire festivals take place at several sites around the Kunisaki peninsula. The one I visited at Iwatoji Temple can be seen here.

Next door is a museum devoted to the Shujo Onie festival but which also houses many of the ancient statues from the original temple.

The shrine building has a male-female mask combination. This is fairly common at many shrines, and most would say that the red-faced mask with the long nose was a Tengu, but I think it is a Sarutahiko mask as it is not wearing the tokin, the small black hat that yamabushi wore.

Sarutahiko is considered one of the origins of Tengu. According to the ancient myths, Sarutahiko guided the Yamato heavenly deities down to Japan and later married Uzume and that leads to the combination of masks seen here....

Uzume later became the model for the Otafuku character.....

The shrine, and temple, have their inner sanctuaries under overhangs in the cliff face....