Thursday, September 8, 2022

Chikatsuyu to Takahara on the Nakahechi


The Kumano Kodo are hundreds of kilometers of routes that converge on the sacred sites of three shrine-temple complexes in southern Wakayama. The Nakahechi is certainly the most traveled of these routes nowadays, and it seems like this section is the busiest of them all with many visitors who just do a one day or one night "experience".

This was day 4 of my walk along the Saigoku Kannon pilgrimage that for the first week also follows the same route as the Kumano Kodo, but I was walking against the flow as most people are walking west to east

From Chikatsuyu, where the trail drops down and a fairly large settlement with many guesthouses provide a convenient stopping point, the trail once again heads up into the mountains and over several passes.

Most of the route is just mountain trail and passes several oji, wayside shrines.

The bulk of the forest is sugi, Japanese Cedar, planted fairly recently, though there are glimpses of remains of old growth. Like so much of the mountainsides of Japan that have been clearcut and monocultured with tree farms, landslides are now common....

By late morning I had reached Takahara, a mountaintop settlement that has benefited by the surge of tourism since the Kumano Kodo was made a World Heritage site.  I will cover Takahara in the next post in the series. previous posts can be found here.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Hotogekataki Cave Temple on Shodoshima


Located at the base of a towering cliff in the lower Kankakei Gorge on Shodoshima Island, Hotogekataki is temple number 20 on the Shodoshima 88 temple pilgrimage, a smaller copy of the famous, and nearby, Shikoku pilgrimage.

The temizuya where visitors purify their mouths and hands is not a typical basin, but rather a spring-fed pool of milky-blue water watched over by a statue of Fudo Myoo.

However the usual dragon was also there.

There is a small, concrete, Daishi Hall and a bell tower, also concrete, but the main hall of the temple is a cave, something that is not unusual on this pilgrimage.

The entrance to the cave is quite small and flanked by small atars and statues. The interior is surprisingly roomy with a natural central pillar.

The honzon of the temple is a yakushi Nyorai, the Medicine Buddha. Most surprising was a woodstove with a chimney through the solid rock. An old lady was on duty and she gave me some oranges as osettai, gifts or alms for pilgrims.

This was my second day walking this pilgrimage and the previous temple was high above, Kiyotakisan, was another cave temple, and actually the highest temple on the route.

Hotogekataki has breat views out across the lower part of the Kankakei Gorge, one of the three top gorges in Japan. Though it was Christmas day there was still plenty of autumn color around as Shodoshima has a very mild climate.

From here I once again start to climb, the next temple, also a cave temple is about halfway up the gorge....

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Water Lilies at Shurakuen Garden


A very simple post today, just some snaps of water lilies at the Shurakuen garden in Tsuyama, Okayama.

Nympharaceae, commonly known as water lily, consists of about 70 different species of plants that gow in temperate and tropical areas around the world.

They have a variety of different colors, though the species growing in Shurakuen has white flowers that were blooming when I visited in early July.

The main feature of Shurakuen is a very large body of water, much of which is covered in water lilies which tends to make a very green garden in summer.

I believe the floating greenery does die back in the autumn and winter and that would make the pond more reflective. I hope to find out in a couple of months on my next visit there in November

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Shurakuen Garden Tsuyama


Shurakuen is a large, Edo-Period, stroll-type garden built by a daimyo in the former castle town of Tsuyama in the mountains of Okayama.

The garden, as well as Tsuyama itself, is not so well known and is  little off the main tourist routes, but is well worth a visit, especially as the entrance is free.

The garden was built in the mid 17th century under the orders of Nagatsugu Mori, who brought in a gardener from Kyoto to design it. It is said to be modeled on the garden at the Imperial palace in Kyoto.

The Matsudaira clan who took over the domain used it to entertain vassals and visiting dignitaries, and was probably used as a palace by retired daimyo.

The garden is dominated by a very large pond  that by virtue of its shape and its islands seems like three separate areas.

A large part of the surface of the pond is covered with water lilies which in the summer give the garden wide expanses of green.

Reproductions of some of the buildings that stood here have been built including a fine two-storied, thatched building.

There are cherry blossoms in the spring, the water lilies are in bloom in the summer, and being at some elevation a fair bit of snow in the winter, but it is said to be best in the autumn colors.

All these shots were taken in the summer.....

Monday, August 29, 2022



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.......

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.

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.