Thursday, November 3, 2022

Disappeared Japan Awaji World Peace Kannon


This is the first of an occasional series of posts I plan on things I've seen that have now disappeared. Having been in Japan for more than twenty years, the number of things that have disappeared is only growing.

First up is the giant statue that used to stand on Awaji Island known as the Awaji World Peace Kannon. At 8o meters in height, when it was built in 1982 it was possibly the tallest statue in the world. Since then Japan, China, India, and other Asian countries have continuously been building ever taller statues, and ones of Kannon are quite common.

Built by a local businessman on Awaji Island, he also built a temple with a ten-storied pagoda at the site. Like many of these monumental statues, there is a viewing deck near the top where members of the public could climb up and enjoy the view.

Following his death in 1988, his wife took over running the site but apparently with little enthusiasm and it became rundown and dilapidated.  Following her death in 2006 it was immediately closed down and deteriorated further. 

The statue was made out of gypsum, hardly a resilient material, and the highest standards of construction were not used and so the statue and pagoda were in danger of collapse and have recently been demolished. These photos were taken in November 2018.

I have visited several of the other giant Kannon statues in Japan,  but the only one I have posted about on this blog is the one near Kurume in Kyushu. It was also built in 1982 and is only 61 meters tall, but is a more professional statue.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Amagi to Tosu. Day 55 Walking Around Kyushu

 Saturday, January 4th 2014

It's still dark when I leave my hotel and walk to Kurume Station. I take a train north across the river towards Amagi where I will continue my pilgrimage, but first, get off after a couple of stops at Kitano Station. A few hundred meters from the station is a shrine I want to visit, a branch of Kitano Tenmangu, the first shrine to Sugawara Michizane in Kyoto.

 The village here is called Kitano after the shrine's name. That is not unusual, many places in Japan are named after the local shrine or temple. It is quite a big shrine and has a single statue of a white horse, fairly common at shrines, but also has three orange horses,... quite unusual. The walls of the corridors of the shrine are covered with examples of calligraphy, something the Kami Tenjin, the enshrined spirit of Michizane, is known for.

 I jumped back on a train to the last station of the line, Amagi, and when I arrive the sun is up promising another fine day. I had some trouble finding the first pilgrimage temple of the day, Kotokuin,number 7 in the order they are listed. It was located in a suburban area a little north of the station but was not a large temple with a typical large curved roof, but a small single-storey building, so I could not see it from a distance. I asked several passers-by but had no luck. Often in Japan if a place is not famous then even people who live nearby will not know where it is. I find it eventually and there is not much to see. My route now heads west across the wide plain. 

Japan is often characterized as being a mountainous country, and while that is true, there are plenty of wide-open flat areas, this being one of them. While I haven't yet traveled in many parts of Japan, so far in my experience Kyushu seems to have a lot of these flat areas. It is of course mostly farmland, and several times I pass near huge structure with silos. The fields and paddies are also interspersed with small settlements, marked by trees, the largest of the trees often indicate a shrine, none of the ones I visited had any visitors though. The shrines I visited were  Ushiki Tenmangu, Nomachi Takano, Shisojima Tenmangu, Otoguma Tenmangu, and Yokoguma Hayabusataka.

 By lunchtime, it is becoming more urban and I reach temple number 3, Nyoirinji, and it is very busy. It's not a very big temple but is obviously very popular. The most noticeable thing is a large number of frog statues. They are everywhere. In the car park are a line of large metal ones covered in what appears to be graffiti, but what is in fact prayers and wishes. I had hoped to meet with the head priest of the temple, the father of the young priest I had met at temple number 93 some 53 walking days ago, but he was obviously very busy. The grounds did have a nice walk with many fines statues so I leisurely explored before heading off. 

I headed south, now into urban Ogori, and walked parallel to several train lines as well as the main road and expressway. There were several larger shrines to stop at and explore, Rikitake Kamado, Misetaireiseki,  and Ogori Susano. I pass under the East-West expressway and turn west parallel to it.  At a big shrine I am surprised to find many statues of monkeys, not the Three Wise Monkeys, but mostly mother monkeys in red hats holding baby monkeys. It's a Hiyoshi Shrine, a branch of the famous shrine at the base of Mount Hiei whose guardian animal is the monkey.

 In Tashiro I find the last pilgrimage temple of the day, Fudo-in, number 4. It took some finding as it is a small concrete structure in the middle of a crowded suburban area. Nothing much to see except for a nice statue of Fudo Myo O, the temple's namesake. It's now getting late and I head south back toward Kurume. I get as far as Tosu before deciding to call it a day

As usual, I took photos of the many unique manhole covers I saw along the way.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Fudoin Temple 4 on the Kyushu Pilgrimage


Located in the built-up area of Tashiro, close to the old Nagasaki Highway, Fudoin is another of the modern temples on the Kyushu pilgrimage.

Established in 1950, the main hall was built in 1976, and like many urban tempes is a concrete structure with the main hall on the upper floor.

A small shrine to the Eight Dragon Kings.

In the grounds is an Ikime Hachiman Shrine, known for curing eye diseases.

The honzon of the temple is a seated Fudo Myo and in the grounds is a standing Fudo statue, and also a Mizuko Jizo.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Tashiro Yasaka Shrine


After leaving Ogori Hiyoshi Shrine I continued west along the old Nagasaki kaido and soon crossed over into Saga prefecture.

In Tashiro, which I believe was a post-town on the Nagasaki Highway, I visited the Tashiro Yasaka Shrine. Another branch of the famous Yasaka Shrine in Gion, Kyoto, and previously called Gion Shrine, its primary kami is once again Susano.

Gion Shrine was the origin of the famous Gion Matsuri which began life as a festival to ward off a pestilence that was ravaging Kyoto.

Gion shrines therefore often became established for the purpose of protection against disease, and as disease was seen to come from "outside" a community and travel along roads, it strikes me as why there are so many Gion ( or Yasaka or Susano ) shrines found along the major highways like the Nagasaki Kaido.

This shrine, like all the otheres I had visited this day, was all dressed up in its New Year finery. There was no signboard so I have no info on the shrine.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Ogori Susano Shrine


After Misetaireiseki Shrine I continued south into the more built-up area of central Ogori and after turning west came upon Ogori Susano Shrine.

Earlier it was known as Gion-sha, a branch of the famous shrine in Gion now called Yasaka Shrine, and now enshrining Susano.

This branch was established in 1353 and moved to its current location in the 16th century. At that time plague was spreading in the surrounding villages but this area was relatively unscathed, and this was attributed to the power of this shrine so peorle came from surrounding areas to pray.

When the nearby expressway was built in 1984 the sale of land enabled the shrine to rebuild the current buuldings.

In the grounds are numerous sub-shrines including Ebisu, Hachiman, and Tenman.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Misetaireiseki Shrine & the Myth of Empress Jingu


Heading south from Rikitake I come to the most substantial shrine of the day that is obviously much  more than just a village shrine.

According to the legend, Emperor Chuai, the 14th "emperor", was unusual in several respects. He was the first emperor who was not a son of an emperor. He was also based in Kyushu rather than Yamato in central Japan. According to the Kojiki and Nihongi he reigned in the late 2nd century, but these dates have been known to be out by centuries since the Edo period but are still adhered to in much official literature.

He is said to have had a temporary palace at this spot during his military campaign to subdue the Kumaso tribe. His "wife", later known as Jingu, had a vision and suggested he not attack the Kumaso but rather invade Korea, but he scoffed at the idea.

In the ensuing battle the Kumaso were victorious and Chuai was mortally wounded by a poison arrow. Fearing that news of his death would demoralize the troops, Jingu put on Chuai's armour and led the troops to success. Further north at what is now Kashii Shrine, she announced Chuai's death and then led her troops on an invasion of Sila on the Korean peninsula.

There is absolutely zero historical evidence of such an invasion, but in the 20th century, the Jingu myth was used to justify the occupation of Korea.

According to the myth, she took with her a stone containing the spirit of Chuai, and on her return left it here and founded the shrine to protect Korea.

According to the myth, for the three years of the Korea campaign she was pregnant with Chuai's child and gave birth on her return to a son who became Emperor Ojin. This is where historians divide the Yayoi period from the ensuing Kofun period.

It looks as if the Yayoi period is characterized by immigration and cultural and technological import from southern China, SE Asia, and even the pacific islands, whereas the Kofun period is marked by massive influx of Korean culture and technology......

The third photo is of the rock around which the shrine is based.  The 6th photo is inside the Awashima Shrine in the grounds. Misetaireiseki Shrine is one of only a few shrines in the Chikugo region that were listed in the Engi Shiki, which means it used to be quite important.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Rikitake Kamado Shrine


After visiting Nyoirinji Temple, the "Frig Temple" that was number three on the Kyushu pilgrimage I am walking, and the second temple of the day, I carried on roughly SW towards the next temple, and was now walking along the old Nagasaki Highway that connected Nagasaki with Moji.

In the settlement of Rikitake I stopped in at the village shrine which was a branch of Kamado Shrine a little north of here in Dazaifu.

The original kamado Shrine is said to have been established by Emperor Tenji in 664, on top of the sacred mountain Mount Homan. He moved the political and administrative capital of Kyushu to the base of the mountain, now Dazaifu, as a defensive measure expecting Japan to be attacked by Sila.

More information on his military defeat on the Korean peninsula the year before can be found in some of the posts I did on shrines I visited yesterday further east in Asakura.

Originally it is said he enshrined thousands of kami in Kamado Shrine, though now it is listed as enshrining Tamayorihime, Jingu, and Ojin. A Buddhist priest, Shinren, had a vision of Tamayorihime on Mount Homen a few years after the shrine was originally established.

This branch shrine lists Tamayorihime as the main kami and also lists Yamashita Kagehime and Kora Tamatari, but I can find no information on those two kami.

The shrine did have a small pair of weathered zuijin that were unusual.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Yokoguma Hayabusataka Shrine


About one kilometer from the previous shrine, Otoguma Tenmangu, the village shrine in Yokoguma was similar in appearance, being situated within a grove of large trees. However, by crossing a small river to get here  I had entered into a different cultural sphere. Whereas almost all the shrines I had visited earlier were Tenmangu shrines, on this side of the river they turned out to be shrines all connected to the mythical Empress Jingu.

According to the story, Emperor Chuai, considered the last of the "emperors" of the Yayoi period, and who was based here in northern Kyushu rather than the Yamato area, received an omen from the kami Takamimusubi who took the outward form of a bird that alighted on a pine tree before flying off to the north.

Takamimusubi is one of the first group of kami who "came into existence" and who has no stories about him in the ancient myths but is considered in some versions to be a grandfather of Ninigi who later descended from the high plain of heaven to begin the rule over Japan.

After Chuai's death, his consort, later known as Empress Jingu came back to this spot and established the shrine with Takamimusubi as the kami.

Hayabusa, in the name of the shrine, refers to the peregrine falcon, believed to be the bird of the legend. Though the original pine tree has long since gone, a group of three centuries old trees are revered here,

My next stop was the nearby Frog Temple, Nyoirinji, and several of the shrines i visited later were also connected to Jingu.