Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Kannondo Shrine Tojin Yashiki


The Kannondo was constructed in 1737 although it was repaired and rebuilt several times with the current building dating to 1917.

The arched stone gate is believed to be older and to date back to before the Tojin Yashiki compound was dismantled in the late 19th century

Kannon is the Japanese name for Guanyin, the bodhisattva that is commonly referred to as the Goddess of Mercy. Originally an Indian deity, Guanyin was believed to be originally male in form but in China and East Asia is now usually depicted as female.

Guanyin also became a popular deity among various branches of Chinese folk religions. Enshrined alongside Guanyin here is also Guanyu,  a popular deity associated with business prosperity and also enshrined in the nearby Tenkodo Shrine.

The only Japanese allowed to enter Tojin Yashiki were prostitutes from the Maruyama district as no Chinese women were allowed to reside within the walls. Unlike at the Dutch compound of Dejima, these courtesans were not allowed to stay overnight.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Minakata Kumagusu Residence


Minakata Kamagusu was a Japanese eccentric and maverick who is considered by some to be Japan's first environmentalist. The house he lived in from 1916 until his death in 1941 is open to the public right next door to a modern museum to him in Tanabe, Wakayama.

In the previous post on the memorial museum, I wrote a little about him, but in this post I want to concentrate on the topic that made him famous, the shrine closure program of the government that began around 1910.

The shrine closure program only ran for a few years, and some areas resisted it quite strongly, but somewhere between 35 and 45 percent of all shrines throughout Japan were closed down. These were all local, nature-based deities that were moved, often quite some distance, to a "national" shrine.

Previously during the Meiji Period the government had "separated" the kami and the buddhas, destroying more than a millenia of religious development and in the process installing imperial connected kami in place of deities with Buddhist, Taoist, or non-imperial identities. They also began a program of creating major imperial shrines, some of which, like Meiji Jingi, Kashihara, and Heian, are now very popular.

The shrine closure program was part of this effort to create a new imperial-centered religion but also had a couple of secondary aims. One was to reduce the number of festivals that Japanese celebrated as this interfered with the industrial-oriented work ethic that the state wished to create.

Another factor was the"resource-rich" forest land that these traditional shrines encompassed. There was a lot of valuable timber on these lands when one considers the massive deforestation that the castle and town building of the Edo Period had created. It was this final point that caused Minakata to get involved, although he went on to argue an ecological viewpoint that included the destruction of culture in the formation of the state and national identity. For a more detailed look please click this recent online journal article about him.

The house is shown as it was when he lived there, thanks in large part to his daughter who kept all his possessions, research papers etc which can be accessed in the museum next door.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Tenkodo Shrine Tojin Yashiki


The Tenkodo was the second of the Chinese shrines built within the walls of Tojin Yashiki, the compound that confined Chinese merchants and sailors in Nagasaki.

It was built in 1736 by shipowners from Nanking resident in the compound and it enshrines Mazu a Goddess of seafaring.

The shrine, along with the many of the other buildings, burned down in the great fire of 1784 and was rebuilt in 1790. The current building dates to 1906.

When the Chinese ships left China they carried a statue of the goddess  Mazu, and when arriving in Nagasaki the statue would be brought into the Tenko-do, a ritual recreated each year during Nagasaki's Lantern Festival.

Also enshrined in the Tenkodo are statues of Guan Yin, the Goddess of mercy, and Guan Yu, a red-faced, bearded, general from the Three Kingdoms period revered as a god of prosperity.

The previous post in this series was the nearby Dojindo Shrine, the first built in Tojin Yashiki.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Minenoyama-an & Hondo Temples 22, 23 Shodoshima Pilgrimage


Boxing Day, December 26th, 2015, and I set off on the third day of my walk along the Shodoshima Pilgrimage.

Its another glorious day of blue skies and my plan is to go down and then back up the Mito Peninsula that protrudes from the south of the island.

But first there are the last couple of temples in the old town part of Kusakabe.

The first is Minenoyama-an, on some high ground with great views over the Inland Sea and surrounded by a large cemetery. It is unmanned and the suffix -an tells that it is classed as a "hermitage", though the main building is a bit larger than most hermitages I've come across so far and is more like a large farmouse. The honzon is a Thousand-Armed Kannon.

Nearby, literally on the other side of a small elementary school, is temple 23, curiously named Hondo, which means main hall.

It is said to be the main hall of the pagoda of Seikenji, temple 21 which I visited yesterday and is not too far away. Whether the pagoda stood here or if the hondo was moved to this spot is not clear.

It's quite an elegant building that I would describe as Chinese-style.

The honzon is a Shaka Nyorai said to have been carved by Genshin, a prominent Tendai monk from Enryakuji of the late Heian Period who is known mostly for his writings, but is said to have carved the statue at Yasakaji, temple 24 on Shikoku.

Next I head along the main coast road to the next settlement which has 4 pilgrimage temples to visit. The previous post in this series was on the last 4 temples I visited yesterday, Christmas Day.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Dojindo Shrine Tojin Yashiki


Tojin Yashiki was the walled and gated compound that housed Chinese merchants and sailors in Nagasaki between 1689 and 1859.

The Dutch had been confined earlier, and the Chinese compound was larger and held many more people. however they were held under  less strict conditions and there were also large numbers of ethnic Chinese who were "naturalized citizens" and who were often the officials charged with guarding and controlling Tojin Yashiki.

The Dojin-do was constructed within the compound by ship owners in 1691, the fist shrine built within the compound.

It enshrines Tu Di Gong, a kind of Daoist tutelary land  deity of a specific location. It seems to be the equivalent of what in my area is called Omoto and what in the Izumo area is called Kojin, and was a very popular deity among the Chinese.

The shrine burned down in a great fire of 1784 but was rebuilt with donation from the great Chinese temples in Nagasaki, Sofukuji, Kofukuji, and Fukusaiji, temples which the residents of Tojin Yashiki could visit as long as guarded.

The shrine was dismantled down to its foundations in 1950 but was restored in 1977.

The previous post was on the Chinatown just below Tojin Yashiki.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Tsuyama Snapshots


Early August, 2014, and I set off from my hotel and start the fifth day of my walk along the Chugoku Kannon Pilgrimage. I will walk north out of Tsuyama and then head west. I had celebrated my 60th birthday recently, and while walking with a heavy backpack in the hot and humid weather was not exactly fun, it was certainly bearable,  now nine years later I cannot imagine doing it today. Near the hotel I passed a small roadside Inari Shrine.

The Yoshii River runs along the southern edge of Tsuyama.

With the early morning light, the impressive ruins of Tsuyama castle were clearer.

Near the station is the Tsuyama Manabi Railway Museum hosed in an old Roundhouse with turntable. I believe the museum has been somewhat improved since I was there, and there is a single steam locomotive and about a dozen other trains most dating back to the 1960's and 70's. Quite nostalgic as I was a trainspotter myself till I became a teenager.

My guess would be that this abandoned building was once a ryokan.

This area, formerly Mimasaka Province, has many legends and stories of Kappa, the mythical water sprite, and the main street of Tsuyama has a series of small statues depicting them.

The previous post was the historic Kajimura Residence I visited at the end of the previous day.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Nagasaki Shinchi the Oldest Chinatown in Japan


By the 17th century there were Chinese settlements all over Kyushu engaged in trade. In 1635 the Japanese government restricted all trade to the single port of Nagasaki, and so the Chinese moved there.

It is thought that around one sixth of the population of Nagasaki were Chinese, but they were not confined like the Dutch traders on Dejima.

However, by the late 17th century the Shogunate became increasingly concerned about smuggling and so a walled and gated  compound called Tojin Yashiki was constructed and all Chinese confined there.

In 1859 the Japanese policy of national seclusion ended and Tojin Yashiki was demolished and many of the Chinese residents moved to the Shinchi area.

For two weeks after the Chinese New Year the Nagasaki lantern Festival is held is held at several sites across Nagasaki, including Shinchi.

I visited a few days after it had finished but floats and other evidence of the festival still remained.

I did not spend any time exploring Shinchi as I was far more interested in the nearby area of the former Tojin Yashiki. The previous post in this series was on Dejima, the Dutch settlement.