Monday, January 22, 2024

Kurokamizan Daiichi-in Temple 104 on the Kyushu pilgrimage


Daiichi-in, the 104th temple of the Shingon Kyushu pilgrimage is located on the hillside overlooking downtown Sasebo in Nagasaki.

It was founded in 806 on Mount Kurokami near Takeo in what is now Saga.

It burned down in 1891 and because of the growth of Sasebo due to it being a major naval base, it was decided to rebuild there rather than its original site.

It opened in Sasebo in 1901, though most of the current buildings were built post 1978.

Kobo Daishi is said to have visited Mount Kurokami and prayed there before his journey to China.

On his return from China he revisited the mountain and while there carved a small Fudo Myo statue "with his fingernails". It is the "secret Buddha" enshrined in the Goma-do, photo 4 above.

After its founding in 806 it became a powerful temple in the region with 80 subsidiary temples under its control.

It is considered to be the first temple founded by Kobo Daishi in Hizen, the former province that now is largely Nagasaki and Saga prefectures,

The honzon is considered the Fudo statue carved by Kobo Daishi. In the main hall are enshrined Yakushi Nyorai, Amida Nyorai, and Senju Kannon. The temple is locally popular for the Seven Lucky Gods.

The previous post in this series on Day 66 of my first Kyushu pilgrimage was Seiganji Temple in Sasebo.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Minato Goten Palace


The Minato Goten Palace was built to the southwest of Wakayama Castle on the bank of the Tsukiji River.

It was originally built in 1698 by Tokugawa Mitsusada ( 1627-1705) and from the late 18th century became the permanent home of the retired daimyo.

It burned down several times and the current version was constructed in 1823 using the blueprints of the domains  mansion in Edo.

In early Meiji it was dismantled and moved to its current location next to Yosui-en garden in the Wakanoura area of the city.

It is considered a fine example of Shoin Zukuri architecture of the Edo eriod.

The previous post in this series on Wakayama City was the nearby Wakaura Tenmangu Shrine.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Fukuishi Kannon Seiganji Temple


Fukuishi Kannon is the popular name for Seiganji Temple in Sasebo, Nagasaki.

It's origin lies with a visit by Gyoki to the area in 710. While here he carved 3 statues from a sacred tree, one of which, a two metre tall 11-faced Kannon, he enshrined here.

It is classed as one of the Seven Famous Kannon statues in Kyushu.

When Kobo Daishi visited the area about a century later he established Seiganji Temple.

It is also said he placed 500 rakan statues in the cave behind the temple.

Rather than a cave, it is actually a wide, curved overhang in the cliff.

Over the centuries many of the statues disappeared but there still remains a collection of assorted statues, many not rakan, in the cave.

The current main hall was built by the local lord, Matsuura Seizan, in 1785,

He became Daimyo of the Hirado Domain when only 16 and later became a renowned swordsman.

It is a Shingon temple and the honzon is the Gyoki Kannon.

Held in August, the Sennichi Festival is one of the major festivals of Sasebo.

It is claimed that coming here and praying here for just one day during the festival is the equivalent to praying for 46,000 days, hence the name of the festival Shiman Rokusen Nichi, which means 46,000 days.

I visited on day 66 of my walk along the Kyushu Shingon pilgrimage, although the temple itself is not part of the pilgrimage. The previous post in the series was Jozenji Temple.

Thursday, January 18, 2024



Tazu is a small farming community on the Gonokawa River. It is the next settlement upstream from Kawado.

It has no shop, nor post office, or school, but it does have a bridge and it did have a halt on the Sanko Line railway, though I never ever saw anyone get on or off here.

It is unusual in that the land usable for agriculture is relatively wide. A friend of mine is a burdock root farmer here though he has given up and moved because of a series of disastrous floods in recent years that destroyed his crop.

Some of the houses are still inhabited but I would guess close to half are empty and abandoned.

The previous post was on Kawado to Tazu.

On the way out of the village, the road was blocked. As usual, there were no warning signs that the road was closed ahead. Also as usual I walked around the barrier and carried on....

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Jozenji Temple 71 on the Kyushu pilgrimage


Jozenji is a small temple in the hills to the east of Sasebo and is the 71st temple on the Shungon Kyushu pilgrimage, said to be the longest of all circuit pilgrimages in Japan.

Like the previous temple I visited a little earlier, Tozenji Temple, it claims to have been founded by Gyoki in the early 8th century.

It is said that Gyoki was traveling through the region promoting the establishment of the famous Todaiji, the first "national" temple in Japan in which he played a part.

While in this area he is said to have carved a statue of Yakushi Nyorai which is the honzon of this temple.

This was a different location, but exactly where is unclear to me because place names have changed so much. There does seem to be a connection with Saikyoji, a big temple on Hirado Island.

Wherever it was, the temple was destroyed during the anti-Buddhist movement in early Meiji and was rebuilt at the current location in 1880.

There was a path leading through the trees to a miniature Kannon pilgrimage.

Though there was no sign of it when I visited in March, the temple is known as a great spot for autumn leaves viewing.

The previous ost in this series was on Turtle Rock at Tozenji.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Matsue Castle


Matsue Castle is considered to be one of the 12 original castles remaining in Japan.

There are many more castles throughout Japan, but what distinguishes the 12 is that their central tower, tenshu in Japanese, commonly called keep in English, is not a modern reconstruction. The keep at Matsue was registered as a National Treasure in 2015.

Matsue castle was built in just 5 years by Horio Yoshiharu and completed in 1611.

He was given control of the domain following the Battle of Sekigahara and at that time the domain castle was Gassan Toda, located south of what is now Yasugi.

Though Gassan Toda was a great castle, he decided that the area around it was not suitable for the building of a castle town and so selected the area that became Matsue.

The castle and domain passed to the Matsudaira clan, and Matsudaira Fumio (1751-1818) a renowned tea master was responsible for making Matsue a centre of the Tea Ceremony.


The castle has a large and extensive moat system that connects to several waterways and boat trips around the castle are a popular activity.

The inside of the keep is explored using steep stairways and there are many exhibits of samurai armor and castle-related displays. From the top, there are great views over Matsue and Lake Shinji.

In 1873 the Japanese government began dismantling the vast majority of the castles in the country, and in Matsue all the former buildings were removed but the keep was spared due to local pressure. The keep has six floors, though appears from the outside to have five. Its black walls led to it being given the nickname Chidori, "plover" Castle.

The extensive castle grounds are now a park known for cherry blossom viewing. There are also several shrines and other buildings within the grounds that I will cover in later posts.

The samurai district on the north side of the moat has some of Matsue's top attractions, including Lafcadio Hearns former home, a restored samurai residence, and the Meimei-an Teahouse and garden.

The previous post in this series on Matsue was on the weeping cherry tree of nearby Senjuin Temple.