Saturday, March 23, 2024

Nishinoshima Seashore Snapshots


Nishinoshima is one of the three inhabited islands that make up Dozen, part of the Oki islands that lie in the Sea of Japan about 50 kilometers off the coast of Shimane in Western Japan.

With a population of around 3,000, spread over 22 square miles, the economy and culture of the island has always centred on the surrounding sea.

Formed by volcanic activity about 5 million years ago, the island's highest point, 452m high Mount Takuhi, is the central pyroclastic cone of the Dozen Caldera.

Since 1961 the islands have been part of the Daisen Oki National park, and since 2013 have been registered as a UNESCO Global Geopark.

While not having any fine, sandy beaches like Okinawa or even mainland Shimane, the waters around Nishinoshima are exceptionally clear and attractive for many marine activities like kayaking, diving, and snorkeling. The Oki Islands are one of my three favorite destinations in Japan.

The previous ost on Nishinoshima was on Matengai Cliff which also includes some dramatic seaviews.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Saikyoji Temple Pagoda


When it was constructed, in 1989, the 3-storey pagoda at Saikyoji Temle on Hirado was probably the biggest 3-storey pagoda in Jaan, although larger ones have been built since then.

It is at the okunoin of the temple, overlooking the sheltered harbour and castle of Hirado, once a very important port for international trade before the country was closed down to most trade in the 17th century.

The okunoin is where Kobo Daishi performed his first Goma ceremony after returning from China in 806.

Hirado was also where he left for China a few years earlier and I would be visiting that site next.

Saikyoji is temple 77 on the Kyushu pilgrimage, and the main temple has lots to see so I will be covering that in the next post.

The pagoda stands 33.5 meters tall. On the first floor is an altar to Fudo Myo, and a Fudo statue also stands in front of the pagoda.

From the top floor there are great views over the town, castle, and harbour.

The previous post in this series on day 68 of my walk around Kyushu was on the Tabira Catholic Church on the mainland just across the bridge from Hirado.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Yosuien Garden


Yosuien is a large stroll-type garden in the Wakanoura area in the south of Wakayama City.

It is considered one of only two major gardens known as "shioiri", that is to say, the large pond is seawater and fed directly by the sea. The other garden of this type is the Hamarikyu Garden in Tokyo.

The large pond covers about half of the gardens 33,000 square meters.

The most predominant vegetation are the pine trees although there are also some camellias, hydrangeas, and azaleas.

The garden makes good use of the "borrowed scenery" of nearby Mount Tenjin and Mount Takozushi.

A small island in the pond is home to a shrine for Inari and Benten. Reached via a shorter "taikobashi" and an unusual longer bridge with three arches.

The garden reminded me somewhat of Ohori Park in Fukuoka, which is unsurprising as both Ohori Park and Yosuien Garden are modeled on the classic West Lake in China.

The garden was built between 1818 and 1826 by Tokugawa Harutaka, the 10th lord of Kishu Domain.

It was used as a retreat by the daimyo and to entertain guests.

The oldest teahouse in Wakayama, Yosui-tei, built in 1821,  comprises 19 rooms and includes the jissaien tearoom for tea ceremonies.

Yosuien is somewhat unusual and well worth a visit, especially with the other attractions nearby like Tenmangu Shrine, Toshogu Shrine, and Kiimidera Temple.

The garden is open every day of the year. Inquire in advance for tours of Yosuitei Teahouse. The garden entry fee includes entrance to the Minato Goten palace.

Relocated to within the garden from its original site, Minato Goten Palace was the previous post in this series on Wakayama.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Tabira Catholic Church


Tabira Catholic Church is located on the mainland close to the bridge across to Hirado Island.

It is a Romanesque brick structure with a wooden roof and was built in 1918.

Under the guidance of two French priests in the late Meiji period, Hidden Christians from areas further south in Nagasaki resettled in the area and built the church. Eventually many other Christian families migrated here.

The church was designed by Yosuke Tetsukawa who designed many other churches in the Nagasaki area.

In the late 20th century new stained glass from Germany and Italy was installed in the church and the original stained glass was donated to a church on Shikoku.

Since sites connected to Hidden Christians in Nagasaki were added to the UNESCO World Heritage, Tabira Church has become a popular tourist site. So nowadays it is recommended to contact the church in advance for permission to visit, but when I was there no such restrictions existed.

I visited on day 68 of my walk around Kyushu just before crossing over to Hirado. The previous post was on the Ohashi Natural Bridge.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Along the Gonokawa River to Kawagoe


After leaving the riverside fields of Tazu, the road heads about half a kilometer sandwiched between the forest and the river until the land opens up again in Kawagoe.

This was the next stop on the train after Tazu, and Kawagoe has a post office and used to have an elementary school. A road runs inland up into the mountains.

The bridge across the river is relatively new. When we first moved here the old bridge was still being used, but in the first few years a new one was built and the old one was demolished.

There is a small shrine in this first part of Kawagoe. It is unusual in that it has no kagura group. Back in a major flood in the 1960's all the costumes and masks were destroyed, and the cost to replace them was simply too high.

I continue on along the top of the embankment that separates the river from the strip of agricultural land that continues on to the next settlement of Wataru.

The previous post in this series documenting my walk along the Gonokawa River was on Tazu.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Ohashi Natural Bridge


If you follow the path up behind Ohashi Kannonji Temple you arrive at the Ohashi itself.

Formed when the roof of a cave collapsed, the natural bridge is about 30 meters long and about 4 meters wide and is split into two sections for most of it.

Scattered around the cliffs underneath it are numerous statues, the biggest being a Fudo Myo.

The community of ferns growing here is quite unusual and is registered as a National Natural Monument.

The natural bridge was one of the historic Hirado Hakkei, the "eight scenic views of Hirado Domain"

Unlike the American Southwest where the natural bridges and arches can be seen dramatically, here in Japan the dense vegetation makes them less than  impressive, but the biggest one in Japan, Onbashi in Hiroshima, is actually quite impressive.

The previous post in this series on day 68 of my walk around Kyushu was on the Ohashi Kannon Temple.