Friday, May 3, 2024

Takuno Port


From the harbour at Nima, it is not far to Takuno port, with just the Nima beach, a small headland, and a small cove in-between.

There are a couple of small islands just offshore and they provide good protection so the harbour became one of the Kitamaebune ports. The next Kitamaebune port down the coast is Yunotsu.

The small town has several warehouses and large merchant homes that would have prospered during the Edo and Meiji periods when the trade route was at its peak.

I have passed through Takuno several times, most recently while walking the Iwami Kannon pilgrimage.

The largest of the offshore islets is called Karashima and according to the myth it was the "stone boat" that brought Susano from the Korean peninsula in a little-known variation on the ancient myths of Japan.

Nowadays there are no tradeships, only inshore fishing boats and a few squid boats use the harbour.

However, like so much of the Shimane coastline, there are plenty of fine views.

The previous post in this series exploring the coastline of the Sea of Japan was on Nima harbour.

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Hokao Shrine Arita


Hokao Shrine is a small, local shrine on top of a rise next to the river at the southern end of the old town of Arita in Saga.

It is built in concrete, and something about it struck me as more attractive than many concrete shrines.

It has two pairs of komainu, the first pair dating to early 21st century.

There was no signboard, and no information I could find on the web. Like many local shrines, origin and even kami enshrined are lost in time.

The second set of komainu dated back to the 1920's.

I found this small Ebisu statue intriguing. Ebisu is very popular in the area, as in all of what is now Nagasaki and Saga.

The previous post was on Arita Porcelain Park.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Saigokuji Temple Sasaguri


Sasaguri is a small town in a narrow valley in the mountains NE of the major urban area of Hakata/Fukuoka City in northern Kyushu.

It is home to a delightful miniature version of the Shikoku Ohenro pilgrimage that while only 50 kilometers in length, takes a good 4 or sometimes 5 days to walk as there is so much up and downing in the mountains.

With 88 temples crammed together in such a small area, it is perhaps surprising that you pass by numerous other temples that are not part of the pilgrimage.

Saigokuji is one such temple, and like many on the pilgrimage, is small and uninhabited, but also with quite a few small structures containing many statues.

I can find no information about it except that it is a Tendai temple. There were a couple of Fudo statues, but Kannon seems to be the primary focus.

It is located just upstream of the reservoir behind Narufuchi Dam and just a few minutes walk from the Goto Falls Bato Kannon Temple. We visited at the end of a long first day walking the pilgrimage that had included seeing  literally thousands of statues.....

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Arita Porcelain Park


Arita Porcelain Park is a small theme park in the hills outside the small town of Arita in Saga with a theme of porcelain and Germany. This connection came about because Arita twinned with Dresden because Dresden had one of the best collections of Arita porcelain anywhere in the world.

When I visited 10 years ago it was already starting to feel dilapidated and as I understand it the last ten years have only added to its decline.

They do have a big example of a climbing kiln, called noborigama, and when I was there they were in the middle of a firing, so that was cool to see.

One of the few remaining activities at the park are classes in making and decorating ceramics with the pieces you create being sent on to you after firing.

The highlight of the park is the impressive replica of the Zwinger, a Baroque palace from the early 18th Century, built by King Augustus who collected East Asian porcelain. The Zwinger replica used to show exhibits of European porcelain and Arita ceramics, but is now closed.

Besides a couple of souvenir shops and a restaurant the park unusually has a large, modern drugstore specializing in tax-free products for the busloads of primarily Asian tourists. At the entrance of the park is a new, modern brewery making sake and shochu. They bought the park in 2015 and tours are popular.

Built just after the "bubble" burst, it is like hundreds of other dilapidated monuments around Japan to an overly optimistic expectation of tourist numbers that never came close to being realized and I suspect it will not be long till its doors close for good.. If you are in the area it is maybe worth a visit for some "Instagram" shots of the Zwinger, which was the subject of the previous post in this series on day 70 of my walk around Kyushu.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine


Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine is certainly the most popular and well-known shrine in the city of Nishinomiya in Hyogo.

Nishinomiya means "West Shrine" and the shrine the city is named after is actually Hirota Shrine.

To the north of Nishinomiya Ebisu, Hirota Shrine was in ancient times a very important shrine, and it is believed that the Ebisu Shrine was sometimes referred to as "Southern Shrine" indicating its branch relationship to Hirota.

There are three hondens behind the main shrine. One enshrines Ebisu, one enshrines Amaterasu and Okuninushi, and the third enshrines Susano.

The enshrinement of Amaterasu and Okuninushi occurred in the early years of Meiji when the shrine officially separated from Hirota. Not sure when the Susano enshrinement happened.

There seems to have been some dispute over the Okuninushi Shrine. It seems at one point the whole shrine was renamed Okuninushi Shrine but then later separated from the Ebisu Shrine. After 1945 the Okuninushi became a sub-shrine of the Ebisu.

The main hall is a post-war reconstruction of the 17th century building. I also believe it underwent further reairs following the Hanshin Earthquake.

There are numerous secondary shrines within the large grounds, including the aforementioned Okuninushi Nishi Shrine which also enshrines Sukunahiko, and a Kojin Shrine (photo 4 )

There is also an Atago Shrine, and an Okiebisu shrine, enshrining the "wild/turbulent" aspect of Ebisu relocated to within the grounds  in early Meiji. (second to last photo)

There is a Benzaiten Shrine and a Rokkosan Shrine, an Inari Shrine, but also an Ugatama Shrine from before Meiji when Inari became equated with Ugatama. There are two shrines connected to sake brewing, a Matsuo Shrine, and an Umemiya Shrine.

The most interesting subsidiary shrine for me was the Hyakudayu Shrine which enshrines a kami connected to puppeteering. It is said that one of the reasons for the widespread adoption of Ebisu nationwide was due to Ebisu stories told in puppet plays.

Nishinomiys Ebisu is considered by some to be the head shrine of all Ebisu shrines nationwide, and the version of Ebisu here is the one based on Hiruko, sometimes called "Leech Child" born of Izanagi and Izanami who failed to follow the correct protocol and so their first child was born without limbs or skeleton. It was placed in a basket and set adrift.

One version of the story has the basket sailing to Hokkaido where the child is raised by Ainu. Another version of Ebisu is equated with Kotoshirunushi, a son of Okuninushi, and so some consider his main shrine of Miho Shrine in Shimane to be the head Ebisu shrine.

Certainly the pairing of Ebisu and Daikoku, another variation of  Okuninushi, as two of the Seven Lucky Gods, explains Ebisu's popularity among businesses and commerce, whereas Ebisu as the patron deity of fishermen suggests a different heritage perhaps.

The Toka Ebisu Festival takes place on January 10th and includes the Lucky Man Race wherein thousands of hopefuls race from the main gate to the main shrine building.

I was here very early on June 10th and preparations were underway for a ceremony at the Okiebisu Shrine.....

This was my first stop on day 3 of my walk along the Kinki Fudo Myo pilgrimage. The previous post was on my last stop of day 2, the Kifune Shrine in Amagasaki.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Zwinger Palace at Arita Porcelain Park


To come across a full-size replica of a Rococo German palace in the countryside of Saga in northern Kyushu might surprise some people, but such things no longer surprise me.

This replica of the Zwinger palace in Dresden is located in a theme park devoted to porcelain, the Arita Porcelain Park, and as well as the Zwinger palace the rest of the park is made out to represent a "german" village.

The connection of porcelain to Arita is a strong one...... Arita is where the first porcelain in Japan was made, but the connection to Germany needs some explanation.

A lot of the porcelain produced in Arita was exported to Europe by the Dutch traders of Nagasaki and was very popular and known as Imari Ware after the nearby port to Arita from where it was exported.

In the 1970's it was discovered that behind the Iron Curtain in the museum of Dresden was an amazing collection of Imari Ware, and with some difficulty it was arranged to bring the collection from East Germany to show in Japan. This led to Arita and Dresden becoming sister-cities.

The original Zwinger was built in 1709 as an orangerie and gardens with galleries and pavilions for exhibitions. It is considered a classic piece of Baroque architecture of Dresden. It was largely destroyed by the infamous bombing raid of WWII but was rebuilt.

The Arita version was opened in 1993, and like many such ambitious projects from around that time the park never really became very successful and so has somewhat deteriorated. The gardens are particularly bleak.

When I visited the two long galleries held exhibitions of European porcelain and local Arita ceramics, but it seems that these exhibitions have now ceased. I suspect the whole park will not be a viable business for much longer, again a fairly common occurrence in the hinterlands of Japan.

I visited on day 70 of my walk around  Kyushu, a day I spent mostly exploring Arita, a town well worth a visit. Next, I will look at the rest of the porcelain park.