Monday, July 1, 2024

Kishu Railway. The Shortest Railway Line in Japan.


As I walked into the outskirts of Gobo City in Wakayama I came across some abandoned railway tracks. A few minutes later I arrived at Nishi Gobo Station of the Kishu Railway, the shortest railway line in Japan.

Actually, there is technically a slightly shorter line, somewhere up near Tokyo, but as it runs on tracks, trains, and drivers leased from another company, that doesn't seem to count to me.

The Kishu Railway runs 2.7 kilometers from Nishi Gobo Station to Gobo Station, with three stops in-between. The abandoned tracks I saw were from the 700 meter section from Nishi Gobo to Hidakagawa which closed in 1989.

The line opened in 1931 as the Gobo Rinko Railway and was never really successful. In 1973 it changed names after being bought by a real estate company who wanted the cachet of being able to call itself a railway company.

The railway owns three diesel carriages but only 2 are operational. There are no passing loops, so a single train shuttles back and forth about twenty times a day.

With at most about 200 passengers a day, and even with unmanned stations and "one-man cars", it cannot be making a profit, but it seems that recently a Chinese company became the majority shareholder. I visited on day 6 of my walk along the Kumano Kodo and Saigoku pilgrimage. The previous post was on Shioya Oji Shrine.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Sangenyama Toko-ji Temple 67 Kyushu pilgrimage


Tokoji, temple 67 on the Kyushu pilgrimage is located in the basin down below Mount Kurokami in the mountains between Arita and Takeo in Saga.

According to the temples history it was founded as a branch temple of number 69, Saikomitsuji, when it was founded by Kobo Daishi in the early 9th century upon his return from China.

It flourished as a shrine-temple complex for mountain ascetics.

It enshrined Kurokami Daigongen, gongen being Buddhist avatars of kami.

It was destroyed by fire but rebuilt in 1547 with a Yakushi Nyorai as honzon.

The temple is number 37 on the Kyushu Yakushi pilgrimage.

The temple received support from the local daimyo.

In 1868 Shugendo was outlawed, the guardian shrine was moved to another site, and the temple fell into disuse and disrepair.

It was revived sometime in the twentieth century.

There are many Mizuko Jizo in the grounds, and in the main hall is a small Kannoin statue said to be worshiped by Hidden Christians during the Edo period.

The previous post was on the nearby Mudo-in temple.

Friday, June 28, 2024

Aizen-ji Temple 32 Shodoshima pilgrimage


Aizenji is a substantial temple located near to a Michi no Eki where I stopped for a late  lunch on the third day of my walk along the Shodoshima 88 temple pilgrimage route. 

The temple was founded in the early 8th century by Gyoki. Several other temples on Shodoshima make this claim too, as do a large number of the 88 temples on Shikoku.

About a century later Kobo Daishi is said to have stopped here while waiting out a storm on his way to the capital.

In 1384 a monk named Seichi restored the temple and it has stood ever since.

The honzon is an Aizen Myoo, hence the temple name.

Aizen Myoo has some associations with sex, often nowadays meaning matchmaking. Interestingly in historical times he was invoked in several situations by men seeking gay lovers.

The notion of "matchmaking" deities has always existed in Japan, but nowadays seems to be a growing industry.

There were several statues of "cute" Jizo couples which to me look like a development of the "cute" dosojin statues in the Shinto tradition.

There is a nice rock garden on one steep slope and a nice Chinese Juniper tree.

The most curious thing for me was a kind of onigawara tile which looked like a cross between a tengu and a kappa... (last photo)

The previous post in this series on day three of my Shodoshima pilgrimage was on Shoboji and Seiganji temples.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Mudo-in Temple 68 Kyushu pilgrimage

Mudo-in, temple number 68 on the Kyushu 108 pilgrimage is a small rural temple to the southeast of Mount Kurokami near Takeo in Saga.

It claims some connection with the Shugendo center that was active on that mountain.

The temple was established in 1487.

The honzon is a standing Fudo. In the grounds are another small Fudo, and a Kurokami Eye Fudo, said to cure eye diseases.

It is also temple 26 on the Kyushu Fudo pilgrimage.

Unusually, for this pilgrimage, it was an inhabited temple with someone home.

The old priest showed me a photo of his brother, also a Buddhist priest, taken meeting the pope. According to my recent research, he is no longer the head priest at this temple but has been replaced by a much younger one. I strongly suspect he may be a son of the family.

Though it was late March, a single plum tree was sporting new blossoms. Another thing I noticed were the extremely worn small komainu.

The previous post in this series on day 71 of my Kyushu pilgrimage was the Ono Tenmangu Shrine just across the valley.

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Kiyama Shrine


Kiyama Shrine is a large shrine on the lower slopes of a mountain to the south of Maniwa in Okayama.

Above the shrine, at 430 m altitude is Kiyama Temple. Until 1868 the shrine and temple were one site called Kiyama-gu.

In 1868 the shrine and temple were separated and I believe many of the current shrine buildings date from that time.

In 1962 the shrine buildings were dismantled and reconstructed at the current site much lower down the mountain.

The Inner Shrine, the Okumiya, remained at the original site next to the temple. 

It dates to the late 16th century and is a prefectural Important Cultural property. It features in the last 2 photos of this post and when I was visiting a new copper roof had been finished.

The shrine-temple complex was founded in 816 by none other than Kobo Daishi.

The shrine was known as Kiyama Gozu Tenno, a branch of what is now called Yasaka Shrine in Gion, Kyoto.

Long conflated with Gozu Tenno, the main kami is now considered to be Susano.

Gozu Tenno was also considered a manifestation of Yakushi Nyorai, the main deity/Buddha of the temple.

On the approach up to the shrine is a Zuijinmon gate with a fine pair of zuijin. Also there are a pair of fox statues.

One of the secondary shrines is Zenkaku Inari., a branch of Fushimi Inari established here in 1714 by the monk Zenkakubo.

Fushimi Inari was considered a manifestation of Kannon that was also enshrined in the main temple along with Yakushi, so we can see that the kami and the buddhas at such a syncretic site as Kiyama-gu, were very connected and/or complementary

Kiyama Shrine has an Emaden, a hall existing solely for the display of ema, votive tablets.

These ema are not the small, standard-sized boards now common at shrines and temples, but rather large paintings, see the two photos just above.

The size of the shrine and temle is an indication that it was well supported not only by local notables and rulers but also by regional warlords.

Signs on the old Izumo Kaido not far away indicate that it was also well known among a wider public

Worth looking out for are the hundreds of paper lanterns hung from the ceiling of the main hall.

Also worth noting is the unusual style of shimenawa.

I walked here from Tsuyama on a rainy summer day as Kiyama Temple was the next pilgrimage temple on the Chugoku Kannon pilgrimage.

There is no public transport to Kiyama Shrine. It is very close to the Chugoku Expressway and is near the Ochiai Interchange. The closest train station is Mimasaka Ochiai Station, 5 kilometers away.

The ox statue is in front of the Tenmangu Shrine which was probably established in the mid-19th century.

The previous post in this series on day 5 of my walk along the Chugoku Kannon pilgrimage was on Sakura Shrine.