Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Innoshima Bridge

If you are cycling or walking the Shimanami Kaido, the road that connects Onomichi in Hiroshima with Imabari on Shikoku, then the first bridge you cross is the Innoshima Bridge connecting Mukaijima Island with Innoshima island.

When it was built in 1983 it was the longest suspension bridge in Asia. The total length is 1,339 meters, and the main span is 770 meters.

All the bridges of the Shimanami Kaido can be used by pedestrians and cyclists, and on the Innoshima Bridge they are carried below the expressway carrying cars.

Though the views are a little obscured by the chain link fence, at around 40 meters above the water the views are still great.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Revisiting Kitakyushu International Conference Center

At the end of my fifth day of walking along the Kyushu 108 Sacred Sites Pilgrimage I was in Kokura, somewhere I had visited several times before.

However, it was a different day, a different season, and a different time, so I revisited some of the interesting places to see if I could get some good shots.

In general I quite like the architecture of Arata Isozaki, and being a Kyushu native himself there are several examples in the area, including the Kitakyushu International Conference Center.

Built in 1990, it has a nice combination of curves and non perpendicular angles as well as bright colors.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Niigusohimenomikoto Shrine

This shrine is on the main road not far from Mononobe Shrine and appears to be just a small local shrine, but is in fact one of the oldest shrines in the Iwami region, founded in 731.

It is also listed in the Engi Shiki, which means it received offerings from the government in Kyoto. The kami is Niigusohime, and is considered to be a kami of the 5 grains and farming. Strangely she is also associated with cheese! A kind of cheese from Mongolia was introduced in 650. probably via Korea. so maybe she had something to do with that.

There is a sutra mound within the grounds, not so unusual as most shrines had Buddhist elements in earlier times.

There is a small Kumano Shrine too. The shimenawa is Izumo style, big and thick.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Fudo Myo & other Statues at Tokusenji

Tokusenji, in Kokura, though a very small urban temple had quite a few statues. As you know I take a lot of photos of statues.

I am intrigued by the diversity, evident in these first three photos which are all representatios of Fudo MyoO, ome of my favorite deities.

Nowadays there is a tendency away from diversity towards uniformity and conformity. Most statues are made in factories or by using the same data to control the machines that carve them. Exactly the same statues of Fudo or Komainu etc are now appearing all over the country. But there are still some places and people who will resist that.

As I continue to learn about the various deities I come across I have gotten much better at identifying them, but still have so much to learn. I am guessing this photo above is a version of Kannon, usually depicted as being quite slender, but here quite full-figured. Then again it could well be a variation of another deity....

Again, my guess is that this is Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism. Statues of him come in a variety of forms too, but as in this statue, represented as a mendicant monk is fairly common.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Kyushu Pilgrimage Temple 18 Tokusenji

Tokusenji is a small temple in a residential district of Kokura. Its not a very old temple, and as far as I can make out there is absolutely no connection to Kobo Daishi, so I don't knoiw why it is on the pilgrimage.

There was a small Inari Shrine in the compact grounds, and quite a few nice statues.

The gohonzon, main statue, is a jizo, but there is also a small Jizo hall with another Jizo, an Okakae Jizo which is meant to be picked up and held. If you have a choice to make and are undecided then wether the Jizo feels light or heavy is an indication.

Next post will be some photos of some of the statuary.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Ema, Postcards to the Gods

Ema, small boards found hanging at many shrines and some temples are votive plaques, but someone, I think it was Ian Reader, called them "postcards to the gods", and that made a lot of sense to me.

The most common shape for ema is 5-sided, kind of house shaped, but there are also other shapes including spoon shaped and others with cutouts.

The most common design nowadays are the 12 animals of the oriental zodiac, the animal of each year being common, but bigger shrines will often have designs that reflect something about thye history or the kami of the specific shrine.

The top photo is from Dojoji Temple in Wakayama, famous for a story about a maiden that was a very popular kabuki play. The second photo is from a small shrine in Wakayama City, Shiogama Shrine. Why the ema are vertical rectangles I dont know. The 3rd photo, a monkey carrying a gohei, is commonly found at shrines to Sarutahiko, but the regular monkey pictures below it are a standard year of the monkey ema. The final photo shows a collection of diverse ema hanging at Ubusuna Shrine in the grounds of Kokawadera Temple.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Kyushu Pilgrimage temple 17 Amida-In

Located on a hillside along a narrow lane in the hills south of Kokura, Amida-In was a bit of a surprise.

It was relocated here from the big temple complex of Daigo-Ji south of Kyoto in the late 19th Century, but its not clear if that was any buildings or just the main statue.

Strangely being called after Amida, the main deity enshrined is Fudo MyoO, of whom there are several stone statues in the grounds as well as numerous other Buddhas and bodhsattvas.

As well as the Shingon style Pagoda, there was also a small shrine in the grounds. Just inside the priests quarters was this large, complex carving of a dragon.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Pagoda at Yakuoji

Yakuoji, located in Hiwasa in southern Tokushima,  is temple number 23 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage.

It is a Shingon temple and has a rather unusual pagoda, which may be a variation on a particularly esoteric style of pagoda called a Tahoto which is primarily found at Shingon temples.

For myself, who favors a strong geometric element to my photo compositions, pagodas of any style are fertile ground.

The details are another aspect of the world that intrigues my photo sensibilities.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Takami Shrine

Came upon this rather imposing looking shrine while walking from Yahata to Kokura. Apparently when the fledling japanese steel industry started up here in the late 19th Century the local steel companies made it their tutelary shrine and supported it financially.

According to the legend, Jingu stopped here on her way to invade Korea. The kami now enshrined here suggest to me that they were decided upon in fairly modern times. The primary group of three are Amenominakanushinokami, Takamimusubinokami, and Kamimusubinokami.

These are the first three kami that came into existence at the creation of the universe, but many researchers suggest that in ancient times there were no shrines to them. Before the seperation of Buddhas and Kami in 1868, many shrines throughout japan enshrined Myoken, the North Star, but because of its buddhist origins the kami was changed to Amenominakanushi.

The list of kami enshrined here continues with Umashiashigabi, Ametokotachi, Kuninotokotachi, and then carries on with a variety of kami connected to the descent of Ninigi and the foundation of the Imperial line, which all leads me to suspect that they were enshrined in the Meiji period with the creation of what became State Shinto.

Secondary shrines in the grounds include one to the 3 Munakata princesses from nearby Munakata.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Early Summer Kagura

Headed up to Kaze no Kuni, our local hot spring resort in the mountains nearby for a free kagura festival.

Its a great venue for it with an outdoor theater and there was lots of food and drink stalls. The different groups performing were all from the immediate vicinty and performed the more traditional, slower 6 beat style.

Lots of good guys, bad guys, and dynamic swordplay.

The highlight for me though was the offerings from a new micro brewery set up in Gotsu called Iwami Bakushu. The "Belgian White" was ok, but the best was "American Pale Ale".... so much tastier than the insipid chemical lager so common here in Japan.

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