Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Kojin of Rokusho Shrine


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Rokusho Shrine, like all the other shrines in this part of Izumo, have altars to the land kami Kojin, represented as a serpent made of rice straw.

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Nowhere near the scale or complexity of the ones at nearby Adakaya Shrine, and lacking eyes, nostrils, or a tongue, they are however more complex than the equivalent serpents in my area.

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Here there are 5 separate altars, suggesting that they come from 5 different communities in the area.

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Curiously, one thing they all lack is bodies. They are just heads. I have never seen that before, usually the serpentine body is wrapped around a tree.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

The Married Demons of Okazaki Shrine


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Okazaki Shrine in the fishing village of Yuki on the Tokushima coast is a small local shrine, now made of concrete. There was no information about which kami is enshrined here.

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However there was a wonderful pair of demons carved directly into two sections of massive logs. They were called "Meoto" which usually is translated as married.

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There once stood in the shrine grounds a massive, old Tabu no ki tree, which I believe is a kind of Bay tree. The tree became too old and was in danger of falling so it was cut down, and a local man carved the two demons into it.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rokusho Shrine


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Located in a grove of trees surrounded by rice paddies, Rokusho Shrine is, like Iya Shrine and Adakaya Shrine, part of a 6 shrine pilgrimage in the Ou district of eastern Izumo.

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Behind the shrine there are posts showing the layout of what was the provincial government buildings during the Nara and early Heian Period.

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Rokusho Shrine is called a Soja, a shrine where different kami are gathered together in one place. usually this was to make it easier for district officials to visit the shrines in their area, a case of bringing the mountain to Mohamed, but here it seems to be a collection of the six most important national kami. Collectively enshrined here are Izanagi and Izanami, their "offspring" Amaterasu, Susano, and Tsukiyomi, and Onamuchi, otherwise known as Okuninushi. All six kami are mythologically local to this region as well as being nationally important.

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There are three secondary shrines in the grounds, a Tenmangu, Chomei, & Oji, but for me the most interesting are the Kojin altars,

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There are a total of 5 of these altars...... next post.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Oimatsu Shrine


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Oimatsu Shrine is located just off the main road running through Sasaguri, northeast of Fukuoka. I visited at sunrise on the second day of my Kyushu pilgrimage.

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At the entrance stood a massive, old Camphor tree almost 10 meters high. Many of the shrines in this area have big camphor trees, though this one also had a cedar tree whose trunk had divided into two.

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Though it is not called a Tenmangu, the kami enshrined here is Sugawara Michizane, known sometimes as Tenjin. There are a lot of Tenjin shrines in this area which is not surprising as it is close to Dazaifu where Sugawara was exiled and died.

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There was also a small sumo ring in the grounds. In some areas of Japan shrines will have a sumo ring, and in other areas they won't. Not sure what the deciding factor is or was.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Adakaya Shrine


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Adakaya Shrine is most well known as being the starting point and destination of the Horanenya, the massive boat festival that takes place just once every 12 years. The boats used in the festival can be seen in the grounds of the shrine.

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The main kami is Adakayanushitakigihime, indicating that Takigihime, one of Okuninushi's many daughters ruled over this area. The areas name, Adakaya, suggest a link with the ancient Korean kingdom of Kaya.

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Within the grounds are secondary shrines to Kunisokotachi, another name for kunitokotachi, one of the primordial kami of the universe, Susano, Inari, and Omodaru, a kami I had not heard of before, but belongs to the generation of kami just prior to Izanagi and Izanami.

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The most interesting aspect of the shrine is the two altars to Kojin which I have posted about before.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Gokoku Shrine, Hagi


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The Hagi City Gokoku Shrine is located on a hillside in the far north of the city. Many Gokoku shrines were built on former castle sites to imbue them with authority.

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Gokoku shrines are in essence branches of the infamous Yasukuni Shrine, and like it are the product of the modern period and very much a part of what would later be known as State Shinto.

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Gokoku shrines enshrine all those who died "serving the Emperor", This one was the first Gokoku Shrine I've seen that was virtually abandoned. This is probably due to the fact that in 1939 the government limited its support to just one Gokoku Shrine per prefecture, and the one in Yamaguchi City was chosen.

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There was a really nice old well :)

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ankoku-ji


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Originaly named Entsu-ji, this temple was founded under the orders of Emperor Konin in 773.

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In 1345 Ashikaga Takauji established Ankoku temples in every province to honor samurai killed in battle and Entsuji was chosen to be the Izumo Ankokuji. It became a Rinzai Zen temple.

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The older, traditional sects of Buddhism all had strong ties with the Imperial family and the aristocracy in Kyoto, but the shoguns chose to support the Zen sects because they were newer and with less ties to former ruling class.

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The main deity worshiped here is the 11 faced Kannon.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

2014 Autumn Colors Walk Day 7 Chofu


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On the final day of my walk I found myself in Chofu, the old samurai town near Shimonoseki. First stop was the Chofu Garden, Though it is not well known, it was a surprisingly good and large garden of the walk around style. I had been here once before, but that was an overcast day and everything was green, but with the blue sky and fall colors it really shone today.

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Next was the pilgrimage temple Kozan-ji which had some nice fall color on the approach byt disappointingly the massive thatched gate was under repair and was completely enclosed in scaffolding and tarps. The young priest taking the entrance fee into the temples main hall, a National Treasure, was very friendly and chatty and gave me permission to photograph inside.

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I also paid to visit the small garden which was enclosed on three sides and in shadow and somewhat disappointing. From here I headed to the Mori Mansion. Chofu was the Mori headquarters until the edo period when they moved to Hagi, but the mansion dates from the first decade of the twentieth Century.

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It had a really nice garden, enjoyable as a view garden from the main house but also as a walk around garden, though very few of the visitors left the house. From here I headed down the main samurai street with high earthern walls and visited a couple of shrines. All in all an excellent end to my trip. Chofu is most certainly and under visited destination,

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Next day I headed home where, a couple of days later, late autumn turned into midwinter in the space of one night. With work in the garden finished for a couple of months and enough firewood for the winter already chopped hopefully I can get around to finishing some masks :)

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

2014 Autumn Colors Walk Day 6 Ogori to Ubeshinkawa


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There is a main road that goes the whole way to where I am heading to today but instead I choose to take the old Sanyo-do. Even though it is windy and therefore longer it is far more preferable as the road has little traffic and plenty of older houses and shrines etc. There were a lot of previously thatched houses and shrines in the area, though they all had the thatch covered up with tin. I stopped at a big Hachimangu and took a break and eat brunch.

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A little later I joined up with a main road and a couple of kilometers along I was stopped by two plain clothes cops!!!! Some old biddy in one of the villages I passed through must have phoned them about my suspicious activity:- walking while foreign. At least they did not give me the third degree like I have had before. It starts to rain so I stop to put on my waterproof and while checking my map and gps realize I am on the wrong road. Not to worry, Googlemaps has this marked as a secondary route so its quicker to go on rather than backtrack. After climbing I take a side road that is quiet and forested. Apparently I am passing through one of the numerous golf courses that dot the country.

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And then another disconcerting experience...... the road ceases to exist. This is something that has happened to me many times. At some point there was a road but no more. Its raining more heavily now so I retire to a farm outbuilding to ponder my options. As the rain eases I decide to backtrack and dejectedly trudge uphill to the main road. As I come down the slope and take a left on a busier road the rain stops.

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Once I get into Ubeshinkawa I cut across to the pilgrimage temple Sorin-ji. I am not expecting much so I am really surprised to discover it has a wonderful garden. It is almost dusk and in sunlight it would have been more impressive, but it ends up being the silver lining on a cloudy day.

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

2014 Autumn Colors Walk Day 5 Miyano to Ogori


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The promised rain arrived during the night and when I set off next morning it was a little showery, but luckily it soon stopped. My first stop was the Sesshu garden at Jyoei-ji. I am a big fan of Sesshus' gardens and I have visited this one before, though a long time ago. It did not disappoint. Maybe my appreciation of gardens has improved, but it seemed better than before. The line of maple along the outer edge on one side certainly helped.

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The rain had stopped and I headed off to walk into Yamaguchi and visit some of the main shrines of this old town. I had to make a detour to get around a big army base. After the shrines I headed for a temple I hadn't been to before, Ryufuku-ji. Within a walled enclosure about one city block in size, this was the headquarters of the Ouchi Clan when they ruled much of this part of the country back in the Muromachi Period.

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The main approach to the temple was a 100 meter long tunnel formed by overhanging maples, and at the main hall a huge gingko had left a carpet of yellow over everything. This temple was a delightful surprise. Next to it a reconstructed garden from the Muromachi Period.

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From here I headed to the first pilgrimage temple of the day, Toshun-ji, which was a little disappointing. Right next door was Ruriko-ji with its famous pagoda, though in terms of fall colors it was also a bit disappointing.

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My next stop was the pilgrimage temple Ryuzo-ji, a mountain temple up a narrow valley. First there was a couple of hours walking along Route 9 which now functions as a Yamguchi Bypass. Not much fun, but once I left the main road and headed up the valley it was much more pleasant. Ryuzo-ji was a stupendous surprise. It is home to what is claimed to be the tallest Gingko in Japan, and the steps up to the temple were covered in its golden leaves mixed with maple. There were many halls and statues around the temple, including a big Fudo Myoo, and best of all a tall waterfall framed in autumn colors.
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This was the highlight of my walk so far, and my excitement energized me for the long walk back down the valley to the main road and the trek to my room in Ogori, now more commonly known for the Shinkansenstation there, Shin Yamaguchi.

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