Monday, November 30, 2009

Traditional japanese house

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It's only been quite recently that I have begun to appreciate the aesthetics of traditional Japanese houses. This one seemed a little lighter than many.

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I have also come to appreciate the gardens, though I can't quite get used to the fact that Japanese gardens are meant to be looked at, not walked in.

For many years I didn't even bother going into any of the many old houses open to the public.

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This one is located in the small village of Chikauchi-cho, a few hundred meters from Takeuchi JR station in SW Nara Prefecture.

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We stopped in on our way to walk the Katsuragi kaido. The place had obviously been recently renovated and had just opened to the public. Like many places off the beaten track, entrance was free.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jellyfish invasion

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Not sure what these species are. There was an interesting article in last week's Japan Times about the invasion of Nomura jellyfish, the worlds largest. The article is here

The one in the photo above was pretty small, and it was trapped in a tide pool.

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Just off the rocks was this much larger one, about 50cms wide. While sailing off the Shimane coast I have seen some monsters more than 1 meter across, but apparently they can grow to 2 meters.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Concrete wabi sabi: Steps

One weekend one year ago 1483

Concrete is everywhere in japan. Japan pours, by far, more concrete than anywhere else on the planet. One of the few factoids I knew of Japan before I came was that japan was self-sufficient in limestone.

There is an aesthetic to concrete that I call Concrete Wabi sabi.

The first pic is a harbor wall in a tiny fishing village near Hamada.

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Also in Hamada, steps down to the river.

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Steps down to the river in Hiroshima City.

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In Fukuoka City, steps up the ACROS building.


48 Hours. 441 of 600

Also in Fukuoka, spiral staircase to a multi-storey car park.

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Steps down to the beach at Kuromatsu, near Gotsu

Friday, November 27, 2009

Marine Hall, a wedding chapel.

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Marine Hall is one of 2 wedding chapels at the Meriken Park Oriental Hotel in Kobe.

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Rather than go for the "traditional" architecture of Japanese wedding chapels that look like sets from a Takarazuka performance, the design is based on the form of a seashell.

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Built in 1995 and designed by the Takenaka Company, the roof is 14 metres above ground.

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Nearby is the Kobe Maritime Museum and the Kobe Port Tower, and so makes for a nice cluster of interesting architecture

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A morning walk through Senjokei

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Ted of Notes From The Nog fame was visiting for a couple of days, so decided to take advantage of the fine weather and went for a hike down Senjokei, a local beauty spot.

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It's a narrow gorge that has 12 waterfalls within the space of 3 kilometres.

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We started at the top of the gorge in Hiwa, thinking, correctly as it turned out, that on top of the mountains the sun would have already burnt off the mist that was filling the valleys down below.

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The trail through Senjokei is part of the Chugoku Nature Trail that passes through most of the interesting spots in Shimane. On all the sections of the trail that I've walked I have yet to see anyone else out walking.

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There was a bit of color, though the wet and cloudy weather has made it a less than usually spectacular Fall display this year.

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The mountainsides are too steep for the state to clearcut the forest and replace with tree farm

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The trail has lots of walkways and stairs constructed to get through and around otherwise impassable sections of the gorge. There are also three pretty footbridges. There are also numerous toilets and picnic shelters along the trail.

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The gorge opens out and the river hits the Yato River at Eno.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kosan-Ji: the statues...

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This pair of Phoenix's stand in the grounds of the Kongo Kan (New Treasure House) across the road from Kosan-Ji Temple.

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The Museum houses a large collection of Buddhist art, mostly from Japan but some from Korea.
Entrance to the museum is included in the entrance fee to Kosan-Ji. Within the temple there is also a large collection of Tea Ceremony objects, and a collection of Modern Art.

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Most of the statuary within the temple displays the same flamboyance and vividness as the temple buildings.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Shichi-Go-San



Stopped by an unusual Inari Shrine near Fukuyama on Saturday and there was a Shichi-Go-San ceremony going on. The song the priest is singing is not something I've heard before. There is a cadence and lilt to it that was quite foot-tapping, quite unlike the normal "shinto" chanting which sounds similar to the buddhist chanting it's influenced by.

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The Miko performs the purification part of the ritual.



Shichi-Go-San is usually November 15th, so this was a little late. Before the creation of "state" shinto in the Meiji era the celebration took place in the home. Boys of 3 and 5 years old and girls of 3 and 7 years old visit the shrine for purification.

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THis little boy, for whom the ceremony was held, is holding a bag that contains Chitose-ame, "thousand year candy" for healthy growth and longevity.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

October means Matsuri. Matsuri means Kagura. Part 9

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The ninth, and final, matsuri I went to in October was in Waki-cho, a seaside village that is part of Gotsu.

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Earlier in the afternoon we stopped by a bunch of shrines in the area that were all having their matsuri that night. While we were at the shrine in Waki there was a ceremony going on for all the people of the village that had turned 60 years of age that year. The Chinese dating system that the Japanese adopted is based on 60 year cycles, the 12 animals times the 5 elements, so 60 is the end of one complete cycle and holds special significance.

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That night at the matsuri I saw something I'd not seen at any other matsuri. Elevated "boxes", protected from the weather and with views over the crowds to the kagura stage. These were for all those elders who had become 60 that year. A nice touch I thought.

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The matsuri was well attended, though Waki no longer has its own kagura group, one from Hamada was performing. All the streets of the village had the shimenawa running along them, and a lot of matsuri banners were flying from peoples houses.

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This will probably be the last post on kagura for a while :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A muted Fall at Gakuen-Ji

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I had to go up to Izumo on Monday so I dropped by Gakuen-Ji on my way back.

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The fall colors were only just starting, and it was cloudy, so it was a more muted display rather than vivid.

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Gakuen-Ji is, I think, my favorite temple. Nestled in the mountains to the north of Izumo Taisha, the temple is actually older than Izumo Taisha.

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Except for the last couple of weeks in November when the place gets inundated with busloads of visitors, Gakuen-ji is usually empty.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kosan-Ji. The architecture,,,

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Kosan-Ji temple on Ikuchijima is probably the most unique and unusual temple in Japan.

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The temple complex is composed of many "copies" of the most famous examples of temple architecture from throughout Japan.

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They are built at a slightly reduced scale from the originals, but have been "improved" and embellished with intricate carvings and color schemes that bear no connection to the originals.
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Gaudy is certainly a word that could be applied, and perhaps Kitsch, though there is no concept of kitsch in Japan.

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Thye temple officially belongs to the True Pure Land sect, but actually has no congregation. It was built by Kanemoto Kozo for his dead mother, to ensure her passage to paradise.

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A large chunk of his fortune has gone into the building of Kosan-Ji, but with an entrance fee of 1,500 yen times the millions of visitors the temple has received over the years, it is probably making a profit now.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Shamanic dance. A taster

From 6:30p.m. yesterday evening until 5:30a.m. this morning I visited the Omoto kagura Matsuri in the village of Eno.

Had a fantastic and exhilarating time thanks to the hospitality and effort of the villagers and dancers,... lots of free delicious food and sake!, and some great dances.

At some point I will post in more detail about the rituals and dances, but for now a few videos of the shamanic elements of the night.




A little after midnight a young villager gave a stellar performance of the Mat dance, Gozamai. The congregation/audience showed their appreciation at the finale for a great effort of an athletic dance.



Around 1a.m. was the Tengai dance. It still remains my favorite of all the Omoto dances. Unusually it was kagura dancers who pulled the strings, not priests.



Around 4a.m. Omotosan, in his form as the rope snake, was taken down from the altar and the priests and dancers performed the Tsunanuki, the Rope Pulling dance.



Following Tsunanuki, Omotosan is suspened from the Tengai canopy, and the final dance in the shamanic portion of the festival took place. Jyojyu is the dance wherein possession is most likely to occur. This year Omotosan chose not to speak.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bounty by the barrowload

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There is something deeply satisfying and fulfilling bringing back barrowloads of food from the garden. I am led to believe that shopping is a source of fulfillment to some, but I don't believe that any feelings coming from shopping can even come close.

This year was the best ever sweet potatoe harvest I've had. Not just lots of them, but big ones.

Both sweet potatoes and taro grow easily. Just put em in the ground and wait!! My kind of gardening.

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