Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year of the Tiger

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This is the bottom half of a huge painting titled "Mukai Tora" (Welcome Tiger)
The painting is 4.3 M high, and was painted by Sato Koetsu in 1959.
It hangs in Kokura Castle.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ichibata Yakushi revisited

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I paid another visit to Ichibata Yakushi, the mountaintop temple to the buddha of healing Yakushi Nyorai, located between Lake Shinji and the Japan Sea up in Izumo.

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There are more than 8,000 of these little statues left by pilgrims who come here from all over Japan, mostly to pray for relief from eye problems.

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The bronze statues are 24 cms high and depict a Kenzoku, a guardian of Yakushi Nyorai.

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Each one costs 30,000 yen ( approx $300). Inside each one is a small piece of paper upon which is written the prayer of the pilgrim.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Inside Riverwalk

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Some shots from inside the Riverwalk complex in Kokura.

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For details see yesterdays post.

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I recently learned that the Jerde Partnership that designed this complex have designed a new city centre for my hometown of Coventry. Could be interesting.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Riverwalk at Kokura

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Riverwalk, designed by the Jerde Partnership. is located in Kokura, Kitakyushu.

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Opened in 2003, the complex houses shops, cinemas, auditoriums, museums, and TV studios.

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The color scheme has the following meaning.
Brown for earth
Black for rooftiles
White for plaster
Red for lacquer
Yellow for ears of ripening rice.

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The Jerve Partnership has designed several other multi-use complexes in Japan, including Namba Parks in Osaka, and Canal City in Hakata.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Meri Kurisumasu!

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Emperor didn't sleep here.

Today is a National Holiday in Japan in celebration of the Emperor's birthday. Actually his correct title is "Tenno" which translates as "heavenly Sovereign", but when the Japanese came to translate the word into English they chose "emperor" as China had an emperor and Japan wasn't going to be outdone by the Chinese.

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The new government of Japan in 1868 had the task of molding a unified nation out of the many seperate domains that had existed up till then, and the chose the new emperor as the symbol of the new nation. Problem was that the vast majority of Japanese had no idea who or what the emperor was. Part of the solution they come up with was for the Meiji Emperor to travel the length and breadth of the country on a series of Grand Tours. Like much of the "Imperial traditions" that were invented around this time it was based on the traditions of European royalty.

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So all over Japan local authorities scrambled to build suitable accomadation for the Emperor.

Above is located in the grounds of Matsue castle and was built in 1903. Now it houses a local history museum, the Kyodokan.

The Emperor never did stay there.

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The Gobenden is now located underneath the castle hill in Hamada. It was constructed in 1907 in case the Meiji Emperor visited Hamada.
He didn't.
The Crown Prince Yoshihito, the future Emperor Taisho, did stay here for a couple of days however.

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On a related note, this is the Goseimon at Gakuen-ji temple. It's a gate that is only used by members of the imperial family. The current Crown Prince, Naruhito, used it a couple of years ago.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The view from Hemp Mountain

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At 599m, Taima-San (Hemp Mountain) is the highest coastal mountain in the Hamada area. Among the many antennae and towers that bristle from its peak is an observation tower.
This first view is looking NW out to sea. More than 200k away is Korea.

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Looking SW down the coast, Misumi Power Station, burning coal, is where we get our electricity. The mountain in the distance is in Yamaguchi. Old legends indicate a conflict between the tribe that poulated the area around Taimasan and the tribe around the Yamaguchi Mountain.

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Inland to the SE. Hiroshima City is about 100k away.

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NE to Hamada Port.

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At the base of the mountain is the town of Sufu, home to the largest kofun (burial mound) in the Iwami area.

The Chugoku Nature Trail passes over Taima-san, and there is an interesting shrine and garden just below the peak.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Catholic Church in Tsuwano.

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Must be in the Christmas spirit to be posting all these churches :)

The Catholic Church in Tsuwano was built in 1931.

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It's a replica of the Oura Tenshudo, the church built by the French in Nagasaki in 1865.

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Inside, no pews or chairs, only tatami to sit on.

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The church is open daily.

On May 3rd there is a procession from the church up to the Chapel at Otome Pass followed by a Mass in front of the church.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Round Windows: looking in (traditional)

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Not much I can add to the title, except to give locations. This first one is from a farmhouse in the village of Yairoishi, up in the mountains of Iwami.

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This is of the Tea Room at Kennin-Ji, the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto.

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This is at Komyozen-Ji, a delightful small temple in Dazaifu, Fukuoka. It has my favorite temple garden.

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Just a house in Tsuwano.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Spring reflections

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There's a freezing wind howling outside, and a couple of inches of snow have fallen in the past day, so winter has certainly arrived a little earlier than usual, so for some reason my thoughts return to the fine spring we had.

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In April I went for a 50k bike ride, starting up in the mountains near Mizuho, coming down to Kawamoto, then down the river home. The last 15k coming down into Kawamoto I didn't have to touch the pedals at all,... my kind of cycling :)

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Up in the mountains the growing season is shorter, so the paddies are flooded and planted earlier than down here on the river.

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It was a still. windless day, and almost cloudless, perfect conditions to capture the reflections.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sexy Kappa?

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The Kappa, Japanese water imp, does on occasion behave kindly to humans, but mostly it is a malevolent creature, so it is not surprising that traditional representations of it portray it as a rather vicious-looking animal, as in these pictures at the excellent Onmark site.

Contemporary representations of Kappa however tend to portray it as "kawaii", cute, cartoon-like, childish. I have yet to read a convincing explanation as to why contemporary Japanese culture is obsessed with kawaii, but if anyone knows of any I would like to hear it. A few examples can be found here

But there is another representation that is found nowadays, that of the sexy female kappa.

The above design is found on vending machines for Kizakura brand sake, and she is certainly well-endowed.

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This one, also amply-endowed, is on a bridge in the village of Izuha up in the mountains near here. The statue commemorates an annual race held here, the Suichu Kappa Ekiden, which is a "road race" that takes place in the river.

Monday, December 14, 2009

O-miki by the bottle.

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If you are a sake brewer or are rich you can donate a barrel of sake to a shrine. For most people, however, a bottle of sake is normal. The one pictured above is on the steps leading to the honden of a small, but brightly painted, shrine on the south coast of Shikoku.

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After pouring sake around the rice paddy, this bottle is then placed next to the sacred sakaki tree in then center of the paddy in preparation for the planting ceremony Tauebayashi.

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Often you will see several bottles in front of the honden, like here at a shrine near Hiroshima Station.

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At Okazaki Shrine in Kyoto there were a LOT of bottles of O-miki. The names of who donated is written on each bottle.

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During ceremonies a little sake is put in 2 "jugs" on the offering table, as here at a temporary shrine on Iwaishima

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Torture in Tsuwano! The Memorial Chapel of Mary

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The Memorial Chapel of Mary is located in Otome Pass in Tsuwano. It was built in 1951 on the site of the torture and martyrdom of 25 Christians, including a 5 year old girl, in the early years of Meiji (1867-).

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When Japan "opened" in the 1850's thousands of "hidden christians" mistakenly believed that it was safe to come out of the closet as a Christian Church had been constructed in Nagasaki by the French. Rather than execute them all, which is what the law proscribed, it was decided by the new government to disperse them to "re-education" camps across Japan and "encourage" them to join the new state-created religion of Shinto.

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One method used on some of the 153 Christians sent to Tsuwano was imprisonment in tiny cages and left exposed to the elements. These statues show one of the famous martyrs, Yasutaro, who was visited by the Virgin Mary every night during his torture. Otome is the Japanese word for "virgin girl", and the pass was named Otome Pass because of an old, local legend that told of a young girl who was spurned and she wandered into the mountains here and disappeared.

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There is a lot more detailed information on the martyrdom of the hidden Christians at this site

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The short path leading up to the pass and chapel starts not far from the station in Tsuwano.

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