Sunday, February 27, 2011

Africa! The sand sculptures in Tottori

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Just behind the sand dunes in Tottori is the Sand Art Museum that opened in 2006 and has just finished its fourth exhibition on the theme of Africa.

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Artists from Europe, North America, and Australia created large scale sculptures and tableau.

The exhibition ran from April 2010 until January 2011, so I suspect the are now working on the fifth exhibition.

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Most of the sculptures are in the open air, so I suspect there must be some kind of resin or epoxy mixed with the sand to allow them to survive in the weather.

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One huge tableau though was exhibited under several canvas structures.

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Each exhibition has gotten larger and involved more invited artists, so it will be interesting to see what the next theme will be.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fukuoka Marine Messe

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The Marine Messe is located on the waterfront in Hakata, close to the Hakata Port Tower.

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It is an exhibition space, conference center, and a sports arena.

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It was opened in 1995 and was designed by Nihon Sekkei.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Kami statues of Kunisaki

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Many of the exterior trappings of the religion now called Shinto can be traced to the influence of Buddhism, but one aspect that never really took a hold is statuary of kami. A few do exist though, but not many, so here are some I found on the Kunisaki peninsular in north Kyushu.

Probably the most common kami statue is Ebisu, and that probably comes from Ebisu being primarily a "folk" kami. Like the one pictured above he is often holding a large Sea Bream.

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This very beautiful statue was at the entrance to an Awashima shrine and shows the kami Sukuna Hikona who is now considered to be the kami of Awashima shrines. He is often connected with Okuninushi and the two of them are said to have been responsible for the spread of agriculture and also medicines. The ear of grain looks like millet and may be connected to a story wherein he climbed a stalk of millet and sprang off to Tokoyo no Kuni, the eternal land.

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He was a very, very small kami, so tiny in fact that he slipped through the fingers of his father. He arrives in Izumo in a tiny boat made from a seed pod and wearing a single bird skin as a coat.

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I have no idea who this is. It was among the carving around a shrine, and often these carving show buddhist stories, but this guy has a long beard and deosnt appear to be wearing buddhist clothes so he may well be a kami. If anyone has any ideas who he is or why he is chasing a fox, please let me know.

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At Tenmangu shrines, dedicated to Tenjin, the kami name of Sugawara Michizane, statues of bulls are usually found. According to the legend the bull pulling his funeral cart just stopped and refused to move any further, so that is where he was buried.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More round windows

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Photos of round windows have always been popular when I have posted them before, so here are some recent ones from my collection. 3 earlier posts can be found here

This first one is from a tea room at Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine.

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This one is from a temple in Takahashi, Okayama Prefecture.

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From a restaurant on the approach to Hofukuji Temple in Soja, Okayama Prefecture.

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A shop in Hirado Town on Hirado Island in Nagasaki Prefecture.

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An abandoned building in Oda City, Iwami.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Vacation 2010 Day 14: Falmouth

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After the castle I headed down into Falmouth passing the docks where the ship repair yards were busy working on several big ships. I only have an hour before I have to meet up with my ride on to Devon so I do not have time to explore all the many places that are filled with memories here.....


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Coming into town I pass Arwenack Manor, datring from the 14th Century it is now luxury apartments...

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And then a big new structure that has been built since I lived here, the National Maritime Museum. Falmouth has a long maritime history. The Packet ships that delivered the mail to the far flung corners of the empire left from here. There have been Tall Ships races several times, including one time while I lived here and I was able to go out in one of the huge sail training ships.

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There seemed to be even more marinas. Falmouth is often the start or the destination for people heading across the atlantic. I used to be a signwriter here and would often paint on boats. One time I had to paint an American flag on a tiny yacht about three meters in length. The owner had just sailed solo from the U.S.

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And then to Custom House Quay. I used to live a few meters from the quay when I first moved to Falmouth. From my window I could look down on the harbor and watch the comings and goings.... the huge ocean-going ships coming in for repair,.... the lifeboat called out by the explosion of a rocket,... Raionbow Warrior, the Greenpeace boat sunk by the French used to spend winters here. I used to watch a very famous dolphin, called Beaky here. There are many books and movies made about Beaky.....

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And a quick walk down the main street, past all the pubs where I spent far too many hours. At one time a good half of all the signs along the street were painted by me, and it was heartening to see a few of them still in existence after more than 20 years.......

I wish I had more time as I spent a large and important part of my life here....

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Many hands, some feet: Kono Shrine

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Where ever I go in Japan I am always on the lookout for shrines to explore. The number I have visited by now numbers in the thousands. My way favorite way to find shrines is by walking, but on car journeys my eyes are always peeled for torii. And so it was as we were driving up Rte 53 heading towards Tottori City passing through Chizu Town.

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Kono Shrine, known locally as Nyakuichisan, appeared to be a fairly standard village shrine, but the whole point of exploring is to see if there is anything interesting or unusual. And here there certainly was.....

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Inside the main shrine building was shelf upon shelf of wooden cutouts of hands and feet. They are a form of ema, votive tablet, and here is where you come if you have any kind of problem with your hands or feet.

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Many of the ema were made by the local priest, and a stack was left in front of the building for petitioners to take and use. The priest asks for nothing in return, but the I suspect the saisenbako ( the wooden box on the front steps of shrines for donations) contains more money than most do.

You write your name and address on the ema and then leave at the shrine. An unusual variation on the custom of leaving ema here is that if your prayers are answered, and you receive relief or healing for whatever ailment you were suffering, then you come back a second time and leave a second ema as thanks to the kami.

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The origin of this custom lies in a legend from Okayama, south of Chizu. There was a benevolent giant name of Sanbutaro ( or Sanbotaro). He was so large that he could reach Kyoto in only three strides!! His head was buried down in Okayama, but for some reason that I have been unable to find out, his hands and feet were buried here.

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Kono shrine is an amalgamation of 4 local shrines, so there are seven main kami enshrined here in all.

The first, Susano, is well known to anyone who reads this blog. He is my favorite kami and the culture hero who created Izumo culture. According to Yamato mythology he is the brother of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess ancestor of the Imperial clan.

The second is Onamuchi, which is another name for Okuninushi, the Izumo kami who "gave" Japan to the descendants of Amaterasu. Okuninushi is either the son of, or the 6th generation descendant of Susano, depending on which version of the myths you read. Most myths associated with Okuninushi take place in Inaba, the old name for Tottori.

The third is Oyamazumi, the great Mountain God. He is the older brother of Amaterasu and Susano, and one of his daughters married Ninigi, Amaterasu's grandson who descended from heaven and took over Japan from Okuninushi. The son from this marriage was Jimmu, the mythical first emperor of Japan.

The fourth is Uganomitama which is a kami of grains, and seems to be a female aspect of the similar Ukanomitama. Nowadays equated with Inari. A child of Susano and another daughter of Oyamazumi.

Confused? There's more.....

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The fifth is Oshihominomikoto, the father of Ninigi, and therefore the son of Amaterasu. Actually Oshihomi was one of 5 boys created by Susano which he gave to Amaterasu. She created 3 girls that she gave to Susano ( the Munakata sisters).

The sixth is Hikohohodeminomikoto, a son of Ninigi.

The seventh is Homusubi, the kami of fire, whose birth killed his mother Izanami. A sibling of Amaterasu, Susano, and Oyamazumi.

Lots of incest in the genealogy of the kami!!!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tottori Sand Dunes

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This is a draincover from just outside Tottori City in Tottori Prefecture. It shows the major tourist attraction of the area, the Tottori Sand Dunes.

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The dunes cover an area of almost 30 sq k, but is decreasing due to several man-made (read bureaucrat-made) factors. Often referred to as desert, this is simply not true as there is too much rainfall.

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The dunes were formed by a combination of ocean currents and prevailing winds. The sand was originally the Chugoku Mountains to the south.

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The dunes get about 2 million visitors a year, mostly Japanese. Very early in the morning is the best chance of seeing the ripples in the sand before they are wiped out by the hordes of tourist tracks.
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The highest dunes are about 90m, and do offer nice views over the coast.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kitsune of Saijo Inari

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Kitsune, foxes, are the messengers of the kami Inari, so statues of them can be found at all Inari shrines and temples. Like Komainu, there are a variety of different designs and styles.
All of these photos are from Saijo Inari in Okayama.

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Most kitsune statues are carved in stone, but here there were many large ones of clay. I believe they are known as Bizen style.

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There were a pair of strange looking ones made of concrete!!

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Often the kitsune will have a scroll in its mouth. The scroll contains wisdom.

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Occasionally there will also be komainu as well as kitsune.

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Small ceramic kitsune are left as offerings, along with sake (omiki)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Love Shrine

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Tucked away behind the famous Kiyomizudera Temple in the hills of Kyoto lies a small but very popular shrine, Jishu Shrine, known locally as the Love Shrine.

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Here you can buy all manner of charms and amulets to aid in finding the love of your life.

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There are also a pair of "love stones" set in the ground. If you touch one and then walk towards the second one with your eyes closed and successfully reach it you will be lucky in love.

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The main kami is Okuninushi who nowadays is known as the kami of love and relationships. There is also an Inari shrine .

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The shrine was built by Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1633.

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