Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tombi, Black-eared Kite


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The Black-eared Kite, Milvus Lineatus, is the most common raptor in Japan. In parts of japan it is called Tobi, but in my area it is called Tombi.

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They are quite common, especially along the coast and rivers. A few months ago I saw a flock of about 40 circling over my village. Apparently in winter they tend to roost together in larger groups.

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They are very opportunistic feeders, sometimes catching small animals but mostly feeding on carrion. They ahve been known to snatch food out of your hands. I was walking along near Hamada port one day eating a sandwich and they kept swooping to within inches of me.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kanzui Matsuri 5



Suzukayama is another hero versus demon piece based on a Noh drama.
The hero is Sakanoue Tamuramaro who was given the title of shogun (barbarian defeating generalissimo) for his success in defeating the Emishi in eastern and northern Japan. I believe he founded the famous Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto.

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There are many variations on the story, but this version seems to be based on the version of the story that has the demon being a "dog demon". Other versions have the demon being invisible.


The demon lives in a cave on Suzukayama which is near Ise. Apparently it was quite a dangerous place for travelers.

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What is interesting to note is how halfway through the dance the upper part of the costume is undone and drops to act like a flared skirt during the spinning. Thois last photo shows some of the acrobatics involved in the fight sequences.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Warabekan Toy and Childrens Song Museum


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The Warabekan is a huge museum located in Tottori City devoted exclusively to childrens toys as well as childrens songs and nursery rhymes.

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There are thousands of toys, both traditional and modern, on display from all over the world.

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As well as the displays there is aslo a big room where kids can play with toys and make toys.

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Equally fascinating is the section on childrens songs which covers the period from the Meiji era up until the present, including songs from famous childrens TV shows.

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In an earlier post you can find some of the childrens songs.....

Friday, January 20, 2012

Poison Gas Factory haikyo


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Actually this isn't the poison gas factory itself, but rather the power plant that powered the poison gas production facility. Most of the factory was destroyed in 1945.

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It is located on the tiny island of Okunoshima just off the coast of Hiroshima Prefecture in the Seto Inland Sea.

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From 1929 until 1945 the Japanese government maintained a top-secret installation producing more than 6,000 tons of Mustard Gas which was used in their campaigns in China.

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There are still a couple of other structures left on the island but I did not have time to visit them.

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There is a very good little museum on the subject on the island.

I wrote a guide to Okunoshima which can be found here

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ida Hachiman Shrine, Itano


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The Ida Hachiman shrine is only a couple of hundred meters from the Suwa shrine and like it it seemed fairly unused.

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There was no signboard so I have no information on it other than the obvious fact that is enshrines Hachiman.

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Part of the reason I like to visit every shrine I pass is to discover the variations in the style of things like the komainu.

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Already on the first day of the pilgrimage I had become aware that the komainu in Shikoku came in a wide variety of styles.

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I also noticed this carving with a rabbit on the main building, but have no idea of its meaning or purpose.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Vacation 2011 Day 10 in the high country


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As with most mornings during our trek across the Jebel Sahro in southern Morroco I was out of my bag hours before the sun rose.

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I sat on my perch overlooking the vast, wrinkled landscape stretching out and watched as the approaching sunrise brought color and shadow back to the world.

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Gradually I was silently joined by other in our small group......

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It was a fairly uneventful day, passing through no villages just the occasional nomads summer home...

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We camped in a basin and so lost the sun early......

Monday, January 16, 2012

Typical Japanese Landscape 31


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Japan has about 30,000 kilometers of coastline.

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Much of it is covered in concrete, but many sections remain quite beautiful, especially if you get away from the industrialized and urban sections.

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All of these photos are from the eastern coast of Shikoku, from Minami Town in Tokushima down to Cape Muroto in Kochi.

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Many henro complain about this section of the route as there is a long section of three days walking with little in the way of "civilization", but I thoroughly enjoyed that section

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ise Pilgrimage


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These two draincovers are from Ise in Mie Prefecture and show pilgrims in the Edo period who descended on the shrines at Ise by their millions.

At that time, travel for commoners was restricted, but pilgrimage was about the only reason you would be allowed to travel. There were many pilgrimage sites across Japan, but a very popular one, possibly the most popular, was Ise due to its reputation as a site for prayers for good harvest. Each year hundreds of thousands would go to Ise, and in a few years there were literally millions of pilgrims.

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Japanese pilgrimage has been seen as an early form of tourism, with many guidebooks being printed. Some aspects of contemporary Japanese tourism seems to have roots in pilgrimage:- the package tour, omiyage, etc. Notwithstanding the religious aspect, it was a form of tourism and around each pilgrimage site huge "entertainment" districts served the needs of the pilgrims. At Ise, a single brothel was believed to have had over 1,000 girls working there.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ken Iwata Mother & Child Museum


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The Ken Iwata Mother & Child Museum opened a few months ago in the tiny fishing village of Munakata on Omishima island in the Set Inland sea. It is part of Imabari City on Shikoku.

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I can find very little information about the sculptor Ken Iwata other than he was born in 1924 and lives in Saitama. Mother and child seems to be a major preoccupation of his work.

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I can find no connection between him and Omishima, and the only connection seems to be the architect of the museum, Toyo Ito.

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Toyo Ito is also not from Omishima, but within the village of Munakata he has built 4 structures, the other three I will post on in the coming weeks.

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The museum is basically a circular concrete wall with an overhanging lip and a couple of glass walls.

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The museum is open from 9 to 5 and entrance is 300yen.

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A few of the 44 sculptures on display....

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Shikoku 88 Temple 5 Jizoji


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Temple number 5, in Itano Town, enshrines Jizo, an immensely popular deity in Japan. The temple itself is nothing special. many of the buildings date from the 18th century as it was, like so many other, burnt down by Chosokabe in the 16th century.

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The Nio were rather nice and unusual, both in their style and coloration. It is easy to see the Hindu roots.....

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The founding legend states that the temple was founded by Kukai (Kobo Daishi) in the early 9th century.

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Behind the temple on the hillside is a huge U-shaped hall housing hundreds of statues. If you are walking the pilgrimage trail you come to this hall first before reaching the temple proper. The left hand hall houses statues of the 500 disciples of the Buddha, each with quite a different expression.

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The other side contains many statues of bodhisattvas.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A new red hanya mask


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I just finished another mask. A fairly standard hanya in the Iwami style. Hopefully this winter I can replenish my stock of masks as there is little to do in the garden, the firewood is all chopped, and the drier air speed up the process.

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It is, of course, for sale. My other masks are here

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Kanzui Matsuri 4



Its just about midnight at the small shrine in the mountain settlement of Kanzui not far from my own village. The annual matsuri got underway about 3 hours ago and the fourth dance starts, Michigaeshi, a not very common dance. A few more people arrive and now the audience just outnumbers the dancers and musicians.


Michigaeshi is a fairly typical 2 person dance, the hero and the demon, although the ending is most unusual.

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The hero is the kami Takemikazuchi, a complex deity with connections to thunder, military might, and protection from earthquakes in his home area of Kashima, Ibaraki Prefecture. He is also enshrined at the Fujiwara's home shrine of Kasuga in Nara where he is considered their tutelary deity. The Fujiwara ruled over the kashima area so either they adopted him from there or possibly brought him there. According to the Kojiki version of the Kuniyuzuri myth he was one of the kami sent to subdue Izumo, though Izumo records make no mention of him.

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The demon is unnamed, though follows the classic pattern of being a flesh-eating demon harassing local villagers.


This third video clip shows the battle between the two. If you cant be bothered to watch all the videos, this is the one to watch.


The hero of course triumphs, but, in an unuusal twist does not kill the demon. Instead he offers him the possibility of redemption if he travels to Takachiho in Kyushu, site of the "descent" of the Yamato ancestors from heaven, and take part in the rice harvest there.

When I first came to Iwami and started watching kagura I remember several people telling me that this was their favorite dance precisely because the demon is spared and not killed.

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