Monday, May 28, 2012

Another Blue Hanya Mask


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Just shipped off a couple of new masks today. This is the fourth Blue Hanya I've sold and am quite pleased as it is an original design of mine.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Yet More Nio of Kunisaki


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Continuing with my cataloging of the Nio found in the Kunisaki Peninsular of northern Kyushu. Nio, temple guardians, ar nowadays found only at temples whereas before the separation of buddhas and kami, shinbutsu bunri, of early Meiji they could be found at many shrines as well. The Nio of Kunisaki are unusual in two ways, one they are made of stone rather than the usual wood, and second that they are still found guarding shrines.

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These first two are at Hie Shrine, a branch of the shrine complex below Mt Hie and Enraykuji. The kunisaki area is home to a version of shugendo that was based on tendai buddhism from Enryakuji so its not surprising to find a Hie Shrine here.

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When we came upon these next two Yoko remarked that they looked like they were talking on cellphones and now I cant get that image out of my head.........

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They are standing guard at Tawara Wakamiya Shrine. We chatted with an old gentleman who was tidying the shrine grounds and he very kindly unlocked the shrines office/meeting room and showed us the shrines "treasures", a great collection of old masks....

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There was also this pair of small wooden nio in a style quite unlike anything Ive seen before.....

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The shrine was home to an old buddhist painting but it has been removed to a museum.

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This final Nio is on the steps to Shirahige Tahara Shrine, a branch of the main Shirahige Shrine located on the shore of Lake Biwa not far from Hie. It enshrines a Korean "king" who settled the area around Mt. Hie and lake Biwa.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Walk from Honshu to Shikoku Day 2 (afternoon)


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After crossing the Tatara Bridge the Shimanami kaido runs down the SE edge of Omishima. Omishima is the biggest of the islands on the route, and there is plenty to see around the island, but I had been here a month or two earlier so this time I decided to press on and try to get to the next island, Hakatajima, to spend the night.

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On calm, sunny days, of which there are plenty in the Inland Sea, the sea is really quite beautiful. There are just a few small fishing harbors on this part of the island.

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Omishima and Hakatajima are quite close together, so no suspension bridge is needed. The arch bridge was the first of the bridges to be built on the Shimanami kaido, opening to traffic in 1979, and at that time was the longest arch bridge in Japan with a span of 297 meters. There are a few minshuku on Hakatajima, and I was hoping to rent a room for the night, but I had no luck, not because they were full but because they were empty and didnt want to open at such short notice for just one customer, so I replenished my supplies at the conbini and headed the short distance to the next bridge to try and find somewhere to sleep out.

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Hakatajima connects to the last island Ohshima by two bridges. The first reaches to a tiny uninhabited island called Michika Island and there is an exit from the bridge for pedestrians and cyclists because there is a campsite down on a small beach. The campsite was closed and no-one else was on the island so I set up camp in a roofed picnic area right on the highest point of the island. I spent the last hour or so of the day relaxing, eating, and drinking as I took in the great views of the sunset....

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Garden at Kannon-in


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The main reason to visit Kannon-in, a Tendai Temple in Tottori City, is for the garden.

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The garden took ten years to build, beginning in 1650, 11 years after the temple was rebuilt on this site.

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It is a "Chisenkansho-shiki" style of garden which roughly translates as "pond viewing garden", and is meant to be viewed from a fixed viewpoint, not strolled around in.

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The viewpoint at Kannon-in is from the veranda of the study hall.

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The 600yen entrance fee includes a green tea to enjoy while contemplating the view.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ichibacho Hachimangu


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Ichibacho, which means "market town", is located on the north of the Yoshino River in Tokushima. The village around the shrine is named Yawata, another way of reading Hachiman, and is an example of a place being named after the shrine.

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Its a fairly standard village Hachiman Shrine, and unfortunately there was no signboard so I have no information on its history or any of the other kami enshrined there in secondary shrines.

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There were some nice big paintings in the main hall, nicely weathered.....

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Strangest thing of all were these masks. Never seen anything like them before. None of the locals I asked had any idea what there were about....

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Spring Reflections


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I've been wandering the back country up in Izumo the last few weekends. A little later than usual but the paddies are flooded and those that are not yet planted are in the process of being...

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....all very photogenic.....

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Mostly it was old people out in the paddies, but I did see a few three generation families out working and even one 4 generation family....

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I've been walking the Izumo 33 Kannon Temple pilgrimage, and while many people I encountered have been kind I do have to say that I am absolutely sick and tired of being stopped by the police and forced to show ID and then be interrogated, all because I don't look Japanese. But then what could one expect from a country where racial discrimination is perfectly legal.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Vacation 2011 day 15, last day of the trek


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The last day of our trek in southern Morocco began with a steep climb up the ridge and over into the next valley. I headed off alone before the rest of the group. I preferred to climb slowly and not have to keep up with everyone. I also prefer hiking in the desert in solitude. Chatting is for meal times and evenings.

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The next valley was narrow with a running river so was lined with villages all the way down.

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We followed the river while the cook and his mobile kitchen took the road so he could get ahead and have lunch waiting for us at a shady spot downstream.

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We actually got to see a rose. We were still in the Valley of the Roses but it would be a few more weeks until they would all be blooming.

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For the last evening we were once again in a gite. From the roof it looked as if rain was coming.....

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Time to say bye and thanks to the muleteers who had taken good care of us for the past 9 days.....

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Japanese Pirate Ships


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Looking, in some ways, like a viking ship, the draincover for Imabari on the northern tip of Ehime in Shikoku depicts some ships belonging to the Murakami Suigun, sometimes described as a "navy", but more often described as pirates who operated in the Inland Sea between Shikoku and Honshu. On the island of Oshima just off the coasst of Imabari and now a part of Imabari City is a big museum devoted to the Murakami Suigun.

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On Innoshima, another island in the Inland Sea, now a part of Onomichi City, Hiroshima, is the Murakami Suigun Castle, a base for the "pirates". The ships have quite a different style.

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The town of Miyakubo on Oshima has a depiction of one of the pirates on its draincover. Just like everybody in Japan and Japanese history he is happy and cute. No robbery, murder, pillage or rape for these pirates.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Kobe fashion Plaza


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The futuristic-looking Kobe Fashion Plaza is located on Rokko Island, a man-made island connected to Kobe in Hyogo

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The complex houses  the Kobe fashion Museum, Kobe Artists Museum, Orbis Hall (an auditorium), a shopping Mall, Atrium, and a hotel.

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It opened in 1997 and was designed by Show Sekkei.

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It is next to the Island Center station of the Rokkoliner.

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Shikoku 88 Temple 10 Kirihataji


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Approaching Kirihata-ji, temple number 10 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, the pagoda can be seen protruding from the forest on the hillside. The pagoda was built originally at Sumiyoshi Shrine in Osaka by the second Tokugawa Shogun,  Hidetada, in the early 17th Century but was dismantled and reassembled here in the early years of the Meiji period during the seperation of the buddhas and kami.

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After climbing a narrow lane lined with establishments serving pilgrims the temple is then reached up 380 steps.

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It belongs to the Shingon sect and the main deity is Senju Kannon, the Thousand-Armed Kannon

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The name Kirihata means "Cut Cloth" and refers to the legend that has a young woman giving Kukai some cloth to make new robes. There are many versions of the legend, and the most detailed has the young woman being of noble birth. Kukai ordained the woman as a nun and so another name of the temple is Tokudozan, the Mountain of ordination.

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From the main hall it is another climb to reach the squat, 2-storey pagoda, and from there one can see south across the Yoshino River to where the next temple is, about 10k away on foot.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ceramic Torii


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Torii, the entrance gates most commonly found at Shinto shrines, are usually made of stone or wood though concrete and steel have been used in the 20th Century. A few are made of bronze, and some even of plastic, but I have never before seen a full-size one made of ceramic like this one at Yuga Shrine, made of the distinctive local Bizenware.

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The komaiun flanking the torii were also made of Bizenware, and are unusual in that they sit askew on one of their haunches. Don't remember seeing that before either. Bizenware is known for being very hard due to its high iron content and is unglazed with a distinctive reddish hue. Bizen is an area near the shrine in southern Okayama.

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The shrine is part of the shrine-temple complex on Mount Yuga that includes Rendai-ji that I posted on yesterday. There were several other interesting and unusual sculptures within the grounds.

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