Sunday, September 30, 2012

Vacation 2011 Day 20 Essouira


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And so.... the daily grind of vacation rolls on..... up before the sun, but before the moon is down..... the gulls all sit and look to the east....

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And yet another glorious sunrise.....

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And then to breakfast.... and after breakfast its time to lounge around in the hotel and drink coffee. By my usual standards it was a luxury hotel.... two riads joined together... light streaming down from the central courtyard...

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And then off to wander the alleys in search of doors to photograph.....

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I wandered into the old Jewish Quarter.... looked like a postwar bombsite with many shells of derelict buildings, but a few inhabitants still...

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And then time to relax on the seawall and watch the sun goes down....

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Kobe Earthquake Museum


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The Kobe Earthquake Museum is the short version of The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial Museum which is part of the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institute.

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It is near the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art along the waterfront in Kobe.

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It was designed by Showa Sekkei, who also designed the nearby Fashion Museum and opened in 2002.

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Supposedly the unusual double-skinned glass structure is built to withstand an earthquake of any magnitude..

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Shikoku 88 Temple 16 Kan-onji


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Situated in the suburbs of Tokushima, temple 16 of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, Kannonji, doesnt look at all interesting, though that may have been colored by my own mood, coming to the end of a long few days and only a few hours away from a hotel, bed, and bath....

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The gate was quite nice, though the nio were missing. Only the white-clad pilgrims gave any clue that this was not just a suburban temple.

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Reputedly built in the middle of the eigth century, Kukai later visited and carved the Thousand-armed Kannon and installed it as the main deity. The temple belongs to the Shingon sect.

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I didnt see it, but there is supposed to be a painting of a woman on fire, donated by the woman herself, who believed she was burned as punishment for the sins of her youth....

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Kawamoto Kagura Competition 2012


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Last weekend I went upriver to the Kawamoto Kagura Competition. While I believe that kagura is best appreciated in a shrine, kagura competitions do offer another type of experience.... comfortable seats, good lighting, and a big stage which is more suited for the Hiroshima style of kagura.. Even though it was a secular event, the first dance is always the purification of the space, performed here by a group from Mitani.

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Next up was the local Kawamoto group and they performed Akoden, a variation on the wicked fox transformed into a beautiful maiden. Though Kawamoto is in Iwami their group performs Horoshima style, with lots of mask changes etc. This was a rousing dance for the home audience with plenty of stand-up comedy, pantomime, and slapstick....

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The Otsuka group from Kitahiroshima then did Rashomon, a dance I dont think Ive seen before that is actually the prequel to the more common Oeyama dance. Fast, furious, but ending with the demons escaping and so setting the scene for Oeyama...

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Next up was the simpler 2 man version of Hachiman performed by the Mihara group. Mihara is a little up in the mountains near my village and Yoko works there. She is friends with Mr. Yamaguchi the group leader who dances the Hachiman part. At 70 years of age Mr Yamaguchi is certainly one of the oldest kagura dancers around..... though still spry and athletic.

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My own village of Tanijyugo was up next with Jinrin,.... 2 heroes and 2 demons...

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There were six more dances after the lunchbreak but I only stayed for one more, Momijigari, another Hiroshima favorite with many mask changes and 4 maidens who transform into demons.....

Kagura competitions have grown in poularity in the past 50 years and do offer the opportunity to see a lot of kagura in an all-day setting rather than the more intimate shrine setting of all-night kagura..... Most towns in Iwami and north Hiroshima now have annual kagura competions. The smaller towns without auditoriums will put them on in school gymnasiums....

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Izumo 33 Temple 2 Yomeiji


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The second temple of the Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage is Yomeiji, situated on a rise less than a kilometer from temple 1.

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It belongs to Shingon, and obviously its main deity is Kannon, but other than that I can find almost no information about it.

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One older source does say that it was here that Izumo no Okuni, the legendary creator of kabuki, spent her last years in prayer. She built a small cottage near here and her grave is next to the temple, but the neighboring temple claims to have some objects belonging to her so maybe that was the temple she frequented.

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I came to the temple from the rear and it took a few tries till I found the right narrow alleyway between the houses to get to it. The front of the temple had steps descending into the narrow lanes of what used to be called Kitsuki but is no known as Taisha Town.

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Onigawara of Shikoku


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Onigawara are "demon tiles" found most commonly on temple roofs, but also on some shrines and even private dwellings.

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They are found at the end of roof ridges and were originally wooden boards used to protect the roof from the weather. Tile came to be used and were decorated with flowers and other designs.

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From the kamakura period the demon design became popular and in some ways are analogous to gargoyles in the European tradition.

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The first  and second  photos are from  Temple 3 Konsenji.  The third photo is from Aizen-in, the fourth from temple 5 Jizoji, and the last photo is from the main gate of Temple 8 Kumadaniji

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Akiyoshi-Do the biggest cavern in Japan


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Akiyoshi Do in central Yamaguchi Prefecture is the largest cavern in Japan and one of the largest in East Asia. Located under Akiyoshidai, the largest karst (limestone plateau) in Japan which is home to about 200 caves.

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It is about 10 kilometers in length, but only the first kilometer is open to the public.

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It truly is cavernous inside, reaching 100 meters at its widest point and 80 meters at the highest point.

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It took about 300,000 years for the water to erode the cave system. There are numerous "features" with evocative names but that will be in a later post. If you dont want to walk all the way back out there are two other exits, one an elevator up to the plateau.

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Akiyoshido is located in Mine City and is open 365 days a year.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ichinomiya Shrine, Tokushima


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Ichinomiya means "first-ranked shrine", and each province had their own, as well as Ninomiya (second ranked), Sannomiya (third ranked), etc. This is the Ichinomiya for what was Awa Province, now Tokushima.

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It is also the site of what was the 13th temple on the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage. There used to be a temple in the grounds called Ichinomiya-Ji, and pilgrims worshipped at both the shrine and the temple. The temple was destroyed in early Meiji but later rebuilt just across the road and renamed Dainichiji.

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The main enshrined kami is Ogetsuhime, a goddess that approximates an "Earth Mother". According to the Kojiki, Susano asked her for some food and she produced it for him out of her various orifices. Feeling the food was therefore "impure" he killed her and scattered her body and from the various parts the foods of Japan, rice, millet, beans etc, grew. This is such an archetypal myth that it is not surprising that similar myths exist in other parts of Japan, though with different names. What is most interesting is that Ogetsuhime is the ancient "divine" name for Awa.

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The second enshrined deity is Amenoiwatowake, one of the kami from Takamagahara, the "High Plain of Heaven" who escorted Ninigi in his descent to Japan. She is enshrined at Kashihara, the "palace" of Jimmu in Yamato.

What these 2 kami suggest to me is that as the Yamato fought their way east from Kyushu they appropiaited the kami of the peoples they conquered and incorporated these kami into their own mythology to justify their divine right to rule.

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There are many secondary shrines within the grounds, but no signboard so cannot say which other kami are enshrined here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Kintaikyo Bridge


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Iwakuni in Yamaguchi is most well known for its Kintaikyo Bridge.

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Originally built in 1673 by the first Lord of Iwakuni who built Iwakuni castle on top the mountain.

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The unique 5-arched bridge spans the Nishiki River and is 200 meters long and 5 meters wide.

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One of the 3 Great Bridges of Japan, it was originally built without using any nails and reconstructed several times but the current version, built following a disasterous typhoon and flood in 1950, does.

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Until 1868 only the Daimyo and his vassals could cross the bridge, but since then it has been open to all people, for a small entrance fee.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Akiyoshi Hachimangu


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Akiyoshi Hachiman Shrine in the mountains of Yamaguchi is a fairly typical village shrine. The shrine records date back to the Muromachi period ( 1337-1573) the time Hachiman became the tutelary deity of samurai. There was a major rebuilding in 1771, but the current buildings only date back to 1898.

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The shrine is a branch of the original Usa Hachimangu in northern Kyushu, which is a little unusual in that most Hachiman shrines are branches of the Iwashimizu Hachimangu near Kyoto, itself a branch of Usa Hachimangu. The main kami are Ojin and his mother Jingu, though there are some interesting secondary kami.

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The statue of an Ox suggests Tenjin. Tamayorihime is listed. It may be referring to the Tamayorihime that is connected to the Kamigamo shrine in Kyoto, but it may refer to any other "divine bride", that is to say a woman who has been impregnated by a kami. Jinushigami is also listed. Jinushigami is a kami of a piece of land, but seems to be connected particularly to land that has been "opened up" and turned from wilderness into agricultural land.

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The temple bell at the shrine most probably came from Shofukuji, the temple that occupied the same site as the shrine. It would have been destroyed in early Meiji with the shinbutsu bunri, separation of buddhas and kami.

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The most interesting kami enshrined here, for me at least, is Kudara no kuni Mikado. Kudara was the Korean kingdom in the SW of the Korean Peninsular. Mikado means ruler, so the kami is a ruler of Paekche, the Korean country that had the closest ties to the Yamato rulers, and quite possibly the line of rulers from Ojin might well have been Kudaran.

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I have seen rabbits carved into the centre of lintels at shrines and I thought it meant the shrine was constructed in the year of the rabbit, but I have never seen any of the other zodiac animals carved in the same position so that seems unlikely. One more mystery to solve....

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This ema shows a treasure ship with 2 dogs. This almost certainly was left at the shrine in a Dog Year....

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