Thursday, November 29, 2012

Doors of Essouira


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Here it is, almost 2013, and I'm still posting photos from my vacation to Morocco in 2011...

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Day 21, the penultimate day of my vacation I was still in Essouira, still spending the time wandering around taking photos...... its such a damn photogenic country....

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Just like Marrakesh, the berber villages of the jebel sahro, in fact anywhere Ive been in Morocco, Essouira had a lot of fascinating doors.....

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I believe you can buy books just filled with photos of Morrocan doors.....

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

More Sanbe Sunrise


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I couldn't resist posting some more photos from my recent night on Mount Sanbe.

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The earlier posts are here and here...

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Turns out this is my 999th post!!!!

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Lying down in the Mountains


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heading off for a few days in the mountains again so I thought I would post some pics from a recent trip sleeping out on top of a mountain to show the obvious reason why...... the views...

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All these photos are from a night I spent on top of Mount Kannomine on Osakikamijima, an island in the Inland Sea

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Its only 453 meters high, but getting to the top means starting at sea level so its still a good climb.

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Unfortunately it was cloudy so the light was not as good as it could have been, but still there were some stunning views over the numerous islands that dot the Inland Sea between Honshu and Shikoku.

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The sun set over the Aki Nada chain of islands that I had spent 2 days walking across to get here

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Unfortunately it was even cloudier at dawn but still it was an awesome view across the  islands that the Shimanami Kaido now runs across from Ohnomichi to Imabari....

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Misumi Power Station


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Misumi Power Station, owned by Chugoku Power Company, is where we get most of our electricity from.

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It can generate 1,000,000 Kilowatts by burning coal, though a certain percentage of biomass, local woodchips, are also mixed in.

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I grew up in the industrial heartland of the UK, and my home was located within site of a coal mine and a gasworks, so belching smoke and grimy soot is what I associate with coal power, but Misumi Power Station is white and spotless and very hi-tech.

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The coal mostly comes from Australia and the power stations own ship ferries back and forth every two weeks.

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The storage silo is one of the biggest of its kind in the world and its interior volume is larger than that of Tokyo Dome.

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The whole process is completely automated and there are very few workers. Free guided tours are available.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Shikoku 88 Temple 17 Idoji


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Temple 17, Idoji, was founded under orders of Emperor Temmu in the 7th Century.

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The main deity is Yakushi, the healing Buddha, and there are 7 statues of Yakushi Nyori supposedly carved by Shotoku Taishi.

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Idoji means "Well Temple" and refers to the legend that when Kukai visited here he dug a well with his staff and renamed the temple.

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The temple was burned down several times and rebuilt in the 17th Century, but the present concrete structures only date from the 1970's.

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Month of Little Sleep part 10


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On Sunday 21st October we went to the Omoto Matsuri up in the small settlement of Yudani. It is a small settlement, getting smaller. Only 34 households remain and they are mostly old folks...... there are no kids. The Omoto Matsuris only occur every 7 years and are expensive affairs and only 34 families are left to fund it. It ended up being a fantastic night with all the hallmarks of a true matsuri.... friendliness, generosity, inebriation, humor etc.... I shot over a thousand photos but choose just a handful.....

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After the initial rituals and ceremonies the first kagura was Shihogatame, a dance unique to Omoto Kagura but which is similar to Kamimukae in regular Iwami kagura.

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At a usual ceremony there may be half a dozen to a dozen offerings placed on the altar, but given the importance of Omoto rituals there will be anything from 30 to 50 different items....

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Possibly my favorite Omoto kagura "dance" is Tengai, unique to Omoto. I have seen it performed by priests and also by kagura dancers, but in my experience it is the priests who put on a more dynamic dance.....

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The Ebisu dance was unique, for me at least, in several respects. usually Ebisu dances alone, or sometimes with Daikoku, and its usually just a pantomime with him throwing candy to the crowd and then catching a Sea Bream. This was the "complete" Ebisu dance with the first part danced by a dancer as a priest, then with Ebisu, and then finally the "usual" Ebisu dance. usually the fish caught by Ebisu is made out of paper, but here they used the actual fish that had been on the altar as offering to Omoto.

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At 6am the final ritual/dance took place and this is where possession, kamigakari, will take place, if it take place. The rope snake representing Omoto is swung violently backwards and forwards by the priests. To the rear you can see the villager who had been designated to be the recipient of possession. kamigakari did not occur.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Morning rainbow


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Snapped this early this morning on my way up Asari Fujisan, a local mountain shaped like Fuji.

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Passing by Taisha


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From Temple 2 of the Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage to temple 3 is over the Kitayama Mountains which form the spine of the Shimane Peninsula. The shortest route take me right through Izumo Taisha passing by this shrine, the Izumotaishakyo Soreisha. It was founded in 1882 which if I am correct is the same date that Izumotaishakyo was founded by the Senge in what is known as the "Pantheon Dispute". As a soreisha the shrine enshrines the ancestral spirits of the Senge family, the hereditary priests of Izumo Taisha.

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Izumo's distinctive "fat" shimenawa are everywhere to be seen...

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Including, of course the Kaguraden, home to the biggest shimenawa in the world.

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Though it is called a kaguraden the buildings main use is for conducting shinto weddings and as Izumo Taisha is the most sought after destination for such ceremonies there are a continuous stream of weddings taking place just about every day....

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I noticed for the first time that there is a group of three hondens to the rear of the kaguraden.... have yet to search out the identity of the kami enshrined therein......

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Month of Little Sleep part 9


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Past midnight and the inevitable Iwato was performed. It is one of my least favorite dances, but the last sequence after Amaterasu has been brought out of the cave and the assembled kami celebrate is performed with gusto by 8-beat groups such as Tanijyugo, and it gets quite frenetic with much leaping about.

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Then onto Jinrin with the usual spectacular demons entrance.....

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Next up was a rare performance of Benkei & Yoshitsune. Benkei, the legendary and archetypal sohei (warrior monk) is waiting on Gojo bridge in Kyoto to challenge the next samurai who passes. he has done this successfully 99 times. A slight, young Yoshitsune comes along.

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Yoshitsune had been trained in swordsmanship by a tengu in the mountains north of kyoto, and his acrobatic skill is too much for Benkei who after being defeated becomes Yoshitsunes lifelong loyal vassal.... a very similar story to Robin Hood and Little John....

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next dance was Tenjin, the first time I had seen the dance this season. Sugawara Michizane, the hero,, deified as Tenjin, wears a mask uncannily like the Guy Fawkes mask in V for Vendetta, takes on his arch-enemy Fujiwara no Tokihira.

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It was 2:30am, still 4 more hours of kagura to go, but I left to grab some sleep as the next day there was an all night Omoto Matsuri up in the mountains and I wanted to stay all night for that....


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunrise on Sanbe


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It was a cold and windy night with lots of rain, sleet, and snow, but with the coming of the sun the wind swept the clouds off the mountain top to reveal the view....

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Off to the north Izumo and the mountains north of Izumo taisha were clearly visible...

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To the east the valleys were still filled with clouds and mist.... known as unkai in Japanese...

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To the west the onshore winds had not yet cleared the clouds away...

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Somewhere down in the SW near the horizon was my village..... with the sun the fall colors cloaking the mountain were finally visible....

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