Thursday, February 28, 2013

Usa Hachimangu Tongu


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The grounds of Usa Hachimangu are like a large open park, but it wasnt always that way. Until 1868 the grounds were packed with dozens and dozens of structures,... in a scale model I counted at least eight pagodas...., for this was a huge shrine-temple complex until the government "seperated" the Buddhas and Kami and the buildings were either torn down or dismantled.

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The Tongu is a newer structure built where part of the earlier temple complex stood. The Tongu is unused for 362 days of the year, only being used from July 31st to August 2nd when it is home to 3 mikoshi as part of the Nagoshi Festival.

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The mikoshi are carried here from the main shrine buildings during which time the three mikoshi battle each other to see who will lead the procession. Once at the Tongu rituals are held. On the third day the mikoshi are taken back up the hill to the main shrine.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Shotoen (outside)


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Shotoen is a collection of different styles of traditional buildings surrounded by gardens in Sannose on Shimokamagari Island in the Inland Sea off the coast of Hiroshima.

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The displays showcase the ports history as a major stopping point for elite travellers on their way to Edo. During the Edo period 11 diplomatic missions from Korea stayed here and the Korean connection features strongly around the town.

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The buildings are all quite different and include one with a cedar shingle roof which are not so common.

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The gardens, buildings, and displays I found really interesting and unusual, and as the island is way off the beaten track there are few visitors so it can all be enjoyed quietly.

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It is open every day from 9 to 5 and entrance is 800 yen.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Onomichi temple walk Houdo-ji


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The path to the second tempel on Onomichis' temple walk is easy to follow and narrow

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Like the temples and houses of Onomichi, the graveyards are crowded together...

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Founded in 1387, Houdo-ji now belongs to the Jodo sect (Pure land). The bell in the bell tower dates  from the end of the 15th century.

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The main deity enshrined here is Amida Nyorai.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Iwami 33 Kannon Pilgrimage Temple 1 Enno-ji


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While searching for the first temple of the Iwami 33 Kannon Pilgrimage in Oda City I thought I had found it when I came across a small, plain, non-descript little buddhist building with a statue of Kannon at the water basin.

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Behind it was a small cave with an altar, and from the cave a path led up the small hillside...

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Along the path were a series of small statues. Obviously a miniature pilgrimage though I didnt explore further.
I was not expecting much in terms of grand temples on this pilgrimage, Iwami is after all a poor and remote area, but I thought that the first temple would have been a bit grander...

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And then 100 meters further along the lane I found Enno-ji.

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Established in 894 the main deity is yakushi Nyorai. Now the temple belongs to the Shingon sect.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Some Portraits of the Artist as a Younger Man


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2 years younger photographing a shrine sign board in Takachiho, Kyushu.

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3 years younger at the Meteor Museum in Shichirui, Shimane.

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3 years younger in an elevator in Seoul.

Gone sailing......

6 years younger coming into port off the Shimane coast.

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11 years younger in Kyoto.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Great Blue Herons


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I am neither a twitcher nor an ornithologist, so some of these may be Grey Herons rather than Great Blues. Though, like all wild animals, they are naturally skittish around people, many live in urban settings and will allow you to get closer to take photos.... this one was in downtown Kurashiki.

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With their long, spindly legs they are well adapted to wade in the shallow waters of ponds and rivers to find their staple... fish. This one is in the pond at the Tenmangu Shrine in Nagaoka.

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Known as sagi in Japanese, they feature in many poems and paintings.

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Graceful in flight, their wingspan can get close to 2 meters..

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This one was in a drainage ditch in Tsuwano, literally a few meters away from where the Heron dance was being performed.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Kushibuchi Hachiman Shrine & Kita Sadakichi


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The entrance to the Hachiman Shrine in Kushibuchi, part of Komatsushima City in Tokushima, is flanked by a pair of huge, venerable old trees, probably Camphor.

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At the base of one of the trees was a bust of Kita Sadakichi, a famous historian and educator from the Meiji Period who was born nearby in 1871. From a peasant farming family, while in school he suffered bullying and discrimination from his samurai-class schoolmates and this probably led to his being a tireless opponent of discrimination, especially against burakumin.

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Like most historians of his time he saw the Japanese as a hybrid people composed of many peoples and races and that in ancient times discrimination did not exist in Japan. He saw the beginning of discrimination when the knowledge of  the Japanese's roots in the Korean peninsular was actively suppressed, a point alluded to in the ninth century Kogoshui. Unfortunately his solution to discrimination was assimilation and his ideas formed the basis for the educational policies of the colonial governments in Korea. The best source in English I have found on his ideas can be found in " A Genealogy of 'Japanese' Self-images" by Eiji Oguma, my short review of which can be found here.

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Being a Hachiman shrine, the main kami enshrined here is of course Ojin. usually Hachiman is equated with Ojin, his mother Jingu, and a third kami, either his father Chuai or his consort Himegami. Unfortunately there was no signboard so I have no idea which kami are enshrined in the various small shrines in the grounds except...

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a Katsuragi Shrine, in all probability a branch of the shrine on top of Mount Kongo in Osaka and founded by En no Goya the legendary founder of Shugendo.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Kyushu 108 Sacred Sites Pilgrimage Temple 1 Tochoji

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At dawn on Christmas Day I set out on my latest long distance walk, a 2,000 kikometer walk around Kyushu. The Kyushu 88 temple & 108 sacred sites pilgrimage is a modern pilgrimage set up for bus and car pilgrims (hereafter referred to as the Kyushu108). All the sites are Shingon and it begins with the first temple in Hakata, Fukuoka.

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Originally built on the shore it was relocated to its present location following a fire by the daimyo of the area Kuroda Tadayuki who designated it as the Kuroda family temple.

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It is claimed that Kukai founded the temple in 806 on his return from China but I have also read that it was founded by a disciple of Kukai. Next to the main hall is a hexagonal building that opens on the 28th of each month to display the statues and artworks inside.

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The vermillion pagoda in the grounds is very new,... it was still under construction a few years ago when I first visited.

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To the right of the main hall is another new building. It houses the largest wooden seated Buddha statues in Japan. It was too early for me to pay the entrance fee to view it, but as photography was not permitted I am loath to pay anyway. The statue is 10.8 meters tall and was completed in 1996. 108 is a meaningful number in Japanese buddhism as it is the number of delusions of the mind, hence many pilgrimages will have 108 sites and why a temple bell is rung 108 times on new Years Eve.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Walls of Hagi Jokamachi


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The urbanization of Japan can be said to have begun in the Tokugawa period. An edict of 1615 restricted the daimyo to just one castle in their territory and another law forced all the samurai to live within the towns that grew up around these castles. This is the origin of the Jokomachi.

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One of the best preserved jokamachi is in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, seat of the Mori domain. Spared destruction by the development that followed the construction of railways and stations, the rail line skirted Hagi and so the grid of streets making up the old town still remain.

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The very highest ranked samurai lived within the castle grounds behind the outer walls, but the next highest ranked lived right next to the castle. As the rank descended the samurai lived further and further away from the castle.

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While the poorest samurai lived in quite crude accomodations, the higher ranked samurai lived in mansions surrounded by high walls.

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many of these walls were plastered and painted, but some were left plain. The ones built using old roof tiles are particularly striking.

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Friday, February 1, 2013

Yabakei Gorge & Aonodomon


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Honyabakei is a small town south of Nakatsu in Oita Prefecture. in 2005 the town was merged with Nakatsu.

The draincover depicts Yabakei Gorge and Aonodomon.

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The gorge was created by the Yamakuni River cutting through the biggest volcanic plateau in Japan.

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The result is some spectacular rock formations and sheer cliffs that are particularly popular in the Fall season.

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Aonodomon, which means "blue tunnel" is an almost 200 meter long tunnel carved into the base of the cliffs. According to legend it was carved by a single monk named Zenkai using a hammer and chisel and took him 30 years to complete.

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Earlier in his life Zenkai had committed a murder and to atone for his sins her carved the tunnel to make the rout to a local shrine safer for pilgrims.

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