Sunday, March 31, 2013

Kasuga Shrine, Hagi


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The Kasuga Shrine in Hagi is located on the southern edge of the old samurai district and is one of the approximately 3000  branches of the famous Kasuga Taisha in Nara which is the family shrine of the Fujiwara Family, arguably the most powerful family in Japan for many centuries.

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Though most common nowadays, stone komainu were a later feature and were preceded by wooden ones inside the shrine building or later in the zuijinmon.

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By the side of the shrine building is an old chinowa, a ring used for purification. usually in the spring a new one will be made and erected in front of the shrine and parishioners will pass through it.

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The main kami enshrined here are the same 4 as Kasuga Taisha, Amenokoyane, Takemikazuchi, Futsunushi, both of whom took part in kuniyuzuri, and Himegami, which seems to be a generic name for consorts of male kami. According to Izumo records only Futsunushi came to Izumo for the kuniyuzuri.

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The signboard also lists another kami that I had not heard of before:- Iwatsutsuno-o, who, like Takemikazuchi was formed from the blood left on the sword Izanagi used to slay the fire god with.

There were some secondary shrines in the grounds but the signboard gave no details....

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Nakatsu Castle


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Nakatsu Castle is the main feature of the design on Nakatsu Citys draincover in Oita, Kyushu.

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Considered on of the 3 great "water castles" that used river and sea as part of its defences. The other two being Imabari and Takamatsu.

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The original was built in 1588 and was burned down in 1877 during the Seinan War, commonly called the Satsuma Rebellion.

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The current concrete keep was built in 1964. No-one knew what the original keep looked like so it was modelled instead on Hagi castles keep.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Once the biggest planetarium in the world


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When it opened in 1994 this was the biggest planetariun in the world.

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With a diameter of 30 meters this 300-seat planetarium can project up to 25,000 stars.

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However, a couple of years ago it lost the title to a bigger one constructed in Nagoya.

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Still impressive, surrounded by a reflective pool of water, this one is part of the Ehime Science Museum complex designed by Kisho Kurokawa and is located in Niihama.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Shikoku 88 Temple 20 Kakurinji


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Statues of cranes are in the Nio gate and at other spots around the temple as cranes feature in the founding legend of the temple and Kakurinji means Crane Forest temple.

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Located at 550 meters above sea level it is a fine example of a mountain top temple and unlike most other temples in Tokushima on the pilgrimage it has never burnt down. Unfortunately I was there during monsoon rains at the start of a typhoon and so wasnt able to explore the temple as much as I would have liked.

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According to the legend Kukai had a dream while in the area that told him that in earlier times there had been a buddhist worship site here so he climbed the mountain to restore it. He found a tiny statue of Jizo being guarded by a pair of cranes and so carved a larger wooden statue of Jizo and placed the miniature one inside it.

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Later kukais nephew completed the temple buildings. Over the centuries Kakurinji received support and protection from many powerful figures including Minamoto Yoritomo, Hachisuka Iemasa, and Hachisuka Muneteru.

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The main hall supposedly dates back to 1604 but most of the other buildings are more recent, mostly from the 19th Century.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Uppurui Bay


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Inome has a wonderful little sheltered cove and beach. Off to the left is a cave that is one of the entrances to Yomi, the Underworld, but I still had a lot of ground to cover on this first day of my Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage so I turned right and headed along the coast.

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The road and tunnel are modern creations. There were trails up and over the mountains, but in pre-modern times communication and travel between these little fishing villages would have been by boat.

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The coast road heads along the south side of Uppurui Bay, a deep bite into the coast of the Shimane Peninsular. It was here in this bay that I got my first glimpses of flying fish. We were heading into Uppurui by yacht to seek shelter from a forecasted typhoon and I was amazed at how low to the water the flocks of birds were flying until the "birds" disappeared!!! They resurfaced and again flew inches above the water for about 50 meters, and it was then I realized they were fish, not birds.

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The name, Uppurui, given to the village on the far side of the bay is most certainly not Japanese, on that everyone agrees, but what it means and what language the word is derived from is a mystery.

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After a couple of kilometers I turn and head inland back up into the mountains that I had earlier crossed over. The road up to Gakuenji gets narrower and steeper and the sound of running water is the only sound...

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fudo Myo O of Shikoku part 2


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More photos of Fudo Myo I encountered while walking around Shikoku on the 88 temple Pilgrimage. This one was by the roadside along the river not far from temple 13 Dainichi-Ji. Often these "folk" images are more evocative than the more expensively produced "high" art of the temples.

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This other small one was by the roadside on the approach to Temple 18, Onzan-ji

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This much newer statue is at Temple 19, Tatsue-ji. Interestingly he is holding a chain rather than a rope.

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The mountaintop temple 20 Kakurin-ji during a typhoon....

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Another folk image by the roadside between temples 21 and 22

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hagi Jokamachi details


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I am reluctant to call myself a photographer. Of course in the simplest sense a photographer is someone who takes photos, so  obviously I, like almost all of us, are photographers, but if a photographer is someone with technical camera skills then I would not be able to call myself a photographer.

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I only have the most rudimentary knowledge of such things as f-stops, focal lengths, etc and most of my photos are taken using the auto settings of my camera. All these photos were taken with a relatively cheap "point and shoot" camera. Expensive cameras and lenses would be wasted on me.

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I also take photos very quickly. I don't spend much time setting up shots. I wander around going click, click, click at whatever attracts my eye. Often what attracts my eye are details..... textures, patterns of light and shade, compositions of simple intersecting lines. I am a very simple photographer.

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I am often complemented on my "eye", and asked how it is I "see" the things I photograph. Its kind of a difficult question because my subjects are simply there staring me in the face. In fact I would say they call out to me. What exactly is going on is really not all that clear to me except I would have to say it is a matter of simply looking.

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Simply looking would mean allowing my consciousness to focus in my eyes rather than in my head. I think it means not thinking, not expecting, and not listening to the chatter of words around and in me. In essence, I think, it means shutting up.

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These are some of the things I saw while wandering around the samurai district of Hagi for an hour.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Hina Matsuri


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The next day after Shujo Onie we set out to explore off the beaten track in the area south of Usa and Nakatsu. As usual with such explorations we were not disappointed and found several surprising and interesting things:- the great Prefectural History Museum near Usa Hachimangu, and a tunnel with statues depicting Heaven and Hell in Ajimu, but the best was yet to come....

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We headed over the mountains along a narrow and winding mountain road towards the Yabakei Gorge. As we dropped down to the valley floor in the east fork of the gorge we noticed a temple with banners flying so stopped in to see...... It was an exhibition of dolls on display for the next few weeks leading up to Hina matsuri. There were dolls scattered about the grounds in fronnt of the temple and lined up on the steps of the main hall. A gentleman invited us in to see more on display inside....

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But first we were sat down and given some tea and snacks..... pickles, jelly, and amazake, the non-alcoholic version.....free, as was the entrance to the exhibition.

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Afterwards we looked around at the displays of about 1,000 dolls of various kinds. For more information on the dolls of Hina matsuri check this post.

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My favorite part was the garden behind the temple which had a dozen or so dolls placed around it....

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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Shujo Onie Fire Festival




February 10th was the Lunar New Year and on the 16th the Shujo Onie Festival was held to mark the occasion. It was held at 2 temples on the Kunisaki Peninsular and I was lucky enough to visit the one at Iwato-Ji. The action began after dark when to the accompaniment of ringing bells and blown conch shells pairs of accolytes ran down the hillside to where the mountain stream had carved a deep pool of water into which the men jumped.


later 4 huge firebrands, 4 to 5 meters in length, were carried down from the temple to a waiting fire where they were lit. Officially this is a buddhist festival at a Tendai temple, but historically its roots are in the unique form of Shugendo in this area.



Then the burning firebrands were carried through the torii and up the steps to the inner shrine area where ther e are caves where the shugenja practised shugyo and other buddhist halls where further ceremonies will take place..


The burning wood was followed by a procession of priests and musicians.

Later there would be much more..... demons (priests in masks) will be brought to life, perform some dances, and then beat all the onlookers with burning sticks. I believe this is to drive away demons and bring good luck for the new year. later still the demons visit all the houses in the community. Unfortunately it was getting late and I was finding the crowds too much so we left.....

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