Friday, May 24, 2013

Shuri Castle


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Standing on a hill overlooking the modern city of Naha on the Okinawan main island, Shuri castle is a World Heritage site and probably the most visited tourist attraction on the island.

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There had been a castle here since at least the 14th Century but the current one is a modern reconstruction as the original was completely destroyed in the battle of Okinawa in 1945.


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It was where the Ryukyu royalty lived and controlled the international trading that built the wealth and power of the Ryukyus.

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Recently renovated is the garden of the royal living quarters. Shuri was a palace as well as a fortress.

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The interior of the main hall is reconstructed as it was originally with throne room etc.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Oh Shrine


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To the east of Usa Hachimangu, just outside the shrine grounds, is a hill with a torii at its base and overgrown steps leading up.

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At the top is a small shrine, O shrine (or Ou or Oh or Oo). It is a sessha of Usa Hachimangu and enshrines Hachiman.

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According to the legend, when Hachiman returned in 765 from his journey to Nara for the unveiling of the Great Buddha at Todai-ji he stayed on this mountaintop for 15 years.

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Very few people seem to make it up here, but obviously some do as attested by the offering left.

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Inside Shoto-en


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Shoto-en is a collection of historic buildings and gardens located in Sannose on Shimokamigari Island in the Inland Sea off Hiroshima. I posted some pictures of the outside here.

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Most of the displays are concerned with the many delegations of official emissaries from Korea on their way to Edo who stopped here and were entertained by the local daimyo. A mock up of the lavish banquets given are pretty impressive, and it is said that if the delegations came more often than they did ( 11 delegations stayed on Sannose during the Edo Period) the cost of their entertainment to the daimyo would have resulted in bankruptcy.

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There is a big display of Chinese porcelain, gifts from the visiting delegates, which also included the Dutch traders from Dejima in Nagasaki, which is probably where the gifts of lamps came from.

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The buildings are in different styles and with different interiors, so there is actually quite a lot to see for the entrance fee of 800 yen. Unless your visit happens top coincide with one of the infrequent bus tours you will also have the place to yourself.

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Of course no self-respecting historical museum in Japan can not display agricultural paraphenalia :)

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Ikkyu Shrine, Onomichi


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The Onomichi Temple Walk also passes by some shrines as well as temples, and the first shrine just after Hodou-ji is Ikkyu Shrine.

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Enshrined here is Kibitsuhiko, the major kami of the Kibi region in southern Okayama. According to legend he was an imperial prince sent from Yamato to defeat a demon troubling the people of Kibi. The story of Momotaro is believed to be based on this legend.

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When I first visited the shrine it was in late October and the place was a hive of activity with parishioners preparing for the Betcha Matsuri held on November 3rd. as well as the usual mikoshi procession, the Betcha matsuri includes a tengu and 2 demons who beat children and infants with sticks to ensure their good health.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Noshiro Shrine


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After leaving Oda the route of the Iwami 33 Kannon Pilgrimage heads along the Sanbe River towards Mount Sanbe. Just below Sanbe Dam is the small settlement of Noshiro with a small shrine.

I know these posts on obscure local shrines are not particularly popular, but a large part of the reason why I started this blog was to document the thousands of shrines I've visited, so..... As of this writing I have only managed to document 124, an index of which can be found here.

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Noshiro has an interesting trio of kami enshrined, the main one being Izanagi, the male half of the pair that created the Japanese islands and its kami. Mythologically speaking Izanagi and Izanami are the most important of the kami, but in the seventh Century, and again in the twentieth Century, the government of Japan elevated the Imperial ancestor Amaterasu to the highest position.

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The other 2 kami enshrined here are related to Izanagi, Hayatamano and Kotosakano, 2 kami that appear in the myth of Izanagis visit to see his dead wife Izanami in Yomi. At least that is the Izumo version, and as the myth of Yomi is set in Izumo I would tend towards that version rather than the "national" version that has Hayatamano as another name for Izanami. Part of my interest in visiting small local shrines is for the light they shed on the diversity that existed in Japan before the modern, homogenous, centrally imposed, "national" culture was created.

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