Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage, Temple 11, Entsuji


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Entsuji, the 11th temple on the Izumo 33 Kannon pilgrimage, like the previous temple,  Zenjoji,  was also a mountaintop temple with great views.

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Also like the previous temple it was reputed to be founded by Gyoki in the early 8th Century, though it was another monk in the tenth Century who built it up into a larger temple. It is now of the Tendai sect.

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It must must have been a pretty big complex in the heyday of Mori and Matsudaira rule of the area as it was reputed to receive the third largest amount of donations, after Izumo Taisha and Gakuenji.

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Now all thats left is the priests house, a storehouse, the Kannon Hall, and a small Inari shrine.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Torii Tunnels


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Lines of red torii placed so close together they form a tunnel are a common sight throughout Japan. The most famous and most photographed are at the Fushimi Inari Shrine near Kyoto, but smaller versions can be found all over at shrines and temples.

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They are usually made of wood, occasionally steel, but more often nowadays plastic pipe is being used. Each torii will have been paid for by a donation, and the name of the donor is usually written on each, similar to how some shrines will have lines of more expensive stone lanterns.

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The top photo is from the Inari Shrine in the grounds of Suwa Shrine, Nagasaki. The second photo is at Tadaji Temple in Hamada. The third is a small Inari hokora near Kokura Castle.

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The photo above is an Inari shrine in the grounds of the Hitomaro Shrine in Masuda.

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If the Inari shrine is on a hillside, like at Fushimi, then the torii tunnels will switchback up the hillside like the photo above taken at the Taikodani Inari Shrine in Tsuwano.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Japanese Cormorant


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The Japanese Cormorant, Phalacrocorax capillatus,  known as Umui in Japanese, is also known as Temmincks Cormorant.

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It can be found from Taiwan, across Korea and Japan, and as far north as Eastern Russia.

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It has been domesticated by the Japanese to use in fishing. Known as Ukai, it can still be seen at many places across Japan.

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The only piece of poetry I remember from my schooldays begins.... "the Common Cormorant, or Shag, lays eggs inside a paper bag. The reason you will see, no doubt, is to keep the lightning out...."

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Along The Way (Izumo version)


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On the afternoon of Sunday, May 13th, 2012, I was on the 4th day of my Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage heading towards temple number 11, Entsuji. The route was further upriver into the mountains, and though it was the main road over the mountains from Izumo to Hiroshima, there was not a lot of traffic.

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A lot of people were out in the paddies. Most planting is done mechanically, but corners and patches missed by the machine are done by hand. Most Japanese farmers work at full-time jobs, so being a Sunday there were more people busy....

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Planting time is excellent for photography in the countryside as the flooded paddies provide great reflections

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The deeper into the mountains you go the more thatched rooves you can see.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Along the Way


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On the afternoon of Sunday, September 4th, 2011, the eighth day of my Shikoku Pilgrimage,  I walked the main road west from Temple 21, Tairyuji, towards Temple 22, Byodoji. Early that morning I had left the mountains where I had been trapped by Typoon Talas for a couple of days, took the ropeway up to and down from Tairyuji, and passed through the village of Naka. There were no major sights along the road, but the usual succession of small hokora, roadside shrines, like this one that was guarded by Okinawan style shishi

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I climbed up to a largish Hachiman Shrine that, like so many shrines, gave the appearance of being abandoned. I was rewarded by a pair of unusal komainu, something I am always on the look out for. Coming back down to the main road a tiny old lady came out of the door of her house and insisted I sit awhile and drink some cold green tea she offered me.The kindness of strangers. I am not particularly fond of green tea, but it is impolite to refuse Osettai.

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You can't walk far in Japan without passing a Jizo, and I must admit I pass many of them by, but a statue of Fudo Myo O, my favorite Buddhist deity, almost always call for a prayer and a photo.

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Cresting the pass, the view is, for me anyway, what I would describe as typical Japan.

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And then some more small shrines with diverse komainu before encountering what was to be the days most pleasant surprise just before reaching Byodoji.....

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage Temple 10 Zenjoji


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Zenjoji is both the 10th temple of the Izumo 33 Kannon pilgrimage and the twenty fourth temple of the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage. It is a mountain top temple and has a fine pair of nio in the niomon at the base.

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It is believed to have been founded by Gyoki which would put it in the early eighth century.

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It is now a Tendai temple. There were 4 small shrines within the grounds including an Inari and one to Zaogongen.

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It is quite a pretty temple and of course has superb views.
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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chiroku Shrine


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In the Fukuoka area there are quite a few Chiroku ( or sometimes Jiroku) shrines. This one is in Ijiri to the south of Hakata and downtown Fukuoka.

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They all enshrine the same male-female pair of kami, Takehaniyasuhiko, the male, and Haniyasuhime, the female, and were both created by Izanagi at the same time he created Susano, Amaterasu, etc while purifying himself after his journey to the underworld to visit the deceased Izanami.

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The pair of kami are known as the kami of soil, and according to the myth they were created from Izanagi's feces. As the content of Japanese toilets have traditionally been used as fertilizer for farming, its not surprising that these two kami are considered by some to be the kami of the toilet.

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There was no signboard at the shrine so its history remains a mystery. All the shimenawa were new in preparation for the impending new year.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mitoya Tenmangu

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After leaving Mine-ji I passed through the town of Mitoya on my way upriver to the next pilgrimage temple, Zenjoji, and stopped in at what appeared to be the main shrine of the town, the Tenmangu.

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The newly reconstructed zuijinmon had curtains blocking off the zuijin from view. Being a Tenmangu, the main enshrined deity is Tenjin, considered to be the spirit of Sugawara Michizane.

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Curiously it lists Amaterasu along with Tenjin as the main  kami, though I strongly suspect that she is a fairly modern addition.

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According to the signboard Michizane spent a few days here during the reign of the Daigo Emperor, which was the time Michizane was "exiled" to Dazaifu. His route to Kyushu from Kyoto would have been through the Inland Sea, so its not clear to me why he would make a trip over the mountains to Izumo. A few hundred meters from this shrine is a small Sugawara Shrine which would seem to reinforce the story.

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There are several smaller shrines within the grounds but the only one I could identify was the Inari shrine.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Shokasonjuku Academy


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The Shokasonjuku is located in the grounds of the Shoin Shrine in Hagi, Yamaguchi, and is where Yoshida Shoin taught many of the future leaders of Meiji Japan.

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It was originally just a single-roomed structure but was expanded due to the large number of students who wanted to attend. It was also his home as at the time he was under house arrest for his attempt to stow away on an American ship.

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Shoin taught here for just one year before he was rearrested and the school forced to close.

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His students included Ito Hirobumi, the first Prime Minister of Japan, Yamagata Aritomo, Japan's third Prime Minister, Kido Takayoshi, a senior statesman and another of the architects of the new Meiji state, Inoue Kaoru, another major politician and statesman of Meiji Japan.

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