Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mount Senkoji Ropeway


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Mt. Senkoji is only 140 meters high, but it does go right down to the sea and is fairly steep, so the ropeway is a good way to get up.

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I havent been on to many ropeways that are so urban. On the way up it passes directly over a lot of houses and of course offers nice views.

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Its not often you get to look down on a cemetery.

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Closer to the top it passes near Senko-ji, the temple the mountain is named after.

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From the top there are great views over Onomichi and across the channel to the islands...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

New Akaoni Mask


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After a very long time of being too busy with regular and unexpected chores, I finally was prompted by an order to get around to finishing a new mask.

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It's actually the third Red Demon I've sold outside of Japan. Its probably popular because it is so similar to the western/christian conception of a devil.

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I have about 20 more masks getting closer to completion, including my first kitsune. Hopefully when the rain y season arrives to curtail garden work I will have the time to finish..........

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Ushio Shrine


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Ushio Shrine was the last shrine I visited before heading over the pass out of the Hi watershed. It is named after the Ushio clan who had a small "castle" on top of the mountain behind the shrine. They were vassals of the Amago.

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It is yet another shrine in the area that is listed in both the Izumo Fudoki, and the Engi Shiki. The main kami enshrined here is Unojihiko, the same kami enshrined at Unochi Shrine that I visited earlier in the pilgrimage.
For details I refer you to that post. It is worth mentioning that according to the myth he caused Lake Shinji to rise in an attempt to drown his father, and supposedly the water level reached this point, which is quite remarkable considering how much higher this place is than Unochi Shrine.

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Within the grounds are smaller shrines to Hachiman, Inari, Ebisu, and Aragami.

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From here the road forks, the road heading north goes to Suga Shrine, a major shrine connected to Susano. The road I take heads west to Kumano Taisha, once the most important shrine in Izumo, also connected to Susano.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Japanese paper Lanterns


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Chochin, Japanese paper lanterns are particularly associated with matsuri, like this first photo at a summer matsuri in Shima, Mie.

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These were on the beach at one of my favorite local matsuri, at Kuromatsu near Gotsu.

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They are also found in shrines, like these at the shrine across the river in Kawado.

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On the street for the Gonokawa matsuri in Gotsu.

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Some of the big and famous shrines have impressive lantern displays like here at Yasaka Shrine in Gion, Kyoto.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage Temple 15 Koanji


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Koan-ji was founded in the early 8th Century, Tempyo 11. Now it is a Soto sect zen temple.

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Originally it belonged to the Hosso sect, one of the 6 original sects based in Nara.

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It was the family temple for one of the retainers of the Amago clan who ruled the area before being ousted by the Mori.

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It is not known how old the wonderful ceiling painting of a dragon is, b ut it is obviously old.

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It is the last temple of the pilgrimage in the Hi River watershed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Golden Week Walk, 2014


It's become a tradition of mine to go for a nice long walk in the countryside during Golden Week, and this year was no exception. I walked a 4 day leg of the Iwami Mandala Kannon Pilgrimage. I have been calling it the Iwami 33 Kannon Pilgrimage, but apparently they added another ten temples and changed its name.

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The first day was the section from Kawamoto to my own villlage, and for logistical reasons 1 walked it in reverse. A good section was following the Gonokawa, a quite beautiful river, the longest in West Japan, but mostly unknown to anyone other than locals. The rest of the day was in and out of the mountains to visit a temple. In the mountains I found this wild boar skeleton. I had driven down this road less than 2 weeks ago and it wasnt there then, so it has been picked clean in a very quick time. It was quite a long day, clocking in at 35k of walking.

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Day 2 was from my village to Arifuku, an onsen resort in the mountains halfway between Gotsu and Hamada. For the first couple of hours I followed the Yato River and then went up Nagatani (Long Valley) before going over the pass and then following a tributary of the Uya River down to Arifuku. What was most noticeable was the damage from last summers storms. There were many landslides, embankments of the river washed away, even a bridge totally destroyed. A very pleasant 25k jaunt.

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Day 3 was Arifuku to Yasaka, much higher and further inland. Just outside Arifuku I discovered a couple of old style potteries that I hadnt known about before dropping into the main valley of the Uya River. Heading upstream I passed several tunnels and half-built bridges that were going to be for a rail line running from Hamada to Hiroshima. It never got built. At Kanagi I stocked up with food and drinks as for the rest of the day there would not even be a vending machine. For a few k I Had to follow the main Hamada to Hiroshima road, but soon cut off and headed across the mountains. I topped out at 450 meters before dropping down into Yasaka. I spent the night at a friends guest house. He is a hunter, so wild boar was on the menu for the evening meal, washed down with home made doburoku, the tastiest sake I have ever drunk. an exhilarating 35k walk.

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On day 4 I headed from Yasaka to Mito through sonme nice, remote country without a single vending machine for 25k. There were some serious ups followed by downs, but for some reason the older I get the less difficult I find it. At the top of one remote valley I found a wonderful mountain shrine. The tengai was old, suggesting they no longer do kagura there, but the shrine was still looked after. What I noticed most on this day was that Golden Week is pretty much a city thing. In the mountains people are far too busy to go off on mini vacations. There were many people working in the paddies. I mnet one old guy with a great collection of bamboo shoots he had dug out of the forest. I saw another couple picking wild food from the roadside, one man tending his bees, and another old gentleman pushing a wheelbarrow filled with firewood for heating his bath. I aarived in Mito Onsen as a festival was under way and enjoyed the reassuring beat of the kagura drums. Another excellent 27k walk.

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Shrine Chickens

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It is not uncommon to see chickens running free in the grounds of shrines, like these first two photos in Aoiaso Shrine, Hitoyoshi.

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Some say it is because the rooster heralds the arrival of the sun, the sun goddess Amaterasu.

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Some say it is because in the Iwato myth the assembled kami brought in roosters to try and trick Amaterasu out of the cave.

This third photo is from a small shrine next to Suwa Shrine in Nagasaki.

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These last two photos  are from Iminomiya Shrine in Chofu, Yamaguchi.

Personally, I think the reason you find chickens at shrines is because the priest and family like free eggs.

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hihara Shrine


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This is another ancient shrine listed in the Izumo Fudoki. The main kami enshrined here is Ohirumemuchi, which is either an old name for Amaterasu, or, as some sources suggest, a kami-shamaness who became Amaterasu after death.

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Ohirumemuchi was the primary kami of Suika Shinto, an Edo period ant-buddhist school of "shinto" that was heavily confucianist and was predicated on the Tokugawas right to rule.

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The other two kami enshrined here are Amenohibaraoshinadomi and Wakatsukushimenokami, and all that is known of them is that they were among the many, many descendants of Okuninushi.

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There is a very large quartz rock known as Hall of Mirrors, that is supposedly very sparky and reflective when wet.

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There is also a huge, ancient Katsura tree that is registered as a National Monument. It is 40 meters tall and the trunk has a girth of 14 meters.

Monday, May 5, 2014

An unexpected Matsuri


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On the afternoon of September 4th, 2011, I was approaching Byodo-ji, Temple 22 of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, when I spied a torii with banners flying, a sign that a matsuri is underway.

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As I got closer I could hear the shouts of children which suggested that the matsuri was underway at the moment. For me, there is no greater pleasure than coming upon a matsuri, especially one in a rural village shrine.

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It was a Yasaka Shrine, a branch of the famous shrine in Kyoto formerly lnown as Gionsha. The main kami is Susano, and also many of his "family", which is kind of apt as he is known as the kami of storms and the last 2 days this area has been hit with a massive typhoon.

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There wasn't anything going on right now. Kids were running around and playing, and a small group of the village elders were inside eating and drinking. They invited me in for food and beer, and though daytime drinking in the heat of the day is not a usual habit of mine, as I was a pilgrim I could not refuse their offer.
After a second beer I insisted I had to leave and they showed me a path leading out of the shrine which was a shortcut over the hill to Byodo-ji

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Serida Shrine


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It may look like a small inconspicious village shrine, but Serida Shrine has some vintage. It is listed in the Izumo Fudoki, so has existed since before the 7th Century, and is also listed in the Engi Shiki, therefore it received offerings from the imperial government in the Heian period.

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The main kami enshrined here is listed as Kanayamabiko, who came into existence from the vomit of Izanami as she was dying after giving birth to fire. However, according to an excellent website on the history of iron in Japan at Hitachi Metals, it was probably called Kanayago before the Meiji Period.

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Kanayago is a very popular kami among iron and metal workers and the head kanayago shrine is a little east of here. The Chugoku region and especially this part of Izumo was a main center for iron production in ancient times, and there are many Kanayago shrines.

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Also enshrined here is Izanami and Kotosakano and Hayatamano, the latter two being the kami that came into existence at the time of Izanagi's oath of divorce from Izanami. Curiously they are linked with Izanami here rather than Izanagi.

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This area is between the entrance to Yomi where Izanagi visited Izanami, and Izamani's tomb on top of Mt. Hiba.

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