Friday, October 30, 2015

Mononobe Shrine part 2


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Mononobe Shrine, the Ichinomiya of Iwami, enshrines Umashimade no mikoto, the ancestor of the Mononobe. His grave lies on the hillside behind the shrine. The Mononobe are often portrayed as Shintoists who resisted the importation of the foreign "kami" of Buddhism, though how much of that was religious and how much was power politics is hard to discern, as the two are intimately linked.

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The father of Umashimade was Nigihayahi who descended from heaven in a stone boat to what is now the Osaka area. In the ancient myths the distinction between heavenly kami and earthly kami is an important one. The heavenly kami represent the Yamato and their associated clans who invaded and took over Japan. The earthly kami are the ancestors of the rulers of the tribes of Japan that the Yamato supplanted. What is interesting about Nigihayahi is that he was not part of the group that descended with Ninigi to Kyushu.

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So when Jimmu invaded Japan in what is known as his "Eastern Campaign", when he reached the area that is now Osaka he was defeated by a tribe led by Nagasune. Nagasune claimed that he followed Nigihayahi. Jimmu and Nigihayahi had a "you show me yours and I'll show you mine" session with symbolic weapons whereupon Nigihayahi realized that Jimmu was of the same lineage as he, that is to say, they both had the same origins, so he submitted to Jimmu and had Nagasune killed. Jimmu made Nigihayahi's son Umashimade the head of his guard.

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So, if the Mononobe have their origins in "the high plain of heaven", the Korean Peninsula, and ruled over the area around present day Osaka, why is Umashimade buried in Iwami? According to the shrines founding legend, Umashimade was flying on a crane and landed here thinking it looked like a mountain in Yamato. The shrines crest if of a crane and crane statues are in the grounds. If we consider that the Mononobe were at the peak of their power in the 6th Century, the time Buddhism wa sintoduced to the Yamato court, and we consider that Izumo lost its independence and was incorprated into the confederacy led by Yamato around the 5th Century, then it would suggest that the Mononobe were placed here as a projection of military power to warn the Izumo to behave.

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mononobe Shrine


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By mid afternoon on the second day of my walk along the Iwami Mandala Kannon Pilgrimage, I came to Mononobe Shrine, the Ichinomiya (highest-ranked shrine) of old Iwami province.

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The first time I came here I was struck by the huge Chigi on top of the roof. Originally used to help stabilize thatched roofs, on shrines they are now only decorative, but fulfill a symbolic function. If the ends of the cross pieces are cut vertically, like here, then the kami enshrined is male. Conversely, a horizontal cut means a female kami.

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The ema. votive plaques, are not the usual 5-sided shape, but in the shape of a rice scoop. Called sukuu in Japanese, sukuu also means "save" as in salvation. The temizuya is also distinctive, carved out of a massive rock and adorned with carvings.

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The main kami enshrined here is Umashimade no mikoto, the ancestor of the Mononobe clan, considered by some to be the precursor to the samurai. Umashimade was made head of the Imperial Guard by the mythical first emperor Jimmu. Umashimade's tomb is on the hillside above the shrine.

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For more about why he was here and the fascinating history of the Mononobe, I will save until the next post

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wakasugi Kannon-do


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Climbing higher on Mount Wakasugi after Kongochoin, I was surprised to find a newish temple though there was none marked on the map.

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It is no longer a temple, being the site of the former Wakasugi Kannon-do. Now it is just an ossuary, a repository for bones.

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The Kannon-do must have been quite old as it housed a 12th Century statues that is now in the Kyushu History Museum.

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There was a small Fudo-do and lots of statues including yet more Fudo Myo's.

From here the trail heads up to the top of the mountain to the Okunoin where Kukai practised austerities.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

There be Dragons!


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Dragons are ubiquitous in Japan, often found at both Shinto Shrines and Buddhist temples. Carvings of dragons above the main door can be found at both. This one, with a rather nice eye, is at Saido-ji Temple in Esaki, Shimane.

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This one, sculpted in plaster, is an example of kote-e, plaster relief art, and is on the treasure house at Anyo-ji in Omori, part of Iwami Ginzan.

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Often associated with water, this fairly modern stone carving is a spigot outside one of the public onsen baths in Yunotsu, Shimane.

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This carving is above the entrance to the main hall of Ichibata Yakushi temple in the mountains above Lake Shinji in Shimane.

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Bronze dragons as spigots for temizuya, water basins for purification, are also very common. This one is at an Ebisu Shrine on a small island connected to the beach at low tide at Todakohama near Masuda.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Shikoku Pilgrimage Day 10


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On the morning of my tenth day walking the Shikoku Pilgrimage I awoke in Kiki to the promise of a fine day as I headed to Hiwasa and the next pilgrimage temple Yakuoji. The main road headed through a long tunnel so I decided to take the longer, but more scenic route on the small,  windy road that headed over the hills.

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From the top I could see the distinctive tower of Yakuoji and also the reconstructed castle in the small town.

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Before the construction of the new tunnel this would have been the main road down the coast, and there were several small Shinto shrines along the way.

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Dropping down into a small bay there were nice views down the rocky coast.

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I am guessing this would have been the original pilgrimage route as there were also numerous wayside Buddhist statues, most with fresh offerings placed in front of them.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Hagi Teramachi


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Teramachi, literally "temple town", in Hagi is , not surprisingly, home to many Buddhist temples. I will post on some of these later.

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It is also home to the old port, a few shrines, and several old buildings protected by Historic Preservation orders.

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Few tourists visit the area, but their are sections that have an ambience of an earlier era.

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Well worth a few hours stroll if you have the time when visiting Hagi

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Kyushu 108 Pilgrimage Temple 89 Kongochoin


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Kongochoin is temple number 89 on the Shingon Kyushu Pilgrimage. It is not far from Temple 9, Myooin, just a little bit higher up Mount Wakasugi. Like Myooin it has a lot of Fudo Myo statues that I posted recently.

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According to the legend Kobo Daishi visited the mountain in 806 on his return from China.

Apparently it was quite a large temple complex that at its peak had 108 monks residing here.

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In 1347 the whole conplex was destroyed during a battle. The current. much smaller buildings date from 1942

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The honzon (main enshrined deity) is a seated Dainichi Nyorai, Great Sun Buddha.

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There is also a Kannon Hall and an Awashima Shrine.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Manhole Boats


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Composed of thousands of islands, it is not surprising that boats feature on some of the local manhole designs. This first one is from Hirado, the island in Nagasaki that was the center for trade with the Europeans especially the Dutch.

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Kurahashi, a small island near Kure in Hiroshima, was where some of the early boats were built that transported diplomatic missions from the ancient court in Yamato to China and Korea.

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Imari in Saga was where the local porcelain was exported, mostly to Europe.

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Innoshima in the Inland Sea was a base for the pirates who controlled the shipping lanes and who eventually became part of the "navy" used by Hideyoshi in his failed invasion of Korea.

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Etajima, the island in Hiroshima Bay that is home to the Japanese Naval Academy is reached via a short ferry ride from Hiroshima Port.

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