Monday, February 29, 2016

Kaho Gekijo Theatre, Iizuka


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Built in 1931 to replace several earlier versions that had been destroyed by fire and typhoon, this Kabuki theater was modelled on the Nakaza Theater in Osaka, and still holds kabuki performances and other plays and concerts.

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For a provincial theater it is quite large, seating up to 1200 people. It claims to have the largest revolving stage in Japan, moved manually by 12 men. Visitors can explore the understage area as well as props room and other exhibitions.

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There was once a total of 48 theaters serving this area known as Chikugo, but this is the only one remaining. Though Iizuka grew from being a post station on the Nagasaki Kaido, it flourished as the center of a massive coal industry starting in the Meiji period.

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The coal industry was closed down, not because the coal ran out, but because the government mandarins chose to focus on cheap middle eastern oil, cheaper coal imports,  and then cheap nuclear for the countries power.

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Friday, February 26, 2016

The Grand Tour London Olympics Orbit


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The Orbit is the iconic observation tower built for the 2012 London Olympics.

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It is considered to be the biggest sculpture in Britain and is 114 meters high.

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It was designed by artist Anish Kapoor, and from the observation deck there are expansive views over the Olympic Park and onto London.


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Constructed out of 600 prefabricated "nodes" and held together with 35,000 bolts. In a bid to attract visitors post-Olympics, you can absail down the tower, and soon what is billed as the tallest and longest tunnel slide will be opened.

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Critical reception has been largely negative, but I kind of like it, simple guy that I am, I'm easily impressed by spectacle.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Wakamitsu Inari Shrine


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Wakamitsu Inari Shrine is located right next to Nose Hachimangu in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture.

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This is one of the most unusual fox statues I've seen,

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I couldn't find a date for its establishment, though it is known that the cult of Inari became very popular in the Edo Period. Depending on how you define "shrine" either Inari, or the neighboring Hachiman are considered to be the most common shrines in Japan.

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Interestingly, neither Hachiman nor Inari are mentioned in the Kojiki or Nihonshoki, and both have origins connected to the continent and also to Buddhism, but are now firmly identified with "native shinto".

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Iwami Mandala Kannon Pilgrimage Temple 3 Fukujoji


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Located just outside  Mononobe Shrine, Fukujoji, number three on the Iwami Kannon Pilgrimage is just a small rural temple, however it has a large Kannon statue in the grounds.

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It's a Pure Land sect temple, and the honzon is an Amida Buddha.

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The Kannon statue was not erected and paid for by the temple per se, rather it was the parish womens group. There had been a lot of difficult and stillborn births in the area so the Kannon was for the local women to pray for safe and healthy childbirth.

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Noso Hachimangu


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Noso Hachimangu is the main shrine of Iizuka in Fukuoka. When I visited it was a few days before the new year and so the place was busy with people preparing for the busiest time of the year for most shrines.

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The first record of the shrine, formerly known as Noso-Gu, is 1359, though legend has it that Jingu stopped here after returning from the Korean Peninsula.

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There are some nice Tengu, Komainu, Zuijin etc.

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As befitting a towns major shrine there are numerous subordinate shrines within the grounds, including several Ebisu shrines, a Gionsha, Tenmangu, Daijingu, Shiga, and a Sumiyoshi shrine.

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The biggest secondary shrine is a Wakamitsu Inari, which will get its own post...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Senbazuru... Thousand Origami Cranes


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Senbazuru, 1000 origami cranes strung together, are found all over Japan in various kinds of locations. They are very often done in multiple colors, and in fact kits to make them this way are very common.

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Cranes were considered to live for a thousand years, hence each one represents a year. Dating back to the Edo Period, they were given as gifts for good luck to couples at weddings and new born babies etc.

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Nowadays they are most strongly associated with Sadako Sasaki, the young Hiroshima girl who died from leukemia contracted from the radiation of the Hiroshima A bomb.

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The Japanese Crane was though to be extinct, but has made a comeback though are still very rare and endagered. Edo Period cookbooks consistently ranked the crane as the best tasting bird for eating. These two facts may be related.

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All these photos are from my recent walk around Shodoshima. The last photo shows senbazuru made out of metallic paper, but hung in a cave where soot from candles and lanterns have coated them.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Kyushu Pilgrimage Temple 11 Myokan-ji


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Temple 11, Myokanji, is a small temple notable for its "zen" garden. The Honzon is a seated kannon that is supposed to be quite unusual, but unfortunately the main hall was locked up and there was no-one home when I visited.

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Locally the temple is known for its acupuncture clinic. Being a Shingon temple, there were a couple of nice Fudo Myoo statues. Many of these smaller temples on the pilgrimage are in no way outstanding.

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There are basically two schools of thought when it comes to pilgrimages. For many, especially those that drive or take tour buses, the emphasis is on the temples themselves. For those who walk, the emphasis is often more on the journey and the space between the temples.

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For many who walk, there seems to be an attempt to complete the pilgrimage as quickly as possible as if it is some sort of a race. For me, I like to take my time and keep my eyes open.....

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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Hiwasa Hachiman Shrine


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In the morning of the tenth day of my walk along the Shikoku Pilgrimage I came into the small fishing port and town of Hiwasa. Right next door to a museum displaying information about the turtles who lay eggs in the area was the local Hachiman Shrine.

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It was not a very big shrine, but had the usual collection of big trees, komainu, shimenawa, ema, zuijin, etc, some of which are shown here. However there were 7 very large storage sheds, each of which held a "chosa", a kind of matsuri float often translated as Taiko Yattai. Each one weighed more than ton and held a taiko drum and several drummers. They are carried on  huge frames made of giant bamboo measuring about 6 x 6 meters.

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Each chosa is carried by members of each of the seven communities that make up the town, and along with the mikoshi are paraded around the shrine grounds before being carried down to the sea into which they are dipped to ensure good fortune for the fishermen.

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The Hiwasa Hachiman Aki Matsuri takes pleace each October.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Garden at Myokanji


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I came to an appreciation of the Japanese garden quite late. The first two years I lived in Japan I was in Kyoto which reputedly has a large number of highly ranked gardens, but I didnt visit any of them.

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Like many people, I think my favorite style is karesansui, the dry gardens of rock and sand.

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This one is at Myokani, a small temple in Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, and doesnt appear in any lists of gardens to see, but I found it quite appealing.

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Karesansui is strongly associated with Zen, though I believe they were imported from China a little before Zen and the use of white gravel has been attributed to a Shinto influence. Myokanji is not a Zen temple, rather a Shingon one, but it may have been Zen in earlier times though I have been unable to find a date for the garden.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

More Hagi Teramachi


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The temple district, Teramachi, in Hagi is not on the main tourist route in the town but is well worth a visit if you are in Hagi for more than one day. There are a few historical buildings, a maze of narrow lanes, and of course temples... a few of which I have already posted about.

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Kaichoji is a fairly large temple with an impressive gate, but what is interesting is the main hall which was originally built as a Confucian shrine. It was located at the Meirinkan, the domain school that revered Confucius. After the temple burned down in 1874 they purchased the hall and rebuilt it here as the temples main hall.

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Red-bibbed Jizo abound, as do cemeteries. In my area graves are built behind houses, but in many places in Japan they are located at temples.

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One can often see huge pyramids composed of gravestones, usually belonging to people who no longer have an living relatives in the area to care for them. These quite large, smooth rocks are unmarked and are I believe marker stones to unknown people.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Kyushu Pilgrimage Temple 12 Kinsoji


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Kinsoji is a relatively modern temple, not being founded until 1914. Its location is right behind the Kibune Shrine in Iizuka that was very popular with boatmen on the two river forks that run nearby and I suspect that may have had something to do with it.

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No-one was home when I visited so I couldn't get inside to see the Fudo Myo enshrined there. It is known locally as Chiri Kiri Fudo, and as best as I can ascertain it was prayed to to prevent "convulsions", in this sense I think it means fits of temper by babies. It also prevented children from running awaya from home.

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It was a very small temple and hard to find as it looks just like a house. The giveaway was the Fudo Myo statue outside.

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