Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Shodoshima Pigrimage temple 4 Furue-an


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Just after sunrise on Christmas Eve I was greeted by Fudo Myo, an auspicious begining as I set out on the Shodoshima Pilgrimage.

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I started at temple number 4, Furue-an, as my minshuku was literally right next door. I am going to do a loop around the small peminsula before heading up unto the mountains to the official first temple. In front was a line of 33 Kannon statues representing the Bando Kannon Pilgrimage.

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Furue-an can be translated as a hermitage rather than a temple. At a point in the past a monk or nun lived here, but it is not a temple with a priest. It is maintained by local people, and quite a few of the "temples" on this pilgrimage are hermitages. There is a very homely and friendly atmosphere at them.

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It is located right on the waters edge and right behind it was a small local shrine named Otomiya Shrine. In many small communities such as Furue the shrine and temple are right next to each other and historically would have been one place.

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Kofukuji, Nogata


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Just across the road from Saikyo-In was a much bigger temple so I stopped in to have an explore. It was not one of the pilgrimage temples but I consider those just way points on a journey, and all the things inbetween are just as much a part of the pilgrimage.

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There was no-one around and also no signboard so I could find out nothing about it other than its name.

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I am guessing it is a Shingon temple, 2 clues being that there were a couple of Fudo Myo statues, and he is particularly popular with Shingon, and the structure in the photo below is I believe a Shingon style pagoda.

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I could be wrong, of course!

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Yama Shrine, Irinaka


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Located just a couple of hundred meters from the Okazaki Shrine, but at the base of the hills on the opposite bank of the small river and therefore part of traditionally a different community, is the aptly name Yama (mountain) Shrine.

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It was now late morning on the first day of my walk along the Chugoku Pilgrinage and after visiting the first temple of the pilgrimage I was taking a detour to visit a site just to the north. The village of Irinaka lies on the Sanyo-do, the old road that ran along the southern coast that the modern Route 2 roughly follows.

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Bizen, the old province name, is famous for its Bizenware ceramics, and the two komainu flanking the entrance to the shrine were made of it. The shed skin of a snake was draped over one.

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There was no information on the kami enshrined here but I suspect it was just the local ujigami/yamagami. The two smaller shrines I suspect were moved here from nearby when the government "consolidated" shrine 100 years ago.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Kyushu Pilgrimage Temple 15 Saikyo-in


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Day 4 of my Kyushu pilgrimage was overcast and threatening to rain. From Iizuka I headed north up the wide valley towards Nogata.

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The first temple of the day was Saikyo-in, just south of Nogata, and quite a small establishment.

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According to the legend, Kobo daishi stopped here on his way back from China, and in a similar story repeated hundreds of times across the country he struck the ground with his staff and caused a spring to be established.

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It is believed the temple was established in 950 and the honzon is an 11-faced Kannon, though it was all locked up when I was there.

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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Shisa of Taketomi


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Taketomi Island is a small island of only 5 square kilometers with about 300 inhabitants in the Yaeyama Islands, now part of Okinawa Prefecture.

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It's known mostly as a tourist destination for its traditional Ryukyuan village with stone walls, tile roofs, and water buffalo carts.

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The shisa on Taketomi were funkier and more whimsical than those on the main island of Okinawa, reflecting a folksier culture.

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Kunisaki Peninsula Walk Day 2


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I woke before the sun on November 25th, 2012, the second day of my walk around the Kunisaki Peninula. It promnised to be a glorious day.

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I had slept out on the bank of the reservoir behind Namiishi Dam and my route was east towards the sun. By the end of the day I planned on being in the small port town of Kunisaki on the coast where I had a room booked,

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The first few hours were uphill until I passed close by the road leading up to Futagosan, the mountain and temple that are geographically and spiritually the heart of the peninsula.

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There was virtually no traffic though the road was wide. Now the rest of the day would be downhill, passing Gyonyu Dam and its reservoir.

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Wakaebisuya, Top Brothel in Mitarai


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Wakaebisuya was one of the four major brothels in the port of Mitarai on Osaki Shimojima Island in the Inland Sea. At its peak there were about 100 prostitutes working in it.

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About twenty percent of the population of Mitarai were prostitutes and though the "floating world" is often romanticised and glamorized they were indentured women and girls, some as young as thirteen, sold in to servitude.

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This was one of the pricier brothels. for travellers, merchants, etc. Along the waterfront were many smaller brothels that serviced the sailors, often onboard the boats in the harbour.

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Wakaebisuya is part of the historic buildings preservation district in the town and is well worth a visit.

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Kyushu Pilgrimage Temple 13 Hozenji


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The final pilgrimage temple of my third day walking around Kyushu was Hozenji, like the previous two earlier in the afternoon located in Iizuka.

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It's a very small, urban temple. The honzon is an 11 headed, thousand armed Kannon, but it is only shown once a year.

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It was a very small, urban temple, with not a lot to see othere than a couple of onigawara.

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Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Full Moon Evening in Iizuka


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Iizuka grew up as a post station on the Nagasaki Kaido, which as well as carrying the traffic of daimyo entourages heading to Edo, would have also been busy with traffic relating to the Dutch trade in Nagasaki. Many domains had offices in Nagasaki for this purpose.

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From the Meiji Period on it flourished because it was the middle of one of, if not the, most important coalfields in Japan, being at the confluence of several rivers that carried the coal north to the steel works of north Kyushu.

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Since the coal industry closed down the local economy nosedived.... many of the stores in the arcade were shuttered......

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After checking into my hotel at the end of the third day of my Kyushu Pilgrimage I headed off to find something to eat and was treated to a wonderful sunset and moonrise....

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Mukaijima


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After spending the morning exploring Onomichi's temple walk it was time to head off on my walk from Honshu to Shikokju along the Shimanami Kaido.

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The easiest and most convenient way is to take one of the small ferries that cross the narrow channel seperating Onomichi from Mukaijima. There is a bridge but it is out of the downtown area and is very busy with traffic so cyclists on the Shimanami kaido are recommended to take the ferry.

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There is not a lot to see along the way for the first few kilometers until you reach the west side of the island where the town ends and the nice coastline and views begin. Muakaijima is connected to the small island of Iwashijima by bridge.

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From then on the views are great as you walk down the west coast of the island to the first big bridge to crossm the Innoshima Suspension Bridge.

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