Thursday, October 17, 2019

A Walk Along The Japan Sea Coast part 5 Asari Beach

The second leg of my walk exploring the beaches and coves of the Japan Sea coast began at Asari, with its white sand beach. Actually, access to the beach is not easy at the dunes behind the beach are covered in factories and other industrial sites.

Most of these factories are extracting the sand, some for use in construction, but one of the factories is processing the sand to make moulds for casting car engine blocks. I once helped an employee who had to give a presentation at a conference in the US and I learned more about the science of sand than I really wanted to know.

The most notable feature of the beach is the wind generators, which also stretch to the next beach and are also located on the hills behind Gotsu. Interestingly the generators are Danish and the steel towers are Korean.

A typhoon had passed by the day before and so it was quite windy and wild with lots of waves. On a still, sunny day the sea is usually turquoise. At the far eastern end of the beach it is actually a park, but there ais absolutely no infrastructure or facilities...... the park being just a kind of classification.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Swordplay at Togami Shrine

After dropping down from the mountains to the river valley that would lead to my hotel for the night in Hayato City, I spied a big red torii across the rice paddies and headed over to investigate. The torii had a chrysanthemum emblem indicating a connection to the imperial clan.

Togami Shrine was established in the early 8th Century after the Yamato sent a 10,000 strong army to subdue the Hayato people who were resisting the Yamato. Following the war the Yamato removed many Hayato to other parts of Japan and moved  non-Yamato settlers into Hayato territory.

While at the shrine some local people were obviously practising some kind of sword-based martial art, though not having much interest in martial arts, nor in swords and samurai and such, I have no idea what the style/art is.

What is obvious is that it was about fighting against multiple opponents. maybe it is a variation on kendo. If anyone knows please let me know,

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Tachikue Gorge Fudo Myo

Tachikue Gorge in the mountains south of Izumo City is a scenic spot with cliffs and strange rock formations.

Just the kind of place Yamabushi used to like so it's not surprising that it was a center for Shugendo.

There are hundreds of small statues in ledges and at the base of rock faces including many of the 500 rakan or arhats.

There were half a dozen small Fudo Myo statues as well.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Sasaguri Pilgrimage Temples 37 & 69

Temple 37 of the Sasaguri Pilgrimage was just 20 meters from the previous temple, number 21, Takada Kokuzo-do. Takada Amida-do looked like a shed but inside was a small shrine with a bark roof. This was originally in the grounds of the local Tenjin Shrine. It houses a small statue of Amida Nyorai. Outside was a small structure with a group of stone statues.

The next temple was number 69, Takada Kannon-do. This was the 4th temple we visited on the pilgrimage and by now we had walked almost a whole kilometer.

Like the previous three temples there were numerous statues outside the small hall, imcluding this Fudo Myo.

The main statue was a Kannon. As should be obvious, the temples are not numbered sequentially, and we started from the most common starting point, Sasaguri Station, rather than from temple 1. For those who want to try a pilgrimage the Sasaguri one I would very highly recommend

Friday, October 4, 2019

Rural Love Hotels

After spending the night near Kirishima Jingu I headed south on my 28th day along the Kyushu Pilgrimage. Pretty much all downhill, my favorite kind of walk, late morning I passed through an area with quite a lot of small love hotels clustered together.

The top photo is a former love hotel that now advertises itself as a lodge. You can tell it's not a love hotel because there are no curtains to hide the vehicle and its number plate, a standard feature that helps protect guests identity. The vast majority of these love hotels are of the cabin / chalet type.

Some of them, like the one pictured above, have been abandoned.

All the cabins were unlocked so I peeked inside a few..... fairly rudimentary and completely lacking in the luxury and exoticism associated with urban love hotels//// though this room did have the mirrors.

A few of them looked a little less run-down with a fresh lick of paint.....

Monday, September 30, 2019

Kirishima Jingu

Kirishima Jingu is a large Shinto shrine on the lower slopes of the Kirishima Mountains, a group of volcanoes in northern Kagoshima.

The current buildings date back to 1715, though the shrine used to be located higher up in the mountains where it had been destroyed by volcanic activity multiple times.

The main kami enshrined here is Ninigi, the grandson of the "sun goddess"Amaterasu and ancestor of Jimmu, the mythical first emperor. The shrine was originally located at the foot of nearby Mount Takachiho, according to the ancient myths the site where Noinigi and his heavenly entourage descended.

There is another Takachiho, much further north in the mountains of Miyazaki, that is now considered to be the site where Ninigi descended. When the Meiji government decided that it was a great shock to the people of Sastsuma, present day Kagoshima, home of the "other" Takachiho.

National myths in Japan largely came about by government decree in the late 19th Century. Prior to that the imperial family had a set of myths, but so did the major clans of ancient Japan as well as the myriad tribes that inhabited the Japanese isles. Basically the imperial families versions of the myths are the ones now touted as national.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Tengu Masks in the Kirishima Mask Museum

The mask museum in Kirishima was called "Tengu-kan", and obviously there were a lot of masks of tengu on display. Most of which were the red-faced long nose variety.

Probably the earlier version of Tengu was more birdlike in appearance, like the one in the top center of the photo below. The long nosed version is probably derived from Sarutahiko, the earthy kami who helped lead Ninigi and his entourage from the High Plain of Heaven. he later married Uzume and a mask of Sarutahiko and Uzume are often found together at shrines, often linked to fertility.

Tengu are often connected to Yamabushi, the mysterious mountain monks who practised austerities and magic in the remote sacred mountains. A distinguishing feature is the tokin, the small black headgear worn on the top of the forehead. It is said this was to protect the head while walking through the forest. It was also used as a drinking vessel.

The museum is located near the entrance to Kirishima Jingu Shrine up in the mountains of northern Kagoshima and if you are visiting the area and like masks then is a must see.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Kirishima Mask Museum

Being a mask maker myself, I have a great interest in masks and am always on the lookout for them on my walks. Ive visited a few small mask museums, ut the absolute best was in Kirishima.

Located close to the entrance to Kirishima Jingu Shrine up in the mountains of Kagoshima, it called itself Kirishima Tengu-kan, and there were plenty of tengu masks on display, but there were also hundreds and hundreds of other masks from all over Japan.

There were Noh masks, Kagura masks, new masks, old masks, and I even found some examples of my local Iwami Kagura masks. Apparently, it was the private collection of a local man.

Most of the masks were Japanese, but there were also collections from Africa and Asia. A delightful surprise and not a well known place, well worth stopping by if you are in the area.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Not the Village of Dolls

On my first day walking the Kyushu Fudo Myo Pilgrimage I left Taizoji Temple and the Kumano Magabutsu and started north along the road. The first few days of the pilgrimage I was going to be roughly following the old shugendo pilgrimage route around the Kunisaki Peninsula. Not far along the road I came across these figures by the side of the road dressed as pilgrims.

I thought the figures were just connected to the pilgrimage, but then a bit further up the road I spied this female figure with an old couple back at the abandoned building.

The group of skiers made it clear that these were another example of the kinds of "dolls" that are appearing all around Japan in depopulated areas, the most famous of which is Nagoro in Tokushima that has received masses of international media attention.

While Nagoro is the most famous, I have seen such figures in amny places on my walks around the hinterland. They have been developed out of scarecrows. I remember about 18 years ago walking in the mountains in my home area and coming across a big group of brightly decorated figures in some small rice paddies by the side of the road. It was called a scarecrow festival.

Friday, September 13, 2019

An Icon of Metabolism: The Miyakonojo Civic Center

While in Miyakonojo I stopped by a strange piece of architecture, the Miyakonojo Civic Center.

It was built in 1966 and was designed by architect Kiyonori Kikutake.

Kikutake was part of an architectural movement called Metabolism that operated in the 1950's and 60's, and was almost a purely Japanese movement. It claimed to be a reaction to Western modern architecture that it said was too much based on the machine.

Quite a few of the top architects of late 20th Century Japan were part of, or influenced by, Metabolism, but in reality not a lot got built, rather utopian designs for cities and towns were the main focus.

World Expo 70 in Osaka was perhaps the peak of metabolism with many of the architects and designs being featured there.

I'm sure that when it was constructed, with fresh white concrete, it must have looked quite impressive.......

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