Saturday, August 17, 2019

A Walk Along the Japan Sea Coast part 2 to Watazu Port

At what I would say was the point where the Gonokawa river bank ends and the coast begins is a large rocky cliff and several smaller rocky outcroppings. As I passed the first rocky outcropping I was very surprised to see some surfers. There were three vans with license plates from Hiroshima and Yamaguchi, and I must admit I had never visited this spot before and had no idea it was a known surfing spot. The conditions were good as a series of waves continued to roll in....

Here was also a tetrapod farm. You cannot go many kilometers along the Japanee coast without coming across one of these. There are billions of tetrapods along the coast and rivers all over Japan.

From here a long concrete wall juts out into the sea and dog legs around to provide protection to the tiny fishing port. The seaward side of the wall is piled with tetrapods of course. Today is a national holiday so as well as the surfers there are also plenty of fisherpersons out fishing from the wall and the tetrapods. The wall is a little over 900 meters long.

Inside the wall is a small beach, with no waves obviously, and then begins the small port, with its own walls of concrete. There are only half a dozen small boats, and nothing is going out today with the sea swelling like it is.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

A Walk Along the Japan Sea Coast part 1 the Mouth of the Gonokawa River

For my latest walking exploration I have decided to stay somewhat local and explore the coast of the Japan Sea. How long is the coast of the Sea of Japan?..... the closer you look at it and measure it more details become apparent, so its length tends towards the infinite. Standard fractal logic, so I intend to hug the coast as closely as possible and explore the nooks and crannies.

As I live on the banks of the Gonokawa River about 15k upstream from the Japan Sea that seems like an obvious place to start my first leg heading east. The Gonokawa is the longest river in West Japan, but it is a relatively young river. It literally comes out from the mountains at the coast. There is no alluvial deposits, no delta.

The West bank is dominated by the chemical factory that process wood pulp and cellulose. The East bank does have some beach. During the Edo Period the river marked the boundary between the Hamada Domain and this side of the river which belonged to the Shogunate being the extent of the Iwami Ginzan territory.

This side of the river the settlement is called Watazu and I have been told that in the old days there was no intermarriage across the river. Tomorrow is the Gonokawa Matsuri and the huge firework display will be set up on this side so that the majority of viewers in Gotsu will see them reflected in the river.

These photos were taken in mid August, just after sunrise at around 6am.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Clam Digger

I believe this gentleman was digging clams, but it could have been some other type of shellfish or creature. It was in the Fukushima River, an obviously tidal river near where it entered the sea in southern Miyazaki.

What was quite remarkable was that this was 3:30 in the afternoon, the hottest part of the day, in the last week of July, the hottest part of the year, in what is often the hottest part of Japan.

Of course he was dependant on low tide, a factor outside his control, and you can see he is dressed for the conditions...... notice the reflective sheet covering his back and shoulders,.... but I can tell you it was blistering hot

I had left Obi castle and the surrounding samurai district and caught the train back to where I left the pilgrimage and I was heading to Shibushi, a little further west along the coast.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Nishiyama Inari Shrine, Sakate, Shodoshima

By the afternoon of my first day walking the Shodoshima Pilgrimage I had done a loop around the peninsula, passed my ryokan, and crossed over a narrow isthmus to Sakate where a group of mountaintop temples awaited me.

This line of vermillion torii led to a small Inari shrine. If you only consider shrines big enough to have buildings, then Hachiman shrines are the most common in Japan, but if you include smaller shrines then Inari is the most common.

Inari shrines became popular relatively late, in the Edo Period. Inari is not mentioned in the so-called ancient chronicles of Kojiki and Nihongi, but in the Meiji period it was decided that the identity of Inari was Ukanomitama  and so officially that is the identity listed although in reality Inari has countless forms and associations.

The tunnels of red torii and statues of kitsune, foxes, are two common things associated with Inari shrines....

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Obi Samurai District

Around the old castle ruins in Obi is an area of former samurai residences. Closest to the castle were the highest ranking samurai, moving down the ranks further away from the castle until you reach the old merchant district.

Being somewhat off the beaten track the area has retained many of the buildings and the basic layout of these former times and is registered as a Historic Preservation District of groups of Traditional Buildings. There are more than 100 of these districts scattered across Japan, and while some are in major tourist areas, many are not.

I've come across quite a few on my walks in the backcountry, and in my experience some of them are quite delightful, being non touristy and ungentrified. Links to many of them Ive visited can be found at this index over at Japanvisitor.

On this trip I was in a hurry to carry on with my pilgrimage, but recently I revisited the area and spent time exploring in the houses open to the public and can recommend it to visitors to Miyazaki

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Some topical Isshiki Kazari

The first prize winner at this years Isshiki Kazari competition in Hirata near Izumo was a tableau representing the Horanenya festival in Matsue. This boat festival is one of the top 3 boat festivals in all of Japan and is only held once every 12 years. It was held earlier this year.

The vast majority of Isshiki kazari artworks use ceramics as their raw material, and the three pieces I show today are no exception.

Coming up in a few weeks is the Rugby World Cup, being held for the first time ever in Japan. Actually, I'm quite looking forward to it though I am not particularly a big fan, but it will be a nice change from the usual boring sports that dominate the airwaves here.

It is still a year to go until the Tokyo Olympics but already I'm sick of hearing about it. Seems like not a day has gone by since before the Rio Olympics that we are not inundated with media about Tokyo Olympics. It was inevitable that the IsshikiKazari competition had one piece with the theme...

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Obi Castle

On the 25th day of my first walk around Kyushu I started out by taking a train and backtracking a ways as I wanted to visit the castle at Obi.

It is not a well-known castle, nor very large, but it is surrounded by a well preserved samurai district and the stone walls are in good condition. The gate house was quite impressive also.

I'm not sure if it ever had a keep but there is a reconstruction of the daimyos "palace" and a museum displaying armour and weapons and such.

For more details on the castles history, access, entry fees etc please see a longer piece I wrote for Japanvisitor.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Izumo No Okuni: 2nd Prize 2019 Isshiki Kazari

Izumo no Okuni was the legendary creator of Kabuki. Originally from Izumo, no-one knows for sure when or where she died. A temple in Kyoto claims her tomb, but Izumo also claims she returned here and became a devout Buddhist and died here.

This rendition of her is done in Isshiki Kazari, a folk art that originates from Hirata near Izumo City. Every year a competition is held in the town and displays are put up all around the old part of town. Some are displayed in shop windows, but the winners are usually displayed in tableau form in other spaces.

In this years competition it won second prize.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Princess Ahiratsu

Ahiratsu Hime was the first wife of the mythical first emperor Jimmu. This statue is in the small port town of Aburatsu in Nichinan, southerm Miyazaki.

According to the myth, when Jimmu left to invade central Japan and claim rulership, Ahiratsu chose to stay here and not go with him, although she had already given birth to a son that would become the mythical second emperor. Sorting out genealogies in the Japanse myths is complex as the myths as they stand today have evolved from a mass of tales and genealogies of the powerful clans, but is seems she was Jimmu's aunt....... seems like several of Jimmu's ancestors had also married aunts.....

Ahiratsu Shrine which enshrines her has been here since ancient times though it had a Buddhist influenced name before Meiji. It is a modern, concrete construction with several smaller shrines within the grounds. It is said that in a small tomb nearby mirrors and jewels were found indicating and ancient ruler.

On either side of the main altar were groups of four, small Lions, something I hadn't seen before....

Monday, July 22, 2019

Isshiki Kazari Komainu

Isshiki Kazari is a unique form of folk art that origjnated in Hirata up in Izumo. The essence of the art is that sculptures are made out of everyday objects. Nothing too original in that, but its the further rules that make it so. The objects cannot be broken, drilled, nor glued. Afterwards the sculpture can be disaseembled and the objects returned to use.

Ceramics are the prime material, but not the only material for Isshiki Kazari. The sculptures were/are made as offerings for the local shrine, but nowadays as part of the matsuri they hold a competition to choose the best each year.

I was taken by these komainu in a tableau of the shrine. The competition entries are temporarily on display around the old part of town, although there are many other more permanent examples that are not part of the competition

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