Wednesday, October 22, 2014

In Search of Autumn Color


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We went in search of some autumn color last week. We could have gone 1000 kilometers north to where it is already happening, but instead we decided to go up 1,000 meters to the top of Mount Hiba on the border between Shimane and Hiroshima.

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Above 1100 meters the mountain is covered in forests of Beech, Buna in Japanese, but to get to it we had to pass through a sterile forest of cedar. Actually forest isn't the right word, because they are in reality tree farms. Quite depressing, with nothing living except the bureaucrats dream of  "resources"..

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Once we emerged into the beech forest though we were greeted with sunlight and birdsong.

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We passed by the tomb of Izanami, the goddess who created the islands of Japan with her brother/husband Izanagi.

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There was a sprinkling of color on the mountainsides, but it will be a couple of weeks before it is fully turned on.

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We descended through the wide open space that will become a ski slope once the snow comes, and here susuki was spread all over......

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tsurue Shinmeigu


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Tsurue Shinmeigu is located on a small island in the north of Hagi, Yamaguchi. The channel seperating the island from the mainland is only a few meters wide so it doesnt feel like an island.

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The shrine was founded around the end of the Heian Period, 5 centuries or so before Hagi became the Mori clans castle town. It is a branch of Ise Shrine.

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Amaterasu is therefore the primary kami, but many others are enshrined within the grounds, including Takamusubi, and Kunitokotachi who were among the group of primary kami that created the universe and then disappeared from the mythology.

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Another group of kami enshrined here are Omoikane, Futodama, Koyane, and Tajikarao. These kami all played a part in luring Amaterasu out of the Heavenly Rock Cave and also accompanied Ninigi on his descent to Earth. They are considered ancestors of some of the powerful clans of ritualists of the Yamato.

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Also enshrined here and connected to Amaterasu and the Yamato is Ninigi and Tsukiyomi.
From the lineage of Susano there are two kami enshrined, Okuninushi, and Otoshi.
Finally there is an Inari shrine.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Tsukigata Shrine


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While heading back to the main road after visiting Enko-ji I passed by this small shrine, Tsukigata Shrine.

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Tsukigata means "moon-shaped", and I am guessing it refers to the rock outcropping behind the shrine.

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According to the sign the main kami enshrined here, not surprisingly perhaps, is Tsukiyomi, the moon kami. There are surprisingly few shrines to Tsukiyomi, Surprising because Tsukiyomi, Susano, and Amaterasu were all created at the same time, but whereas Susano and Amaterasu feature in much of the later mythology, Tsukiyomi is barely mentioned again.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Fudo Myo of Shikoku part 5


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Thye next segment of photos of Fudo Myo encountered when I walked the pilgrimage around Shikoku. This first one is at temple 36, Shoryuji

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This one is at Daizenji, bangai temple number 5 located in Susaki, Kochi.

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This small one is located at temple 37, Iwamotoji, in Kubokawa, also in Kochi.

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The final 2 photos are at temple 38, Kongofukuji, located at Cape Ashizuri, in Kochi.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Enko-ji, Yasugi


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I took a detour around some hills rather than continue on along the main road because I find main roads far less interesting or enjoyable, but also because when studying the maps before my walk I noticed a small temple with a pagoda.

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There was no-one around at the temple and no signboards so I have been unable to find out anything about it other than that it belongs to the Soto sect of Zen.

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The pagoda is an east asian development of the Nepalese stupa. In China its architecture adopted elements from towers and palaces and that is the form that became adopted in Japan where they are exclusively connected to Buddhism.

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The one at Enko-ji is a Tahoto, a Japanese style believed to have originated in the Heian Period. Whereas almost all pagodas have an even number of storeys, the tahoto has only 2, the lower square and the upper round.


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A distinctive feature of Japanese pagodas is how far out the eaves extend and overhang, something common to many traditional types of structure and believed to be so that the abundant rainfall of Japan can be kept away from the structures foundations.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage Day 1


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After finishing my walk around Kyushu on the Kyushu Pilgrimage, this summer I started walking the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage which will take me through Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Shimane, and Tottori. I think it will end up being over 1500 kilometers. I started at Hinase in the east of Okayama near to Shoraku-ji, the third temple on the pilgrimage.

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At Shorakuji the Niomon was undergoing renovation, and so was able to observe one of the craftsmen working on repairs to the Nio.

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Instead of heading directly west towards the next temple I took a detour and headed NW to visit the Shizutani School, a school founded in the early Edo Period for common people. Some of the architecture there is listed as a National Treasure.

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From there I headed over the hills to reach a tributary of the Yoshii River which I followed down towards the south and the next temple.

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Towards the end of the day I stopped in at the Bizen Sword Museum where swords are still made in the traditional way....

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Local Shrines in Arashima, Yasugi


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After leaving Arashima Hachimangu I headed off around the hill towards a temple on the other side. Just a hundred meters from the Hachimangu I passed a small wayside shrine, a hokora. There are an untold number of such things everywhere in Japan, though they are usually not officially listed as shrines. There is no way of knowing the name of the kami enshrined unless a local person can be asked, and even then the kamis name may have been lost in time...

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Another couple of minutes another shrine in the middle of the paddies. Obviously an agricultural shrine, and obviously well used as attested by the newish tori and the plentiful offerings, yet once again this is not marked on maps as an official shrine.

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A little further around on the north side of the high ground another small shrine, though this time it is an "official" shrine with kami listed in the prefectures directory. It may be called Misaki Shrine, or Osaki Shrine, but there was no-one around to ask.

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The three main kami enshrined here are Amaterasu, Susano, and Gonansanjo, a term I can find nothing about but which translates as " 5 male, 3 female" and suggests a collective identity for 8 kami. In the grounds are three small shrines to Okuninushi, Kotoshironushi, and Oyamagi.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Shisa of Okinawa 2


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This is the second post on the shisa of Okinawa.

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All of these photos wre taken at Okinawa World, a "theme park" in the south of the main island.

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The making of small shisa for roofs has become a folk art

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The main reason for visiting Okinawa World is for the cavern.....

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Arashima Hachimangu


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Arashima Hachimangu is located right on Route 9. Hachiman is usually a trio of kami, Homuda Wake, the name of Emperor Ojin, is usually the primary, and the other two being taken from his mother, Jingu, his father, Chuai, or his wife, Himegami. Unusually this one lists Homuda Wake, Jingu, and Takeuchi Sukune, who was Jingu's minister.

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It is a direct branch of the Usa Hachimangu. Almost two thirds of Hachimangu nationwide are branches of Iwashimizu. Like all the other shrine in this area there was a Zuijinmon which also had a pair of nice wooden komainu.

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Again, like all the other shrines in the area there was an altar to Kojin, the most common kami in the region that hardly gets a mention in any sources on Shinto as it is neither national nor imperial. Represented as a rope snake, in my neighboring area the name is different, but it is just as prevalent and important.

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There are several outcroppings of smooth, rounded rock in the grounds. The smaller one has a hokora to Sumiyoshi in a small hole carved into it.

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The larger one has steps carved into it that leads up to an Inari Shrine.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Making hemp fibre


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Whereas hemp had and has many uses in ritual and ceremony as well as medicine in traditional Japan, its main use was as fibre, and that was one of the main focuses of the matsuri.

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All morning a very tall steamer had a fire burning under it.

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By lunchtime the stems of the plant were ready and removed and placed in the stream to cool down.

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After a short while everyone collected some stalks and began peeling off the outer skin, something surprisingly easy to do.

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I has presumed that it was the whole stalk of the plant that was used to make fibre, so was surprised to learn that it was just the thin bark. The strips of fibre were then scraped with a bamboo scraper to remove the vestiges of "stickiness", and that about it. We now all had a small amount of one of the best fibres in the world.

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It could be used to weave, or could be used to make a gohei, a purification wand used by Shinto priests, pictured below.

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