Monday, October 16, 2017

Mangatsu-ji Temple, Usuki


Mangatsu Temple is right next to the Usuki Stone Buddhas. The current buildings date from 1950 though it was established in the Muromachi Period.


The Nio are quite interesting, and like the torii at the entrance to the little valley, are now buried up past their knees, no doubt from centuries flooding leaving layers of silt.


It is now a Shingon temple though if that was its original sect I don't know. It was supposedly established by Renjyo, a Chinese monk who it is said was brought over by a local man Mana no Choja and his wife "Princess" Tamatsu.


Behind the temple are a pair of statues of the couple as well as this one of Renjyo. It is said Mana no Choja financed the carving of the Usuki Stone Buddhas.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Shikoku Pilgrimage Temple 34 Tanema-ji


Tanema-ji, which means "seed sowing temple" is temple number 24 of the pilgrinmage. The name refers to a legend that Kukai planted 5 kinds of seeds that he brought back from China.


It is said that Kukai founded the temple though the honzon, a Yakushi Nyorai, is supposedly carved by a Korean monk centuries before Kukai.


The temple is famous for women who pray here for a safe childbirth to the Kosodate Kannon. Hung around the statue are dippers that have had their base removed and placed here by women whose prayers were answered.


Having been destroyed by typhoons numerous times, none of the architecture is particularly noteworthy.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hiyoshi Shrine, Usuki


On a hilltop among the Stone Buddhas of Usuki is a small Hiyoshi Shrine. One of about 4,000 Hiyoshi Shrines around the current, it is a branch of the famous Hiyoshi Taisha at the base of Mount Hie near Lake Biwa.


Originally called Hie Shrine, Hiyoshi Taisha was the protective shrine for the monastic complex of Enryakuji on top of Mount Hie, and so I suspect that the monks who carved the Usuki Buddhas were of the Tendai Sect.


The woods around the shrine are apparently quite unique and listed as a prefectural nature site.


The wooden komainu were quite unusual and the honden had some nice relief carvings....


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Shikoku Henro Huts


Along the 1,200k Shikoku Pilgrimage known as Ohenro there are hundreds of "rest huts". Often little more than the kind of picnic shelter you find in parks..... a roof over a table and seats..... they are where walking pilgrims can take a break from the weather, rest, eat, and quite often spend the night.


There is an organization that helps set up these huts around the island, and they are often very interesting architecturally, if not very practical from the perspective of someone looking to spend the night. There are , I think, 55 of these so far.


Some are set up just by a local community and provide free refreshments and snacks.... part of the tradition of Osettai.


The most interesting one I have found so far is this one in the mountains of Ehime. The nut itself was nothing special, but right next to it was a wood-fired bath!!!! .... I was there too early in the day to stop and try it out.....


Often these smaller locally-supported ones will have a port-a-loo next door and more weatherproofing for those needing to spend the night. This one also had a couple of electric sockets for charging phones and for other electrical appliances....... one guy I walked with for a while carried a small electric hairdryer to heat his sleeping bag while in the mountains in mid winter....

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Usuki Stone Buddhas


Just outside the old castle town of Usuki in southern Oita are a collection of truly magnificent Buddhist stone carvings known as the Usuki Stone Buddhas.


Carved into cliff faces and overhangs about 60 different statues are grouped together into 4 different clusters. 59 of them are registered as National Treasures.


The carvings were believed to have been made almost 1,000 years ago in the 12th century and because they are carved into fairly soft rock have suffered a lot of erosion since then. They have been somewhat restored and are now protected from the weather.


Most interesting is that they were originally painted and on some of the carvings the traces of pigment are still clearly visible......


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Kyoto Umbrellas


Not much I can say about this post other than the title......


The first was one of the large umbrella often found at shrine or temples. The second was in the famous bamboo forest of Arashiyama.......


The other three were at shops...... the last one in Gion at night.........



Thursday, September 28, 2017

An Unexpected Art Interlude


While driving along a remote mountain road in the west of Hiroshima Prefecture I was surprised to come across a fairly large, modern factory building. More surprising was that in the parking lot were about a dozen modern art sculptures, all made of metal.


None of the sculptures had labels of any kind and at first I thought maybe the factory specialised in fabricating sculptures for artists and these might be rejects.


Of course its also possible that they were just the private collection of the factory owner. I also thought maybe they were the pet project of someone at the factory.


I never did find out, but they made a great subject for some ad hoc photo studies.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sugao Stone Buddhas


Sugao, on the banks of the Ono River a little downstream from Bungo Ono is home to a small set of relief carved Buddhist statues. There are 4 large figures and a smaller one. On the far left is a Thousand Armed Kannon.


Next to it is a Yakushi Nyorai. The figures are between 180 and 190 cms in height and were believed to have been carved towards the end of the Heian Period, so are roughly a thousand years old.


On the far right is an 11 Faced Kannon, and to its left is an Amida. They are now well protected against the ravages of the weather but the stone is fairly soft so have lost some of their detail to time.


On the far right is a Bishamonten, much smaller than the 4 main figures.


The most well preserved seems to be the central Amida. The pigments are still very clear, though they must have been magnificent when first made.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sasaguri 88 Temple Pilgrimage


Sasaguri, in the mountains just north of the sprawling metropolis of Fukuoka, is home to a miniature version of the famous 88 temple Shikoku Pilgrimage. It is less than 50 kilometers in length, but took me 4 tough days to walk because it is up and down, up and down.


Some of the temples are quite large complexes, in fact the pilgrimage stops at Nanzoin, home to the largest reclining Buddha in Japan. Many of the temples are small, wayside chapels, unmanned but usually with quite a lot of statuary. Surprisingly, in such a small area, the route also passes by many other temples that are not included in the pilgrimage.


Being in the mountains there is a high percentage of temples with waterfalls that are used for ascetic training, consequently there are many, many statues of Fudo Myo,..... literally hundreds of them.
The highest point reached is 680 meters above sea level, to a cave on top of Mount Wakasugi where Kobo Daishi spent time after he returned from China.


A few kilometers are along busy main roads, but most of the route is either well marked walking trails or narrow mountain roads with no traffic. You pass through a lot of bamboo forest including one on the 3rd day that was the most enchanting bamboo forest I've ever been in....


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Kyushu Pilgrimage Day 13 Bungo Ono to Usuki


Friday, February 22nd, 2013, my 13th day walking around Kyushu and my route takes me pretty much downhill back to the coast at Usuki. There are no pilgrimage temples today but plenty of shrines along the route for me to explore.


After lunch I am about 5k from Usuki and arrive at the Usuki Stone Buddhas, a collection of ciff-carved stone statues, 48 of which are registered as National Treasures. The original paintwork is still plainly visible on many of them givin an indication of how impressive they must have been centuries ago.


by mid afternoon I arrive in the city of Usuki, spread out along the coast. My hotel is at the opposite end so walk the length of the main shopping street, somewhat dilapidated as so many businesses have moved out to the outskirts.


I rest up for a while before heading out to the port area for sunset.


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