Saturday, October 21, 2017

Fukura Tenmangu

Fukura is a district of Usuki, and as I walked into town I stopped in at Fukura Tenmangu. Like quite a few shrines it was actually a temple until the Meiji Period when many temples were converted to shrines by the government.

Being a Tenmangu it features a statue of an ox as well as the usual komainu etc. There are several sub shrines within the grounds.

It seems to be a very popular shrine offering a full range of ceremonies and amulets etc as well as a shrine to a red cat. Red Cat was the nickname of a successful local merchant and petitioners at the shrine pray for business success.

I was there at the end of February and the plum blossoms were in bloom. Tebmangu shrines often have plum trees because of poems Sugawara Michizane wrote about them, in the time before plum blossoms were supplanted by cherry blossoms in the Japanese imagination....

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ehime Prefectural Museum of History & Culture

Located in Seiyo, about halfway between Uwajima and Ozu in a fairly remote part of the prefecture is the Ehime Prefecture Museum of History & Culture.

Composed of massive halls off of a big central corridor-hall, it does have some nice details and features.

It was designed by Nikken Sekkei whose most famous piece is probably Tokyo Skytree.

The exhibits themselves were interesting enough too.....

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.

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