Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mount Kōya (高野山 Kōya-san)

Welcome to this post on  Koyasan. We travelled to Koyasan from Osaka. After a scenic train journey up Mt. Koya, this cable car takes you up to the town
Situated on a small plain at the top of Mount Koya is the sacred area known as the Danjo Garan, a complex of temples, halls, pagodas and Buddhist statuary 
Surrounded by a thick forest of massive cedars, the area known as Okuno-in, or the Inner Sanctuary, is the setting for a vast cemetery that features the mausolea of numerous famous Japanese, including that of the samurai ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Koyasan is home to an active monastic center founded twelve centuries ago by the priest Kukai (posthumously known as Kobo Daishi) for the study and practice of Esoteric Buddhism. It is the headquarters of the Koyasan sect of Shingon Buddhism, a faith with a wide following throughout Japan
It is cold on the mountain
Jizo, the bodhisattva is the protector of children, expectant mothers, firemen, and travelers. Most of all, he is the protector of deceased children, including miscarried, aborted or stillborn infants. The little statues are statues of Jizo Bosatsu
The cemetery is the largest in Japan
Red and orange are the dominant colours
The little shelter is in need of some repair
The moss keeps the Buddha warm
Less gaudy and striking for it
Daniela, not in red!
A long line in the sun and shadow
So carefully looked after
The cedar trees are magnificent
Gorgeous mausoleum
I couldn't find any information about it. Please leave a comment if you know
Some of the walkways are large avenues, others are small pathways
Wish I could read........
Dappled cedar roots
This was a figurine we saw on a temple as we were walking in the main street. He doesn't look too happy about holding the temple up all the time!
The entrance to Kongōbu-ji (金剛峯寺) It is the ecclesiastic head temple of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism
Its name means "Temple of the Diamond Mountain"
The temple was first constructed as Seigan-ji Temple in 1593 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi on the death of his mother, rebuilt in 1861, and given its present name in 1869
The temple's modern Banryūtei (蟠龍庭) rock garden is Japan's largest (2340 square meters), with 140 granite stones arranged to suggest a pair of dragons emerging from clouds to protect the temple
I guess you have to have an arial view to see the dragons
Time for a cup of tea before heading back to Osaka. A truly magical place, Koyasan was one of the highlights of our trip to Japan. The picture on the far wall in the centre is of Kobo Daishi who founded the monastic complex at Koyasan in 816

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Himeji Castle (姫路城, Himejijō) in a box

Himeji Castle in a box. The renovations will be complete, and the box will come off in 2015. You can see the renovation schedule here
Himeji Castle dates to 1333, when Akamatsu Norimura built a fort on top of Himeyama hill
The castle is regarded as the finest surviving example of prototypical Japanese castle architecture
The castle is in a box, the sakura (cherry blossom) is not quite out and it was very cold, but we still enjoyed our trip to Himeji
Daniela in a lovely corridor leading to the West Bailey building
Himeji Castle is the largest and most visited castle in Japan, and it was registered in 1993 as one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country
Himeji Castle is the largest and most visited castle in Japan
Unlike many other Japanese castles, Himeji Castle was never destroyed in wars, earthquakes or fires and survives in its original form
In January 1995, the city of Himeji was substantially damaged by the Great Hanshin earthquake, but Himeji Castle again survived virtually undamaged, demonstrating remarkable earthquake resistance. Even the bottle of sake placed on the altar at the top floor of the keep remained in place
The lines of the roof structure are beautiful
Baby castle nestling up against the box!
The castle has been featured extensively in foreign and Japanese films, including the James Bond movie "You Only Live Twice" and Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha
Daniela braving the cold
Fabulous doorway
More lines
One of the castle's most important defensive elements is the confusing maze of paths leading to the castle keep
Koshi-kuruwa, a long storehouse situated at the back of the main tower. Rice and salt was kept here in case the castle was besieged
Standing at Ha-no-mon, the main tower looks extremely close, but if you continue along the path, it will take you away from the tower
Sakura trying to come out despite the cold
The castle complex included three moats, one of which—the outer moat—is now buried. Parts of the central moat and all of the inner moat survive
Wish I had his outfit. Superb
The coming together of the beauty and the functionality of the castle is what makes it so special. Most castles I have seen are impressive and imposing because they are built for one reason, to be impenetrable to the enemy. Himeji castle is beautiful, a true rarity
Children enjoying a touch of history
I used my immense influence with the Japanese and persuaded them to take the box off for just a few seconds so I could take a photo.... here it in all it's glory. Himeji-jo's nickname Shirasagi-jo means "White Heron Castle" because the main keep with its three smaller towers resembles a white heron
You can take this free bus from Himeji station to the castle, but if you are tall like me, you might like to walk...
Two local girls who were happy to have their photo taken
Thanks to Daniela for capturing this moment. Next time I'll post photos of our day-trip to Mt. Koyasan, including its very intriguing cemetery