Images from a recent hike the commenced at Ohara, passing-through Iwakura, Shizuhara, and finishing at Kurama.
My first encounter was with this Jizo on my descent from Mt Hyotankuzureyama (532m) just inside the rural boundary of Iwakura.
Iwakura is a suburban area of Sakyo Ward, North Kyoto. It is made-up mainly of residential and has many narrow lanes. The above two images were located within these narrow streets.
It is always a feeling to return to the environment I appreciate so much. In this instance rice fields just after planting.
Not just because of their appeal, but their isolated location. Always a delight to find.
Passing-through the settlement I spotted this collection of concrete lanterns almost overgrown with shrubs and grass.
Just along from the previous icon, was this Jizo.
One last Icon. After emerging from the Yakkouzaka Pass, on the border of the forest and residential area of Kurama.
My 37-kilometer ride commenced here at the Kasagi-ohashi bridge in the southern region of Kyoto Prefecture. The first 10km followed a path what is known as the 'Tokaido Road'. From Kasagi Town I would make my way through two settlements - Asukaji and Minamiokawara - before arriving at the settlement of Tayama.
I was no sooner on my way before I was stopping to admire my first Sekibutsu. Located at the base of Kasagiyama, the area is famous for it's many Shinto and Buddhist Stone Markers.
The settlement of Tayama was just as I expected it to be - one main street through the center, a post-office, a school (in this case an abandoned school) and one-or-two shops. On a hill, at the head of the main street, was the Suwa-jinja Shrine. Prior to entering the complex were three different markers.
The Sekibutsu, in the top image, I was particularly impressed with. Unlike most carvings of this stature, the image wasn't carved into solid rock, but into an L-shape slab not more than 3cm thick.
The stone lantern I almost missed as it was in a more secluded location. And the Jizo was beside the Sekibutsu.
Just over an hour, and 16km later, I arrive at the town of Yagyu. The area was made famous for housing one of the oldest schools of swordsmanship in Japan - Yagyu Shinkage-ryu. But it was the piece de resistance in the above image that I was longing to see. It was about 8-years ago, when hiking through the area with a friend, when we stumbled-across this magnificent carving, and it's purpose explained to me, that stirred my interest in religious markers.
One purpose of the Ataya Sekibutsu, is to assist those want to conceive a child - both would-be parents come here, with a tray of Tofu in their hand, lay the tray at the base of the image, and pray.
From here it was downhill all the way to Kasagi, where I commenced this journey 37km x 4.5-hours earlier. It was another great exploration and the opportunity to discover more religious icons.
So, until next time -
Course description, with map and images - Kasagi Loop & Exploring Tayama
Before you cross the bridge, step back about 15-meters, and look up on your right, amongst the rocky outcrop, and you should see this collection of religious icons.
There is a very-narrow track, leading-up to the icons, if you so wish to take a closer look, but I wouldn't advise you take is as it is unsafe and the drop is steep. Besides the view from the track is just as good.
In the left image is a sign-post directing you to the 'falls, on the right, is the Torii leading to the 'falls & shrine.
In the left image is a Toro, or stone lantern, sited near the shrine and, in the right image, is a waterfall to the side of the shrine.
This 22-kilometer course took me through the Midori-no Bunkoen Park, in the hills overlooking Shijonawate, then on through to the eastern base of Ikomayama, to Hozan-ji. From where I ascended the mountain, then dropped-down the other side and skirted-around the western side, before emerging at Ishikiri (mapped course).
This quaint collection of Jizo I passed a few-hundred meters into my hike as I approached the Torii, that was the entrance to Shijonawate-jinja.
A waterfall, along with the sounds of Nature. What better combination. To add to the delight - a small Jizo and vases of flowers at the base.
I nearly missed this set, concealed within the rocks.
And this collection was nearby. This is an interesting complex, to say the least.
Hozan-ji, a "must see" if you are in the area. And don't be in a hurry. There are many buildings to see and just as many Buddhist Icons to check-out. The above three images are just a selection of what is on display.
Jikou-ji, an ideal location to break for a bite-to-eat. This complex is so isolated and serene, and quaint, with the forest canopy all over, one just can't help but love this site.
Kouhou-ji, with it's 1,300-year old history, is the last of the complexes on this outing. But not the last of the icons. On the day I visited this complex is was snowing. All adding to the atmosphere of the site.
The final two-kilometers of my day was via the Zushidani Path, which was created during the time Kouhou-ji was established. The path itself is part of a pilgrimage that eventually scaled the summit of Ikomayama and descended into Hozan-ji. This stretch of path is littered with Icons, of one sort or another, and, as you will see in this video, there is some quite specactular scenery along the way.
This is a 45km plus hiking course that takes the walker through a variety of scenery. Commencing at an industrial estate, on the outskirts of Hirakata City, the course makes it's way through three recreational parks, several rural settlements, many hill-climbs & descents, and, lets not forget, temples & shrines, before finishing at the town of Sango, in Nara Prefecture.
These first two images were taken at the Iwafune-jinja Shrine, on the outskirts of Katano City, Osaka Prefecture. I highly recommend you visit this complex, and, while there, check-out some of the hiking tracks in the vicinity.
The ever-present roadside Jizo. No matter wherever you are - rural, city, town, mountain, - and how isolated you are, you are bound to come-across one of these.
If it hadn't been for the sound of the waterfall, I would have missed these guys. I had to clamber-down from the track to take these images.
I am now on the second segment of this course (Shijonawate to Sango) and, almost immediately, my first roadside icon. I'm actually surprised it is still intact, as there is a quarry just up the road, and many heavy trucks pass by here. Unlike the first segment (Tsuda to Shijonawate), where it was fine and warm, on this day there was plenty of snow about . . . .
. . . . as can be seen in the above slideshow. If you hover your cursor over the image, click on the arrow to commence the slideshow.
In the above image I am on my descent from the plateau, where I had spent the previous 4-hours hiking, towards my goal of Sango Town. I stopped here to admire the rural scenery and, as I turned to leave, I spotted this collection of Jizo.
The icon on the right, looks similar to one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune, maybe it is Fukurokuju, the God of wisdom and longevity.
The above slideshow are images from Chogosonshi-ji Temple, at the end of my course.
Full course details, via my "Ride with G.P.S.".
The area surrounding Kunimiyama has a lot to offer, which is why I decided to return a month after my last visit. This time I came on two wheels and was keen to check-out some new sites and any religious icons along the way. And, as you will see in the following images, there were many.
This is the first icon of my trip, a Sekibutsu hidden amongst the trees, just off the Hachibuse Pass road. I have cycled this road about 5-times over the years, and never managed to notice this. The only reason I did was that I stopped here fro a break.
A bit further down the road from the Sekibutsu, I discovered this interesting set of sheds (for want of a better description).
Inside one of the sheds was this fine looking statue. My guess it is dedicated to some Buddhist Deity. Again, I have passed this site several times and payed no attention to the surroundings.
Further on into my outing (about 3-hours to be precise) my left leg began to cause me some concern and I stopped and took a break. As I looked up onto the forest behind me, I discovered this interesting-looking structure. My curiosity getting the better of me, I took a look.
Surrounding the small temple, was a collection of icons; my guess that this was a cemetery.
But it was this icon that interested me the most. If you look closely at the temple, you will see this at the entrance.
Next stop, the settlement of Fukusumicho and this concrete lantern. My guess it is attached to the Sainen-ji Temple, about a few-hundred meters away.
What would an outing be without a Jizo. This one was well hidden back off the road - actually it was atop a bank and partly obscured by trees. It was a narrow, steep track that alerted me to this object.
I am now in familiar territory - the Nanamagari Path. This set of concrete pagodas signifies the entrance to the Shimonobo Eisho-ji Temple.
The last icon of my days outing. I was passing through the settlement of Nakahatacho
when I spotted this little fella. Quite cute really. But, it wasn't just the statuette that took my fancy. It was the view from this location. If you hadn't guessed by now, I enjoy passing through these quaint wee settlements while on my travels.
When it comes to art, I couldn't tell you the difference between a Constable and a Monet. Nor could I tell you the difference between Pottery and Ceramics. But what I do know, is that I appreciate the work & energy that goes in to creating these works of art, regardless of the medium they have been created onto.
So, when I am out hiking or on my bike, and I happen-across a carving, as in the image on the left, I can't help but feel amazed as to how someone can take an image, consign it to memory, then, at a later stage, reproduce it onto a medium - in this instance, onto a rock.
So, without further ado, let me introduce you to some of the many religious icons on view throughout Japan.
I shall commence with the Sekibutsu. In the image above is the Warai (which translates in Japanese to happy/laughing/smiling), and is an image of Buddha, sitting in the Lotus Position.
Next is the Magaibutsu. In the image above I am standing next to the Daimonnohotokedani, one of the largest of it's kind in the Kansai region, constructed during the Nara/Heian Period (794-to-1300). This is a magnificent carving and stands over 5-meters high.
Now let me introduce you to my favorite - the Jizo. These guys are the most beloved of all the Japanese divinities, and can be found in some of the most isolated of places. In the above image I happened-across this set while out on my mountain bike in the forest.
This spectacular carving is a Butsuzou and is located near the summit of Mt Kasagiyama, in the village of Kasagi in Kyoto prefecture. Believed to have been carved by Genpou Daishi, during the Gennin Period (1224-to-1225), the statue is so tall, it is difficult to capture in it's entirety, for fear of falling over the cliff.
Then there are the unusual ones. In this image I am kneeling in front of a Sekibutsu Pagoda, just outside the town of Wazuka in Kyoto Prefecture. This is a monument in remembrance of the "Great Yamashiro Flood" of 1953. During the clean-up, many stone carvings were gathered and placed together to create this monument.
In the above images, are icons I discovered while hiking into Nara, via the "Old Yagyu Road". But, as you can see in this video, I was overjoyed when I found the "Hozan Sekibutsu", a three-sided figure carved out of a rock and located deep in the forest.
One more image before I sign-off. I am standing beside a Rokujizo Sekibutsu. Although it is difficult to see, but there are six (roku in Japanese) Jizo carvings in this rock. But, what amazes me, is the isolated location - deep in a forest, about 500-meters from the nearest lane, the nearest settlement (Nodono) about 1-kilometer away.
As always, it has been a great pleasure sharing my experiences with you, and I thank you for taking the time to view my posts. So, until next time . . . .
One of the many things I like about the great outdoors, are the little surprises I stumble-across. In this case, religious icons.