Noilly Prattle: Getting Reacquainted 3 - Miyajima the Second Day

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Getting Reacquainted 3 - Miyajima the Second Day

 the Great Torii and Itsukushima Shrine from our ryokan room at dusk

     By way of introduction, Japan's original “religion” is a kind of nature worship wherein everything has spirit or, if you like, soul. It resembles the animism of more primitive groups that I had the very good fortune of witnessing during the two and a half years I lived in West Africa. There the ceremonials appealed to the gut, with the throb of drums and wild dances and drugs, whereas here it is more refined, with the headier music of the flute flowing above the beat of the drums.

      Around the 6th Century A.D., Buddhism was introduced into Japan through the Korean Peninsula and a syncretism of Buddhism and the more primitive Shinto occurred over the next few centuries. Writing was also introduced into Japan from China at this time and an amalgam of the two cultures evolved that created the Japanese society that we witness today.

      Miyajima is an excellent of example of this merging of Shinto Shrine and Buddhist Temple. I devoted the previous post to the Shinto Shrine of Itsukushima with its colorful exuberance on a beautiful sunny dance when the shrine almost literally appeared to sparkle upon the waves.

tatami mat room of the inn
view of the torii from our inn room
      The next day, after spending the night in a ryokan 旅館 (Japanese Inn) with a terrific view of the shrine complex and torii both from our room and the rotenburo 露天風呂 (outside bath), waxed rainy—prefect weather for visit to a Buddhist Temple nestled in the misty and foggy mountains. Consistent with the dual nature of Japanese worship, Miyajima is intermixed with Buddhism and Shinto. Set up on the slope of Mt. Misen, to the east northeast of 厳島神社 Itsukushima Shrine, is the 大書院 Daishoin Temple of the Shingon Buddhist sect.

me and my trusty crutch
      I was having some trouble with my left leg (I broke it in February) and, knowing I would have to climb stairs, both up to the inn and the temple, I brought my forearm crutch to help support my bad leg on the stairs. So, holding an umbrella in one hand, the crutch in the other and trying to take pictures in the rain, I'm sure we looked like the circus had come to town. Be that as it may, there is a unique atmosphere about a temple in the mountains in the mist and the rain that made our visit there as enjoyable as the previous day's sunny wanderings about the shrine precincts. 

Sanmon (Main Gate) of Daishoin Temple

The guardian gods of the temple symbolize the beginning and ending of all things. The statue on the right is called Agyozo and his open mouth symbolizes the birth of all things while the one of the left, Ungyozo, with his closed mouth symbolizes the ending.

why I decided to bring my crutch

pilgrims will climb the mountain draped in fog

two pilgrims blowing on a conch shell horn that
makes a haunting eerie sound as they climb
through the fog and mist

the Maniden - a two-step pagoda

mani guruma - prayer wheels leading up to the Maniden

 beautiful woodwork and fantastic wood carvings

1000 Bodhisattvas - but you can't see them all in this photo

unusual white paint tipping the ceiling beams

red maple

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