Friday, September 30, 2011


In Japan, shrines are Shinto and temples are Buddhist. While Zuigan-ji is thoroughly let's zen (rinzai sect - same as the much posted about Zuisenji in Kamakura) the templey shrine on Haguro-san was built at the time when someone influential decided that Shinto gods were cool for Buddhists too. Later on the templey shrines and shriny temples were re-segregated, so I suppose that the shrine on Haguro-san is now officially Shinto. It still has a flavour of Buddhism about it - most obviously in the Shojin-ryori-ish nature of the food served at the hostel.


Breakfast at Haguro-san

is followed by a walk round the shrine. 

The main building...
Haguro-san shrine/temple quite grand
Haguro-san shrine/temple

A side shrine...
Haguro-san shrine/temple

Then off into the forest...
Haguro-san shrine/temple tori


Thursday, September 29, 2011


A couple more photos taken in Zuigan-ji, Matsushima, where we went on almost our wettest summer holiday ever (It might even have been the wettest ever in terms of inches of preciptation, but the Outer Hebrides beats it handsomely in terms of cold rainy desolation). 

The entrance in the rain


James in the rain. Please look only at the rain, steps, fence, James, and trees. There's a no photography sign on the fence, which surely cannot apply to those particular elements.

A witch and her broomstick. Perhaps it was a little less rainy under the trees, but by now I was learning to shade the lens with a finger to keep rain drops off.



Saturday, September 24, 2011

Our summer holiday in pictures

Day 1

The reward for successfully taking a tandem on the Shinkansen was a succulent steak in ugly rainy Sendai.


View from our hotel room in famously beautiful Matsushima Bay.


Day 2

Zuigan-ji temple, Matsushima.


Zuigan-ji, Matsushima

Then into the countryside, where the shrines are a little more rudimentary. It was still raining. Hard.

A shrine in a field

At Naruko Onsen there was no shortage of food, baths and towels for hungry wet cyclists.


Day 3 

On the road in the rain to somewhere... Convenience stores appeared as shining havens. The normally inedible hot tinned coffee and snacks became delicious. And they had pristine dry toilets.


That night we stayed in the temple on top of Haguro-san
Saikan on Haguro-san

We had 2 rooms. A bedroom and a tearoom. The building rattled in the wind but the tired tandemmers  slept soundly through the typhoon.
Saikan on Haguro-san

Day 4 

Touring the temple (Actually the first shot below was taken on the way out on Day 5). 
Main shrine

Gosaiden temple, Haguro-san

Gosaiden temple, Haguro-san

Gosaiden temple, Haguro-san

Pilgrims should climb the 2446 stairs to the shrine on the top of Haguro-san, but this was hardly practical with a loaded tandem so we had innocently headed up the toll road. Thus we climbed down and back up.
stairs up Haguro-san

There were lots of trees and things, and it didn't rain all the time.
Minami Dani 

 To prove we did it, here's a five-storied pagoda sits near the bottom of the stairs.
Fice-storied pagoda

Day 5
As we headed home the sun came out briefly, and the rice fields started to glow.

The local railway station at Kiyokawa was unmanned and unmachined. We didn't pay a penny until we got off the Shinkansen in Tokyo.


Thursday, September 22, 2011


Tearoom, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Fortunately we had our own private wattle and daub tearoom from which to enjoy the typhoon. In fact it is practically our own private temple. It is so nice decided to stay a second night. Must remember this clever way of dodging the crowds and often go cycling when a typhoon is due. The only problem is that it is still raining, which is not supposed to happen - after weathering a typhoon one expects to be rewarded with bright clear skies.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Big Wet

The Big Wet, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

David Benson asks if we are prepared for the weather...

With two typhoons approaching we thought it was a good time for a cycle tour across Tohoku. After 210km of continuous rain we are safely ensconced in a rickety draughty temple lodgings at the top of a small mountain all ready to sit out the storm tonight. It's just starting to get a bit windy.




My supposedly rugged camera turned out to be not 2 weeks of volunteering proof, and is now unusable. Thus a shiny new toy arrived on Friday evening and it passed the salty splash proof test on Saturday morning. Kamakura beach is presently almost as dirty as some of those up north, thanks I suppose to the typhoon a few weeks ago. Lots of rubbish and even whole trees have been washed up and half buried. Is it possible we are getting tsunami rubble? We shouldn't really get too much as, in terms of ocean currents, we are upstream of Tohoku, but perhaps it is possible - the ocean is a more complexly swirling place than our simple models pretend.


beach debris


Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Shinto priest and fishing boat

Now you've read the post all about the festival, the carrying of the mikoshi around the town and out to sea, this picture may have some meaning. It shows Oginohama's Shinto priest and one of the fishing boats on which the livelihood of the village depends. 


Friday, September 16, 2011


As I mentioned previously (here and here) our main volunteering task last week was cleaning up a shrine. The annual festival in the little fishing village of Oginohama was scheduled for the Friday but there were not enough people left in the village to put on the event. So Peaceboat took on the task. They cleaned in the shrine building, around the building, all 200 steps and their verge and also the area at the bottom of the stairs where Peaceboat volunteers cooked lunch afterwards. James I and felt that with so many volunteers and 4 days, we could have cleaned 4 shrines. So we worked hard in the hope of getting a different task later in the week. But that wasn't how it worked. Instead, they just cleaned unnecessarily deeper! Actually our small team of 5 was the only one that happened to go to the shrine all 5 days (4 days cleaning plus the matsuri itself), so that was a little unfortunate. Apart from the over-manning, which actually is a typical Japanese approach to a problem, the goal was reasonable enough. Most of the sludge has now been removed and building deconstruction must be done by professionals. Meanwhile the surrounding desolation must be very depressing for those living there, so getting the shrine back in use and putting on a meaningful and fun event felt right.

Peaceboat also overmanned the matsuri itself. It would have been nicer had the locals (about 35 attended) not been outnumbered by volunteers! Here are some photos.

First we went up to the shrine building where an hour long service of the priest singing was held. Apparently the goddess protects the village from the sea and keeps safe the boats and fishermen and that sort of thing. We think she should be sacked. Then the mikoshi was taken from its little shed and taken to visit all the houses in the village. I suppose this is to symbolise the goddess visiting and blessing the village.

The mikoshi is taken from the shed. It is quite heavy and naturally only men can carry it. I suppose that otherwise their willies would shrink away to nothing.

manhandling the mikoshi

Visiting the houses in the village. Almost everyone (about 10 families?) seems to be living in these temporary houses a couple of minutes walk up the hill from the shrine. Even James could not carry the whole mikoshi himself, so, being a foot taller than most, had to adopt a different carrying style from the others (that's him at the back).

matsuri - festival

We walked through the "old village", empty lots, rubble, diggers. I usually despise shinto for its encouragement of superstition among the population, but this bit was actually rather moving. The guy with the black hat and prayer stick is the priest.


Then on to the fishing boats. The mikoshi was taken out into the bay where a twig was thrown and some sake was poured into the sea. The volunteers not involved in mikoshi carrying, followed on 3 other boats, where some fun swooping around and racing went on.


Then everyone retired to a tent outside the  former "city office" where a late lunch was served. This was fun to do as it was a BBQ. And there were so many volunteers that we (non-mikoshi carriers) only had to stand in the raging sun over the hot coals for about an hour each. Afterwards, a curious game. The priest took the first go and was curiously good. He makes it look too easy - later contestants really struggled to stay upright and walk in right direction and required a lot of help from the audience.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Volunteering photos

Day 7Ogatsu teddy bearOgatsu, Oshika peninsulaIshinimaki photo.JPGstringing shells - to make oyster beds
Day #1Day 1Clearing the beachDay 2Day 2Day 2
Day 2Day 2Day 3DevastationDay 3Day 4
Day 4Day 4Oyster FarmerDrain cover, IshinomakiDay 5Day 6
Ishinomaki, a set on Flickr. I've made a set on flickr of my photos from Ishinomaki and around. It includes photos from both trips, 2 months apart. A huge amount of clearing up has been done, but there isn't much sign of rebuilding yet.


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