Thursday, January 12, 2006

Putting those maps to use

Around 1 PM today I needed to get away from my computer, so I went on a little tour of some of the shrines in Takaoka.

I started off with the Tomb of Toshinaga Maeda and Hankyuji Temple, which are right across the street from SATY and next to Yoshino Junior High School.

The Tomb of Toshinago Maeda was designated as a Prefectural Cultural Asset in 1965 and sits in a park at the end of a small path lined with stone lanterns. It is supposed to be one of the most impressive warrior tombs in all of Japan, but since it is the only warrior tomb that I have ever seen, I'm not the person who should be making such declarations.

The tomb itself sits on a little island inside the park. It is surrounded by a stone and wood fence and then a small moat. There is a stone bridge that leads to the island, but you are kept from going inside by a locked wooden gate. When I went there this afternoon the small bridge still had about 3 feet of snow on it. I didn't feel it necessary to try to get any closer; I'll come back in April for a better look.

Toshinago Maeda was the founder of Takaoka and second daimyo of the Kaga clan. His tomb was built by his successor, Toshitsune Maeda, the third daimyo of the Kaga clan, in 1645. I have read that the present size of the park surrounding the tomb, at just over a hectare, is about 1/15 the size of the original. Even with its diminished size, the park is a nice little slice of serentity in a busy city.

Exit the tomb on the South side, climb over the snow, cross the street and you'll find yourself at the entrance to Hankyuji Temple. The temple is a Soto shrine, Soto being a sect of Zen Buddhism. The temple is not very big; it is only two or three small buildings connected with covered walkways. There is probably a charming garden in the courtyard, but since it was covered with a meter of snow, I'll have to wait for April to find out.

The real draw for this temple is to see the Gohyakurakan, or 500 disciples of Buddha. Although I didn't take the time to count how many there were, the Gohyakurakan are a collection of individually unique hand painted statues of what I think are Zen Buddist Monks.

They are all on display in glass-enclosed cases that line the outer edge of the covered walkways inside the temple. They are displayed three statues deep on terraced risers inside the cases. The picture to the left shows some of the statues and the snow in the courtyard (you can especially see how much snow there is in the reflection of the glass.) I took a lot of pictures of the statues; I'll post some of them soon.

From Hankyuji Temple I headed west along the Hatcho-michi. The Hatcho-michi stretches from the two spots I just visited on one side to Zuiryuji Temple on the other side. The name Hatcho-michi literally mean 870 meter road. The Japanese sure are original when it comes to names, aren't they?

Hatcho-michi has a white stone pathway down the middle for pedestrians and has pavement on either side of the walkway for cars. The pedestrian pathway is lined with 114 sets of stone lanterns and a number of Japanese pine trees.

At the other end of Hatcho-michi is Zuiryuji temple. I didn't go there today, but it is a National Treasure and you can expect a post about it in the near future.

My final stop on my afternoon stroll was at another temple, Sojiji Temple. Lacking an iota of comprehension of the Japanese language, I am unable to tell you anything about this temple other than that it was made up of two buildings, had a big bell, and was surrounded by stone carvings of Buddha. I looked for some information online and found some information about a Sojiji Temple in Takaoka that houses a seated image of a wooden senju kannon that is only shown to the public once every 33 years. Might have been the same Sojiji Temple, might not have been.

That's was it. That little walk made my day a whole lot better.

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