Category Archives: Mountains

Hokuriku Coast and Basho

Oyashirazu

Northern Alps drop into

the Sea of Japan.

Photo and verse by Okunomichi (c) 2018.

Hokuriku

Along the Sea of Japan, Hokuriku, which means Northlands region, is known for its heavy winter snows. Historically it includes the Koshi and Hokurikudo provinces and the Noto Peninsula. Current prefectures include Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, and Fukui. This series of posts is about a visit to Niigata and Toyama in May 2018. There are vistas of breathtaking beauty and power, and there are sacred shrines which grew organically out of this primordial region. There is a lot of unknown cultural history over the last ten thousand years, along with well-understood scientific history extending over 500 million years.

Oyashirazu

The cliffs at which the Northern Japanese Alps fall into the Sea of Japan were the product of terrestrial volcanic activity occurring about 100 million years ago. The ancient Hokuriku Road was wedged in a small space between these cliffs and the sea, making for a perilous journey, especially when the waves would surge. Large pockets and caves eroded into the wall where travelers would take refuge from the stormy seas still remain on the face of these cliffs.    

Oyashirazu    ko wa kono ura no    namimakura

koshiji no iso no    awa to kieyuku

Taira-no-Yorimori was a general of the once powerful Taira clan which was defeated by their rivals, the Minamoto clan, in the late 12th century. After their defeat, Yorimori fled to what is now Niigata prefecture. Following after him, his wife crossed Oyashirazu where she lost their child to the raging seas. In her sorrow she wrote this poem, which lends the cliffs their name.

Without his parent knowing,

my child, in this shore’s waves along the Koshiji road,

vanishes in the foam.

The above passages are from the Itoigawa Geopark’s extensive website. Itoigawa is home to the Itoigawa Geopark and the Fossa Magna Museum.  At the Oyashirazu lookout is this statue of a mother and two children, a memorial to all the children who were lost here. All photos are by Okunomichi © 2018.    

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Oku no Hosomichi

Matsuo Basho, traveled through the northern country in 1689 with his student Sora. After visiting Kasawaski, they stopped one night in Ichiburi near the Oyashirazu cliffs. At the inn, there were two ladies of leisure. Basho, perhaps mulling over the life and death pathos in the above Oyashirazu waka by Yorimori’s wife, wrote the haiku,

一家に遊女もねたり萩と月

hitotsuya ni    juujo mo netari    hagi to tsuki

In the same lodging

Play-girls too are sleeping —

Bush clover and moon.

(tr. by Christine Murasaki Millet, 1997)

This seemingly straight-forward haiku has overtones of contrasting themes: playgirls/monks, women/men, bush clover/moon, impermanence/permanence.

Poetic Monument of Matsuo Basho

At Choenji Temple, a stone monument commemorates Basho’s visit and haiku.

2018-05-18 10.03.18 Choenji

Choenji Temple 2018

 

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Togariyama, Toyama’s Pyramid Mountain

Pyramid mountains have been described in various places, including our own sister site, Yamanomiya.wordpress.com. Several authors have provided lists of pyramid mountains, such as Kosaka ,  Sakai ,  and Suzuki . Togariyama in Toyama is listed, and has been reported on here.

This year, in May of 2018, we went seeking to photograph Togariyama. According to our map, this 559 m tall mountain is in a mountainous area, and we drove around and around. We caught a glimpse of it, then lost it as we rounded the next curve, and on and on.  It was certainly elusive and it seemed to be just one of the natural mountains.

However, the photo below shows how it stands alone with beautiful symmetry and a distinctly flat top. Jomon people leveled tops of mountains to make space for holding rituals. Togariyama is said to have a stone circle on top of it. After returning to our computer and examining a Google map of the terrain, it was clear that Togariyama is truly remarkable. It has a round base and differs geometrically from the surrounding mountains. This makes us wonder if indeed this is an artificial mountain.

2018-05-18 13.17.53 Tongariyama last

What do you think?

Here are additional photos from our Togariyama album.

2018-05-18 13.02.01 2nd

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Tateyama, Sacred Mountain

Furthermore, due east of Togariyama (36.6 N, 137.3 E) is sacred mountain Tateyama (36.6 N, 137.6 E) of the Hida mountain range (Northern Alps). Could Togariyama have been constructed as a ritual site from which participants celebrated the equinox sun rising over Tateyama?

Tateyama poster

Tateyama, from a poster

Tateyama in the Hida mountain range, at 3,015 m is the tallest mountain in Toyama-ken. It is one of the 100 Famous Japanese Mountains, as well as one of Japan’s Three Holy Mountains (Mt Fuji, Mt Hakusan, and Mt Tateyama). According to Torii Rei, Tateyama is goshintai of Kurakine, brother of Isanagi, and Toyama is the sanctuary of Japan.

 

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Yamanomoya – Mountains and Shrines of Mystery

As part of the research program on Ancient Japan, Okunomichi has paid a lot of attention to the jinja shrines and their kami that played a role in Hinomoto which led to modern Japan. Many shrines have been mentioned in ancient texts and by other researchers. For that reason, Okunomichi has been actually going to the mountains and visiting these historical jinja.

Now, Okunomichi is moving its posts on jinja and pyramid mountains to https://yamanomiya.wordpress.com/. So we would like to introduce you to Yamanomiya.

Jinja

The shrines described by Yamanomiya are connected historically to ancient documents in the Woshite literature (namely, the Hotsuma Tsutae). And to the kami that are prominent in that literature: Toyoke/Toyouke O-kami, Isanami-O-kami, Isanagi O-kami, Amateru-kami, Seoritsuhime, Shirayamahime, and others.

At Yamanomiya, there are a series of posts on the Moto-Ise shrines. These are the shrines where the kami of the current Ise Jingu Naiku and Geku — Amateru and Toyouke, respectively — were honored that were located, in Tamba no Kuni (in current Kyoto-fu), previous to Ise in the Kii peninsula. Legend says that it was Yamatohime who traveled from place to place until finally settling the enshrinements of Amateru Amakami and his grandfather Toyoke-Okami in Ise. This was long before the Ise shrines were adopted by the Imperial Family, even before there was even such a family.

Pyramid mountains

Yamanomiya also reports on the many pyramid mountains in Japan. In particular, you will find lists of pyramid mountains claimed by researchers Sakai, Kosaka, and Suzuki, Pyramid mountains were built thousands of years ago out of natural hills by human hands. They were made for ritual and societal purposes. They were usually flattened on top so that sacred ceremonies could be held, and today there are still shrines there.

Pyramids stabilized the land during earthquakes. They sent energy down to the land below to improve the productivity of farming. Pyramids and shrines were situated in very special geometrical and astronomical layouts. Frequently the lines connecting them pointed to the summer or winter solstice sunrises and sunsets.

And of course, the mountains of interest are considered especially sacred to kami, whether they are man-made or natural.

Let’s explore mountains and shrines with Yamanomiya!

 

 

Rokkosan:  Mukoyama and Mukatsuhime

The modern city of Kobe lies between the Rokkosan 六甲山 mountains and the sea. In a previous post, we wrote about the megaliths of Rokkosan. These mountains are the locale of a fascinating story with both historical and linguistic interest.

Hotsuma History.  During the times of Amateru Amakami in the Hotsuma Tsutae document, the mountains were known as Mukoyama, and the peak as Mukatsu-mine. The land of Muko was the domain of the Kanasaki family. When Isanami and Isanagi were unable to keep their first-born daughter Hiruko, they sent her to Kanasaki for fostering. There, Hiruko was lovingly raised and taught the art of waka poetry. Hiruko became so skilled with the kototama word power of waka that she became known as Wakahime. The area of Muko is called Hirota, perhaps because of her fostering. For his kindness, Kanasaki is known as Sumiyoshi Kami.

Wakahime was the elder sister of Amateru. Amateru led his people for many long years. When he felt his life’s end nearing, he sent his beloved wife Seoritsuhime to Hirota. There, she peacefully passed her remaining years in these mountains until “her spirit ascended.”

Linguistic Changes.  Seoritsuhime is Mukatsuhime. The latter name appears in several places. In the Takenouchi Documents, it is アマサカリ ヒニ ムカイツ ヒメ ノミヒカリ アマツ ヒツギ アメノ スメラミコトAmasakari hini mukaitsu hime no mihikari amatsu hitsugi ame no sumera mikoto. The principal deity of Hirota Jinja is the aramitama wrathful spirit of Amateru Ookami, named ツキサカキ イツノ ミタマ アマサカル ムカツヒメ ノ ミコトTsukisakaki-itsuno mitama amasakaru mukatsuhime no mikoto.

How did Mukoyama change its name to Rokkosan? Please keep in mind that Woshite, the language of Hotsuma, was syllabic when spoken and when written in Woshite moji characters. Much later, Woshite writing fell out of use and was replaced by the kanji imported from China. The name Mukoyama 六甲山 when written in kanji  can be read, Sino-wise, as Rokkosan.

Jinja Shrines.  These shrines all have Mukatsuhime as their enshrined kami.

Hirota Jinja 広田神社 is located in Nishinomiya adjacent to Kobe. hirota-jinja_nishinomiya05n3200While it enshrines the aramitama of Amateru-kami, Mukatsuhime, it also honors Sumiyoshi-kami whom we know as Kanasaki.

Rokkohime Jinja 六甲比命神社 = Mukatsuhime Jinja.  This shrine is on the mountain. Its deity is Benzaiten. [Wikipedia: Benzaiten is the goddess of everything that flows: water, time, words, speech, eloquence, music and by extension, knowledge.]  Many believe that she is a later Buddhist version of Mukatsuhime.

Mukatsu Jinja (Ishi-no-houden) is a sessha sub-shrine of Hirota Jinja so that naturally, its gosaishin is Mukatsuhime.

Mukoyama Jinja 六甲山神社 is also a sessha with gosaishin Mukatsuhime.

mukoyamajinja

Rokkohime Daizen Jinja 六甲比命大善神社 (ろっこうひめだいぜんじんじゃ) = Mukohime Jinja 六甲比女(むこひめ)神社. Benzaiten is worshipped there. There is a huge iwakura goshintai on which is carved the Buddhist Heart Sutra. Some say that Mukatsuhime’s tomb is here, and the Sutra is in her memory. This shrine is the okunoin of Tamonji Temple in Kobe which forms a line  between the temple and the shrine to the summer solstice setting sun.

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Photos are from Japanese Wikipedia.

Sources include

http://mysteryspot.main.jp/mysteryspot/rotukou3/rotukou3.htm

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Togariyama 尖山 Pyramid Mountain

Toyama MapThis is one of a series of posts about pyramid mountains. Pyramid mountains are man-made mountains, or human-modified natural mountains. They have been modified or created for the purposes of benefit to human society and/or ritual reasons. They usually have flat tops for the holding of rituals and may have directional alignments with other sacred places or with seasonal solar sunrises and sunsets.

Togariyama.  尖山 ‘Togari’ means pointed. Togari is popularly pronounced Tongari. This mountain is in Toyama-ken. It has a steeply triangular profile but it has a flat top. We got to its foot and parked the car at the beginning of the trail. The mountain can be climbed in an hour, but we did not have the time for that.

Torii Rei, in his kami-gami book page 123, shows this map centered on Togariyama. The map says that the grave of Ninigi no Mikoto is here. Flowing into Toyama Bay is the Jinsu River from Gifu-ken. To its east is the Joganji River which flows near Togariyama.

Due east of Tongariyama is the very sacred Tateyama. It lies near the Nagano-ken border. Oyama Jinja is the shrine that venerates Tateyama. There are three shrine locations: the honsha at the peak, one shrine midway down, and a third shrine on the plains. It was the last which we stopped at to pay our respects to both mountains. Although this shrine is modest and charming, this site has been favored with visits from imperial personages over the centuries.

togariyamaHere is a photo of Tongariyama from http://web-fron.sakura.ne.jp/p/toyama/togariyama/index.html. The other photo is Mt. Tateyama (from a postcard).   Tateyama_0004

This post is related to the pyramid mountains listed at Iwaya-Iwakage,

Hida Koku 6. Jomon Pyramids and Rituals

 

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“Dying Gods” of the Japanese Worldview

Okunomichi:  We have just come across an essay by  Yamaori Tetsuo, a distingished scholar of religious studies. Written originally in Japanese, its clear English translation evokes in the Western reader a better understanding of what it is to be Japanese. We offer a few paragraphs and suggest that the full essay be read at http://www.nippon.com/en/in-depth/a02903/.

Keywords: Environment, worldview, religion, mythology, Shinto, kami, society.

The Japanese World View: Three Keys to Understanding

by Yamaori Tetsuo

“Along with a sense of transience, the natural environment also fostered a comforting awareness of the cycle of the seasons and the rebirth that invariably follows death. Flowers bloomed in the spring, leaves turned color and fell in the autumn, freezing winds swept the trees bare in the winter. But invariably the old year gave way to the new, and spring arrived once again. The knowledge that sunny days inevitably followed cloudy ones gave people the strength to live from day to day. Armed with this awareness, they learned to face life with grace and patience, flexibility and fortitude, and to face impending death with quiet acceptance, returning to the earth to become one with nature again.”

“Shintō is translated “the way of the kami,” and the kami of Japan are very different in character from the divinities with which most Westerners are familiar. From prehistoric times countless kami were believed to dwell deep within nature, in the mountains, forests, and waters of the archipelago. These were not anthropomorphic beings with distinct personalities and physical attributes. The vast majority were nameless but potent spirits of the sort believed to inhabit places and objects of all kinds. For that reason, there was a tendency to refer to them collectively, as kami-gami, rather than in the singular.”

“In ancient Japan, however, the relationship between mythological and historical events was viewed quite differently. In the Japanese cosmology, human society was subject to the same laws and rhythms as the deities who helped found it. For this reason, the Japanese viewed the origins of their country in a very different light from the kind of historical view common in the West. …The perception that the kami died just as human beings enabled the Japanese to view myth and history as seamlessly linked and nurtured a distinctive view of the cosmos, of life and death, and of the human condition.”

“What is the relationship between dying gods and a political system predicated on pluralism? Both reflect a view of the cosmos, human life, and human society shaped by a keen awareness of the impermanent, ever-changing nature of the world in which we live.”

Miyagi’s Hakokurayama 函倉山 Pyramid Mountain

dsc00564-closerIn October 2013 we had the chance to visit some pyramid mountains in Tohoku. Previously visited were Kuromanta yama in Akita/Aomori, Himurogatake in Kyoto-fu, Kuraiyama in Gifu-ken. This report is about Hakokurayama (Hako-kura-yama) 函倉山  and two other posts are on Taihakusan 太白山  in Sendai-shi, and Togariyama  尖山  in Toyama-ken. Our visiting Hakokurayama and Taihakusan was based in part on Yo Hamada’s Pyramid Mountains http://hamadas2.exblog.jp/ Hakokurayama. 函倉山

In another post, we discussed some of the alignments of Hakokurayama with the winter and summer solstice rising and setting sun.  https://okunomichi.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/the-pyramids-of-suzuki-akira/.

From Sendai station by car, it took only 30 minutes to get to the Rikuzen-Shirasawa train station which we had read about. We started shooting pictures of the mountains that we could see from there, but we weren’t sure which was it. We guessed it would be the mountain to our right. We started driving around that mountain counter-clockwise past the school, and we knew we were close. We parked at the water pumping station. We walked around two sides of the mountain. There are a creek going around the mountain and several ponds. The pond in the photo below is very lovely. No doubt there are springs here.

If it is a square pyramid as this contour map indicates, … Wow! Note the flat top. There was a hatake and plants were growing well – pyramid energy! That there is so much water must be significant – it may be a water source. The station must be pumping water to Sendai-shi.

hakokuroyama-contour-map-c1

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