Japan (April 2019): Hagi (2/2: Off the island)


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To directly access the first page on Hagi (″On the island″), click here.


Annotated aerial view of Hagi.


Daishoin temple:


This Zen Buddhist temple is one of the two main Mori family temples, along with Toko-ji. Located south of the Hashimoto-gawa, it was built in 1656 to honor Mori Hidenari (1595-1651), son and successor of Mori Terumoto. The temple was destroyed by a fire in 1747 and reconstructed in 1750. The Mori family had a Chinese system of burial that alternates grave locations between successive generations. So, some of the Mori lords (including Mori Hidenari) are buried at Daishoin and others at Toko-ji (see further down in this page). Mori Terumoto is buried separately in the Tenjuin graveyard located on the island near the Hagi castle (see the first page on Hagi).



Beautiful shoromon (gate with bell tower) of the temple (front and back).



The hondo (main prayer hall).


The cemetery located behind the hondo offers a grandiose, but deeply serene and spiritual sight. It contains 52 graves including those of seven Hagi lords, and over 600 stone lanterns donated by vassals. Some samurai who committed seppuku after the death of their lords are also buried here. Most of the lanterns are lined up into parallel rows on a gentle slope, like an army of soldiers protecting their lords. The holes in the lanterns are either full circles, then representing the sun, or half circles, for the moon.








The graves of the lords and their wives are fronted by stone torii.



Kanaya shrine:


This shrine, also located south of the Hashimoto-gawa, was built in 1720 by Mori Yoshimoto, next to the gate of the castle (that no longer exists). When the Mori lords and their families left Hagi to Edo (present-day Tokyo) for the sankin-kotai, they always stopped here to pray for their safe travel. (As major feudal rulers, called daimyos, the Hagi lords were required during most of the Edo era to switch residence periodically between Hagi and Edo. The purpose of this policy, known as sankin-kotai, was to strengthen central control over the locally powerful daimyos.)


Entrance gate of the shrine. This gate used to contain statues of Buddhist guardians that were removed at the Meiji restoration.


Statue of a white horse on the left side of the shrine.


The inner courtyard of the shrine. Note the row of painted wooden tablets beneath the roof. Two of these tablets are shown below.


View toward the courtyard and the entrance gate from the interior of the shrine.


Interior of the shrine.



Two of the painted wooden tablets that ornate the courtyard.


Two of the more elaborate paintings hanging in the shrine.


Shoka Sonjuku:


This former modest-looking private school (two rooms) is in the present-day precinct of the Shoin shrine east of the Matsumoto river. It is here that Yoshida Shoin (born in Hagi in 1830) taught revolutionary ideas that contributed to the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate. After an attempt to escape from Japan, Yoshida Shoin was imprisoned, then placed in house arrest under his uncle′s control. He then taught arts and politics to young people (mainly children of middle-class commoners) at his uncle′s private school (the Shoka Sonjuku school). Shoin advocated independent learning and the restoration of power to the emperor against the ruling shogunate. During the Ansei Purge against antigovernment forces, he was arrested again and eventually executed in 1859. But he had been an inspiring teacher and several of his former students became political activists who fought against the shogunate and made major contributions during the Meiji era. The Shoin shrine, on the grounds of which the Shoka Sonjuku school is now located, was built in 1955 and enshrines Yoshida Shoin. (Another Shoin shrine was built in 1882 in Tokyo.)


Shoka Sonjuku school and bronze statue of Yoshida Shoin with his early disciple Kaneko Shigenosuke. The statue was erected in 1968 at the birthplace of Yoshida Shoin on a hill above the Shoin shrine.





This Zen Buddhist temple is the other major Mori family temple, along with Daishoin. Founded in 1691, it is the resting place of five Mori lords.


The outer gate (Somon) of the temple built in 1693, with the main gate (Sanmon) partially visible behind it.


The Sanmon built in in 1811, with the alley leading to the main hall behind it.



The Sanmon seen from the other side. The red Somon is partially visible.


The main hall (Daiohoden).



View of the interior of the main hall.


Like at Daishoin, there is an impressive cemetery behind the temple, with rows of several hundred lanterns (~500) donated by vassals. The graves of the five Mori lords buried here and of their wives are located at the upper end of the cemetery above the field of lanterns and are marked with large stelae and. (As Toko-ji is closer to downtown Hagi than Daishoin, I visited it twice on two different days at different times. Some of the photos below show the cemetery on a bright sunny morning, others on a misty afternoon.)








Reverberatory furnace:


This 10.5m chimney was part of an experimental metal-smelting furnace built in the mid-19th century and aimed at casting iron cannons. It was based on a Dutch model and gave practical experience that helped Japan to develop its heavy industry. This chimney is one of the only two furnace vestiges remaining from the Edo era in Japan.



Kasayama peninsula:


This peninsula located 6km northeast of Hagi′s center is formed by Mount Kasayama (112m), a dormant volcano. During the Meiji era it was mostly a farming area, but it is now covered by woods. A narrow road goes to the summit of the volcano. There are also several pleasant walking trails, often along stone walls that are farming vestiges.


The small port of Koshigahama at the foot of Mt. Kasayama.


Squid for sale in the port.


Drying seaweed.


The Myojinike pond (connected to the sea) and its small shrine, at the start of the road ascent toward the summit of the peninsula.





Walking trails.



Views from the peninsula:


- Toward Hagi (visible on the left side of the photo). Mt. Shizuki, where Hagi′s castle was built, stands at the center-right.


- Toward the west. The small islet surrounded by fishing boats is named Kushima.


- Toward the north. The inhabited island is Ooshima.


Motonosumi Inari shrine:


This shrine, located 40km west of Hagi, was built in the late 1980s. It is known for its alley of 123 vermilion torii standing on top of a steep cliff above the Sea of Japan. This temple was a big disappointment to me (the only one in this trip): it is void of any charm, culture, or spirituality. The cartoonish fox statues (the guardians of the Inari god) are ugly and ridiculous (see photo below). The poorly painted concrete fabric of the shrine and its torii is cheap, just intended to make an immediate (but very short) impression on the visitors, thanks to the natural beauty of the surrounding site.





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