Sunday, October 13, 2013

Omi Island, Shinto Island/大三島、神の島/大三島、神在這座島

After our grueling trip to Kochi, what did we do once back in Ehime?  Why get back in the car and drive, of course!  The weather was nice, so we went north to the islands along the Nishi Seto Expressway.  This is a highway that goes from northern Ehime, across a series of islands, up to Honshu, the main island of Japan.  It's one of three bridges linking Shikoku to Honshu.  It was only built back in 1979, so it's not that old.  It's an absolutely stunning bridge to go over because it treats you to all these wonderful views of the islands in the Seto Inland Sea.  We went to one of those islands, Omi Island, an island famous for its large Shinto Shrine.



The shrine was filled with all these Komainu statues done in different styles.  This is the first pair at the main entrance.

"Oyamazumi Shrine"

Another pair of Komainu.

The shrine's mark.


A very big, old tree on the grounds.

A sign telling us that this tree is Japan's oldest camphor tree, at about 3000 years old.  People historically prayed to it for rain, something very important on this island.  The island is small and without large rivers, and the Seto Inland sea, since it's surrounded by mountains on all sides, tends to be drier than other parts of Japan.
An old-school shinto building with stone lamps in front.

Another view of the old camphor.
Some person left a glass of "One Cup" sake here.  I don't know if they did it as an honest offering to the tree, or if they are just a lazy jerk.  But I can say this, "One Cup" is Japan's version of whatever the vilest type of malt liquor is in the US.  It's cheap, and it's also just the worst thing.

For washing hands before entering the shrine's grounds further.

And here's the main building.  The little structure in front, below the big, thick rope, is where we throw our money before praying to the gods.


For some reason, the building to the left is very different in style.
Those barrels are all barrels of sake.

There were a couple of miko washing the shrine while we there.  One thing I always found interesting about modern miko in Japan is that it's a part-time job that college students and the like often do to make some extra cash, like working at McDonald's or something.



To give you an idea of what a big deal this shrine is (it's known all over Japan) here's a photo of Hirobumi Ito visiting.  There were a whole bunch of photos like this.  Apparently, this shrine has a really long history, and I read somewhere that the entire island used to be considered sacred, and as a result fisherman couldn't catch fish in the waters around it.  (Shinto considers death and blood unclean, so fisherman dragging dead fish to shore and cutting them open every day would clash with the island's sacred function.)



Komainu with strange tails.


A sign informing us that the 38 camphor trees on the shrine grounds were all designated National Treasures by the government in 1951.

This looks something you'd see at a Buddhist temple in south asia.


A stone lamp with modern adaptations.
Some sort of lizard.
We leave this Shinto island and head to a Buddhist one!



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