Monday, September 11, 2023

Usa Shrine: Usa City, Oita Prefecture

Usa (Jingu) Shrine hold a special place in my heart.  It was the first shrine that I ever visited on my first trip to Japan many moons ago.  Of course in those days I was wide eyed and bushy tailed and the many intricate details and cultural norms of the Shinto religion were obviously lost on me but nevertheless the shrines sheer size (one of the biggest in all of Japan) and brightly colored buildings are still etched in my brain even today.

Usa Jingu is one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan with a history that spans close to 1300 years. Its main deity is Hachiman, who is worshipped as a guardian of the country and the imperial family. Shrines dedicated to Hachiman are among the most numerous in Japan and Usa Jingu serves as their head shrine. As you can guess, this holds the Shrine as one of the most important in Japan and rightly so.

The size of the land that Usa Shrine sits on is absolutely massive.  I don't know exactly how big it is but all I can say is that it quite a long trek from the carpark to the main shrine buildings.  Not that you will complain, the walk is exciting and adventurous as well as being a real cultural and mature orientated experience.  The walk is mostly flat so in reality no problems for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness.

I know a lot of people might be saying, oh no not another shrine especially for those who are doing an all Japan cruise and visiting many cities during their itinerary.  However, I can say for certain that this shrine will be like no other that you have visited or will intend to visit.  I am sure you will see this in all the photos and videos posted below.

Please check out the Usa Shrine here on a map:

Please click on the photos below to enlarge:

One of the many massive torii gates

Well signposted in English

Japanese flag is always present

Purification station

Shinto symbols

Sake and Shinto are intertwined

Impressive ponds are front and center

Picturesque indeed!

Please check out the Usa Shrine here in more detail from the following videos:

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Megami Bridge- Nagasaki City

It's not too often that the Grand Lady of Cruising, the QE 2 is in town. When an opportunity to see this majestic ship in the Port of Nagasaki arises then a true fan will do whatever it takes to see her up close and personal.

In a true story, my mum and I were supposed to cruise around NZ on the QE2 back in 2020 but the night before our departure from Sydney our cruise was cancelled by a Covid outbreak.  Obviously our chance to cruise on the QE2 went down in flames but it still remains on our agenda and I am sure that one day this cruise will come to fruition.

On this particular day not only was I able to see the ship depart from the Port Terminal but I hightailed it to the best vantage point in the city, the Megami Bridge to see her in all its glory.  In fact, I wasn't the only one!!  There were hundreds of people already on the bridge and arriving at ever minute to get a last glimpse of her on its departure.

Hope you enjoy the pictures and videos, I know I did when I was taking them!

Please click on this link to see the Megami Bridge on a map:

Please click on the photos below to enlarge:

Getting ready to depart

Port workers waiting for the order

On the Megami Bridge

A crowd has gathered!

Here she comes!

Closer and closer!

Such an impressive sight.

See you again.

Please click on these videos below to see more of the QE2 and its departure from the Port of Nagasaki.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Tozan Shrine: Arita Town, Saga Prefecture

You know you are in Ceramic Territory when the Shrines are decked out in Porcelain designs.  It's actually quite remarkable for such a religious and hence traditional institution to allow these designs but when you think about it, it's actually a marketing masterpiece that will attract more customers to the region to see something unique.

The Tozan Shrine is specifically located just above a train station is its easy to find but of course you just have to be careful when crossing the tracks.  But don't worry since we are in the remote countryside of Kyushu there aren't too many trains in a daily routine.  Walking towards the Shrine is a cultural event in itself.  You literally have to stop and look intensely at every statue, pillar, column and of course the main torii entrance gates that feature at every Shinto Shrine in Japan.

The Shrine is also dedicated to Lee Sam Pei, the Korean Potter (who was allegedly brought to Japan by force in the 17th century) who is the person that developed and started the 1st Ceramic Industry in Japan, specifically here in Arita, Saga Prefecture.  His memorial statue is located up on a hill behind the shrine and although it is a great view up there of the entire town, unless you have a specific reason to do so, visiting the statue is not a moving moment at all.

I recommend this site as its centrally located near many other attractions off a main street and it's obviously the only Shrine in Japan that is decorated just so.  You miss it here, and you will not see another one, period!

Please check out the Tozan Shrine in Arita Town here on a map:

Please click on the photos below to enlarge:

Purification time

Porcelain is incredible

Even small is impressive

Interesting roof tiles

Too many details to fathom

The torii gate is impressive

The size of the vases are massive

Check out the detail

Has a magnificent view

Please click on the video below to see more about Tozan Shrine:

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Sohonzan Shrine: Saikai Town, Nagasaki Prefecture

Our popular WW2 History and Culture Tour of Nagasaki incorporates a long drive at the beginning of the day. So, I was looking for a location to visit in order to reduce the time spent between attractions. Low and behold this huge Torii (Gate Entrance of Shinto Shrines) came into view and instantly I knew that this was the place that I was looking for.

At first, I thought that the Cultural component of the tour would be boosted to meet up with the many historical locations already firmly in place. But little did I expect the Sohonzan Shrine to tick every box and literally surprise me to no end that this location in its own right is one of the highlight attraction of the whole day.

It has everything you need as a shore excursion stop.  A chance to stretch your legs, a toilet break, nature and landscapes, a strong cultural component and in total a site that makes you glad it was included in the itinerary. 

Of course, in my time here in Japan, I have been to a thousand shrines. Some are excellent, some are ho hum, some are preached as the most important or religiously significant shrines of the region.  In this case, I won't do any of that but what I will tell you is that Sohonzan Shrine will leave a strong impression on you even if you have been to many in the past.

I am really please that many of our clients have felt exactly the same way about their visit and time here at Sohonzan Shrine as I did on my first time.  It is now a mainstay attraction of this tour and I hope it will be for many years to come.

Please click here to see the Sohonzan Shrine on a map:

Please click on the photos below to enlarge:

The entrance

Pray for Ukraine

Names of benefactors


Peaceful location

Beautiful gardens

Shinto heavenly powers

Plenty of Carp

Impressive even from a distance!

The torii gate is massive

Please click on the videos below to see more about Sohonzan Shrine and its appeal.