I have a writeup introducing Kitakyushu in the works, but it’s taking on a life of its own and needs a fair bit of editing and fact-checking. Until it’s ready, please bear with the shorter posts.
Here’s a temple that I pass every day on my way to and from work. It’s on the same chain of hills as the art museum that I wrote about awhile back, in the Takami (高見) area of Yahata Higashi Ward (八幡東区). It’s about a twenty-minute walk from our apartment, ten or fifteen minutes by bike.
Aside from the images at the end of this post, I took all of these photos during my first visit there in January 2004.
My various dictionaries tell me that the characters on my map (阿弥陀院) are pronounced Amida-in. But my reading of the characters is pure guesswork. Amida-in translates as Buddha Temple.
I don’t know much else about the temple. As far as I can tell, it’s just an average neighbourhood temple. There are a couple of schools nearby—a school for the blind, an elementary school, and a junior high school—but their proximity is unsurprising since temples (Buddhist) and shrines (Shinto) have traditionally played an important role in the Japanese education system.
Actually, as far as I can tell the building pictured above isn’t the actual temple. It seems to be a bell tower. The temple itself is a single-storey building that, for reasons I can’t remember, I didn’t take any pictures of at the time. I took some today on my way home from work, and included them below.
There’s also a relatively large cemetery nearby, which you can see in the photo below. Many of the cemetaries are arranged in concentric circles or arcs. I haven’t yet tried to find out whether there’s significance in this layout.
In the hills in the top-right of the photo is a sprawling greyish building. That’s the school I work at, known officially as Fukuoka Prefectural Yahata Senior High School (福岡県立八幡高等学校), and unofficially as Hachikou (八校).
Here are a few photos of statues on the temple grounds. I don’t know much about them or what they signify but if you feel ambitious, have a look at this site about Japanese religious sculpture. There’s an A-Z guide to Buddhist deities, with pictures.
There were statues lining the short driveway up to the temple grounds. The first one is on the left-hand side, in the shade.
This next photo is almost directly across the driveway from the previous one. There’s nothing to shade the late afternoon sunlight, which accounts for the warm glow. The two photos were taken about two minutes apart. In fact, I took the photo below, then a few detail shots, and then turned around to take the view up the driveway that you see above.
This guy is at the entrance to the driveway, on the left side of the road.
I can’t remember where this statue is in relation to the others.
This was the second time I’d visited a Japanese temple, and the first time I’d seen such an extensive collection of statues. I’ve since discovered that sites like this are pretty common. I also realized that despite the few really famous temples and shrines that are in all the postcards and coffee table books about Japan, there are hundreds of almost anonymous sites like Amida-in hidden in cities and towns throughout the country.
After writing most of this post, I realized that I was missing a few shots so I went back to Amida-in with my camera. First is a view up the driveway to Amida-in. Looking at the left side of the road, and counting the standing figure on the tall pedestal just to the right of the sign, the statue pictured in the previous photo is the ninth one. The bell tower is to the left, up the hill behind the sign, and the temple building is up the hill to the left of the furthest red-leafed tree. Straight up the road is what appears to be the priest’s residence and a meeting hall, and then there’s a footpath that doubles back up the hill to the temple, bell tower and then even more statues and a small graveyard even further up the hill.
Here’s the temple building:
And here’s a detail of the Kannon statue in front of the temple building. Kannon is the goddess of mercy, known in China as Kuan-yin. The bronze figure in the background is holding some sort of long-stemmed flower or vine that I’m pretty sure lights up at night. I don’t know what the symbolism is, though it looks to me like she might be the patron saint of karaoke.