Rural Kitakyushu: Nishi Ono Hachiman Shrine, Part 1

Remember the frogs? I found them behind the main buildings of Nishi Ono Hachinmangu (西大野八幡宮, West Big Field Hachiman Shrine), which is the topic of today’s post. As with the Nanae Falls, I have a whole lot of photos so I’m splitting the post into sections. Today’s entry is all about the outsides of the buildings.

This is probably the final series of posts in the saga of my April 30th bike trip. Can you believe I saw all of this in just one day? If you haven’t read the other posts, I highly recommend it. Especially the one about the frogs. Here’s the screenful of links: Introduction, Part 1: Snakes, Part 2: Not A Temple, Part 3: Frogs, Part 4: Farming Grannies, Part 5: Reservoir Mobs, Part 6: Dammed Rivers, Part 7: Sevenfold Waterfalls Post 1, and Post 2.

This is the same torii (gate) that’s in one of the photos on the Farming Ladies post, viewed straight on. Apologies for the poor quality of the photo. It was hazy and the bright noon sun managed to be everywhere because of the overcast sky. The woman bending over to start a pile of dried vegetation on fire should give a sense of the scale of the torii.

photo of the main torii of Nishi Ono Hachimangu, with farming lady starting a fire in the field in front of it

The road ends in a “T” intersection after a short way, and taking the right-hand road leads to another torii. I think I read somewhere that the gates leading up to a shrine or temple signify a kind of passing into magico-religious space. I need to research it a bit further since Shinto traditions figure heavily in some of the posts I’m planning to write. I have enough reference material, though, so there’s no need to post links in the comments. Here’s the view from the road directly in front of the entrance to the shrine.

view from the road, looking into the grounds of Nishi Ono Hachmangu

And here’s the view from just inside the courtyard. You can see my bike leaning against a lamp post. The bottoms of the tires are obscured by the tall grass, but rest assured that they’re at street level.

view from a few metres inside the grounds of Nishi Ono Hachimangu, with my bike across the street

Here’s another view from just inside the gate. Straight through the gap between the trees across the road is the farm building enclosed by the wall pictured in the first photo in this post, and beside it the first torii, though you can’t see either.

view from just inside the courtyard of Nishi Ono Hachimangu, in the direction of the main torii

And a bit more than a quarter turn to the right, we see a big courtyard, the steps up to the shrine, and at the left side, a hand washing station. Why hand washing? It has something to do with purifying oneself before the gods, but as with the other Shinto stuff I’ll have to research it further. Ditto on the actual name of the wash station.

view of the main courtyard, front shrine building, and water station of Nishi Ono Hachimangu

This is what the three main shrine buildings look like. I was looking towards the entrance from the back of the shrine grounds.

view of the three main shrine buildings, looking towards the entrance from the back of the shrine grounds

And here’s a close-up of the signboard that’s in the middle of the picture, to the right of the stone fence. I don’t know what it says, even in a general sense, and I’m not sure how many people would be able to decipher the faded text on the bottom half, either.

weathered wooden signboard on the left side of the shrine buildings, between the second and third buildings

Looking up into the eaves from near the sign yields some elaborate woodwork and some really bright clouds.

view of the elaborate woodwork under the eaves of the third shrine building

Forgive my butchery of architecture terms—I can never remember the terminology for western buildings, and never studied any of the Japanese terminology—but along the bottom edge of the eaves are some elaborately carved ornaments with beautiful scrollwork. Here’s a detail that I took from the other side of the building, where I didn’t have to shoot directly into the sun.

close-up detail of some scrollwork on the side of the rear building of Nishi Ono Hachimangu

And stepping back to the edge of the woods, you can see the two rear buildings. The frogs were enjoying the shade directly behind and to the right of the rear building. In fact the frog photo with the complete plant and the leaves in the background was taken approximately where the ground at the back meets the right edge of the picture. The others frogs were on the slope behind the building.

Behind me are a small stagnant pond, some steps towards a few groups of small altars—I’ll write about them in another post—and a mixed forest.

view of the two rear buildings of Nishi Ono Hachimangu, taken from the left side near the pond

I’ll end with this detail shot. Ropes with these folded paper streamers—each has a special name but I’ll defer to my future research for it—are markers of sacred places or the presence of gods. This one is over the threshold to the rear building of the shrine.

close-up detail of the rope and folded white paper streamers above the threshold of the rear building

Tomorrow we’ll take a respectful peek inside the buildings.

[The next post in this series is Rural Kitakyushu: Nishi Ono Hachiman Shrine, Part 2]