Temple or shrine? Does it matter?

The morning of my Sasebo departure, a pre-breakfast walk took me up the hillside and towards a heavily wooded area that, given the density of buildings surrounding the green, had to be a religious site.  Past experience has taught me that a temple or shrine would be tucked in the watershed, though there might be an outpost on top.

Approaching from the backside, I first had some stairs to ascend.  Neighbors starting their Sunday were more than surprised to encounte a foreign visitor who talked to them about the weather, the fine morning, and asked what was up ahead.  

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I rounded a corner of steps carved into a sandstone boulder and was amazed to see a sheer rock face overhang, w/ all kinds of bodhisattva and buddhas below. Many had their original heads knocked off during the brief but destructive crackdown on Buddhism that lasted primarily from 1869-1875 as the feudal era ended (temples were used for repressive government agendas) and Japan’s modernization began in full with the Meiji period.

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Photos show the statues with heads, but usually these are not the originals but ones replaced by similar yet often oddly proportioned ones. The place perfectly combined Shinto and Buddhist practices via Shingon traditions, w/ a fine statue of Kobo Daishi (or Kûkai) on the main temple altar. The shrine altar, however, backed up against the cliff and probably went back into a cave.

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Just a wonderful place to discover at 7:45 a.m. on a Sunday morning.   

 

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