29th February: Nikko – Hachiman Shrine

Here we are at the end of the Kanman Path, at an impressive pedestrian suspension bridge over the Kanmangafuchi Abyss.

On the other side of the bridge there were a few more statues in a park, probably statues of Jizu or else another boatsu.

The snow had become particularly heavy.

I had wanted to explore the Nikko Botanical Gardens but unfortunately they were closed (probably due to the conditions) so I walked on.  The entrance to the Hachiman Shrine is just over the road on the left.  I was glad I was not driving, more of that in the next post.

The entrance to the Hachiman Shrine.

In the grounds of the Hachiman Shrine, this is a minimalist sculpture to the Japanese God of Gardening, dating to the Heisei era.

This boatsu, covered in snow and also at the right of the previous picture, is sitting on a lotus leaf.  Being brass, it has weathered much better than the stone statues.

Meiji Restoration and modern period (1868-1990)

Commodore Perry steamed into Yokahama Harbour in 1854 and forced the opening up of Japan to trade.  Attempted armed resistance merely demonstrated how far behind the West Japan had fallen in its military capacity.  This led to a gradual breakdown of Tokugawa authority and sporadic mini-rebellions until the final eclipse of the Tokugawa government with the Meiji Restoration in 1868. This then produced a remarkable series of changes.

By 1871, all daimyo had surrendered their lands to the Emperor, creating the first centralised political system in Japanese history.  A national army was created from 1873 along Western lines, open to all social classes.  In 1868 there were nearly two million samurai in Japan.  Their rights were slowly restricted until they were forbidden to wear their distinctive hairstyles and carry swords and their identity as a military class was abolished.  Rebellions proved ineffective.

Some Buddhist sects were seen as closely associated with the Tokugawa regime so some sects and temples were suppressed and Shinto was separated out from Buddhism.  The Fuke sect was banned altogether.  These were monks who wandered around Japan wearing a basket over their head and playing a flute.  It sounds like an urban myth but it’s not.  They were a Zen sect who believed in direct spiritual experience by playing a flute while separated from the distractions of the outside world.  The problem was that there had been many samurai and Tokugawa spies passing themselves off as such monks.

During the Meiji period, Japan systematically adopted Western practices in education and in social, industrial and military organisation.  They won a war with China in 1895 and one with Russia in 1906 and were allies with Britain during the First World War.  The period of liberal democracy in the 1920s morphed into military dictatorship and war.  After the Second World War there was a time of hardship and some significant social unrest until Japan became perhaps the World’s most successful economic powerhouse, at least until the end of the 1980s.

3 comments on “29th February: Nikko – Hachiman Shrine

  1. […] 29th February:  Nikko – Hachiman Shrine […]


  2. Tata Fata says:

    Stunning images full of poetry 🙂


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