Matsusue Inari Shrine- 松末稲荷神社 was one of the researched shrine I did for my Artist Residency Exhibition at Studio Kura. This shrine was owned by the Studio Kura founder’s mother, Michiko san. A 5 minutes cycling distance from Studio Kura House 2. Came here twice as the first time was to join the Making of Shimenawa (sacred rope) and I was unprepared for the sudden rain and steep unpaved trail.
This was one of the more challenging shrine and an arty one. It was one of the venue for the International Art Festival: Itoshima Art Farm. The shrines and artworks are scattered at different spots in this mountain so there’s quite a lot walking and climbing, some of the route are steep and unpaved, so it’s best to gear up (although the senior locals make their way up easily, but not for me (city-born person)).
Kotake Shrine- 高嶽神社 was one of the researched shrine I did for my Artist Residency Exhibition at Studio Kura. A quiet neighbourhood shrine up at the Shiroyama mountain 城山. 8 minutes cycling distance from the Hakojima Shrine. Unlike the bright colour, grand shrine, what I like about this shrine is its exact opposite style. Greeted by a long steep slope at the entrance and followed by a lengthy stairway surrounded by dense bamboo trees is pretty meditative as I take each steps up.
Tranquil and rustic environment without anyone around is the charm of this shrine. Allowing quality ‘me’ time is what I prefer compare to crowded popular shrine.
Hakojima Shrine 箱島神社 was one of the researched shrine I did for my Artist Residency Exhibition at Studio Kura. It is located on a small island offshore along the Karatsu Highway. A short 8-10 mins cycling distance from Studio Kura House 2, but it’s quite a scary ride on the highway especially when cycling next to fast moving vehicles and I have to constantly ride really close to the fenced ledge.
The entrance to the island is next to a residence house, it’s a sandy pave that leads to the beach. Usually the locals stroll along the beach occasionally, otherwise, there’s hardly any people around.
Kamiari Shrine- Sacred Stone(神在神社ー神石) was one of the researched shrine I did for my Artist Residency Exhibition at Studio Kura. It was around 25 minutes leisure cycling distance from Studio Kura’s House 2 or a 15 minutes walk from Ikisan station (一貴山駅).
Main Shrine area is located in the residence area at the corner of the road. Unlike the usual wooden red torī gate, this shrine has a stone torī. Next to the main shrine on the right there’s a smaller version where they enshrined a stone in it.
From the left side of the main shrine, there is road that leads to the Sacred Stone (3-5 minutes walk) with a signage indicating in Japanese Kanji (神石). At the end of the road you will reach a solar power plant and then continue to walk along the dirt path until you reach a junction, follow the signage and take the left path. Midway through, there is an “entrance” or more like an opening with steps. It’s hardly noticeable and I’m actually quite uncertain about it, as there wasn’t a single soul around, and it’d definitely off the designated dirt pave and heading into the thick and wild forest. But curiosity overruled, and there I found a most unexpected surprise!
Was speechless and mesmerized by the tranquil sight. A massive Stone nested comfortably among the quiet dense bamboo grove.
The bamboos surrounding the stone was cleared, leaving a large opening above the stone creating a natural spotlight that lights up the Sacred Stone. The stone was leaning against a tree, like its being careful held in place. Do watch your step, as there many bumps on the ground, those are the bamboo remains after being chopped away to clear up the ground.
Matsusue Goro Inari Shrine－松末五郎稲荷神社 was one of the researched shrine I did for my Artist Residency Exhibition at Studio Kura. This was the closest shrine to where I’m staying, located between Studio Kura Studio 1 and House 2, starting from either place, it takes about 3-5 minutes on foot. The shrine starting point is quite weird as it felt like walking into a local resident’s backyard and from there, take a flight of stairs which lead to various Shrines of different designs and sizes.
In front of this shrine, there’s a huge open space where you can view the town and sometimes they hold events here.
Was very fortunate to participate in the local activity, Shimenawa Making, which takes place once annually. Studio Kura founder’s mother, Michiko san, owns the Matsusue Inari Shrine which is just around the studio vicinity. From the making, prayer, installation and cleaning up took about 6-7 hours.
Shimenawa 標縄 is a sacred rope that is hang on the torī gates or shrine entrance or around the trees/sacred item or along the street during shrine festival to mark out the boundary between the sacred and the profane. It is also use as a ward against evil and disease. Nowadays it comes in varied sizes and designs. It is also used by the local family during New Year as decoration.
After the prayer ceremony, we head up to the shrines in the mountain to install the new Shimenawa.
After the ceremony, the old shimenawa will be burn away as a form of purification as the shimenawa has collected evil for the past one year. Lastly, I was able to ask the priest a few questions regarding the iconic motifs and it’s function and compile them with my own research and use it for the my art installation, Way of Life.