Bristling with towers and antennae, the 470m high Shimanohoshitakayama, hereafter known as Star Mountain, is visible from up and down the coast and from Rte 9 or the train as one passes through Gotsu.
The star on the mountainside, most visible after a snow or when lit up in August, symbolizes a meteor that slammed into the mountain in the year 874. At the site of the impact a temple was built. Reisyo-ji, and the meteor itself enshrined as Inseki Daimyojin, which could be translated as Meteor Great Shining Deity.
The space in the door of the little shrine is so you can reach in and touch the meteor. It is a decent size… I haven’t been able to find out its weight, but it’s close to a metre in length.
The crater made by its impact is now a small pond just in front of the temple.
The small temple itself is fairly nondescript, but outside there are several large statues of Kannon.
Like most temples or shrines that have a strong “folk” tradition, there are an interesting, eclectic, collection of little statues of assorted kami, buddhas, and saints.
Right next to the temple is a park with over 500 Camellia trees. Also nearby is a miniature golf course, and the local “Clean Center” which is where the trash gets recycled and incinerated. Only in Japan could a place that produces toxic dioxin be called a clean center!
There are several spots with scenic overviews of the coast and beautiful downtown Gotsu below.
There is a small settlement up here too, though I was surprised to learn that people didn’t move on to the mountain until the 1940’s.
The local shrine is named after Kakinomoto Hitomaro, probably the most well known of the ancient poets whose work is in the Manyoshu, the oldest anthology of Japanese poetry.
It is believed that the mountain is described in one of his famous poems, On Leaving Iwami, and the evidence is strong. The Sanindo, the ancient road linking the region to the capital in kyoto, passes in front of the mountain, and kakinomotos wife is from Tsunozu at the base of the mountain to the west. Actually he had quite a few wives, but Yosami no Otome is the most well known as she was a poet in her own right and her works are also in the Manyoshu. The love story of Kakinomoto and Yosami was made into a childrens picture book and images of the couple appear all over the Gotsu area, looking suitably cute.
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