A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.
A Bike-Ride Through the Old Neighborhoods of Yatabe (谷田部), Tsukuba
Text and Photos by Avi Landau
One of the distinctive cultural features of the Tsukuba area, these Y-shaped sticks with inscriptions in Sanskrit and Chinese Characters and called Zakumata, are prayers for easy delivery (in Childbirth). This one is in Karima, Tsukuba, across the street from a convenience store, near the Yasaka Shrine.
Among the many interesting stone Buddha’s to be found on the grounds of the Karima Yasaka Shrine is this rare (for the area) Edo Period Yakushi Nyorai Deity of Medicine and Healing (identifiable by the medicine flask held in its left hand)
This plate over the front of the Karima Yasaka Jinja Shrine’s Main Hall is said to the writing of Hosokawa Okitsura (細川興貫) of the Yatabe Domain. The distinguishing feature of this part of Tsukuba is that during the Edo Period it was ruled by a branch of the famous Hosokawa Family (of the great Kumamoto Castle in Kyushu).
This image of Jizo I found next to the Nishioka Community Center is dated 1537 and is said to be the oldest stone Buddha in the Yatabe area
Next to it stands one of the 50 or so “Large-Nosed Dainichi” statues (as they are known) – another distinctive cultural feature of the area. It was made in 1631.
These stone lanterns in front of the Inari Shrine in Shima, Tsukuba are quite unusually shaped (for this area) and were made in 1834
This road marker in Shima commemorate the establishment of the Manchukuo “puppet-state” in Manchuria in 1932.
A Dainichi statue on the grounds of the Kashima Shrine in Kojirohazama.
The Yagihashi Inari Shrine – with offerings of SUMITSUKARI wrapped in straw.
A stone slab for consoling the spirits of the dead in Kojirohazama (erected 1770)
Yatabe’s “Pentagon”, the GOKAKUDO ( a five-sided thatched roof structure) built by the local Edo Period celebrity (inventor, architect and clock-maker) Iizuka Igashichi (1762-1836), nicknamed “Mechanical-Doll Igashichi, からくり伊賀七 (KARAKURI IGASHICHI)
A reconstruction of one of Igashichi’s Japanese clocks (at the Yatabe History Museum
A memorial to the former Yatabe Naval Aviation Airfield which was established in 1932 as part of the Kasumigaura Naval Aviation base and became an independent base in 1939 where fighter-plane training was carried out. Planes out of this base were used to try to defend Tokyo from American bombers and participated in Operation Ten-Go and Operation Kikusui. After the war the base was closed down – and the Agricultural Research Institutes and Gakuen Hospital were built on its former grounds.
The Mole-Removing Shrine (IBO JINJA) – since 1775 people suffering from certain ailments- moles, warts, and other skin growths, would come here for help.
Phallic stones on the grounds of the Hanare Kannon Temple, established in 1592 by Lord Yura of the Ushiku Domain to console the spirits of fighters who died in this area during the 16th century period of civil war
Ceiling painting of a TENNYO heavenly maiden at the Hanare Kannon -said to be by Edo Period physician and Dutch Studies scholar, who studied geology and astronomy (besides medicine) Hirose Shuhaku ( -died 1818)
The son of the priest of the Anraku Ji Temple (established in 1462) showing me his Ko-ro, a clock that uses incense to measure the passage of time.
Headman`s house in Yamanaka, Tsukuba
A Jizo statue in Yamanaka
This tiny Kashima Jinja Shrine in Taira (established in 1752) stands on what was once the grounds of the Seiko-in Temple – one of the many temples eliminated during the Meiji Period
Some rare “Double Jizo” stone statues at the Kongo-in Temple
Mythical beasts on the main hall of the Kongo-in Temple, Tateno, Tsukuba – read more about these motifs in Dr. Junichi Saga’s book KANGITEN
This map of Tsukuba City shows the five towns that have merged to form it. Tsukuba, at the top, below it Oho, then Toyosato beneath it (on the left) and Sakura (on the right). At the bottom is Kukizaki. These pictures are from Yatabe the orange area in the center through which the TX line runs (all four station of that line are within its boundaries).