|A good day, and as always, a few surprises.
You probably know that I stayed at the Koyasan Youth Hostel before.
And I knew that it had a temple's name. Well, this morning I
discovered that one of the rooms is actually still an active hondo!
You enter what seems to be a guest room, look to the right, and you're
looking in at an altar and honzon. A nice surprise.
I left the hostel (temple) around nine-something and headed for the
Okunoin to report to the Daishi. Nothing new to say about that;
you can re-read what I said on October
13th about the place.
One difference--when I went to have my book signed and stamped, they
did something I had read about: the man in the stamp office turned to
the page that was signed before, and merely added red stamps--no black
ink was added. If you make the pilgrimage numerous times, you just
keep getting more red, no black.
I thought this was pretty cool--until the guy charged me the same 300
yen as if he had signed it! Hey, shouldn't it be cheaper when they
do less work?
Returning to the center of town, I browsed the shops. The only
things that attracted me were two books. One is called Kukai:
Major Works and the other is on Shingon and the Daishi by a guy
Statler refers to as "the Daishi's modern biographer." I
had the books in my hands when I realized that both had been published
in the U.S., and would be much cheaper to buy (as well as easier
to transport!) when I get home next month.
So I had my last bowl of sansai (mountain vegetable) noodles
and walked back to get my bags from the Youth Hostel. The late
morning air had that kind of crisp cold that makes you know that if any
precipitation occurs, it's gonna be snow. So the hot noodles were
I took the express train into Namba station, had a late lunch, and did
some e-mailing (as well as posting the second half of yesterday's
Then I caught a train to Tsu--Japan's shortest
city name, it can be written with only one phonetic character--where I
was met by my friends the Imamuras.
It's a pleasure to see them of course, but I was also here on a
In July I walked the Chichibu 34 Kannon pilgrimage. I have now
completed all four of Japan's major pilgrimages (the Saigoku [Kansai]
33, the Bando [Kanto] 33, the Chichibu 34, and the Shikoku 88).
Although I had stamp books signed for each of the courses, the Chichibu
one was the only one where I had a kakejiku, or hanging scroll,
This is a work of art unto itself; I was glad to pay the initial
22,000 yen for the hand-painted scroll, plus 500 yen for each of the 34
signatures. (That's 39,000 yen--around $325--to save you the
effort.) I was shocked to discover afterward, though, that it
would be another 60,000 or more to have the scroll properly mounted!
So I called my friend (and former student) Mariko to ask her advice,
since I knew that she studied the painting of such scrolls. She
contacted her teacher, then called me to tell me that her teacher knew
an expert who could do it right for a decent price. So I turned
the unmounted scroll over to Mariko in Tokyo last August, and tonight
after dinner, I saw it (or "her"--Kannon-sama) for the
Here's a picture.
But no picture can convey the heart-throbbing that one experiences when
one stands in front of the real thing. To think that for the rest
of my life, wherever I am, I will have access to this beauty, without
having to travel to a temple or museum, is an overwhelmingly enriching
thought. To my personal friends: I can't wait to show you!
Tomorrow: my triumphal re-entry to Tokyo. As there's a small
tequila bash planned for tomorrow night (my first drink since the
Sayonara Party on September 2nd) I probably won't be writing tomorrow!
In fact, it will probably be days before I have much to say beyond
the boring details of re-adjustment. So please be patient, and
check in sometime in the next few days.
This pilgrimage is over--but others are about to begin, both
literally and figuratively.