Aki Meguri Shikoku
October 17th, 2001 (Wednesday):
Temples 17 and 18
Note: In the original Aki
Meguri pages, the Shikoku stage had no journal entries. Rather,
my thoughts and feelings were incorporated into the "Logbook,"
so you won't find separate journal entries here, as in the Old
Tokaido and Yamato stages.
|Today is a milestone of sorts. As
of today I have been on the road for six weeks. It's not a
vacation anymore, it's a job. Chris from Amnesty
International wrote today, thanking me for putting their link on my
site. In his note, he mentioned that "After a day's
sightseeing, all I want to do is sit and have a beer." Well,
beer would be a violation of my pilgrim's vow, but I'll tell ya: it's
not easy to do three or four hours of work on the page after walking all
day! But it has become an obsession. Besides, I'm pleased
with both the page and the feedback it has generated. What will I
do when the trip is over?
And it will be over. I'm
fatigued, and though I can't imagine myself doing anything else right
now, I will probably be accelerating things a bit; I don't know if I can
take another six weeks, which was the original plan.
Today is also a milestone in regards to
the future: two months from today, on December 17th, I will fly back to
Los Angeles. As tough as it is to imagine, I'll be a resident of
the U.S. two months and one day from now. It's been almost five
years, and the America that I will return to has probably changed more
in the past 5 weeks or so than I have in five years. Will we still
fit? Stay tuned.
And for the first time in six weeks, I
took the wrong train. In Tokyo, where most lines run every 10
minutes or even more often, this might have cost me 10 or 15 minutes.
But here in the countryside, where a train might come once in forty
minutes or more, it cost me way over an hour. I took a
train from near the hostel in to Tokushima; I was meant to take another
on from Tokushima out to Ko, where I stopped last night. I stepped
into a train and asked the driver, "Does this train go to Ko?"
He answered, "Ikimasu, yo"--it goes (it does).
Well, either my pronunciation is poor, and he thought I said another
name; or my listening is poor, and he said "Ikimasen, yo"--it
doesn't. I suspect the former, because I sat down near him and he
didn't correct me. After two stops, when I moved toward the door,
he asked me what was up and I said, "I'm going to Ko."
"Ah, Ko," said he. "That's the other way."
The American in me wanted to say, "No [stuff], Sherlock" but
the "good gaijin" said, "I'm sorry, excuse me, I
made a mistake."
So I got off the train, waited
interminably for the return train, waited for another train from
Tokushima to Ko, and got there.
Now, remember that last night the stamp
office was closed, and I had to return to Number 16 to get my book
signed? Well, all these little calamities--having to backtrack,
messing up trains--led to this: when I arrived back at Number 16, my
friend Aki from last Sunday was there! I told her my story, and
before I could say it, she said, "It's so we would meet
again!" Exactly. We chatted a bit, and she told me that
Number 12--the one I skipped--was by far the most amazing thing she's
seen. Dang! Gotta go tomorrow. I got my book signed,
and set off back in the same direction, past Ko station toward Number
|Temple #17: Idoji (The Temple of the
Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai (Baisajya-guru)
The local farmers had no water.
In one night, the Daishi dug a well with his staff, ensuring a constant
Do you believe it? I have a few
problems with it.
There's not one well in the temple's yard, but two.
- Point: There is water everywhere
in this area; it's near the confluence of two major rivers
- Point: The temple has been
here since 674; what did they do for water before the Daishi
Oh, well (!). Faith is faith.
Bishop Miyata says that the well is called Omokage-no-ido, the
"Well of the Image." According to legend, seeing
your face in the well brings good luck; if you can't see your face,
"you will meet with an accident within a few years."
There is another such well at Kiyomizudera, Number 25 on the Saigoku
(Kansai) 33 Kannon Pilgrimage. (This is not the
Kiyomizudera in central Kyoto.) I saw my face today, and at
Kiyomizudera last spring. Ed Readicker-Henderson didn't see his at
either; anything bad happen, Ed?
sits in this pretty building, in front
and to the side of the hondo
Ed also points out that although this
temple is one of the oldest on Shikoku, its buildings are the newest of
the 88; they were built in the 70's, after a 1968 fire. And the Bishop
says--contrary to Ed's statement regarding Number 8--that this is
the largest gate, not just on the pilgrimage, but on Shikoku Island!
Because of wasted time--and because it's
18 kilometers to the next temple--I tried something new today. I
stood at the exit of the parking lot of Number 17 with a sign that said
"To Number 18." After wasting another 40
minutes--during which Aki showed up and laughed at me--I trudged back to
Ko station and caught the train toward Number 18, which is a few
kilometers from my lodging.
|Temple #18: Onzanji (Gratitude
Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai (Baisajya-guru)
This may be the most atmospheric temple
I've seen so far. (Of course, the deluge helped. The
vertical lines in my photo of the hondo in the Gallery are not a
problem with my camera; they're visible streams of water pouring down.)
I approached the temple on the car
road, as the henro michi (pilgrim's path) was swampy. One
thing that makes this place so attractive is that there is a henro
michi, a grassy track separate from the asphalt road. On the
way up, I noticed a sort of shed next to the car road.
When I reached the top, there was no
gate. This seemed odd, given the general quality of the buildings.
Heading back down, I had a hunch and--yup! Had I arrived on the henro
michi, I would have seen the other side of the "shed,"
which was actually a Nio-mon--a "Two King's
gate"--minus the Nio.
Instead, the gate (which you can see in
the Gallery, with the red bridge of the car road behind it) had these huge
sandals hanging on the front. I'll say more about these at
Number 20, reputed to have the largest straw sandal in Japan. But
here it seemed interesting that they were hung in such a way that they
seemed like substitutes for the missing kings.
This temple has a gripping legend.
The Daishi was born into a family whose association with the Emperor
stretched back into the Legendary Age. Though they were somewhat
in disgrace when he was a boy, nevertheless they maintained their
traditions, including the embracing of Shinto. By becoming a
big-time Buddhist, Kukai (his name as a monk) was insulting his family's
This background makes the ending of
this story all the more striking.
When the Daishi was staying at Number
18, there was a rule in effect that no women were allowed on the
mountain. So when the Daishi's mother came to visit, she was
refused admission. In a kind of pious protest, the Daishi began a
ritual intended to overturn the ban on women. (I have three
versions of this story, and each gives a different length for the
ritual: The Bishop says 17 days, Oliver Statler gives 21, and Ed has 24;
something's fishy here.) Anyway, the ritual was long--and
effective. At the end of it, the ban was lifted, and Mom was
What else could be done, then, but to
shave her head and ordain her a nun? So the mother followed the
child into the Buddhist fold.
The name of the temple includes the
idea of gratitude, which The Bishop says is "gratitude to
parents." The temple was given this name after this story
took place. Though I can't read all of the goeika, or poem
for this temple, I know it includes the lines
so no chi chi ha ha no
o n za n ji
"...that father's, mother's temple
of gratitude..." or "that gratitude of father, mother
temple..." Anyway, I said a special prayer of thanks for mine
Back down the hill, caught a bus, which
ran amazingly near my youth hostel, though I stayed on all the way to
Tokushima station--almost an hour's ride--so I could get dinner.
Wow. 10:30 and ready to publish.
These two-temple days are great! Especially since I have to get up
early tomorrow morning and--rain or shine--face:
The Challenge of Number 12