|Temple #20: Kakurinji (Crane Woods
Honzon: Jizo Bosatsu (Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva)
Up from the parking lot, one reaches
the Niomon, the "Two Kings Gate," which you can see in
I had heard that this temple has
"the largest straw sandal in Japan." I couldn't find it.
But close inspection of the gate brought an even better find: in front
of the kings are two wooden cranes.
Notice the name of this temple.
The Daishi was here, praying as usual, when a small (2 inch, or 5
centimeter) image of Jizo--this temple's honzon--appeared in a
cedar tree, protected by two cranes.
The crane is now the national bird of
Japan, appearing on the 1,000 yen note. But from time immemorial,
it has been a symbol of luck and longevity. I have seen cranes
here, once, in cages at Korakuen Gardens in Okayama. They are big.
As tall as or taller than a man, they are queerly humanoid. There
is a wonderful story, The Gratitude of the Crane, that touches me
deeply at the end. The motif of the story is shape-shifting from
crane to human and back. When you stand eye-to-eye with one of
these magnificent creatures, it becomes believable.
The cranes in the gate were doing
something interesting: the one on the right had her mouth open, as if
saying "A" just like the king on that side. And
naturally, the one on the left had his mouth closed in what the Japanese
insist is "N" but I claim is "M."
("N" does not require closure of the lips.) A-M.
Om, the sound of the universe. Just like the kings.
It has become my custom to reverence
the kings before entering a gate, bowing first to the one on the right
and saying "A," then to the one on the left, saying
"M." Then I bow to the center, representing the silence
underlying the sound, the balance point between these pairs of
opposites, the place where the Buddha dwells.
Today I reverenced the cranes.
The hondo of this temple lies at
the top of a flight of steps; nearby are a statue of Jizo and a
three-story pagoda dating to 1867. Standing in front of the hondo
are two more cranes--fully life-sized, and made of bronze--on
either side of the hondo steps.
Behind and to the left of the hondo
stands this grand old cedar tree. If I read the sign
correctly, this is the tree in which the image of Jizo appeared.
I had a little trouble with the
Daishido at this temple. I passed it on the way up to the hondo
without knowing it. After saying my prayers at the hondo, I
had to ask another pilgrim where the Daishido was. Back down the stairs.
Finishing my prayers, I went back up the stairs to where I had
left my bag. I dawdled there for over an hour--twice directing
other pilgrims back down to the Daishido as they were about to set off
into the mountains looking for it. When I finally descended to
have my book signed, I totally forgot that I hadn't photographed the
This was the most relaxing temple visit
I've had by far. I knew I couldn't enter the minshuku until 4:00,
so there was no rush. I copied some more prayers into my prayer
book, dozed in the sun, chatted with people--and forgot to shoot the
Daishido. This accounts for the "OOPS" in the gallery.
On the subject of chatting with people:
virtually every day since my third day on this island, someone has
approached me at a temple and said, "I saw you at Number
such-and-such." Pilgrims often greet each other with the
"namaste" gesture widely used in India: palms together and a
reverent bow, greeting the god in the other person. When someone
does this, and says, "I saw you before," there is a thrill of
connection, like seeing old friends.
Which, by the way, I did. See old
friends, that is. When I came down from the hondo,
preparing to leave, three of my companions from dinner last night--and
breakfast this morning--had arrived together on foot. We had a little
reunion, took some pictures together, exchanged name cards, and
discussed the road ahead (again).
The gentleman on the left works for
Asahi in Osaka; the lady is from Shimane; and the man on the right from
Aichi (actually from Okazaki, the birthplace of Tokugawa Ieyasu, which I
visited on my Tokaido trek). After our reunion, the men set off
together toward Number 21; the lady was off to find a bus that would
take her to her ryokan for the night (she, like me, is a half-and-half
walker); and I headed down toward Ikuna.
Since I had already seen the henro
michi--the pilgrim's trail--I opted to take the longer, gentler car
road down, and see something different.
And I did. I discovered that
there was a "furaito paaku" here--a flight park, or
launch area for hang gliders and parasailers. (That should tell
you how steep this mountain is.) It made me think of a story about
Number 21, which I'll visit tomorrow. That mountain is one of the
two places where the Daishi in his boyhood allegedly threw himself off
the mountain as a test of faith. And here at Number 20, hobbyists
are doing the same thing every weekend! Later, I actually saw some
out the window of my room.
Another little encounter on the way
down: a couple of gentleman, one about my age and the other probably his
father--were walking up the road and asked me how much farther to the
temple. (I'm charmed by the number of middle-aged people escorting
their aged parents around the circuit.) After I answered, each
produced a mikan, something between an orange and a tangerine, as
a kind of thanks.
They can't know how grateful I was.
Though I remembered liquids this time, the fact that I hung around on
the mountain as long as I did meant I was seriously low on calories.
I ate my emergency supply of peanuts around 11:30, and this is the only
temple I've been to that had no vending machines, so I couldn't even get
some sugar-laden drink for a boost. So the citrus was just what I
needed to help me sprint the last three kilometers down the mountain.
(The henro michi is just over 3K; the gentler car road about 5.)
Reaching Ikuna, I went in search of a
restaurant. Ha. I ended up grazing in a liquor store.
I sat by the highway for a while,
writing in my notebook. It was still only 2:00, two hours before
my room was supposed to be available. I wandered back to the
minshuku's neighborhood and sat under a magnificent gingko tree, called
in Japanese ichou.
The tree is clearly a landmark.
Next to it is a back yard with several statues and old stones; a lady
was plucking weeds around them as I approached. A few minutes
later, I again heard the most stirring sound: the chanting of a pious
old women. I turned to look, but she was nowhere in sight.
She must have gone into the house.
About 3:30 the minshuku's landlady came
out and told me it was OK to come in. Her husband was busy
preparing dinner, so he wrote my room's name on a paper for me.
(These places often have rooms named after trees, flowers, or places,
rather than having numbers.) The name of my room? Ichou.
Gingko. And sure enough, there's a great view of the tree from
By 4:00, I was out of the bath--and
asleep. I woke at 8:00; it's now 11:00. My PHS card (which I
use to connect to the Internet, rather like a cell phone) can't get out
from here, so I'll have to publish tomorrow from somewhere on the road.
Thanks for waiting.