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Aki Meguri Shikoku Logbook:

October 24th, 2001 (Wednesday):
Temples 26, 27 and 28

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.

 
Before I tell you about my day, I want to reflect on a couple of encounters I had.

One of the interesting things about the pilgrimage is--the pilgrims.  Why are people doing this? Statler admits to adjusting his schedule and hanging around a bit just to have a chance to accost pilgrims and get their stories.

Today I heard two similar stories.  One man appeared to be 30+; the other told me he was 47.  Both were 100% walking henros.  (I saw the younger man way back at #11; the one close to my age at Number 23.  It's remarkable how often you encounter the same people, even when your traveling modes are different.  See below for more on this.)  Both said that they were on the pilgrimage to figure out what to do with their lives: take a little breathing space and plan the next step, perhaps (though they didn't say so) with some supernatural help.

Now here's the clincher: the younger fellow has been holding down part-time jobs; the middle-aged man is a company president, owner of an importing company with offices in Los Angeles and Tokyo!

Here are two men from completely different "worlds," life-style-wise, united by a common quest, and a common method of pursuing it.  Fascinating.

On with the day.  I was up, out, and on a bus by 7:40, returning to Number 26 (which I couldn't see yesterday, even though I was in the neighborhood.)  In the bus on the way down the cape, I saw my friend Aki from the first day, walking along the seaside.  I hoped I would catch her later.

Ed Readicker-Henderson makes a big point of how gentle the walk up to Number 26 is.  It's short, true: only 1.2 kilometers from the bus stop.  But gentle?  I don't think so.  Look at this view to see how high one climbs above sea level in that short distance.  To the right of the large green hill on the left, I could actually see the top of Number 25; Number 24 rests on the farthest tongue of land.

Temple #26: Kongochoji (The Temple of Vajra Peak)
Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai (Baisajya-guru)
Gallery

Reaching the temple, one enters the Niomon (Two Kings Gate--see the gallery) into a spacious yard.  The back of the Daishido is to your left, and the hondo is straight ahead.

I wonder at the placement of the Daishido.  It faces away from the compound, and seems to face off the hill toward the sea.  But the view is completely blocked by trees.  What was the history of this arrangement?  Ed mentions that the Daishido is the oldest building here, dating to 1486.  The hondo "only" goes back to 1899.  Was there a re-arrangement of the complex after a fire?

Anyway, the grounds held a couple of surprises.  One was this heavily-braced shoro or bell tower, badly in need of repair.

The other was the younger of the two pilgrims mentioned above; I've shown him leaving the temple, to protect his anonymity.

Ed says there is a "pagoda" (or mound?) on the grounds dedicated to "8,000 whales," but I couldn't find it.  Just as I returned to the office to ask, a busload of people arrived to have their books and scrolls signed, so I bowed out and left them to their work.  I always feel that the "business" of the temple supercedes my sightseeing needs!

This temple is known as "West Temple" in contrast to Number 24, "East Temple."  Tradition says the Daishi underwent religious exercises here; there is even a rival claim to East Temple's, saying he achieved satori here.  This seems unlikely, since this temple is well away from the sea.

Statler has a wonderful story about a night he spent here, the night of the yearly festival when the honzon is revealed.  They say this statue is so realistic that, when it was finished, it walked up to the altar to take its place!

Now, I pick on poor Ed a lot, but this time he really got me going.  Here's a quote:

"The temple's legend...concerns the Daishi's banishing some monsters who lived on the site....I always have trouble with stories like this.  Buddhism teaches compassion for all living beings, monsters or no."

Ummm, Ed?  There are no monsters.  Remember that the Daishi did religious exercises here?  The "monsters" are his inner demons, which are "banished" through discipline.  I'm a religious guy, but these stories are always so much more meaningful to me if I read them from the psychological point of view.

After a brief rest, I headed back down to the main road and caught the bus toward Kochi City, headed for Number 27.  Would I catch up with Aki there?

Walking along the flats, just before starting the climb, I met the man my age mentioned above.  I began speaking in Japanese, and he answered in excellent English.  We talked about our reasons for doing the pilgrimage; he had heard me reading a list of people's names back at Number 23, and wondered why, so I explained about my "mission."  Then I asked him if he had seen a girl matching Aki's description on his way down the mountain; he had--she was about 10 minutes ahead, he said.

Temple #27: Konomineji (The Temple of God's Summit)
Honzon: Juichimen Kannon (Avalokitesvara with eleven faces)
Gallery

I'll spare you the moans about the climb up to Number 27.  Let me just say that this is the designated nansho--difficult place--for Kochi prefecture, the former Tosa-no-kuni.

Reaching the top--or almost the top--I was greeted by a sight described by Bishop Miyata, when he warns: "Do not mistake the path"!  Buddhism and Shinto are literally side-by-side here--probably mingled before the Meiji Restoration.  Dozens of temples--maybe hundreds--were closed during that time in this most anti-Buddhist of regions.  Number 27 was burned, and the honzon moved to Number 26 until 1912.  The temple was then restored; presumably this gate arrangement was made at that time.

When I reached the compound--there was Aki!  YATA!  We had a great time.  She's very funny, poking fun at my age, my weight, my speed (same as hers, despite my use of public transportation)--hey, wait a minute, why was I so happy to see her?

One more thing I have to mention: in addition to the magnificent gate (seen in the Gallery), Number 27 boasts an amazing life-sized statue of Fudo-Myoo.  The colors are intense; here's a close-up.

Aki and I walked down the hill together.  On the way, we saw this view, which looks all the way back to the Cape where Number 24 is located.  She marveled at how far she had walked.  Yes, I said, you are strong and healthy.  But I am smart (for talking the bus).  "Smaato janai," she cried, poking my belly--"Not smart."  I had forgotten that in "Japanese English" the word "smart" means "slim"!

At the bottom of the hill, Aki stopped at her minshuku and I continued out to the bus stop, where I caught the bus again toward Kochi City, this time headed for Number 28.

Leaving the bus, I walked the 2+ kilometers to Number 28, arriving at 4:50, just ten minutes before closing.  I headed straight for the stamp office--having learned my lesson at Number 17--then said my prayers and appreciated the grounds.

Temple #28: Dainichiji (The Temple of the Great Sun)
Honzon: Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana Buddha)
Gallery

This temple has another interesting tale--with a twist.  The Daishi had carved a Yakushi Nyorai in a living camphor tree that stood behind the hondo.  He allegedly did the work entirely with his fingernails--a rigorously ascetic exercise.  In 1868, the tree blew down.  The Bishop solemnly states that a building was then built to house this image (the honzon here is Dainichi Nyorai, as the name suggests.)

Statler says otherwise.  The priest told him quite clearly that the Yakushi carved by the Daishi was destroyed when the tree came down; another statue was moved out of the temple into a little chapel of its own.  "But," the priest says, "most people choose to believe that the image Kobo Daishi carved  with his fingernails still exists and is enshrined there."

Friends, it's a hidden image.  So it doesn't really matter if it's authentic, does it, since we can't see it anyway?  "Today I didn't see a statue carved by the Daishi" or "Today I didn't see a statue not carved by the Daishi"--in either case I didn't see it.  It's like that great quote about Homer.  While there are many legends about him, we know absolutely nothing about him for certain.  So a professor once said, "We don't know if Homer wrote the works attributed to him, or if someone else wrote them and used his name."

As a matter if faith, these little halls could be empty for all we know.  Does the statue's provenance really matter when we direct our intentions to the universe?

Here are a few images from Number 28.  These Jizos stand next to the Daishido; it looks like they're waiting for dinner with those bibs.

I strolled back to the Okunoin, the "back temple"; it turned out to be this small building, photographed by flash since it was getting late.  As a result of this little detour, I missed the last bus from in front of the temple, and had to walk another 2+ kilometers back out to the highway.  No biggie, though I was a bit tired after climbing two mountains today.

Finally--and I mean finally--a view of the sunset from the top of the hill on which Number 28 sits.
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