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Aki Meguri Shikoku Logbook:

October 26th, 2001 (Friday):
Temples 33, 34, 35 and 36

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.

 
Dang!  Another home run.  I started out to see three temples; after the second, I was ready to give up; but I ended up hitting four!  Zowie!

The only down side to the day is I lost my cell phone.  But since I only got about one call a week--from the same person--I was only using it as a clock anyway!  (I left it on a bus bench, so I'll check with the bus company tomorrow.  In the meantime, if you call and someone who's not me answers, hang up fast!)

After leaving my phone on the bus bench, I got on a bus that took me directly to...
Temple #33: Sekkeiji (The Temple of the Snowy Cliff)
Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai (Baisajya-guru)
Gallery

Don't let the name fool you: no snow, no cliff.  I don't know the origin of the name, but this is a Zen temple which has undergone several changes of sect and name.

The temple is pleasant enough--despite what Ed Readicker-Henderson had to say.  There's a ghost story here, and I guess it really affected Ed.  He says the place "teeters on the verge of abandonment," meaning, I guess, that it's in bad condition.  Looked OK to me.  Check the Gallery and see for yourself.  He goes on to say, "The mood of the temple is one of the saddest on the pilgrimage.  It is the only one I have a hard time going back to."

I got none of that feeling--from the temple.  But I did get it from one of the visitors.

If you look at the Gallery, you'll see a guy standing in front of the hondo praying.  I didn't mention him yesterday, but I met this guy on the way up to Number 32 (he was coming down).  "Gaijin!" he exclaimed, calling me a foreigner.  This in itself didn't trouble me; I am a foreigner.

But then he regaled me with his personal philosophy of life for about 20 minutes.  I caught just enough to know that that's what he was talking about, but I couldn't tell you the details.  Mind you, it was passing 4:30, temples close at 5:00, and I had no idea how much further up the hill this temple was.  He was pretty aggressive: I'd say "excuse me" and he'd say "yeah, yeah" and keep talking.  Finally I interrupted him to ask the time; "4:35" he said and kept talking.  "Excuse me," I blurted, "I have to go."  And off I went.

Now, seeing him the next morning wouldn't have been such a big deal, except I was planning to walk from this temple to the next.  Knowing that he was a walking pilgrim, I was trying to weasel my way out of having to walk with him.  Through a series of maneuvers, I was able to escape without even speaking to him (though we had nodded hello).  I checked my backtrail a few times as I walked, but never saw him.

As I was leaving the next temple, he was arriving, but I don't think he saw me.  (I only saw him from a distance.)  Since I was heading out for a bus, I was pretty sure we wouldn't be seeing each other again.  And so far, we haven't.  [But keep reading these logs--he shows up again later!]

Do I feel guilty for ducking this guy?  Not in the least.  In fact, if we had been leaving at the same time, I would have told him pointblank that I would prefer--for purposes of my spiritual discipline--to walk alone (and in silence!).  I can honestly say that in nearly two weeks on Shikoku this is the first unpleasant encounter I've had (and he was from Chiba!).

So that's the story of my haunting at Number 33.

Ed was right this time: bus connections from Number 33 to Number 34 are few and far between.  I had already planned on walking the six kilometers to Number 34--and I did.  It wasn't a bad walk, except for that feeling that I was being chased!
Temple #34: Tanemaji (The Temple of Sowing Seeds)
Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai (Baisajya-guru)
Gallery

This is a pretty little temple.  As Oliver Statler described it, it is "built on a fill thrust like a wharf into the paddy fields."  This new building illustrates this idea nicely.

The name of this temple refers to the legend that the Daishi brought back five kinds of seeds (tane) from China, and planted them here.  This association with growth and fertility has led to the temple's primary mission: safe birth.  (I prayed special prayers today for several friends who are expecting--or hope to be.)

These two pictures illustrate an interesting practice.  When a woman becomes pregnant, she brings (or buys here) a ladle.  The priest knocks the bottom out of the ladle, places it on the altar, and prays over it over "two nights and a day," according to Statler.  The woman then takes it home and puts it in the tokonoma, the alcove that functions like a sort of domestic altar in the home.

After the safe birth, she brings it back to the temple, and it's hung in this building around Yakushi Nyorai, also this temple's honzon and the "Doctor" of the Buddhas.

Do you get the significance of the bottomless ladle?  Just as water comes out of it easily, it is hoped the child will come out of its mother easily.  This is a kind of "sympathetic magic," where the ladle stands in for the mother in the ceremony.  (Is it possible that in times past it was the mother who stayed in the temple for two nights and a day?)

I'm always amazed at what local people don't know about their own area.  I shouldn't be, I guess.  I asked the woman in the stamp office about local buses; she laughed and said there were none.  If she has a car, there's no reason she should know about this.

But she pulled out a map book and showed me the route--on which bus stops were clearly marked.  "Are these bus stops?" I asked innocently.  "Oh, yes," she said, "but buses rarely come by."

Taking her at her word, I decided that my day was fundamentally over--at 11:45!  I would find signs for a bus--any bus--back to Kochi, and wait as long as necessary to catch it.

Indeed, the first stop I came to indicated three buses a day, with only one more remaining in each direction.  I was stymied.  But wait: I know this isn't "the highway" I saw on the map.  So I kept walking and when I got to the highway--WOW--there were like 30 buses a day each way!  At the very stop indicated on the map.

So I caught the bus to Tosa City, ate at a Mos Burger (my first in over a week), and (shame on me) caught a cab the three kilometers up to Number 35.  Hold on, I have an excuse!  I was looking at the time, and thinking if I played it right (which I did) I just might make it to Number 36 today.  This was important because (a) it was sort of in the neighborhood and (b) this would be my last temple reached from Kochi City; tomorrow night I'll be staying at Number 37 in far western Kochi Prefecture.  So a cab seemed in order as a time saver, not a walking saver.

Temple #35: Kiyotakiji (The Temple of the Pure Waterfall)
Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai (Baisajya-guru)
Gallery

This is a lovely hillside temple.  Although founded by Gyogi, the name was changed after the Daishi underwent austerities here which resulted in the springing forth of a waterfall.  If it's the one I saw, it's not much.  (But could I pray for seven days and cause even this little squirt to come out of the hillside?)

Far more impressive is the giant statue of Yakushi Nyorai that stands below the hondo.  Although you can enter the base, I didn't know what the purpose was, so I didn't.

Now, I arrived by taxi in front of Yakushi and everybody.  And yet, when I was leaving, a lady jumped out of a departing van containing around 10 pilgrims, ran over to a fruit stand, bought a full bag of mikan, and gave them to me.  I guess since my taxi wasn't waiting, it was clear that I intended to walk back down the mountain, making me a walking henro.

By the way, two or three times I've been charmed by the way these gifts are sometimes offered.  Instead of "Do you like mikan?" the question is "Do you hate mikan?"

So--bag heavier--I started back down the hill on foot.  Coming up was a walking henro, and we exchanged pleasantries, including name slips.  His was green, since this is his fifth pilgrimage.  As he walked on up the stairs, he was laughing out loud and talking to himself.  Perhaps he should have quit after number four?  (I admit to talking, singing, and whistling as I walk--and occasionally I laugh out loud.  But I try not to do it when I know there are people around!  Though once or twice I have been startled to turn around in the middle of saying something and find someone standing behind me.)

On the way down the mountain, I saw this well-dressed Kannon in a  graveyard.

Temple #36: Shoryuji (The Temple of the Green Dragon)
Honzon: Fudo Myoo (Acala Vidya-Raja)
Gallery

This place has a stunning location.  Walking back the four kilometers to the bus, I passed a sand beach, something I haven't seen a lot of in Japan.

The temple is located at the end of a swampy valley which I guess was once an inlet of Usa Bay (more on that name in a moment).  Several writers have mentioned that the bridge seen here was only built in 1975; before that pilgrims had to "cross the river" by boat.  I would guess that in fact--when the inlet was still there--they crossed the entire bay by boat.  It was a long way around the bay by bus; it would have been a beeline by boat.

The founding legend here replicates the one for the founding of Koyasan.  When he was leaving China after his studies there, the Daishi threw his vajra--a sort of holy dumbbell he's often seen holding in his right hand--across to Japan.  It landed here, behind the hondo.  So he founded the temples here.  (At Koyasan, it was his staff, not his vajra.  Jeez, he must have come home empty-handed!)

A "perennial" word about the vajra.  We're told that on the pilgrimage, we should hold our beads in our left hand when we pray, without being told why.  A cursory inspection will show that statues of the Daishi always show him with a circle of beads in his left hand.  (A circle--remember that.)  In his right, he usually has his vajra if sitting, and his staff if standing.

Freud calling.  The circle is feminine, the staff or vajra masculine.  The feminine symbol is in the left (yin, receptive, passive) hand, the masculine in the right (yang, creative, active) hand.

Mystery solved.

This temple has a waterfall used in a rite called takigyo--praying under a waterfall.  I have had the privilege of seeing this--under a much larger fall--at one of the temples on the Bando circuit.  It is truly powerful.  This waterfall, though much smaller, would still give you quite a rush.  Statler did it; I envy him.  There's no way I was going to try it on this chilly Autumn evening.  Maybe next time I do the pilgrimage.

One of the funny things you see at a temple at closing time--today is the second day in a  row I've seen it--is the straightening up of the incense.  A lady comes out and and picks up the sticks one by one, arranging them neatly into a small pile to burn themselves out.  And she does it with chopsticks!

As you walk back out around the former inlet, the road is lined with statues (which are probably meant to be seen on the approach, not the departure).

Occasionally, a statue has lost its head.  I've seen this before, and it always cracks me up: in lieu of another head, a rock--not even a very likely-looking rock--is stuck on in the head's place!  As some of my friends would say, "Kimochi warui!"  It makes me feel yucky!  It gives me the creeps!

When I first saw this, I wondered why they were hiding the statues behind this wall.  Then I realized what had happened: there used to be a roof sheltering these guys; it has fallen forward.

Above I mentioned "Usa Bay," near the town of Usa.  It was ringing a bell, and I couldn't figure out why.

Then I remembered.

When I was a boy--before TQM--the label "Made in Japan" often meant that something was poorly made (or at least that was the prejudice of the time).  So there was a story around, a kind of urban legend, that the Japanese had re-named a town "Usa" so they could use the label "Made in USA."  Well, number one, since it was still in Japan it would have to say "Japan."  And number two, as I learned today, this is not a made-up place.  The name is written in kanji, the Chinese characters used in Japanese.  The second character is so old that I can't find anyone who can tell me what it means.  So this is a real place.

Nevertheless, they do have fun with the name.  I saw one sign from the bus that said in English: "Welcome to USA."  And walking along the bay, I saw this sign.  It says "koko wa USA desu"--literally, "Here is USA."  But any able translator would read it, "This is the USA."  ("koko wa Nihon desu" means clearly, "This is Japan.")

Almost finally: When I transferred to another bus on the way home, I had to wait about 20 minutes.  I ducked into the grounds of  very small shrine near the river.  And it was covered in frogs.

Not real frogs, but statuary frogs that people buy and dedicate at the shrine.  I don't know the significance of this frog-with-a-frog-on-his-back, but I see it everywhere.  Anybody know what it means?

Finally: I went back to the bus stop in Kochi and looked around for my phone; it's not uncommon for people here to find something and just put it in a safe and obvious place, like hanging on the timetable sign or something.  Not seeing it, I went to a nearby phone booth and called, thinking I might hear it ring.  But a message said the power had been switched off.

I'm not distressed over this; I haven't been able to use it to call out since I hit Shikoku (it requires a prepaid card which I haven't been able to find here).  Still, it was possible for friends to call me, though they seldom did.

Maybe I just miss my clock?  Or the idea of contact?  (Thank gods my e-mail still works.)

I'll let you know if it's in the bus company's lost-and-found.  By the way, I'll be staying outside of cities for the next few days, so I don't know if I'll be able to publish regularly.

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