|Temple #38: Kongo-fukuji (The Temple
of Everlasting Happiness)
Honzon: Senju Kannon Bosatsu (Avalokitesvara with a thousand
Location, location, location.
Though there's nothing particularly outstanding about the temple itself,
I'd have to say that it's in the prettiest location I've seen, even
better than the one on Cape Muroto.
There's also a great tradition to go
with this place. Amida is the Lord of the Pure Land in the West;
Yakushi rules the Pure World in the East. But Kannon-sama (my
great love) is the ruler of Potalaka in the South, called in Japanese Fudaraku.
And so holy men--wild, crazed holy men--used to try to set off to
Fudaraku from here.
Some went by boat; others simply jumped
off the cliff (virtually ensuring that they would enter "another
world"!). Even today it is a place known for suicides, as the
Golden Gate Bridge is in California.
There are legends--charming and
disturbing--about these sacred if addled adventurers. The one
repeated by both Statler and Readicker-Henderson is from the diary of
Lady Nijo, and it explains the name of the cape:
The Road to
A monk and his disciple were here
practicing austerities (it was well known for this) when another young
monk showed up. The disciple shared his food daily with this
newcomer, until the Master "put his foot down" and told him
that enough was enough, to stop squandering their precious resources.
When the young stranger appeared again,
the disciple said this would be the last time he could share his food,
as the Master forbade it. In thanks for his previous kindness, the
young monk invited the disciple to go with him to his land, whereupon
they boarded a boat--obviously bound for Fudaraku. Getting wind of
this, the Master followed, and when he saw them leaving, he cried in
shame and grief at his blind stinginess, and stamped his foot.
"Ashizuri" means "foot stamping."
Ed Readicker-Henderson and others talk
about how "inviting" and "angry" the sea looks here.
Powerful, yes, but I don't know how much was "planted" in my
head about whether the waves beckon one to jump. It would be
interesting to do a test: bring some people here who don't know the
legends, and ask them what "message" they're getting from the
sea here. As a priest told Statler, Fudaraku is inside you, not
out there somewhere. Jumping off a cliff probably won't improve
your spiritual state.
Although I seldom shoot pictures of the
temples' insides--even when they're open--this one seemed to be saying
"Take me." So here's a picture of the Daishi at home.
Yesterday I mentioned the vajra in his right hand and the beads
in his left; you can see them here.
A good friend, Mr. Toshihide Yamashita,
is a native of this area (actually Sukumo, near Number 39). In
addition to being a nice guy (and very funny) he also has a good
knowledge of Japanese history, and has taught me a lot. Earlier
this year, he introduced me to a historical figure named
At the age of 14, Manjiro was a
fisherman who was lost at sea, picked up by a Yankee whaler, and taken
to New England, where he went to school. At age 24, he returned to
Japan, where he ultimately became a liaison between Japan and the U.S.
Here's the clincher: the shipwreck happened in 1841. That's the
Tokugawa Period, the time of Japan's extreme and paranoid closure.
Manjiro had to go through all kinds of "tests" before he was
fully admitted back into Japan!
This forerunner of international
relations is much-honored; there is a "Manjiro Society"
carrying out the ideals of Japan-U.S. cooperation. And there's a
statue of John Manjiro at Cape Ashizura--my bus ride today took me
through his home village of Nakanohama. His original name--before
he became John--was "Manjiro Nakahama." (The Manjiro
Society has a more complete
biography of this fascinating figure.)
Hmmm...the U.S. Fudaraku.
Maybe Manjiro reached it?
And now for the "old Business"
at the end of the day.
Reaching the Youth Hostel at Temple
Number 37, I was greeted in the lobby by--the guy I had been ducking all
day yesterday! It seems he's not a walker; he took a train
He said "Good evening" (in
Japanese) and disappeared. Phew, I thought. Then the house
mother told me I would be sharing a room with one other guy. Oh,
no! I thought. But it wasn't him. Phew #2.
I have just spent five nights in a
business hotel. I love the privacy, but they don't have
those great Japanese baths. So I was really looking forward to
going in, shaving my head, soaking my tired bones...
Guess who was in there. It was
the bath from hell.
I had to ask him to repeat himself
because he was speaking so fast and fluently. He interpreted this
as deafness, and kept standing up from his little bath stool, walking
over, and shouting in my ear with the same speed and vocabulary.
I finally said--in Japanese--"My
ears are OK, but I can't understand Japanese. Please speak
slowly." Oh, he said. The next three words came out one
syllable at a time, then he was off again. For awhile, he just sat
and muttered, and all I could catch was "James-san" and
"foreigner" and "interesting." Thank gods
another guy came in, and this machine gun could turn his rapid fire on
someone who could understand him. (I think he was pretty
frustrated with me.)
Please remember that all of this took
place while we were stark naked. Do you remember the phrase
from yesterday, "Kimochi warui"?
Tomorrow he's going down to Number 38
while I move on to Number 39. I'm going to have to work hard to
avoid this guy.
The irony is, from what I can
catch, I'd probably be interested in what he's saying. He says the
names of some of my favorite writers, including D. T. Suzuki and Inazo
Nitobe, but I can't catch anything else. He's probably a nice
enough guy; I just find it really tough to keep saying, "Huh?"
In Eiji Yoshikawa's Musashi, the
characters keep encountering--or nearly missing--each other by
coincidence. These people are roaming the length and breadth of
Japan, and they continually run into each other. This trip is
starting to feel that way!