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Aki Meguri Shikoku Logbook:

October 28th, 2001 (Sunday):
Temples 37, 39, 40, 41 and 42

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.

 
What an amazing day.  It was shaping up to be one of the worst days of this trip--and ended up being one of the best.

During the night I awoke to the sound of truly Noahic rain.  I was in western Kochi prefecture, where trains and buses are few.  I was facing a lot of walking with all my luggage--and now, a lot of rain.

I got up and made my plans for the next two days.  Then, at 7:30, I left my room and went out to say my prayers and have my book signed at Number 37, where I was staying.

Temple #37: Iwamotoji (The Temple of the Rocky Root)
Honzon: Fudo Myoo (Acala Vidya-Raja), Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata), Yakushi Nyorai (Baisajya-guru), Kannon (Avalokitesvara), and Jizo Bosatsu (Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva)
Gallery

The main distinguishing trait of this temple is that it has not one honzon, but five.  I can't find an explanation as to why; only that the Bishop says, "The five Honzons were installed by Kobo Daishi..."  He also says that this temple used to be a complex of seven temples; I wonder if, as temples were decommissioned, their honzons were compiled together, and the legend of the Daishi setting up five of them developed later.

The buildings are all fairly recent, and I can find no associated legends.  But it was a pleasant enough place to sleep--once the trains stopped; although I was on the second floor, the trains went by about 10 meters straight out from the window.  Fortunately out in the country the trains stop early.

My "friend" from yesterday stopped me before I left and gave me his name slip--and asked for mine.  I made a point of giving him one without my homepage address on it!  He also gave me a handwritten note that said:

"Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control--
These three alone lead life to sovereign power.
A. Tennyson"

along with his name and the date.

Leaving Number 37, I caught the train past yesterday's transfer point of Nakamura and went to Hirota station. From there, there was supposed to be a bus that took me to a point one kilometer from Number 39.  But today is Sunday; the buses run once in two or three hours.  So I was going to have to wait almost two hours to ride two kilometers, then wait another two hours for the bus that would take me away from Number 39 to a transfer that would take me toward Number 40.  (There were also indications that the next bus, which would take me directly to Number 40, was no longer running.)

So naturally, I walked.  It rained buckets, and I was soaked to the skin.  But I arrived at Number 39 after only 40 minutes or so.

Temple #39: Enkoji (Emitting Light Temple)
Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai (Baisajya-guru)
Gallery

This is a pretty cool temple, with a couple of good legends.

One is that a red turtle arose from the sea with a bell on his back.  (That bell is now in the National Museum in Tokyo.)  So there are several turtle representations at this temple; the one shown here was my favorite.

Another legend is that the Daishi struck a well here which has healing powers.  You would think they could house it in something more suitable than cinder block!

A third "legend" is that this temple has a hanging scroll representing the fierce Fudo-Myoo, but in this case he's laughing.  (I didn't see it, hence it's only a "legend" to me.  But I've been assured that it really exists.)

After praying and having the book signed, I stopped in at the toilet.  As I left, a gentleman kindly explained to me that we are not supposed to wear our wagesa--the pilgrim's stole--into the bathroom.  When I expressed interest, he added that it shouldn't be worn when eating, either.  These were both news to me, and I was fascinated at the implications.

The usual conversation ensued--where are you from, etc.--and he asked if I was walking.  I said I had just walked from Hirota, but that I also used trains, buses, etc.  By then his wife had emerged from the ladies' room.  He passed on the news that I wasn't a "pure walker," and they conferred briefly.  They then offered to take me to Temple 40 from here.

Let's see: it's pouring, I have all my luggage, it's another hour until my bus comes, and I'm not sure if my connecting bus will ever come.  Now I've been offered a ride.  What should I do?

Mulling it over for a good 1.5 to 1.75 seconds, I decided to accept their kind offer.  As Paul SImon says, "Who am I to blow against the wind?"  What a good move this turned out to be.

I had decided that even with some optimism, the best I could hope for was to get to Temple 40 then stay the night in Uwajima.  Tomorrow, I would go out to Temples 41 and 42, then return to Uwajima to fetch my bag, and continue up to Number 43 and beyond to Matsuyama city.

These incredibly kind people (shown here at Number 40), Kazuyoshi and Michiko Ikeda, took me all the way to Number 42, and back to Uwajima--where they drove me to the door of the youth hostel (which is on a mountaintop).  Words fail me.  This kind of kindness is almost unheard of, even in kind-hearted Japan.  They live in Kagawa, and are doing the pilgrimage on weekends.  I am so glad to have met them, for many reasons.

For example, I had the experience of chanting with other people, something I haven't formally done on this trip (though I slipped in with groups a couple of times).  We also had a lot of fun conversing in my bad Japanese.

But most interesting was the experience--for one day--of being a "car henro."  Looking for a place to eat (they paid for my lunch!), finding the parking place, using the car's navigation system--these are things I would never have experienced without them.  And look at the progress I made!  Five temples where I only expected to reach three!

It had its down side, of course.  Traveling with others always means taking them into consideration, adjusting to their needs.  In this case it meant not dawdling at the temples I visited, but what I got in return far exceeded anything I might have missed.

Overall, it was great.  There's even a chance that I'll do the pilgrimage again in the future--renting a car!

So we flew past the border into Ehime prefecture.  In the past, Kochi was a difficult place, both physically--the far capes, the great distances between temples--and officially, as the government was very strict regarding pilgrimage regulations.  So more than one writer has mentioned that, at the pass separating Tosa (Kochi) and Iyo (Ehime), there used to be a pile of human excrement expressing the pilgrims' farewell to Kochi.  Glad I missed that.

However, Statler makes much of the pass and its significance.  I wouldn't have walked it on this trip even if I weren't traveling by car, but I would like to return some day and give it a try.  Statler makes it sound fascinating.

In no time at all, we reached...

Temple #40: Kanjizaiji (The Temple of Kannon)
Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai (Baisajya-guru)
Gallery

By entering Ehime, we (!) have left the "Dojo of Religious Discipline" and entered the "Dojo of Enlightenment."  Here the pilgrim can expect that the lessons learned on the road will begin taking hold, and spiritual progress will be apparent.

There is little to say about this first temple in Ehime; the buildings date all the way back to 1959, and the temple has only one interesting feature--which I didn't have a chance to see.  There is a woodblock allegedly carved by the Daishi with the words Namu Amida Butsu--"Praise to Amida Buddha"--on it.  Prints struck from this block are supposed to be particularly effective in curing disease.  Ed Readicker-Henderson makes a big point of the fact that phrase didn't come into use until long after the Daishi's death.  But hey--he's the Daishi.  He could probably see the future.

Another thing I missed--and would have missed even if traveling by bus--is a "bangai" temple near Number 40.  I had such bad luck with the bangai at Sabase that I wouldn't make much effort to see this one.  And it's said that the buildings are quite new, leaving almost nothing to recommend it.

I said almost nothing: Bishop Miyata's brother is the head priest here, or was when the Bishop wrote the book.  It might have been interesting to try to meet him.

We stopped for lunch--removing our wagesa when leaving the car--then pushed on to...

Temple #41: Ryukoji (The Temple of the Dragon's Ray)
Honzon: Juichimen Kannon (Avalokitesvara with eleven faces)
Gallery

Located in the same fertile valley as Number 42, this temple is closely associated with a Shinto shrine.  The connection is explained by the founding legend.  When the Daishi came here, he met an old man who was really the Shinto kami named Inari.  Many Japanese people believe that Inari is a fox; in fact the fox is his totem, but he himself appears in many forms. He is a god of agriculture, and the temple here is especially associated with the growing of grains.

If you look at the Gallery, you'll see that this temple has no gate.  However, the stairs lead up to the torii of the Inari shrine; at a landing halfway up, the Buddhist buildings are located to the side of the stairs.  The Bishop says the shrine at the top is the "head office of Inari worship in Japan."  One of my homepage visitors had asked me weeks ago to pray at an Inari shrine; I did it here today.

Very near Number 41 is...

Temple #42: Butsumokuji (The Temple of the Buddha's Tree)
Honzon: Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana Buddha)
Gallery

Just as Number 41 is dedicated to the growing of food, Number 42 is dedicated to animal husbandry.  Together, they offer full service to farmers.

Apparently the Daishi had quite an arm.  He threw his staff from near China and hit Koya-san; he threw his vajra and it landed at the site of Number 36.  Here, he was out for a stroll when he spotted a jewel he had thrown!  So he carved a statue and placed the jewel in its forehead, the site of the "third eye" (and sixth shakra).  

In the yard stand these seven jolly personages, the Shichifukujin or Seven Lucky Gods--more evidence of the lack of boundaries between Shinto and Buddhism.

I can't help but feel that Protestantism has lost something by chasing out all the "pagan" elements from its places of worship.  The Catholics have a history of absorbing the local gods and goddesses, converting them into saints.

The Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City is a good example.  Her cathedral is located on the site of the Aztec earth goddess' temple.  If you look at the figure, she is wearing a robe covered with stars.  She's standing on a crescent moon, with the sun's rays shining out behind her.  She is the earth goddess--though she's called Maria.

The sanitized Christianity that WASP America knows so well rejects these earthy elements, insisting on a more Puritanical reading of the texts and eliminating any traces of folk religion.  I regret that.  If and when I ever begin a Christian practice again, it may well be in the Catholic church for just this reason.  (If I could just get past that male-dominated hierarchy...)

The Ikedas drove me back to Uwajima--as I mentioned, right to the youth hostel.  Tomorrow I'll head down to the station and look around a bit before leaving; there are reports that this city still has a bull ring.
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