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Aki Meguri Shikoku Logbook:

October 31st, 2001 (Wednesday):
Temples 46, 47, 48, 49, 50 and 51

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.

 
Today's Words and Pictures: The Sons of Emon Saburo
 
The character known as Emon Saburo figures largely on this page.  Read more about him in The Legend of Emon Saburo.
 
What a difference a day makes.

Yesterday I rushed through two temples; today I dawdled through six (a new record).  And yesterday my Logbook was short, with no pictures; today it's loaded.

All because I had the experience of being a bicycle henro.

After yesterday's mountain temples, the trail descends to the flat plain on which Matsuyama city is located.  Number 51 is less than a kilometer from the Youth Hostel where I'm staying; Number 46 is about 12-1/2 kilometers from there.  So by riding a mere 25 K or so, I could see all these temples, plus some important sites in between, and still be home by dark.

So I borrowed a bike from the Hostel's "parent" and took off directly for...

Temple #46: Joruriji (The Temple of the Pure Emerald)
Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai (Baisajya-guru)
Gallery

The grounds of this temple are among the most verdant I've seen.  It made it hard to get a clean shot at the buildings!

There's a great gimmick at this temple.  See these carved "footprints of the Buddha"?  They say that if you step into then barefoot, you will lose any pain you might have in your feet.

I didn't try it, but I did have a new and wonderful experience here.  For the first time, I had my book and shirt stamped for free.  As I walked up, an old priest opened a second window at the stamp office.  As he signed, he asked where I was from, and expressed sympathy about the terrorism in America.  After a few more questions, he told me that the service would be o-settai.

It's never happened before.  But to be fair, I usually see volunteers, younger priests, or priests' wives in the stamp office.  Probably none of them has the "power" to waive the fee.  But the old head priest does--and did.  It's a small savings, of course; it's the kindness of the act that touches me.

About a kilometer's ride brings one to...

Temple #47: Yasakaji (The Temple of the Eight Slopes)
Honzon: Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata)
Gallery

I've got a theory about this one.

First, let me tell you that very near to this temple was the home of Emon Saburo.

Do you remember him?  Back at Number 12 I told you his story; how the Daishi had begged at his gate for eight days, and on the eighth day Emon Saburo struck the begging bowl from the Daishi's hand, and it broke into eight pieces.  On each of the eight days following, one of Emon Saburo's sons died.  (Ed Readicker-Henderson, missing the point, says, "This seems an incredibly harsh punishment just for breaking a bowl.")

Emon Saburo set out after the Daishi to beg forgiveness.  After realizing that the way he was going he'd never catch the Daishi, he decided to go counterclockwise around the island.  Finally, near Number 12, he met the Daishi, received forgiveness, and died on the spot.  You can see my pictures of his grave--and the Daishi's final blessing--in the Logbook for October 18.

Below I'll tell you more about this--I visited several Emon-related sites today--but here I want to float my theory.  Not far from this temple are eight ancient mounds said to be the burial mounds of Emon Saburo's eight sons.  Remember from my Tokaido experience that a mound is called a "zuka."

The name of this temple, Number 47, is Ya (eight) saka (slope) ji (temple).  They say that there used to be eight approaches to the temple, giving it it's name.

I don't buy it.  It's on a very small rise; the road up to it hardly counts as a "slope."  And that such a modest rise would have eight approaches seems unlikely.

Here's my theory: I wonder if this temple used to be called Eight Zuka Temple: The Temple of Eight Mounds.  This would make a lot more sense to me.

One more story about this temple: While I was praying, a very creepy henro came up next to me.  Although his clothes were clean and in good condition, he looked like he had been on the road a long time.  He was wearing zoris, so one could see that his feet as well as his face and hands were deeply tanned.  He was wearing the round, deep style of hat that I was originally hoping to buy (before I bought the one shaped like Mt. Fuji), and he carried a staff with rings at the top (like the Daishi's) which he pounded as he walked and prayed.  He kept up a constant muttering (which I took to be prayer) as he approached the hondo, violently threw his name slip into the box, glared into the hondo, finished his "prayers," and turned away still muttering.

Gave me the willies.  Then he headed off toward the trail.  Wow, I thought, a real wild man like this island used to have.  Next thing I know, he's getting into one of the biggest brand-new station wagons I've seen in Japan, and driving away!

Let's all say it together: You can't judge a book by its cover.

Bangai: Tokuseiji, the Gate of Emon Saburo's home

I've developed a rather bad attitude about bangais--unnumbered temples on the pilgrimage circuit--but the two I saw today were pleasant enough.  I wouldn't have gone far out of my way to see them, but as they were near the path, and I was on a bicycle, they were worth it.

The first one is located on the site of Emon Saburo's gate--where the Daishi's bowl hit the ground.  What makes it most interesting is that it's near the mounds I mentioned above. 

About those mounds: Statler says that archeologists affirm that they are from the time of the Daishi!  As I'm in a theorizing mood, I played a bit with this idea today.  Here are two possibilities for the origin of the Emon Saburo story:

1)  There were these eight ancient mounds, see, and people made up the Emon story from scratch to account for their presence.  Maybe a priest did it to promote his temple.

This is an OK theory, but I believe that folk stories--the ones that survive the ages--usually contain more truth than that.  So let's try again.

2)  There was a well-to-do man, maybe named Emon Saburo.  Perhaps a beggar came to his gate, and "Emon" refused him.  Later--perhaps over a period of weeks, months, or years--eight members of this man's household died and were buried in the mounds.  "Emon" became a changed man.  Maybe he went off on pilgrimage, or maybe he just treated beggars more kindly after that.

From this kernel--a well-off guy losing family members and becoming more compassionate--the legend of Emon Saburo may have grown.  Perhaps the true story is much closer to the received version than this.  Maybe he was named Emon Saburo; maybe it really was the Daishi that he shunned; maybe it was eight sons that died over a period of time; and maybe he did set off to find the Daishi (or whoever the beggar was) and apologize.  That it can't be exactly as we received it is certain; the pilgrimage route developed long after the Daishi's life, so Emon's attribution as "The First Pilgrim" is wishful.

But brothers and sisters, today I stood on eight ancient burial mounds virtually within sight of each other (they would have been, but some houses have sprouted up between some of them).  And Statler nails it on the head when he says, "Farmers are notoriously unsentimental about land, yet these mounds remain inviolate...they have resisted wind, rain, and man's encroachment."

Something happened here, that's for sure.

I have created a page of pictures of these mounds, as well as a description of their layout.  It's only my second "Words and Pictures" on Shikoku; please take a look.
Bangai: Fudahajime, The Hermitage of Kobo Daishi

Not much further and one arrives at this small bangai.  It is said to be on the site where the Daishi had been staying when he went begging at Emon Saburo's house.  When Emon realized his mistake, he came here first, but the Daishi was gone.  So here he resolved to set out and find the Daishi.  Thus this place is revered as the beginning point of the first-ever pilgrimage by a layman.

You'll be relieved to know that the next three temples (Numbers 48, 49, and 50) have nothing to do with Emon Saburo (at least as far as I know).  However, watch out for Number 51!
Temple #48: Sairinji (The Temple of the Western Forest)
Honzon: Juichimen Kannon (Avalokitesvara with eleven faces)
Gallery

This temple is about four-and-a-half kilometers from Number 47 by the pilgrim's path (less by road); Emon's gate, the eight mounds, and the Daishi's hermitage are all located within that distance.

Located near a river, this is said to be the only temple on the circuit one walks down into instead of up towards.  For this reason, pilgrims with impure hearts are said to keep going downwards straight to hell when they try to pass the temple's gate.  I had no problems (probably a close call).

Other than another Daishi miracle spring, there isn't much to say about this place.  It is pretty, though.  Take a look at the Gallery.

Three kilometers more brings one to...

Temple #49: Jodoji (The Temple of the Pure Land)
Honzon: Shaka Nyorai (Sakyamuni Buddha)
Gallery

The "hook" at this temple is a bit of history.

This place was host for three years to a wild holy man named Kuya.  Living through the better part of the tenth century, this guy was called "The Saint of the Streets."  He preached and practiced the Nembutsu (recitation of the prayer, Namu Amida Butsu, or "Praise to Amida the Bodhisattva").  They say that every word he spoke changed into a Buddha.  So here (as at Rokuharamitsuji, a temple near Kiyomizudera in Kyoto) there's a statue of him with a little wire supporting mini-Buddhas coming out of his mouth.  (I find it creepy.)

When he was preparing to leave after his three-year stay, they say, the people begged him to stick around--so he carved the statue that's here and left it behind instead.

I didn't see (or shoot) the statue; however, I did steal this image from the 'Net.  It's not the statue at Jodoji, it's the one at Rokuharamitsuji.  In looking for it, I discovered that it was made by Kosho, a famous sculptor, in the 13th century--that is, three hundred years after Kuya lived.  Kinda puts the story of him carving his own statue at Jodoji into doubt, doesn't it?

Another kilo-and-a-half and we're at...
Temple #50: Hantaji (The Temple of Great Prosperity)
Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai (Baisajya-guru)
Gallery

Another pretty-but-undistinguished temple.  There was one thing here that really caught my attention, though.

As so often happens, there's a small Shinto shrine on the grounds of the temple.  The Bishop first refers to it as a "Shoden-do."  Then he casually mentions that Shoden is the Japanese name for Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god!

I LOVE GANESHA!  I was so pleased to learn he was here, because I had never encountered him in Japan.

Another character associated with this temple (as Kuya is at Number 49) is Ippen, the "Dancing Nembutsu" saint whose modern-day disciples gave me 2,000 yen when I visited their temple near Fujisawa on September 10th.  (There's a Words and Pictures link there with a picture of a statue of Ippen, too.)  Ippen trained and studied here at Hantaji, they say.

Finally, after a mere two-and-a-half kilometers more, I reached one of the most beautiful temples I've seen on this pilgrimage:

Temple #51: Ishiteji (The Temple of the Stone Hand)
Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai (Baisajya-guru)
Gallery

Before I continue gushing, let me give you Ed's side of things: because it's located in the city and near Dogo Onsen, one of the most famous spas in Japan, this temple receives a lot of money.  So they can afford to fix and even replace their buildings.  Thus, Ed writes, "today its buildings are of little interest."

Dragon poop.

The excitement begins before you ever reach the temple: There's a giant statue of the Daishi on the mountain above, watching over the city.  (Ed says there's one above Number 50; could he have made a mistake?  Although I often disagree with his opinions, his facts are usually straight, and I have leaned on him for access information--trains, buses, etc.)

Next there's a peculiar bridge design at the front of the temple.  You can see a stone bridge leading to the front gate, but they've taken great pains to keep you off of it.  Why?

Because the Daishi actually walked on this stone bridge.  It is now considered holy, and not to be walked on.  (Or maybe it's just being preserved for future generations to not walk on either.)

Then we find out that this front gate leads, not to the sacred precincts, but to a nakamisedori, a street of shops within the temple grounds like the one at Asakusa.  In fact, it's the only one I've seen since I left Asakusa!

Ed terms the pagoda the only decent building on the grounds.  And it is "particularly fine," as he says, but I didn't find it out of place with the other buildings.

There was one thing that troubled me here, though; and language prevented me from finding out what the deal was.  For some reason there are quite a few pieces of Polynesian-looking art in the place.  This was very jarring in an environment of beautiful old Japanese buildings.

Well, at last we come to the name of this temple--"The Temple of the Stone Hand"--and hear the rest of the story about Emon Saburo.

It seems that as he lay dying, Emon Saburo asked the Daishi to ensure that he would be reborn as the Lord of Iyo (now Ehime Prefecture) so he would have immense power to help others.  The Daishi placed a stone in his hand, and he died.

Nine months later, the wife of the local lord gave birth to a baby boy, strikingly strong and handsome in every way--except for a deformed hand.  It seemed to be closed tight.  No amount of "medicine" or its pre-medieval substitute could open that hand.  Finally the priest at what is now Ishiteji did a series of magical prayers over the baby.  His hand opened--and in it was a stone, on which was written "Emon Saburo reborn."  He grew up to be the Lord of the area, and a good and generous man.  The temple--which had been called Annyoji--became Ishiteji, The Temple of the Stone Hand.

Skeptical?  Hey--I saw the stone.  There it is in the picture--although, as Ed rightly points out, the stone being a little bigger than a chicken egg, that kid must have been born with big hands!

There are other stories with a similar motif in Japan, of children being born holding something, or with a mark on their body, indicating who they were in a past life.

I am fascinated by the grip (no allusion to the baby's deformity intended) that the story of Emon Saburo seems to have on Matsuyama city.  Although the story of the stone is surely apocryphal, like my version of the mounds' story above, it must point to something.  After all, the baby in the story was a real guy (or at least has a real name): Kono Yasukata.  As I continue my journey, I will devote some time to thinking about what this all means.

A brief word about Matsuyama: As I mentioned above, Japan's oldest hot spring, Dogo Onsen, is here.  It's housed in a lovely old Victorian building located just below the youth hostel where I'm staying.

Another attraction here: when Oliver Statler and his traveling companion "Morikawa" walked the pilgrimage, they had been living in Matsuyama.  Thus Statler writes as they approach the city, "Matsuyama is home to both of us.  Our pilgrimage will not end there but three nights from now we can sleep in our own beds."

Hmmm...  I don't have a bed.  Even when my pilgrimage is over, I will first return to Tokyo and sleep in  borrowed beds, then do the same in America.  Perhaps I'll always be a pilgrim.

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