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Aki Meguri Shikoku Logbook:

November 1st, 2001 (Thursday):
Temples 52 and 53

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.

 
Yet another unusual day.  I had only two temples to visit today.  Though near each other, they were quite far from the next one, which I'll visit after moving to Imabari city tomorrow.  So I had leisure to sit and relax, play with my new cell phone, listen to the sound of conch shells and chanting monks, etc.

First, I stopped near Dogo Onsen.  The fancy clock was about to ring, so I stopped to watch the show.

Before and after the show, the clock looks like this During the show, it grows and grows until it looks like this Close up, you can see some of the workmanship
After that, I went to an arcaded shopping street for a late breakfast and some phone shopping.  It's November 1st; I can tell because I heard a jazz version of "White Christmas" in the shopping arcade.  Christmas promotions officially start here even earlier than in the states.

Finally, I took the train out to Iyowake station and went out the 2 kilometers or so to...

Temple #52: Taisanji (The Temple of the Big Mountain)
Honzon: Juichimen Kannon (Avalokitesvara with eleven faces)
Gallery

This is a remarkably beautiful mountainside temple.  Contrary to the fertility emphases of most temples, this is a temple people come to to pray for the prevention of childbirth.  They leave needles as tokens of their prayers (disgusting association).  Conversely, other women can come retrieve these needles as fertility talismans to get pregnant.  A sort of holy swap.

While I was here, I heard two amazing things.  One was the sound of a conch shell being blown repeatedly.  When I heard it inside the building next to me, I grabbed my camera, hoping for a shot of a yamabushi.  These mountain priests are associated with blowing the conch.  (Why mountain priests use a sea shell is a mystery to me; but I have seen them at festivals attired partially in animal skins, so I guess they use whatever "natural" items come to hand.)

Anyway, I was disappointed.  If this guy was a yamabushi, he was out of uniform--jeans, a cotton shirt, and moccasins.  But he sounded great!

A while later, a group of about fifteen young trainee monks (deshi) and their master showed up.  He took them inside the hondo, where he led them in a style of chant known as shomyo.  I have paid for tickets to hear this in a concert setting in Tokyo; I have heard it done by one or two lone priests in temples where I've stayed; but this was spine-tingling, hearing so many voices in unison float out from an ancient wooden building.

One fly in the ointment: there is a caretaker on the grounds who seems to have little regard for the atmosphere of the place.  Earlier, I had been sitting quietly in a shelter, and he came over, sat down near me, and turned on a portable radio--loudly.  I moved away.  Now, as I stood in front of the main hall listening to the chant, he came by with a broom and a dust pan--and his radio--and busied himself between me and the door of the hall for a few minutes.

It was a test.  Could I recognize that what he was listening to on the radio was as pleasing to him as the chant was to me?  It was tough, but I managed to get through it without throttling him.

This temple was founded in the 6th century by a wealthy merchant who had been saved from drowning at sea; he attributed this to Kannon.  I couldn't quite figure this out until I looked at a map: just over the top of the mountain behind this temple is the sea!

One more thing of note: this temple has two Nio gates (Shio?).  The first is near the bottom of the mountain.  Beyond this about 500 meters one enters the actual compound of the temple through another gate.  I have shown this second, upper gate in the Gallery.

Back down the hill about 2 K to...

Temple #53: Emmyoji (The Temple of Circular Illumination)
Honzon: Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata)
Gallery

I found this a small but pretty temple.  The buildings seemed in fairly good shape, despite what Ed Readicker-Henderson led me to believe (he used words like "neglected" and "decrepit").

There was one thing at this temple that I was really looking forward to seeing.  During the Tokugawa period, Christianity was outlawed in Japan.  (In fact, there is a famous group of martyrs at Nagasaki who were crucified for their faith.)

Despite the persecution, secret Christians still existed.  One of their ploys was to produce statues of Kannon which really represented Mary.  These are known as "Maria Kannon," and I had heard there was one on the grounds of Emmyoji.

When I finally saw it, I have to confess I was a little disappointed.  It's a figure of a woman, all right, but beyond that it's fairly featureless.  What makes this a "Maria Kannon," I wondered.

Well, I took my digital shot in and showed it to the priest, and he explained that the panel above the figure is what makes it a Maria Kannon.  It is suggestive of a cross, without going all the way.  I buy it.  I once saw a "suspected" Maria Kannon in Chichibu, but I can now say that I have seen one for certain.

Returning to Matsuyama, I treated myself to two unusual things.

First, I had Indian food for dinner.  It's the first time I've done that since before I left Tokyo.

Second, I went to a movie!  This morning I saw a theater that was having a "Thousand Yen" day, so tonight I saw Bridget Jones's Diary.  This is the first time I've been inside a movie theater in over a year.  In L.A. I used to go every week!  That's one thing I'm looking forward to--cheap, current movies on a regular basis.

Tomorrow, as mentioned above, I'll be leaving the Matsuyama Youth Hostel and moving to a ryokan in Imabari.  I hope I can continue to publish daily from there.

And now--it looks like I'm going to bed over an hour earlier than usual.  What a great day it's been!

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