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Aki Meguri Shikoku Logbook:

November 2nd, 2001 (Friday):
Temples 54, 55 and 56

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.

 
I left the Youth Hostel this morning and took the street car--my usual commute in Matsuyama--back to the JR station.  I took a local train to Imabari, where I stashed my bag in a locker, had an early lunch, and headed out to...
Temple #54: Emmeiji (The Temple of Long Life)
Honzon: Fudo Myoo (Acala Vidya-Raja)
Gallery

Another pretty temple--but I'm a bit confused.  Both Ed and the Bishop made several mistakes in their writings about today's temples.  (And Oliver Statler doesn't mention these temples at all.)

First, I read that this is the only temple on the circuit with two bells in its compound.  But here's a picture of the compound at Number 44, Taihoji.  See the bell in the foreground?  And the other one in the center of the shot, partially hidden by the trees?  That makes two by my count.

The second thing that threw me off was that the Bishop said, "Of interest are the Kurashima whirlpool, [and] a beautiful view of the coastline of Seto Naikai (Inland Sea)..."  I was expecting to see these things from the temple.  But Number 54 is away from the sea; Number 55 is much closer, but on the flats with no view.  Apparently he meant in the area we can see these things, not specifically from the temple.

One of the two bells at this temple--perhaps the one shown here--has an interesting story. (There are hundreds of bell stories in Japan.)  It seems it was removed to Matsuyama Castle, but every time it was rung, its tone sounded like (presumably the Japanese word for) "home."  So it was returned to its rightful place at the temple.

By the way, there are some confusing details about temple names in this area, too.  For example, this temple took the name "Emmeiji" only in the Meiji period.  Before that it was named "Emmyoji"--exactly the same as the previous temple on the pilgrimage, Number 53.

Now, here's a place where Ed Readicker-Henderson was just plain wrong.  He clearly states that Number 56 is "only a kilometer from Emmeiji [Number 54]."  Nonsense.  Not by any route or stretch of the imagination.  He claims that it's hard to follow the shortcut.  Yeah, real hard: there is none.  Unless he found a wormhole.  My map shows it as 1-1/2 kilometers as the crow flies--and I ain't no crow.  There are impediments in that 1.5 K that virtually require a walk of 2.5 or 3 at best.

Taking him at face value (he's usually right), I visited the temples out of order, believing it would be the shortest way.  It ended up making little difference.

Temple #56: Taisanji (The Temple of Peace Mountain)
Honzon: Jizo Bosatsu (Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva)
Gallery

Ed rightly points out that, though relatively new, these buildings are amazingly built, looking quite old.  Check the Gallery to see for yourself.  (By the way, you'll notice a monster behind the gate at this temple; there's construction going on on the grounds, but it didn't affect the hondo or the Daishido.)

In another case of name confusion, this temple has the same name--phonetically--as Number 52.  But the kanji (Chinese characters) are different.  That one meant "big mountain"; this one means "peace mountain."  To add to the chaos, it used to be written with characters that meant "easy birth"--yet were pronounced the same, "taisan."  So this is a place where women come to pray for ease of delivery (and I prayed for my friends Eriko and Makoto here today; their baby is due this month).

Also of interest: they say that the nearby river used to rage out of control--until the Daishi showed up, that is.  First he did a surefire controlling ceremony on the banks.  Then--just in case--he led the locals in building a levee.  A practical guy.

To this day virtually every building project in Japan begins with a Shinto ceremony.  Which is more effective, the ceremony, or good design and construction?  Why not both, I say.  By the way, echoes of these blessing ceremonies survive in the "laying of cornerstones" of public buildings, and the "ribbon-cutting" ceremonies when new roads are opened.

On the way back toward Imabari station and Number 55, I saw this store.  Next time someone tells me to "get a life" (as they frequently do), I'll know where to go.

Also along the way, I saw this beautiful old sign.  I'll bet my dad would love to have that to hang on the fence in the back yard!

Temple #55: Nankoboji (The Temple of Southern Lights)
Honzon: Daitsu-Chisho Butsu (Mahabhijnjnana-bhibu Buddha)
Gallery

Passing the station, I arrived at another ball of confusion.  Ed says "The buildings are all new and made of concrete..."  The Bishop says the Daishido is old.  I'm with the Bishop.  Most of the buildings--indeed most of the town--were destroyed by American bombers in 1945 (as was my old neighborhood in Tokyo).  But here and there a building escaped, and one look at the Daishido tells you it's one of them.

This is the only temple on the route--and one of the few in Japan--to have this particular honzon, a Buddha mentioned in the Lotus Sutra, the book particularly sacred to Nichiren Buddhism and its off-shoot, Soka Gakkai.  In the Lotus Sutra (Hokke-kyo) he is actually a preacher of the sutra, and is described as "the Enlightened One Before the Sakyamuni Buddha."

Wait, did you get that?  He's mentioned in the sutra of which he is a preacher.  There's some weird time-travel going on there.  He must have preached it before it was written, else how could he be called a preacher of it when it was written?  If I had any hair I'd be tearing it out.

One thing of note at this temple: new isn't always bad.  The Nio in the gate at this temple are truly magnificent, and clearly very new.  Every place on the circuit that I've checked (and I've missed a few) the open-mouthed "A" king is on the right, and the closed-mouthed "M" king is on the left.  (Like old Japanese and Chinese writing, reading from right to left, to pronounce the word we spell "Om.")  But at this temple, they are reversed, as happens occasionally at other temples in Japan.

That's it.  Fetched the bag, walked out to the port, and checked into a fine little ryokan--for just a few hundred yen more than a youth hostel.  I'll probably stay a few days, until I'm ready for Number 65 at the far eastern reaches of Ehime prefecture.

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