The Shikoku Section of the Aki Meguri

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Aki Meguri Shikoku Logbook:

November 3rd, 2001 (Saturday):
Temples 57, 58 and 59

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.

 
Rainy day.  Very rainy day.  You know what that means--very few pictures.  It was a cold rain, yet I managed to thoroughly enjoy myself.  One technique (a bit of an oyajigyagu, or "middle-aged guy's joke") was to greet people--strangers on the path, cab drivers, people in the temples' stamp offices--with a cheery, "Tenki ga ii desu, ne?"--"Nice weather, isn't it?"  Even a couple of stone-faces in one of the temples burst out laughing when I hit them with this.

I took a bus in to the station, checked out my various options there, and chose a cab.  Yes, a taxi.  Temples 57 and 58 were in the same direction; 58 is on top of a mountain.  So for about 2,000 yen--less than 20 bucks--I got myself there with a minimum of effort and wetness.  No sense in starting the day cranky!  So the guy  drove me practically into the yard of...

Temple #58: Senyuji (The Temple of the Hermit in Seclusion)
Honzon: Senju Kannon Bosatsu (Avalokitesvara with a thousand arms)
Gallery

Built in the seventh century, this temple was also associated with a sennin, or wizard, as was Number 45, Iwayaji.  This ascetic's name was Abo, and he allegedly said sutras here for 40 years, then one day "mysteriously vanished," according to the Bishop.  (I think this means he left the vicinity without giving a forwarding address, but maybe he means he did a magic trick?)

Anyway, the most outstanding association of this temple is that its honzon was carved by a woman.  She underwent the same ritual preparations--prostration before each cut of the knife, etc.--as the Daishi did when he carved many of the temples' images.

The Bishop also makes this statement: "[This temple] is located at the top of a mountain 1,300 feet above sea level.  Don't miss a panoramic view of the Imabari flat valley and the Inland Sea.  This area is noted as the driest place in Japan, having the least rainfall in the country all year round."

Irony; I couldn't see the damn view because of all the damn RAIN.

I walked back down the mountain, part of the way on a forest path.  How much rain was there?  Well, at one point I was greeted by a crab; not in a pond, on the path.  He was about an inch and a half (4-5 cm) across, and just sitting in the path with his little claws raised as if he belonged on land.  I also saw--or think I saw--an orange frog.  What I really saw was an orange streak flying through the air into the brush.  I tried to coax it out, but it had the uncanny knack of landing under cover.  Jump after jump, I never saw anything but its streak through the air.  I can't think of anything that size that moves like that, so it must have been a frog, but it was a really striking iridescent orange color.

Near the bottom of the mountain--about three kilometers from where I started--I reached...

Temple #57: Eifukuji (The Temple of Good Luck)
Honzon: Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata)
Gallery

This is one of the smallest temples, ground area-wise, that I have been to.  There was no gate of any sort, just an opening from the road into a parking area.  Nevertheless, the buildings are quite lovely.

This is another of those places where Shinto and Buddhism were once mingled.  The Daishido is on the site of a former shrine to Hachiman, Shinto god of (among other things) war.  He was easily accepted as a form of Amida Buddha.

I reflected on this a bit.  One thing I've noticed in teaching English here is that English (and Western languages in general) are much more determinative than Japanese.  Japanese usually makes no distinction in number; the same word can mean "book" or "books."  No articles are used to indicate specificity, as in "a book" vs "the book."  And gender is usually not indicated in third-person pronouns--no "he" or "she."  There are many more examples.

This need for details in Western languages is tied in to the Western world view.  Science, logic, theology (in the Western sense) all require an ability to distinguish one thing from the other, fact from myth, Catholic from Protestant, right from wrong.  This "either/or" thinking is very post-enlightenment-Western.

Now.  Today, by coincidence, is the traditional "Culture Day" in Japan.  Pop quiz:  Why is November 3rd "Culture Day"?  Tick-tock.  Give up?

It was the Meiji emperor's birthday. Just as December 23rd is celebrated as the current (Heisei) emperor's birthday, so this was the celebrated day during the Meiji emperor's lifetime.  April 29th was the Showa emperor's birthday; when he died, it became "Greenery Day" in commemoration of his love of nature.

And so when the Meiji emperor died, his birthday became "Culture Day," because he is credited with doing so much to promote culture in Japan.

Did I say "promote"?  What he basically did is blow it to smithereens. His administration made rapid changes in the way things were done, throwing out traditions left and right, and instituting new ways of doing things in a mad scramble to modernize the country.

It worked.  But at what cost?  One thing that was done was to apply Western-style distinctions to the religious systems of the country.  For centuries Shinto and Buddhism rolled along in happy harmony.  As mentioned before, sometimes one man filled the roles of both Shinto and Buddhist priest.

But no more. This is this, and that is that; this is not that, and that is not this, as in Aristotelian logic.  So on this day celebrating the man who brought "culture"--read modern, Western culture--to Japan, I stood at yet another place where the older, indigenous culture was torn asunder at his command. 

Leaving this place, I was strolling out to the main highway where I intended to catch a bus back to the station, when a man pulled up and asked where I was going.  I told him; he began to give me directions, then said "I'll give you a ride."  In English.  On his day off from towel-making (more on that in a minute), this 58-year-old had been studying English before he spotted me on the road.  He asked a few questions about idioms, etc. (exchange a ride for a free lesson!), and took me in to the station to "help" me find the train.  As I was pretty confident about where I was going, I thanked him sincerely, and he took off.  It was great to avoid all that standing in the rain, waiting, getting wet, etc.  Thanks, Mr. Kamiya!

I went out to Iyosakurai station, whence I caught a bus for...

Temple #59: Kokubunji (The Temple of The Temple of a National Division; the "State Temple")
Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai (Baisajya-guru)
Gallery

I've discussed the Kokubunji system at length; no need to go into it again here.  See Temple 15 and Temple 29, as well as the information from the Tokaido portion of my trip on September 25th.

As I was walking in toward this temple, a man ran out from a (sort of) shop and offered me an American-sized wash cloth as settai.  When he learned I was American, he ran back in and brought me six more, plus one Japanese-sized one (they're long, making it easy to wash your back).  The seven small ones each has a picture or words on it, such as a map of Shikoku, a picture of the Daishi, or the words "Dogyoninin," the pilgrim's expression discussed on October 18th.  The larger one has the name of this temple on it.

The gift was freely given.  However, when he learned of my homepage, he asked for a link.  So here it is, a link to the towel-giving guy.

You may think that I have been out in the tules, but I'll have you know that Imabari is considered to be the Towel-Making Capital of the World.  The man who gave me a ride today works in a towel factory; I was given towels as settai; the port near which I'm staying ships tons and tons o' towels.  I'm overwhelmed.

One more thing I saw worth commenting on: The Daishi carried a staff with rings on the top.  (The other day I mentioned the scary henro who was pounding his staff as he walked and as he prayed.)  Well, in front of this temple there is an over-sized staff of the same design in a kind of stand.  Just as we might ring a bell when we arrive at the temple, some lift and drop, lift and drop, lift and drop this staff to make a tremendous racket.

That's about it.  Bused back to the stop near my ryokan, had a little tamago donburi (rice with an egg on top), and took a long hot bath once I got out of my wet clothes.  It's great to be warm again!

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