Aki Meguri Shikoku
November 4th, 2001 (Sunday):
Temples 61, 62, 63 and 64
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.
|All the information I have about
reaching the next temple, Number 60, is conflicting. So I figured
the best thing to do would be to get out to the area and try to figure
out how to get there "from the ground" as it were. This
is the most notoriously difficult temple to reach, some approaches
entailing an 8 kilometer hike--each way. And it's the highest of
the 88 temples in elevation, meaning that the hike includes a lot of
climbing. I didn't want to do this badly.
I had a Plan B, of course, which was to
do my research, then visit some of the other temples in the area.
As it turned out, Plan B happened. I now have sufficient
information to make my assault on Number 60 tomorrow; today I was able
to visit four temples in the flatlands along the coast of Eastern Ehime
prefecture, in the shadow of Number 60's mountain.
The bus that I took dropped me near
Number 62, located next to Komatsu Station; this is where I began my
inquiries about Number 60, and learned that if I started now, I wouldn't
be able to get a return bus--so I here resolved to visit the four
coastal temples. As I was at Number 62, I did my stuff here; then
backtracked to 61; and finally walked past 62 to 63 and 64. From
61 to 64 is only 6.3 kilometers; even with the backtracking from Number
62 it was only 7.8, so I had a fairly easy day. Though it was cold
and cloudy, it never actually rained--a welcome relief after yesterday.
(My shoes were still wet this morning!)
|Temple #62: Hojuji (The Temple of
Wealth and Happiness)
Honzon: Juichimen Kannon (Avalokitesvara with eleven faces)
By all accounts, this is a sad little
temple. Located right next to the tracks, and near a much more
prosperous temple (Number 61), it has an air of neglect.
Nevertheless, the people there were kind to me, helping me to figure out
the way to Number 60. And of course, a place of prayer is a place
of prayer, no matter the condition. Ed Readicker-Henderson says
that "the more decrepit the temple, the nicer the people."
This isn't always true; Number 2 is extremely prosperous, and the priest
there is one of the kindest people I've met; yet I have been grumbled at
by the staff of some smaller, poorer temples. But in this
case, at least, Ed's dictum holds true.
Abandoned in the early Meiji period, it
was restored in 1877 (about ten years later?) by--and I find this
fascinating--a pilgrim. Certainly the interest and contributions
of pilgrims has helped maintain the temples, but we generally
think of the "temple builders" as priests. It's
interesting to me to hear stories of pilgrims actually creating
The hondo Ed describes is not
the one in use now, and shown in the Gallery.
I have shown the one he describes for comparison; it is
apparently not being used for any purpose at this time.
A 20 minute walk took me back to...
|Temple #61: Koonji
(The Temple of the Incense Garden)
Honzon: Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana Buddha)
...and some big surprises.
Surprise number one was that I thought
I was looking at a university building on the temple grounds when in
fact it was the temple itself! Take a look at the Gallery; this
one ultra-modern building contains both the hondo and the
Daishido (on different floors). The Bishop says this building
looks "like a convention center in America." He's right.
Ed (naturally) decries the modernism of it, saying it looks like
"the auditorium of a particularly prosperous high school."
Funny, guys, to me it looks like--a
temple. I mean, the temple is the honzon, right?
And not the building? So whatever the outer structure may be, the
heart of it is the Lord being worshipped inside.
And what a Lord he is. This was
my second surprise: the honzon of this temple, a very beautiful
modern-looking gilded statue of Dainichi, is the one in the picture
given to me by Tim Cornish back on October
22nd. It was like seeing an old friend. Because of the
style of the building, you walk right in to the room where the Dainichi
is seated, and you can get a really good look at it. It was almost
overwhelming. (The Bishop is overwhelmed by the fact that the hall
has chairs for the worshippers! "You don't have to sit on
tatami, but on chairs like those in the Koyasan Temple in Los
Angeles...Only this temple in Shikoku provides us with chairs for our
Ed says the temple lacks "charm
and grace"; the Bishop pronounces it "gorgeous."
I'm with the Bishop. True, it's not what you expect when you go to
visit one of Japan's older temples (founded by Prince Shotoku himself,
Japan's first regal Buddhist proselytizer), but as I wrote in my essay
on Modernization, the
Japanese have to live here. Clearly the authorities of this
temple--and by extension, their flock--felt that this would best serve
their needs. And it is gorgeous if you consider it for
itself and not in comparison to its sisters elsewhere on the pilgrimage.
As for Ed's idea that poor temples have
the nicest people: I double-checked my Number 60 information with the
lady in the stamp office here, and she was extremely helpful, ignoring
the press of business to make sure I understood what to do tomorrow.
Also, this temple gives not one, but two pictures of honzons.
Every temple gives you a little kind of "holy card" when your
book is signed, but here you get one of both Dainichi and of the "Koyasu
Daishi," an aspect of Kobo Daishi specifically concerned with the
protection of children and ease of childbirth.
Along the way to Number 63, I had a few
First, as a little old lady was
crossing the road on a three-wheeled bicycle, she stopped and dismounted
without completely leaving the road. As I neared her, I was
preparing to tell her to be careful when she said, "Excuse me; wait
a moment, please." She was digging in her purse and produced
a crisp 1,000 yen note as settai! I was so overwhelmed that
I actually started to cry before I even said thank you.
Second, as I walked a way from her, I
had my head down so people in passing cars wouldn't see me bawling.
Because my head was down, they also couldn't see that I was a
foreigner--and one stopped to ask me for directions. The look of
shock the lady gave me as this sobbing gaijin raised his head and
looked her in the face was priceless. Sniffling, I gave fairly fluent
directions, she apologized profusely for disturbing me, and her husband
drove off. How could she know that I wasn't crying for sorrow, but
Third, I heard singing--girls' voices,
I thought. As it turned out it was three merry boys of about ten
years old in a "pocket park." I waved, they waved, and I
kept walking. A few minutes later, retracing my steps to find the
route again (I wasn't lost, I just didn't know where I was!), I ran into
them with the contraption shown in the picture.
Do you recognize it? It's a kind
of dashi or mikoshi, a portable shrine like the ones used
in festivals. Theirs is made of an upside-down white plastic chair
with a cardboard box on top (complete with roof and decorations). They were playing at matsuri or religious
festival! I wonder if little Italian kids make palanquins and
statues of the Virgin to parade around for fun?
We had a great chat. They wanted
my name card, and asked me to write my name in both the Roman alphabet
and in phonetic Japanese characters (katakana). They
especially wanted a proper signature, not just block printing--like I
was famous or something. They asked a few questions about L.A.,
and we parted. A few minutes later we spotted each other from
different streets; they ceased their very authentic heave-hoing of the omikoshi
long enough to give me a final wave and "gubai!"
Another 5 minutes and I was at...
|Temple #63: Kichijoji (The Temple of
Honzon: Bishamon-ten (Vaisravana)
Though small, this was a bustling
place, at least on a Sunday in Autumn. I was particularly
interested that the honzon here is found only here on the
pilgrimage: he's one of the Shichifukujin, or Seven Lucky Gods.
And the temple is named for his wife/consort.
I had also heard that this temple had a
statue that might be a Maria Kannon. Unfortunately she's
not on view, but the priest's wife kindly gave me a postcard-sized
picture of her. I'll try to shoot her properly in the next few
days and post the picture here.
instructions, I also received a real gift: a timetable of tomorrow's
buses. This will make things really smooth.
Why triple-check? Well, in this
case, it got me a timetable. But in general, one finds that people
often have limited knowledge of the non-automobile approaches to the
temples, so it pays to ask more than once. Remember that the very
helpful lady at Number 34 told me there simply were no buses to
Number 35, whereas after a short walk buses were plentiful.
Leaving Number 63, I pushed on to my
final stop of the day:
|Temple #64: Maegamiji (The Temple in
Front of the God)
Honzon: Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata)
Another rather prosperous temple, this
one stretches part way up a mountainside, in fact a foothill of Mt.
Ishizuchi, the tallest mountain in Western Japan at 6,600 feet (1,980
meters). This mountain, naturally, is the home of a god, so the
temple is in front of the god, giving it its name.
Because of its strong associations with
Shinto, the temple's hondo looks very much like the honden
of a shrine. Furthermore, as you move deeper into the precincts
toward the hondo, you pass the steps that lead up to a shrine
proper. My shot of the hondo in the Gallery is taken while
standing next to the shrine.
When I returned to the bus stop in front
of the temple--minutes before the bus was to arrive--there was an old
man waiting for the bus. We began to chat, and he told me that six
years ago--when he was 75--he had walked much of the pilgrimage.
He was here on a day trip from his home in Matsuyama. Before we
boarded the bus, he also gave me 1,000 yen as o-settai (daily
total: 2,000 yen--a record! In fact, my previous total for all my
time on Shikoku had been 500 yen.)
An interesting point: He explained that
we never accept o-settai with our fingers. We make a bowl
of our hands, take the gift that way, raise it up in thanks, then
handle it. But accepting it with outstretched fingers is the way
we handle money in business; this is a different kind of money, with a
different purpose, and is received a different way. Arigatou,
Tomorrow I'll take a bus toward that
tallest mountain--now a popular ski resort--and get off about a
twenty-minute forest walk from Number 60. I don't mind that at
all--as long as it's not pouring buckets. I prayed today that the
weather will hold; we'll see if my prayers are efficacious.