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Aki Meguri Shikoku Logbook:

November 5th, 2001 (Monday):
Temples 60 and 65

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.

 
(Added on November 6th because I unbelievably forgot to mention it when I originally wrote this page):

I left my home in Nippori on September 5th, so as of today I have been on the road for two months.  That's two months without hanging with my friends (except a few I saw along the way), two months of living in space that's not my own, and two months without Mexican food.  Such things'll change a man.  I'm sure this has changed me.

I have conquered the mountain--with brains, not brawn.

As it turned out, the bus from Saijo went up the mountain to a stop called something like "Yokomineguchi," where you buy a ticket for a shuttle bus up (and if you choose back down) the mountain.  So as a result of my research, getting to Number 60 was a piece of cake.  Getting back down was another matter...

I also had another new experience.  I've been a walking henro, a car henro, and a bicycle henro.  Today I had a taste of what it's like to be a bus henro.

You see, the shuttle bus up and down the mountain isn't there for the occasional lone public-transportation henro like me; it's there to take the bus henro on a road that full-sized tour buses couldn't negotiate.  So I was in a bus with around 30 bus henro, average age around 70.

It was a blast.  The camaraderie, the laughter, the aid given to one another on the stairs from the temple: this is something a solo henro like myself misses out on. Despite the language barrier (and the age gap), we had some fun as they quizzed me about my country, my age, my reasons for the pilgrimage--the usual questions.  If I were a 70-year-old Japanese guy, I'd definitely do this.

So now let's look at:

Temple #60: Yokomineji (The Temple of the Side Summit)
Honzon: Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana Buddha)
Gallery

Actually, there ain't much to look at (except: see the Gallery).  The temple buildings are modest, though the view on a clear day is probably spectacular.  (Though I saw little rain today, it was cloudy and cold.)

Another temple founded by En-no-gyoja, the mountain ascetic, this was originally part of the shrine on Ichizuchizan, Western Japan's highest mountain.  Like so many others, this temple and its "mother shrine" were separated at the Meiji Restoration.

The shuttle bus takes us a little above the temple, so we actually walk down to get there.  This makes the words of the Bishop a little ironic: "Finally we are faced with the challenge of walking a steep mountain path for three hours round trip....A perilous, unpaved steep path makes you fear for your life.  Recently several pilgrims died on their trip to the temple....This is the most difficult Nansho ['difficult place'] of all the Nanshos on the Shikoku circuit."  Ah, progress!

Oddly, it was far more difficult getting away from the temple than it was getting there.  If the weather had been more promising, I might have taken the henro path back to Number 61, where I was yesterday.  But as the clouds threatened, I took the shuttle bus back to its starting point.  When I checked the city bus schedule for my return to Saijo station, I discovered that I was facing a three-hour wait!  So I walked the five kilometers down a winding mountain road to the nearest train station, next to Number 63.  Discovering that the next train was coming in an hour, I found a bus stop and took the bus back to Saijo.  I boarded an express train for my next destination, Iyomishima station--where I arrived just as the city bus would be pulling up to the bus stop back at Yokomineguchi, where I had left the shuttle bus and started walking!  Sometimes you win...

..sometimes you lose.  Ed Readicker-Henderson said the next temple was four kilometers from Iyomishima station.  Figuring that for around a thousand yen--and looking at the clock, realizing it was nearly 4:00--I jumped into a taxi.

Only to discover that it's more like eight kilometers.  Thanks, Ed.  Even the fairly-direct henro path is 6.5 K, as I discovered when I checked later.  So 2400 yen poorer, I arrived at:

Temple #65: Sankakuji (The Temple of the Triangle)
Honzon: Juichimen Kannon (Avalokitesvara with eleven faces)
Gallery

...where all was forgiven, because this was a truly beautiful place.

Ed had raved on about the hondo, particularly its roof.  (He has a thing about roofs, bragging that he has chased all over Japan looking for a good roof.)  And the hondo is beautiful, as are the Daishido and the gate.  But what caught me even more was a matter of circumstance: here at 1600 feet (about 490 meters) I saw my first, real, honest-to-goodness Fall color.  You can see more in the Gallery: my view of the Daishido was mostly blocked by red leaves.

Another beautiful thing at this temple is the gate: though it's hard to see in the Gallery shot, there's a bell hanging in the gateway.

The name of this temple is "Triangle."  The legend explains that the Daishi did a ceremony here using a triangular-shaped altar (apparently a standard item for that ceremony), hence the name.

I don't buy it.  There's got to be more to it than that.  Triangles are too suggestive for the name to have come from something as simple as that, but I have to admit I haven't the faintest idea what it could be.

Meanwhile, in homage to the name, there is a triangular pond on the property; here you can make it out by the shape of the railing around it (and enjoy more Autumn colors).

A cab back to the station, a train back to Imabari, a bus back to the ryokan.  And tomorrow, Unpenji will present yet another mountain challenge--and probably the last really really tough temple approach.
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