Aki Meguri Shikoku
November 6th, 2001 (Tuesday):
Temples 66 and 67
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.
|Today's Words and
|The day went off without a hitch--except
near the end, when a couple of hitches happened, but I got rapidly and,
in one case, spectacularly unhitched.
I left my room in Imabari, took a bus
to the station, and a train to Kannonji (the town, not the temple).
It was blue (with patchy clouds) and clear, but very cold and very
Arriving at Kannonji, I stashed my
bag--and my hat, because of the wind--in a locker, and did my "how
to get to Number 66" research. A bus driver told me that the
bus that used to approach the bottom of the mountain had been
discontinued, but that a cab would only cost about three thousand yen.
Only? Well, I decided to do it,
but I promised myself no more cabs today, even to get to my
hotel. The cab to the bottom of the ropeway was in fact 2880 yen,
not as bad as I expected.
I took the ropeway (cable car) up with
about 15 bus henro and their attendant priest, as well as their tour
guide. More about them later. ("Ropeway?" you may
ask. "How lazy of you!" But as the Bishop writes,
"Be thankful for modern-day achievements.") But first:
|Temple #66: Unpenji (The Temple of
Honzon: Senju Kannon Bosatsu (Avalokitesvara with a thousand
Notoriously the highest place on the
pilgrimage, at around 1600 feet (920 meters). Hence the name--it is
among the clouds!
One of the strange things about this
temple is that, although it's approached from Kagawa prefecture (old Sanuki-no-kuni),
and is thus considered the first temple in that prefecture, it's
actually located across the border in a little corner of Tokushima, the
first prefecture of the modern pilgrimage. It used to be a guard
station where officials from three of the old "kuni"
could check papers, as the pilgrim trail also crosses back into Iyo-no-kuni
(modern Ehime prefecture).
I mentioned the bus henro and their
priest above. There he is, leading the pilgrims in a pilgrim's
song (goeika) in front of the hondo. He is Shomyo
Tono, a Shingon priest of the Koya-san School, and chief priest of
Kanakurasan Konzogi Temple in Hyogo prefecture. I checked out his homepage,
which answered a lot of questions. Number one was that the temple
is quite old and very respectable.
Number two, and more important to my
curious mind, was an explanation of some strange things on the Rev.
Tono's business card. There his name is spelled "Shomjo"
instead of "Shomyo." And he is called "Chefbonzo."
This is no language as I know.
It's Esperanto! I don't know who
the enthusiast is--Rev. Tono or someone else--but the homepage is
available in both Japanese and Esperanto, as is his business card.
(It's common in Japan to find business cards with Japanese on one side
and English on the other; the Padre's provides a little variation on
this). The whole idea tickles the heck out of me.
Back to the mountain: Unpenji is in the
process of installing a set of life-sized, cast-concrete gohyaku-rakkan,
the 500 disciples of the Buddha (or "arhats") that I have
mentioned several times, most recently on October
14th. These guys are creepy. And sometimes hilarious.
I liked them so much that I've made a Words
and Pictures page of them--mostly pictures, since I don't have a
clue who they are!
Also on this mountain is what might be the
creepiest pair of chairs ever made. I ain't sittin'
And the Holy Eggplant.
This piece of sculpture (?) had a long explanation above it on a sign
board--which naturally I couldn't read. It's right in the precincts of
the temple (unlike those hands, which are over near the ropeway).
If anyone wants to read this for me, I'll send a picture of the sign to
One more thing this place had: great
views. However, the atmospheric conditions were such that my
pictures don't do them justice, so I haven't published any here.
I mentioned that Tokushima was the
"first prefecture of the modern pilgrimage."
That's because the numbering system is meant to indicate order, not
starting place. In the past, a pilgrim would start wherever he (or
she) was. If you arrived from Kyushu or from the area around
Hiroshima or Okayama, you might well start at one of the temples near
your landing point. And if you lived on Shikoku, you'd probably
start at the temple nearest your home. After all, the pilgrimage
is a circle, and a circle has no beginning or end.
So why is Number 1 Number 1? It
wasn't always; the oldest guidebooks, according to Statler, put Number
75--the Daishi's birthplace (perhaps)--as the starting point, though
there were no numbers per se. But a tradition developed of
starting and ending the pilgrimage at Koya-san; and Number 1 is not far
from the logical landing point if coming from there.
Statler gives this as a sufficient
reason, but I'm not convinced. There are other temples that are
actually closer to the most logical landing point, at
Komatsushima (site of the world's dirtiest youth hostel). Why not
start at what is now number 18 or 19, for example, or even back at
Number 17, which is probably the same distance from Tokushima as Number
I suspect that it has to do with two
things. One is that pre-existing pilgrimage from Number 1 to
Number 10 that I mentioned back on October 15th.
Since this was always a pilgrimage, even before the Daishi, it
seems a traditional place to start. The other is that it is
"neat" to have the pilgrimage start in one prefecture and end
in another; if we started at, say, Number 17, we would end at Number 16,
both in Tokushima prefecture. But by starting at Number 1, we are
near the Kagawa-Tokushima border, so Number 88 could be in another
prefecture. Even though we're supposed to "close the
circle" by returning to our starting point, it allows for the
system of "dojos" mentioned before. Recapping:
Tokushima (Awa-no-kuni): The
Dojo of Awakening Faith
Kochi (Tosa-no-kuni): The Dojo of Religious Discipline
Ehime (Iyo-no-kuni): The Dojo of Enlightenment
Kagawa (Sanuki-no-kuni): The Dojo of Nirvana
So, having become awakened to the
possibilities in Tokushima; having struggled through the difficulties of
Kochi; and having become enlightened in Ehima, I have now begun my
flight to Nirvana, because today I not only completed 75% of the circuit
(visiting Number 66 of the 88), but I also pushed on into Kagawa proper
when I visited Number 67.
I sort of made a mistake, but it was good.
At the bottom of the ropeway, I decided to walk to Number 67 (not having
many other options) and took what was probably a longer route than if
I'd just taken the pilgrim's trail down from the top of the mountain
(although walking the fairly-level paved road was probably easier than
crashing down from 3,000 feet, but I'm sure the views were stunning).
It was a pleasant walk, despite
frequent warnings to be careful of snakes and rockslides (dosekiryu,
a new word in my vocabulary). In walking over 3 kilometers, I was
only passed by two cars. Well, actually, one car whose driver
seemed to have changed his mind rather quickly and passed me again going
the other way.
Along the way, nearing Number 67, I passed
a small cemetery (one of many) that had the most amazing small family
shrine. So amazing, in fact, that I've made a second, small Words
and Pictures page of it. (That's two in one day--equaling my
total for the whole island before today!)
And finally I reached...
|Temple #67: Daikoji (The Temple of
Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai (Baisajya-guru)
...where the Rev. Tono and his bus were
just leaving! They had stopped at a bangai between Numbers
66 and 67, which is why we met even though I had walked for almost two
(About my walking: two months ago, when
the trip began, it used to take me about an hour and fifteen minutes to
walk one ri, or four kilometers--which is supposed to take an
hour exactly. This was largely because I stopped as often as
possible. Now I walk steadily for up to two hours, stopping very
infrequently. I now do a ri in between 50 and 55 minutes,
unless it's up a mountain. Today I walked around eight kilometers
in about an hour and forty-five minutes. I guess this trip has
done me some good.)
I chatted with the tour guide (who told
me the meaning of dosekiryu) and they were off.
As I climbed the stairs to the hondo,
I met another tour guide I'd met before. This guy speaks quite
good English. I had met him two days ago, at Number 63.
Jeez, I was thinking, his group is moving slowly for a bus tour!
As it turned out, since I saw him last he had returned to his hometown
of Okayama (just across the Big Bridge to Honshu) and had returned with
a different group!
There's an interesting vestige at this
temple. First a (tiny) bit of history and doctrine.
Shingon Buddhism and Tendai Buddhism
are known together as Mikkyo or "Esoteric" Buddhism.
Their founders, Kukai (Kobo Daishi) and Saicho (Dengyo Daishi) were
contemporaries: first friends, then rivals. Saicho, slightly older
than Kukai and somewhat of a celebrity, was on the same trip to China as
Kukai to study various forms of Buddhism there. While Saicho did a
sort of buffet, bringing back a smattering of goods and information,
Kukai concentrated on one form. When they returned, after various
maneuverings, Kukai founded Shingon (meaning "True Word," the
same meaning as "mantra") and the complex on Koya; Saicho
founded Tendai (Chinese T'ien-t'ai) and the complex on Hiei, overlooking
Kyoto. As mentioned, the two priests--and the two sects--were not
always at peace with each other.
However, at one point in this temple's
history, it was comprised of (according to the Bishop) "24 Shingon
halls and 12 Tendai shrines." Burned (like so many of
Shikoku's temples) by the warrior Motochika Chosokabe in the late 16th
century, the temple has now been reduced to a much smaller compound.
And yet a vestige
remains. This temple has, not one, but two Daishi
halls--one for practitioners of Shingon (shown in the Gallery)
and the other, shown here, for practitioners of Tendai. It
enshrines a statue of Tendai Daishi, the founder of T'ien-t'ai Buddhism
in China. Needless to say, most people who are committed to
neither go straight for the Shingon one, as it is the better marked.
You may have noticed that I have
mentioned both Dengyo Daishi and Tendai Daishi. More Daishis?
Yes; daishi means great teacher, and there have been many.
But as Statler points out, the Japanese have an expression: "Kobo
stole the title of Daishi." There are many daishis, but when
we use "the" it can mean only one.
Leaving the temple around 4:00, I
followed Ed Readicker-Henderson's directions to the letter-- and ended
There was a bus stop where he said it
would be, about an hour's walk from the temple. (I was getting
tired.) But the sign didn't say "to Kannonji station,"
it said "to Kurokawa station." I figured, no problem,
any JR station will do--it couldn't be far from Kannonji, right?
I had over a half-hour to wait, so I
walked back in to a gas station and bought a soft drink. While I
was there, a girl who worked there started asking "the usual
questions." When that was over, I asked her if Kurokawa was
far from Kannonji. Oh, yes, she said; very far. It turns out
this bus was going to a station around 90 minutes from mine!
As I was shrugging and saying "shoganai,"
(figuring I'd have to break my "no more taxis today" rule) the
station's owner, who had been eavesdropping, went running out the front
door. The girl seemed intrigued, and followed him with her eyes as
he went. He stopped a motorist who had just pulled out of the
station, ran back in, and beckoned me to follow.
I had a ride. In the car, the man
explained that he was a friend of the owner, and had stopped by after
work for a visit. (I had thought that what the owner had done was
a little odd if this guy were just a customer.) He was just on his
way back to his home in Kannonji--about 12 kilometers away--when the
owner heard that I was going there.
As I had earlier learned that the bus
to the ropeway has been discontinued, I wonder if the one Ed describes
has been canceled too?
Back at Kannonji station, I fetched my bag
and asked some lounging taxi drivers for directions to my ryokan.
It seemed near enough, and I set off.
When I arrived, I was told that I had
no reservation! All became clear, however, when the lady explained
that there were two establishments in town with similar names,
run by the same family. She called the other one, confirmed that I
indeed had a reservation there, and sent me off on another five-minute
walk to the right place.
I'm minutes away from tomorrow's first
temples. And there are no mountains or tough approaches to deal
with. All of tomorrow's temples are within a 30-minute walk of a
train station--or each other. Luxury.