Aki Meguri Shikoku
November 7th, 2001 (Wednesday):
Temples 68, 69 and 70
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.
|Although I'm staying another night in
the town of Kanonji, I'm switching hotels. The one where I stayed
last night was just too expensive, but it was the only one I could find
before I arrived. I found a cheaper one as soon as I arrived
yesterday, and made a booking for tonight. So I dropped my bag at
tonight's hotel, and walked out to today's first temple(s). Oddly,
as I walked out to Numbers 68 and 69, I walked right past last night's
hotel: it's located directly on the henro path!
Before I tell you
specifically about Numbers 68 and 69, a little explanation is in order.
I will give you information on the honzon
of each, and its name and history, and even pictures in the Gallery.
But essentially, these are really one temple. History has
pushed two nearby temples into one compound; they share a Niomon
(two kings gate) and a stamp office. But there are two main halls,
two Daishi halls, two goeika (pilgrims' songs) and two histories.
As Ed Readicker-Henderson rightly points out, "Were it not for the
demands of the numbering on the pilgrimage, the two no doubt would have
been combined into a single site years ago, despite each having its own
association with the Daishi."
Though they are essentially one place,
I'm going to treat them as two.
|Temple #68: Jinne-in (The Temple of
Honzon: Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata)
On March 21, 703--not coincidentally
the date of the Spring Equinox--a monk named Nissho had a vision.
First supernaturally-colored clouds appeared, then a boat arrived at the
shore (just over the hill from the temple) containing Hachiman, the
Shinto god of war. Vowing to protect Buddhism and its teachings,
he gave Nissho his boat and the harp he was playing. Nissho
dedicated them to the temple.
The "mountain" behind the
temple is now called Kotobiki, meaning "playing the
harp." The honzon is a painting by the Daishi of
Hachiman appearing as Amida Buddha playing the harp. This temple
was originally in the grounds of the Hachiman Shrine further up the
mountain; the Meiji ordered it moved down to the precincts of Number
69--hence the two-in-one temple arrangement.
This temple is at the top of a flight of
stairs; the next is at the bottom. But before going down to Number
69, I climbed the rest of the way up the hill for a view of the area's
most famous attraction.
This is the Zenigata, a huge
coin about 345 meters across and two meters deep in the sand of a beach
near Numbers 68 and 69.
It is between 130 and 350 years old
(depending on which legend you accept), and is refurbished by the local
people twice a year. Some say it was created as a tribute to a
visiting Lord in the 17th century; since the people had more sand than
money, they made money out of sand.
It has been variously attributed to
everyone from Kobo Daishi to space aliens. There is also a rather
confused legend, the essence of which is that the original creation on
this site was a huge sand altar built by the ironsmith's guild and
dedicated to the god of wind; for whatever reason, this altar was
converted into the coin. (The legend I read says there was an
anti-Tokugawa symbol in the center; it was cut out and the figure
changed to a shogunate-issued coin to please visiting representatives of
Whether the reason for the conversion
is true or not, I find the idea that this was an altar very agreeable.
Local tradition is full of stories of hardship in this area; going out
to play in the sand would seem unlikely in such an environment.
But a religious act--comparable to building a church or a temple--in
order to improve a hard life seems more logical.
The significance of this work of art
endures; the image is used as a town symbol in Kanonji, found on
everything from buildings to manhole covers. The
"religion" of Japan is Japaneseness; the maintenance of this
relic and its depiction all over town is a kind of homage to the past
and the forebears of the people who live here today.
After going up to visit the big money,
I returned to Number 68 and descended the stairs to...
|Temple #69: Kannonji (The Temple of
Honzon: Sho Kannon (Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva)
In addition to all that was said above,
the only thing to add is that this temple was once run by--the
Daishi! According to the Bishop, the Daishi was the 7th chief
priest of Kannonji. I haven't been able to find out anything else
about this, but I'm fascinated by the idea that he was a temple
administrator so close to his birthplace (at Number 75).
There's another interesting thing about
this area. It is one of the possible legendary homes of one of
Japan's most famous legendary heroes, Urashima Taro. You can read
his story elsewhere,
but here I just want to comment that his name means "Beach-Island
Boy"--a good description of this region.
Before I said my prayers at this
temple, I met a nice girl from Hokkaido. I helped her find the
road to Number 70, and went about my business.
After I finished, I walked the 5 or 6
kilometers to Number 70. Losing the way (a little), I found it
again by spotting the five-story pagoda from a distance.
Here it is close up, a real beauty.
|Temple #70: Motoyamaji (The Temple of
Honzon: Bato Kannon (Hayagriva Bodhisattva)
The Bishop's translation of the name is
a little quaint. Moto means "source" or
"main," as in hondo (main hall) or Nihon (the
name of Japan, meaning "source of the sun"). So "Motoyama"
means something like "main mountain" or the center of things.
The Bishop says it was once the largest temple on Shikoku, and a main
administrative center--hence "headquarters." The
"mountain" part is a bit misleading: it's located on one of
the flattest sites I've seen.
The main image is unique on the
pilgrimage, and fairly rare in Japan: the Horse-headed Kannon, protector
An even more interesting statue is the
Wounded Amida. When Chosokabe the temple burner arrived, one story
is that his soldiers were turned away by an attack of bees. (Bees
are protected on the grounds.) But more intriguing is this story:
a priest faced down the invaders bare-handed. One soldier stabbed
him with a sword, but he didn't fall. The soldiers were horrified.
Some entered the main hall, and discovered that the Amida statue inside
was bleeding. The soldiers fled in terror.
They say the statue still bears the
Shortly after I arrived, the girl I met at
Numbers 68 and 69 arrived. (She had stopped for lunch.) I
took her picture as she prayed in front of the Daishido, but she forbade
me to publish it! So you'll just have to imagine.
After walking another 3 kilometers or so
to Motoyama station, I caught a train back one stop to Kanonji and my
hotel. Tomorrow I'll move to Kaiganji Youth Hostel--one of the
possible sites of the Daishi's birth--and starting at Number 71 I'll try
to make it as far as Number 75, the other candidate for his
birthplace--and surely his childhood home.