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Aki Meguri Shikoku Logbook:

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 God's Grace)
Honzon: Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata)
Gallery

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 the shogun.)

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 Kannon/Avalokitesvara)
Honzon: Sho Kannon (Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva)
Gallery

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 Headquarters)
Honzon: Bato Kannon (Hayagriva Bodhisattva)
Gallery

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 of animals.

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 scars.

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.
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