|Temple #81: Shiramineji (The Temple
of the White Peak)
Honzon: Senju Kannon Bosatsu (Avalokitesvara with a thousand
Along the way, there were incredible
views of the Seto O-hashi, the Great Seto Bridge. I'll show
it to you later, but here is a quote from the Internet about the bridge:
"To link Shikoku to Honshu, the
Seto Great Bridge was opened to traffic in April 1988. The Seto
Grand Bridge consists of six bridges and four supporting bridges.
The six bridges are the Minami Bisan Seto Bridge, the Kita Bisan Seto
Bridge, the Yoshima Bridge, the Iwakurojima Bridge, the Hitsuishijima
Bridge and the Shimotsui Seto Bridge. They are the world's longest
double-decked highway/railroad cable stayed bridges. The total
length is 9,368 meters. The Minami Bisan Seto Bridge is the
longest double-decked highway/railroad suspended bridge in the world.
The overall length is 1,723 meters. The Iwakurojima and
Hitsuishijima Bridges have exactly the same shape and size. The
overall length is 792 meters. These two bridges look like swans
spreading their wings. The Yoshima Bridge is the only truss bridge
among the six included in the Seto Ohashi."
There you have it.
Now, about the temple: Yesterday
I wrote about Sutoku, the angry dead Emperor. This temple is his
final resting place. Statler records a great old ghost story about
the poet Saigyo visiting the Emperor's grave here. Oddly, he
doesn't name the source: it's Ugetsu Monogatori, "Tales of
Rain and Moonlight." It's a great read itself, but Statler's
version does it justice.
This place would
be spectacular without the tomb and the ghost story. Near the peak
of a mountain, nestled into a hillside, it just seems to blend in.
It's located in an area called Go-shiki-dai, or
"Five-Colored Plateau." There are five peaks, each named
after a color.
This five-color idea is very
interesting. It's a common theme in Mikkyo, the esoteric
Buddhism represented by Tendai and Shingon. But it has also
permeated the folk tales of Japan. There is a mystic five-colored
deer in one; characters often see five-colored clouds before the
appearance of a supernatural being, etc.
Here's a trivia
question for you Tokyo-ites:
Many cities in the past would have five
Fudoo Myoo temples, or Go-Shiki-Fudoo. The eye-color of the
Fudoo-san at each temple would be different. Three of them were: Me-aka
(Red Eyes), Me-Ao (Blue/Green eyes), and Me-Kiiro (Yellow
Eyes). Can you name the other two? See the bottom
of the page for the answer.
Leaving Shiramineji, I took the
4.6-kilometer mountain trail to Number 82. (Ed Readicker-Henderson
gives the distance as 8.6 kilometers; wrong again, Ed.) The path
was fairly easy, rising and falling as it went. Along the way were
the usual cemeteries, old stones, etc. And a deserted military
camp. Statler writes that he and Morikawa walked through war games
in this area; all was quiet on this front today.
At one point on the trail, I
encountered this peculiar marker, with a curiously blank face.
However, there was a sign posted that at least showed what it used to
circular stone used to bear
bonji, or Sanskrit.
stones in the illustration are
This was the most pleasant walk I've
had on Shikoku. The weather was perfect, and this was the longest
trail unbroken by car traffic that I've been on--over three kilometers
before I encountered a road (though I could often hear one).
A word here about trails and walkers:
My life's theme can be summed up in the phrase, "Everything
Connects." My mission has been to explore how things
connect, and to try to help others do the same.
One of my favorite examples of the
interconnectedness of things came from an article by Garrison Keillor in
The National Geographic. He wrote that barns fall down
faster once the cows are gone. Assume two barns receiving no
maintenance, one with cows and one without. The one with cows will
have a certain amount of humidity. This keeps the joints tight.
In the one without cows, the wood dries out, and it falls down faster.
So while we usually think that the cows are protected by the barn, it's
also true that the barn is protected by the cows!
Now think of a street traveled heavily
by trucks. There are trees along the street. As long as the
truck traffic is steady, there will be little need to trim the trees
back off the road; every passing truck prevents the trees from
encroaching. Stop the truck traffic for a season or two, and
you'll need to trim the trees manually before the road becomes passable
In Statler's day--30 years ago--few
people were walking the pilgrimage, and some of the trails were hard to
find, and all but impassable. Today I find consistent markings and
well-maintained trails. Why? Because there has been a
resurgence in walking. I have encountered at least 30 people who
are walking the entire circuit, about a quarter of them women. (By
the way, at Number 82 and counting, I have still never met a foreign henro,
walking or riding, at any of the temples, though I did meet one Canadian
resident of Tokushima who had done it two or three times in the past.)
So these walkers are keeping the trails clear--in many cases, just by
walking. I myself picked up a few branches that had fallen
across the trail. The simple presence of feet keeps the
trail from over-growing. The inter-relatedness of things never
fails to stir me.
Here's the promised view of the bridge;
it's from a peak between the two temples, and I'm actually standing up
on an observation deck near a kind of "road-house."
And now, on to...