The Shikoku Section of the Aki Meguri

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Aki Meguri Shikoku Logbook:

November 10th, 2001 (Saturday):
Temples 81 and 82

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.

 
A much easier day than expected.

I took the train all the way to Takamatsu and stashed my bag in a locker; I'm staying in Takamatsu tonight (and tomorrow and the next night--in fact, until I return to Tokushima and Temple Number 1.  My last place in Kagawa prefecture!)  Backtracking a few stations to Kamogawa, I hailed a cab and went up to...

Temple #81: Shiramineji (The Temple of the White Peak)
Honzon: Senju Kannon Bosatsu (Avalokitesvara with a thousand arms)
Gallery

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 look like.

The circular stone used to bear
bonji
, or Sanskrit.
Both stones in the illustration are
still there.

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 again.

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...

Temple #82: Negoroji (The Temple of the Fragrant Root)
Honzon: Senju Kannon Bosatsu (Avalokitesvara with a thousand arms)
Gallery

Strange name.  It's because there's a tree on the grounds from underneath which water springs.  This water becomes the Kagawa, or "Fragrant River," after which this prefecture is named.

Another story from this temple is abut this character, the Ushi-Oni, or Ox Demon.  In the 16th-century an ox-headed demon was terrorizing the people of the Go-shiki-dai.  A samurai killed him with one arrow, cut off his head, and presented it to the temple.

Bull-headed gods--a motif from time immemorial.  Look at what I said about Uwajima, another home of the Ushi-Oni.  This moon-connection runs deep.  A folklorist might look at the slaying of a cow-figure, representing the moon, as a triumph of a sun religion over a moon cult.  And in Shingon Buddhism, Dainichi--"Big Sun"--is the primary Buddha.  Hmmm.

Let's look at some terms from that legend again:

  • an ox-headed demon: not ox-bodied, but ox-headed--of a lunar mind-set?
  • one arrow: Dainichi is shown holding one finger--grasp onto the One.  The moon sometimes represents plurality, because of its phases; the Sun is constancy and unity.
  • cut off his head: with the crescent horns which may have given rise to the moon associations
  • presented it to the temple: or, "subjected the moon spirit to the power of the Sun priests"

That's about it.  I walked down the mountain (with stunning views of the Seto Inland Sea) through pine, bamboo, persimmon and citrus.  I caught a bus directly to Takamatsu station, had inner, fetched my bag, and came to the hotel.

Answer to the trivia question above: The other two Fudoo-san are Me-Jiro (White Eyes) and Me-Guro (Black Eyes).  These are now stops on the Yamanote Line!  Tokyo still has its Five-Colored Fudoo.  Some of you may know the stop on the Mekama Line called "Fudoo-Mae."  That's right in front of the Meguro Fudoo.

So the "five colors" of Mikkyo are red, blue, yellow, black, and white.

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