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Aki Meguri Shikoku Logbook:

November 11th, 2001 (Sunday):
Temple 83

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.

 
Wow.  For the first time in recent memory, I failed to make my day's goal--by miles.

Here's the set-up: I'm staying near Kawaramachi Station in Takamatsu.  This is the hub of the Kotoden train lines.  Number 83 is out one line; numbers 84-86 are strung out along a different line.

This morning I did laundry and for various reasons it took much longer than expected.  The plan was to go out to Number 83, return to Kawaramachi, and go out to Number 84, 85, and 86.

Well, it was 1:00 when I left Kawaramachi for Number 83.  And then, Ed Readicker-Henderson screwed me up, and I compounded his mistake by making a bad decision.

Ed says, "Switch to a local on the private Kotoden Kotohira Line for Busshouzan.  The temple is a five-minute walk from the station."  He's almost right.  It is the "Kotoden Kotohira Line for Busshouzan"--but you go one station past Busshouzan to Ichinomiya station, from which "The temple is a five-minute walk."

Alighting at Busshouzan, I pretty quickly realized what had happened.  The next train would come in about 25 minutes.  Here's where I made a mistake.  I decided to walk one more station along the line--without an adequate map.  I got a little lost, and the walk took me over an hour.  So I arrived at Number 83 around 2:30.  Knowing that there was no way I could hit all three of today's remaining temples, and knowing that they were all along one train line, and knowing that the transfer was right near my hotel--I decided to make Number 83 my only temple of the day, and relax.  Instant stress release!  And besides, there were a couple of surprises in store for me at  Number 83 to really make my day... 

Temple #83: Ichinomiyaji (The Temple of the First Shrine)
Honzon: Sho Kannon (Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva)
Gallery

This is a pretty, modest temple.  The name makes it clear that at one point it was connected to its next-door neighbor, the "Number One Shrine" of Sanuki-no-kuni, now Kagawa prefecture.

The layout makes this obvious.  The front gate is located on a narrow lane, directly across from the side wall of Tamura Jinja, the "#1 shrine."  One imagines that in days past, the wall wasn't there.  One would enter the shrine at the big torii and advance toward the honden or main hall.  Just before reaching it, one could have turned left and entered the main gate of the temple.  But at some point, a wall was built, and that is no longer possible (as it still is at some other temples we've seen).

I assumed that the separation took place as a result of the Meiji Restoration.  But the Bishop says it was done "by order of the lord of Takamatsu castle" in 1679.  He also says the shrine was built after the temple, in the temple's grounds.  Both of these ideas are different from what usually happens.  If the temple came first, why is it named for the shrine?

Ichinomiyaji's only "feature" is these three lovely old tombstones, dating to the 13th-century.

Now for Surprise Number 1: When I went up to Temple Number 65 almost a week ago, I was surprised when the priest in the stamp office greeted me with, "Hisashiburidesu!" usually translated "Long time no see!"  He had mistaken me for someone else--in fact, a German.  We had a good laugh about it, and I told him that the next time I came, he'd better remember me!

When I approached the stamp office at Number 83 today, the lady at the counter looked up at me with a start, and said, "Je-mu-su-san?"  No mistake here: she called me by name.  "Hai?"  I replied, a little startled myself.  And she pointed to a note posted on the office window.

Remember my friends the Ikedas, who kindly took me in their car on October 28th?  Well, they live near here.  And they left me a note asking me to call them.  (I'll do it tomorrow; I returned to my hotel too late tonight.)

Wasn't that amazing?  I guess they followed my progress on this site, and anticipated my arrival.  Wow!

Now it was around 3:30, and since I had decided this was my last stop, I figured I'd dawdle awhile.  So I went next door to see the shrine.

And I'm so glad I did.  Surprise Number 2: I forgot that this is Shichi-Go-San season.  Although the "Seven-Five-Three" festival is officially on November 15th, people celebrate it on any convenient day around that date.

On this date, girls aged 3 and 7 and boys aged 5 (in some areas, also boys aged 3) visit a shrine in formal wear for a blessing, and prayers for health and long life.  The "formal wear" in question is usually Japanese, although some families are recently opting for Western wear.  Even this, though, can be very traditional; I saw a boy today in a suit and short pants!

Another tradition is that parents give their children Chitose (thousand-year) candy, a kind of rock candy to guarantee strength and long life.  It comes in an envelope decorated with symbols of longevity, including cranes and turtles.  (It may also be a kind of reward for putting up with the hassle of wearing a kimono, being quiet during the ceremony, etc.)

The tradition dates back to samurai times.  In families of that class, three was the age when children's hair was allowed to grow out (before this their heads were shaved); at 5, boys wore hakama (formal men's wear) for the first time; and at 7, girls stopped using a cord and started using an obi sash on their kimono.

Commoners began following these practices in the later Edo period, and today's customs were formalized in the Meiji period.

It's still a popular tradition.  Year after year I have traveled in November, and happened upon this celebration all over the country.  According to several websites, Hie Jinja in Tokyo hosts over 2,000 celebrations every year!

Several sites also mention that the date November 15 was chosen because it was auspicious.  Actually, Japan's two other major rites-of-passage days are also situated on the 15th of the month.  "Adult Day" for those who have turned 20 is on January 15th, and "Respect for the Aged Day" for those who have turned 60 is on September 15th.

This is the Western calendar instituted by the Meiji; previously, ju-go-ya, the fifteenth day, was the day of the full moon.  So there's probably a little trickery going on regarding these modern dates.  (By the way, the ju-go-ya of the ninth month--now considered to be September--was the date of the Moon Viewing Festival, or Tsukimi.  It was probably the full moon nearest to the Autumn Equinox in days past, when the most gorgeous full moons rise just after sunset.)

Now you have some historic background; but the real point of all this is: darned cute kids!  Photographers like to hang around shrines on this day to get some pictures; I have a few dozen from years past.  I'm so glad I went to the shrine today, as this will be my last Shichi-Go-San for awhile.  So here are a few pictures, as well as some other features from the shrine.
This family had all the bases covered--a 7, a 5, and a 3!  Grandma is taking the picture. Picture shmicture!  Bring on the candy! A little post-ceremony shopping.

The two images on either side are related to birth and children--a big emphasis at this shrine.

We jolly fat guys just love kids! According to the Bishop, one crawls through this to purify one's "dirty karma" and "ward off any evil influences, just as a baby crawls."  A symbol of (re-)birth.

And so I went out for dinner, returned to the hotel, and wrote this for you.  I had thought that tomorrow would be my last day before returning to Number 1, but it has been delayed by a day.

Several writers have mentioned that pilgrims tend to rush through the last few temples, then linger at Number 88, sorry that it's over.  I find myself wanting to slow down now.  It may just be exhaustion (I am tired) but I also find myself savoring the places, in a way I wasn't prone to a week or two ago.  I know that when I return to Tokyo the pace will change; I still have a couple more short pilgrimages to do up there, but they won't be "the Big One."  And of course, in a little over a month, I'll be back in the States.  So I'm starting to commemorate "lasts": my last "Culture Day," my last  Shichi-Go-San, my last hotel before returning to familiar territory.

My last sentence of the night.

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