Aki Meguri Shikoku
October 16th, 2001 (Tuesday):
Temples 11, 13, 14, 15 and 16
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.
|As the old saying goes, "When all
else fails, lower your standards." For many reasons, today I
took my first Mulligan; that is, I cheated.
The biggest reason is this: Temple #12
is isolated in the mountains, and their shukubo is full.
There's no other place to stay within 5 or 6 kilometers of hard
climbing. I knew this yesterday, and was already trying to figure
out what to do. Then, at noontime today, it began raining buckets.
Let me explain the situation.
Each of Shikoku's four prefectures has a temple called the nansho,
or difficult place. There used to be many more, and most
authorities still count two in addition to the "official" ones
for each prefecture. Number 12 is one of the six.
It's at the second-highest elevation of
all the temples, around 900 meters. And it's said to be a rugged
12-kilometer-plus climb to get there. Once you've made it, it's
over 21 kilometers back down to Number 13.
I knew this before I started, and was
willing to give it a shot. The views are supposed to be
spectacular. Both Readicker-Henderson and Statler speak of it as
tough-but-fulfilling. Kimiko told me the same at dinner
night-before-last, saying it was the toughest part of the journey.
But time and circumstance prevent me.
A day up and a day down, but no place to stay. Too cold up
there to sleep out, even if it's not raining.
So the compromise is this: today I
skipped from Number 11 to Number 13. Tomorrow I will continue from
16 onward. Hopefully, Thursday it won't be raining. There's
a bus that goes part way up the mountain, but I'll still have to do an
over-16-kilometer round trip--half up and half down--to see the temple
in a day.
I'm disappointed. It's a
second-best solution. This is near Tokushima, so if time
permits--and there's room at the shukubo--I may try it before I
return to Tokyo. But for now it's a shoganai--nothing can
Joseph Campbell writes that the knights
of King Arthur each entered the forest at his own place, eschewing any
established path. A pre-existing path is someone else's; only the
one you create is your own, authentic path (a very Western idea).
So I guess in a way the fact that I'm "improvising" a bit
shows that I am walking this pilgrimage in my own, authentic way.
Hmmmm...now about that scooter I saw a couple of days ago...
Otherwise, today was business as usual:
some kindnesses received, a couple of good conversations, a little
disappointment at day's end.
Let's get started.
I left the ryokan a little later than I
wanted to. These five-temple days require a lot of homepage
writing (as I'm sure you've noticed). So I haven't been sleeping
as much as I'd like. Things will get better when the temples are
Anyway, I got out around 9:00 and
headed for Number 11, leaving my bag at the ryokan as I knew I would be
returning to the nearby train station.
|Temple #11: Fujiidera (Wisteria Well
Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai (Baisajya-guru)
This temple is located in the foothills
about three kilometers from Kamojima station. It's named after the
fuji, or wisteria flower (like the Fujikawa River I wrote of
30th). You can see its namesake as you enter the grounds.
Although the grounds are on the small
side, they have one big feature: they're the kickoff to the trail to
Number 12 mentioned above. I walked a little way up this,
returning wistfully as a mist-like rain was starting. Another day,
because it's there.
As you can see in the Gallery,
it's pretty enough. There was also a beautiful little six-sided
hall on the grounds, as well as some other small buildings. A
On the way back down, I asked directions
to the post office, and mailed some pamphlets, books, etc., that I don't
need anymore. Because there were books, I used a small box, but I
think in the future envelopes will do. Japanese post offices are
great places to do business: they sold me the box, packed my stuff
securely, walked me through the Japanese paperwork--all for under 20
bucks: 100 yen for the box and about 1800 for the postage.
My little bag a bit lighter, I headed
into the center of Kamojima and had a quick brunch at Mos Burger.
Then I returned to the ryokan to get my big bag. The
"master" of the place came running down the stairs as I
entered, and handed me a bag with two handmade onigiri (rice
balls) and a can of tea. "Osettai,"
he explained. I gratefully accepted it, gathered my stuff, and
headed for the station. Part way there I realized my breach of
etiquette: when we receive osettai, we are supposed to give our
name card. As explained yesterday, it is a lucky talisman.
So I went to the station, dropped my bags, ran back, and dragged the
poor guy away from his work upstairs again to give him my magical
When I got on the train and looked in
the bag, I was really glad I took time for that little extra courtesy,
because in addition to the onigiri and tea, there was a long
handwritten note. It's in Japanese so I can't read it, but it was
clearly the act of someone to whom this was important.
I headed into Tokushima Station and stowed
my big bag in a locker. Then I spent a half-hour or so researching
the bus access to Number 12. Finally, I headed back in the same
direction on the train and went out to Temple Number 13.
|Temple #13: Dainichiji (The Temple of
the Great Sun)
Honzon: Juichimen Kannon (Avalokitesvara with eleven faces)
What sets Number 13 apart from the
others? Mainly that it is a visible lesson in the history of
religion(s) in Japan.
Directly across a narrow road from
Number 13 sits Ichinomiya, a Shinto shrine with remarkably
similar architecture. This is easy to explain: they both used to
be the same establishment. I don't imagine this is the last time
I'll see this; for centuries, Shinto and Buddhism were mingled in Japan
to the point where they had become virtually indistinguishable.
All the Shinto kami (gods) were considered to be Buddhas; all the
Buddhas were kami. It was a friendly arrangement; in
country places, one man could perform the ceremonies and functions of
The Meiji Emperor's government changed
all that. By edict, the two were separated; limits were set on Buddhist
activities and powers; and Shinto was promoted as the state religion,
reversing the efforts of Prince Shotoku, Emperor Shomu, and thousands of
others to establish Buddhism in Japan (not least of whom was the
Daishi). Some say this "restoration" of Japanese
religion (Buddhism is, after all, a foreign intrusion) and the elevation
of the Emperor to the status of a god (while this idea was always in the
background, it wasn't really capitalized on until the modern area) were
directly related to Japan's rising militarism in the early part of the
So the temple and shrine at Number 13
were divided, officially and physically. All over the country, torii
(Shinto gates) were removed from temples, and Buddhist images were
removed from shrines. The results can still be seen today. A
Japanese person is said to "be born Shinto, and die Buddhist"
referring to the nature of the ceremonies for the blessing of babies and
for funerals. Few realize that these are not necessarily for
doctrinal reasons; the Meiji mandated who would perform which functions,
and the "traditions" developed around that legislation.
While at Number 13, I met a great guy.
Takeshi Kudeken is from Okinawa; he's the president of a tour company.
When I walked up to set down my bag, he told me that he had seen me at
Number 2. After moment's thought, I clearly remembered seeing
him--two days ago!
One interesting idea came out of our
conversation. Every morning I do stretching exercises using my
"Daishi" (walking stick). It's actually a bo, a
long staff used in the martial arts. The book I learned the
exercises from was written by the creator of Shintaido, a
"new" martial art that was premiered at the time of the 1964
Olympics. The book says that Aoki-sensei based his system on
dialogues with people from many disciplines, as well as his own study of
existing martial arts. His source for the stick work was mainly an
Okinawan school of stick fighting.
Mr. Kudeken and I talked about this,
then got around to an interesting idea: While Tokugawa Japan was closed
to the outside world for around 250 years, Okinawa was not only open,
but was a kind of cultural crossroads (as it still is). So it's
natural that a lot of cultural exchange was conducted with the
ready-at-hand Okinawans. (It's even well known that some of this
was happening during the closure--via the fief of Kagoshima in
southern Kyushu, for instance.)
This study of where ideas come from and
how cultures interact is a vital one to me, growing in importance as
"globalization" gains momentum. The microcosmic view of
what was happening in Okinawa might help us understand the world-wide
macrocosm's growing pains now.
It's a pleasant cross-country walk from
Number 13 to Number 14. On the way you cross the Aguigawa (?), a
tributary of the Yoshinogawa along which Numbers 1-11 are located.
|Temple #14: Jorakuji
(The Temple of Everlasting Peace)
Honzon: Miroku Bosatsu (Maitreya Bodhisattva)
The wise man built his house upon a
rock. At Jorakuji, the bedrock is laid bare and the temple
is built right on it. There were similar temples on both the
Chichibu and the Bando temple circuits. It's always amazing to see
how the builders worked with nature to achieve the optimum effect.
I had read that there were a lot of
crutches and canes left behind here by people who were healed; I was
disappointed not to see any (though the rain was pelting down so hard
that I didn't really look for long). This reminds me of some
Latin-American Catholic sites, like the Sanctuary of Chimayo in New
Mexico. Can faith really heal? Hmmmm...Is the mind connected
to the body?
When I went in to have my book signed
and my shirt stamped, I got a little scold from the lady in the office.
She insisted that I not wear my stamped shirt in the rain, as the red
ink was running. (Little did she realize it had begun to run--from
sweat--after Temple Number 1!) She also wanted me to use better
rain protection, and to dry my clothes with the blow dryer used for
drying the ink on scrolls after signing! A benevolent busybody.
Leaving Number 14, the trail leads past an
"Okunoin," a back temple of Number 14. This, too, is
built on rock. I didn't shoot any pictures of it because someone
was pouring buckets of water over my head at the time.
A bit later in the walk--when the rain
had eased a bit--I saw these persimmons growing over a wall, and
pulled out the camera. Persimmons (kaki) are a symbol of
autumn; one of my favorite haiku, by the monk Ryokan, is about
the effect of the autumn wind "under his robe" (he's more
graphic than I) as he picks persimmons. Not only is it a funny
image, but I learned a Japanese word for "testicles" from it!
Kokubunji (The Temple of a National Division; the "State
Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai (Baisajya-guru)
Do you remember reading about the
Kokubunji system? I prayed at one near Hamamatsu,
and wrote about the system then. I also mentioned it in relation
to the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) at Todaiji
in Nara. The Kokubunji (State or National Temples) and the Great
Buddha were part of an ambitious project by Emperor Shomu to create
stability and unity in Japan, both religiously and politically.
This is the Kokubunji for Tokushima
(in those days, Awa). Readicker-Henderson whines about the
run-down condition of the place, saying it's "falling apart."
Even Bishop Miyata writes, "The name of the temple is great, but
its structure is wrecked." C'mon, guys; the Parthenon could
use some fixing up too! Take a look at the Gallery and you'll see
a very fine hondo; on my way out I shot these roofs from behind
the temple. (Sorry about the rain effect.)
The trudge from Number 15 to Number 16 was
a bit longer than the others today, and I was beginning to get rain
weary. Number 16 is fairly close to the station at which I had
arrived for this trek, so I figured I'd call it off after this one.
|Temple #16: Kannonji (The Temple of
Honzon: Senju Kannon Bosatsu (Avalokitesvara with a thousand
Three days and fifteen temples into
this, I've naturally developed a system. Arrive, take photos,
pray, get the book signed, leave. This is negotiable of course,
but it seems right to do "business" first, then the holy
stuff. The signing of the book is kind of like getting a Merit
Badge for work completed.
I'm gonna change my system.
Number 16 was a tough shoot. The
gate is hemmed in by buildings directly across a narrow road; the rain
complicated things. Finally satisfied (but if you look closely at
the Gallery you'll see my rain coat hanging on a stick in the corner of
the gate), I moved on to my prayers. They felt good; I love
Kannon, my patroness through the hundred-temple tour I've finished in
the last few years. Picking up my stuff, I headed for the stamp
office--and it was closed. 5:10! I had no idea! I saw
curtains moving inside, so I rang the bell, but I guess 5:00 is 5:00.
So I have to go back there tomorrow. It's not too far out of the
way, but had I visited the office first, I could have saved time
This Kannon: She's a lot like the
Virgin Mary, a benevolent mothering type of goddess (when depicted as
female; in India he's the male Avalokitesvara, in China the female Kwan
Yin, and in Japan s/he switches back and forth.) During the
Tokugawa period, when Christianity was outlawed, the "secret
Christians" developed a "Maria Kannon," whom we'll meet
later; Mary in disguise as a Buddha. I have long carried an image
of the Virgin of Guadalupe on my key chain, so I guess it was natural
that I'd fall for Kannon.
Now here's a stunner: the feast day for
the Kannon at Temple Number 10 (the "Cut Cloth" temple I wrote
of yesterday) is December 12: The Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe!
I did have a happy moment, though.
Walking back toward the station, I realized that the bus stop ahead--on
the other side of the busy street--would take me back to Tokushima.
Waiting at the light to cross, I saw my bus coming. I waved
frantically, but he went on by. Just then the light changed, I ran
across the street, and he was waiting for me! So I made it.
He gave me a little chuckle as I came heaving into the bus.
Back to the station, dinner, picked up
my big bag, another train and a cab to the youth hostel (a splurge I
know, but two bags and a lot of rain, heading for an unknown
By the way, don't stay at the
Komatsushima Youth Hostel. They're nice enough here, but the place
is dirty--I'd say the dirtiest I've ever stayed in--the bath facilities
are minimal, and the building decrepit. "Wrecked" is
charming in a Kokubunji; it ain't so nice in one's lodging.
But I am so happy to be clean,
warm, and dry for the night...