Aki Meguri Shikoku
November 12th, 2001 (Monday):
Temples 84, 85 and 86
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.
|Today's Words and
|First, a bit of mindless trivia.
This year in Japan is the 13th year in the reign of the Heisei Emperor,
often written "H13." So today is 11/12/13. I
remember 8/9/10, 9/10/11, and 10/11/12. I won't be here for
12/13/14--which will be the last in the series (there is no 13th month).
Now on to the mindful trivia.
It was an amazing day of great weather,
beautiful temples, and an encounter with numerous legends of Japan's
I took the train out to Yashima
station. Yashima means "Roof Island," and this
view (from near the next temple, Number 85) shows why: it's a long,
flat plateau, shaped like a roof.
Not only is there a beautiful temple
perched on this island, but this was also the site of a major battle in
the war between the Heike and the Genji (also called the Taira and the
Minamoto). It's a long story, as it was a long war. But it
basically had to do with a struggle for power--specifically, the
"power behind the throne," the right to be advisors to the
Emperor. At the end of the struggles, the Minamoto family became
Japan's first shoguns, ushering in the Kamakura period.
One source lists three major battles of
this war: the battle at Ichi-no-tani (2/7/1184), the naval battle at
Dan-no-ura (3/24/1185), and between the two, the battle at Yashima
(2/18/1185). It was not just on the "roof" of the
island, but on the surrounding plains as well (the island is nearly
attached to the main part of Shikoku), in fact almost all the way to the
One of the great works of Japanese
literature emerged from this conflict (as did countless plays, novels,
movies, and TV dramas). It's called Heike Monogatari,
"Tales of the Heike," in typical Japanese fashion named after
the losers. (They're more romantic.) One of my favorite
stories from this collection is the extremely touching Death
of Atsumori. Read this as an introduction to the soul of old
Anyway, here's the temple:
|Temple #84: Yashimaji (The Temple of
Honzon: Senju Kannon Bosatsu (Avalokitesvara with a thousand
[and Juichimen Kannon (Avalokitesvara with eleven faces)]
Beautifully situated on the plateau,
this temple includes a museum of the battle--which was closed, like most
Japanese museums are on Mondays. But there were a few other things
on this hill to enjoy.
Like the remarkably stylish cable-car
station. It's falling apart, badly in need of repairs and
paint. But the 30's deco made me homesick for L.A. architecture.
After you walk 5 or 10 minutes from Yashima station, you take the cable
car up to here. From the upper end of the cable car, it's almost a
kilometer to the temple's front gate.
There were two nice groups of statues at
the temple--so nice that I've given you a Words and Pictures page for
One is a Words
and Pictures of the Shichifukujin, Japan's "Seven Lucky
Gods." These nearly-life-sized statues were in the temple's
The other is a Words
and Pictures of the Shitenno, the Four Heavenly Kings who
guard the Buddha and the Four Directions. They were in a gate
between the Niomon and the hondo.
Returning to the train via cable car, I
went two stations along the way to Yakuri, where I walked about 20
minutes to yet another cable car up to...
|Temple #85: Yakuriji (The Temple of
Honzon: Sho Kannon (Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva)
This temple's name comes from a legend
that the Daishi planted eight roasted chestnuts--cooked, that is,
dead--before he went to China. When he returned there were eight
chestnut trees! But what man worthy of deification couldn't bring
the dead to life? He knew it would happen, else why would he have
planted them? Resurrection.
Every temple has a first name and a
last name. The first name is the "mountain name," or
Sango. A temple will have a "X-san" designation even if
it's not on a mountain. The temple's last name is the one we
usually use, the "temple name" or Jigo. This temple's
Sango is "Gokenzan," or Five Sword Mountain. That's
because there are five prominences on the mountain top (only four are
visible in this view), like five swords thrusting up from the
Supposedly the Daishi did a ritual and
afterward had a vision of five swords dancing above the mountain.
But we know, don't we, that temples are often built (worldwide) on sites
of natural significance. To my untrained eye, it appears that
there was a volcano here; these peaks are what remains of the
"plug," with the softer sides of the mountain worn away.
Whatever the genesis, it's a notable feature. As I traveled around
to the next temple, the peaks turned into five, and then reduced to
three, depending on the point of view. But they were always
visible in some form, from three different sides. They have
probably been important as long as people have been here.
In fact, there's a strong Shinto
presence here. There is a torii at the bottom of the
mountain, and others at various places closer to the top. And the
honden of a shrine--as you can see in this picture--sits
corner-to-corner (left) with the hondo of the temple (right).
The Bishop says this is another shrine to the delightful Ganesha, the
elephant-headed god from India, called in Japan Shoden or Kangiten.
This temple is situated in a region known
for its stone-cutters. (Some of the stone they work with is taken
from this mountain.) Walking to and from the cable car, their work
is much in evidence. Here are some samples:
Next stop--actually, six
train stops away--
|Temple #86: Shidoji (The Temple of
Fulfilling One's Wish)
Honzon: Juichimen Kannon (Avalokitesvara with eleven faces)
There are a couple of good stories to
go with this place.
One is that the name has been
changed--at least in writing. The characters now used to write
"Shido" are translated "the fulfillment of a wish."
Isn't that nice? But the original characters meant something like
"The Bridge to Death." Ooo. It seems Emma-O, the
king of Hell we met on October
19th, took a shine to this place. To make sure it stayed
well-maintained, he would occasionally send back a rich man at the time
of death, with the charge to rebuild this temple.
There is another story connected to
this temple, one of my favorites in Japan. It is the story of a
mother who sacrificed her life for her child--a very Japanese
story. I have reprinted a version of it--with commentary by Steve
Please read at least the story itself, and meditate for a moment on the
power of a mother's love.
Here is the tomb--the very one,
honest!--of the mother who gave herself so selflessly in the story.
The lively old man in the stamp office was very kind, and took me out to
make sure I found the right tomb. (His English is quite good, by
the way. He let me struggle along for a few minutes in Japanese
before he revealed his skill!) He also gave my a picture post card
of the grave.
One more treat at this temple: It's chrysanthemum
season. Cultivating kiku is a major sport here in Japan,
and clubs often display their efforts in public--usually at shrines--in
this season. The seat of (symbolic) power in Japan, the Emperor's
office, is referred to as "The Chrysanthemum Throne," so
growing them is a kind of patriotic act. Also, Ruth Benedict in
her startling study of the Japanese psyche, The Chrysanthemum and the
Sword, said that the typical Japanese man (this was over 50 years
ago) was capable of enough sensitivity to appreciate the growing of
these gorgeous flowers--and brutal enough to be able to cut off another
man's head. (I once met a girl whose father was retired from the
Self Defense Forces. When I asked her what his hobby was, she
said, "Growing kiku." It was a short affair.)
Back to the hotel, a nap (I'm exhausted),
and this page. Tomorrow, I should--gods willing--reach the last
temple of the 88. Then it's on to Number 1 to close the circle.