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Temple 38
(Sat., Oct. 27, 2001)

 Saturday, October 27th, 2001
See here for the distances between temples

 The Shikoku Pilgrimage


The day began and ended with "old business" from yesterday catching up with me. But the middle of the day was spectacular!

I got out of my hotel pretty early--eightish--and headed for the coin laundry nearby. While my laundry was going, I went to a nearby phone and called the bus company numbers about the cheap cell phone I lost yesterday; no luck. They said try the koban, or neighborhood police box. I did. No luck.

If Kochi is like Tokyo, in a week or two any items turned in anywhere in the city will end up in one central office. But I won't be around.

It's not a big deal. This phone is not registered to me in any way; I have no bills to pay; it works on a pre-paid card and even that had run out. So if someone found it and wanted to keep it, first they'd have to figure out what the number is if they want any incoming calls; then they'd have to buy pre-paid cards to make out-going calls. It's no bargain in either case.

So I popped into a couple of convenience stores--there are only a couple of chains here, no Family Mart or Seven Eleven it seems, just Lawson and Sunkus--and they didn't have any phones for sale. Time was pressing--I had a train to catch--so I am currently phoneless (and clockless). It really doesn't matter that much.

I took a train to Kubokawa, the location of Temple Number 37. Dropping my bag in a coin locker, I hopped a train to Nakamura, and a bus out to Cape Ashizuri, the southernmost point on Shikoku and the site of Number 38.

Before I tell you about the temple., I want to tell you about the ride. Halfway down the cape, the bus changes drivers at a hub, and the nature of the road changes. Before it had been gently curving country highway; after the change at Shimizu, it becomes mostly one-lane coastal road that makes California's Highway 1 below Carmel look like an Interstate.

I said "one-lane," but the traffic is still two-way. And this is a full-sized city bus. Some might have found it harrowing; I found it fascinating.

I don't know how many hands that driver had, but he seemed to be driving with one of them on the horn at all times. And he still had to steer and shift. He honked warnings before curves; he honked instructions to approaching cars; he honked thanks to people after the negotiations were completed.

In addition, this almost-Hollywood-handsome mid-40's guy waved at and was waved at by kids on bikes; stopped a few times and opened the door to chat with old ladies; conversed familiarly with passengers--this guy defined "multi-tasking."

Because I was on something of a schedule, that part about stopping to chat with old ladies annoyed me a little. But his country pace and manners won me over in the end.

He had turned out to let some cars pass and I spotted a magnificent view of the cape toward which we were headed. Not knowing how long we would wait, I started digging for my camera. Just as I got it out, he was ready to leave, and started creeping forward. Glancing in his rear-view mirror, he saw what I was doing and stopped until I got the shot! Truly thoughtful.

At last we arrived right next to the temple--no mountains to climb or taxis to hail.

Temple #38: Kongofuku-ji (金剛福寺)
  • Meaning: The Temple of Everlasting Happiness
  • Location: Tosashimizu, Kochi; 32.726028,133.018556 (map)
  • Sect: Buzan-ha Shingon Buddhism
  • Honzon: Senju Kannon Bosatsu
  • Mantra: On-ba-sa-ra-ta-ra-ma-ki-ri-ku!
  • Goeika:

Location, location, location. Though there's nothing particularly outstanding about the temple itself, I'd have to say that it's in the prettiest location I've seen, even better than the one on Cape Muroto.

There's also a great tradition to go with this place. Amida is the Lord of the Pure Land in the West; Yakushi rules the Pure World in the East. But Kannon-sama (my great love) is the ruler of Potalaka in the South, called in Japanese Fudaraku. And so holy men--wild, crazed holy men--used to try to set off to Fudaraku from here.

Some went by boat; others simply jumped off the cliff (virtually ensuring that they would enter "another world"!). Even today it is a place known for suicides, as the Golden Gate Bridge is in California.

The Road to Fudaraku?

There are legends--charming and disturbing--about these sacred if addled adventurers. The one repeated by both Statler and Readicker-Henderson is from the diary of Lady Nijo, and it explains the name of the cape:
A monk and his disciple were here practicing austerities (it was well known for this) when another young monk showed up. The disciple shared his food daily with this newcomer, until the Master "put his foot down" and told him that enough was enough, to stop squandering their precious resources.
When the young stranger appeared again, the disciple said this would be the last time he could share his food, as the Master forbade it. In thanks for his previous kindness, the young monk invited the disciple to go with him to his land, whereupon they boarded a boat--obviously bound for Fudaraku. Getting wind of this, the Master followed, and when he saw them leaving, he cried in shame and grief at his blind stinginess, and stamped his foot. "Ashizuri" means "foot stamping."
Ed Readicker-Henderson and others talk about how "inviting" and "angry" the sea looks here. Powerful, yes, but I don't know how much was "planted" in my head about whether the waves beckon one to jump. It would be interesting to do a test: bring some people here who don't know the legends, and ask them what "message" they're getting from the sea here. As a priest told Statler, Fudaraku is inside you, not out there somewhere. Jumping off a cliff probably won't improve your spiritual state.

Although I seldom shoot pictures of the temples' insides--even when they're open--this one seemed to be saying "Take me." So here's a picture of the Daishi at home. Yesterday I mentioned the vajra in his right hand and the beads in his left; you can see them here.


Main Gate

Main Hall

Daishi Hall

John Manjiro

A good friend, Mr. Toshihide Yamashita, is a native of this area (actually Sukumo, near Number 39). In addition to being a nice guy (and very funny) he also has a good knowledge of Japanese history, and has taught me a lot. Earlier this year, he introduced me to a historical figure named "John" Manjiro.

At the age of 14, Manjiro was a fisherman who was lost at sea, picked up by a Yankee whaler, and taken to New England, where he went to school. At age 24, he returned to Japan, where he ultimately became a liaison between Japan and the U.S. Here's the clincher: the shipwreck happened in 1841. That's the Tokugawa Period, the time of Japan's extreme and paranoid closure. Manjiro had to go through all kinds of "tests" before he was fully admitted back into Japan!

This forerunner of international relations is much-honored; there is a "Manjiro Society" carrying out the ideals of Japan-U.S. cooperation. And there's a statue of John Manjiro at Cape Ashizura--my bus ride today took me through his home village of Nakanohama. His original name--before he became John--was "Manjiro Nakahama." (The Manjiro Society has a more complete biography of this fascinating figure.)

Hmmm...the U.S. Fudaraku. Maybe Manjiro reached it?

Wrapping Up

And now for the "old Business" at the end of the day.

Reaching the Youth Hostel at Temple Number 37, I was greeted in the lobby by--the guy I had been ducking all day yesterday! It seems he's not a walker; he took a train here.

He said "Good evening" (in Japanese) and disappeared. Phew, I thought. Then the house mother told me I would be sharing a room with one other guy. Oh, no! I thought. But it wasn't him. Phew #2.

I have just spent five nights in a business hotel. I love the privacy, but they don't have those great Japanese baths. So I was really looking forward to going in, shaving my head, soaking my tired bones...

Guess who was in there. It was the bath from hell.

I had to ask him to repeat himself because he was speaking so fast and fluently. He interpreted this as deafness, and kept standing up from his little bath stool, walking over, and shouting in my ear with the same speed and vocabulary.

I finally said--in Japanese--"My ears are OK, but I can't understand Japanese. Please speak slowly." Oh, he said. The next three words came out one syllable at a time, then he was off again. For awhile, he just sat and muttered, and all I could catch was "James-san" and "foreigner" and "interesting." Thank gods another guy came in, and this machine gun could turn his rapid fire on someone who could understand him. (I think he was pretty frustrated with me.)

Please remember that all of this took place while we were stark naked. Do you remember the phrase about the rock-headed statue yesterday, "Kimochi warui"?

Tomorrow he's going down to Number 38 while I move on to Number 39. I'm going to have to work hard to avoid this guy.

The irony is, from what I can catch, I'd probably be interested in what he's saying. He says the names of some of my favorite writers, including D. T. Suzuki and Inazo Nitobe, but I can't catch anything else. He's probably a nice enough guy; I just find it really tough to keep saying, "Huh?"

In Eiji Yoshikawa's Musashi, the characters keep encountering--or nearly missing--each other by coincidence. These people are roaming the length and breadth of Japan, and they continually run into each other. This trip is starting to feel that way!

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Posted October 14, 2019

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