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Temples 11 and 13-16
(Tue., Oct. 16, 2001)

 Tuesday, October 16th, 2001
Temples #13-16 are more-or-less clustered in Tokushima, south of the Yoshinogawa River; #17 is not far north.

See here for the distances between temples

 The Shikoku Pilgrimage

I Cheated

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 be done.

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. 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 farther apart.

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: Fujii-dera (藤井寺)
  • Meaning: Wisteria Well Temple
  • Location: Yoshinogawa, Tokushima; 34.051667,134.3485 (map)
  • Sect: Zen Buddhism (Myoshinji-ha Rinzai)
  • Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai
  • Mantra: On-ko-ro-ko-ro-sen-da-ri-ma-tou-gi-so-wa-ka!
  • Goeika:
Note: This is the first temple on the south side of the Yoshinogawa River valley.

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 on September 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 below, it's pretty enough. There was also a beautiful little six-sided hall on the grounds, as well as some other small buildings. A jewel.

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 name slip.

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.


Main Gate

Main Hall

Daishi Hall

Temple #13: Dainichi-ji (大日寺)
  • Meaning: The Temple of the Great Sun
  • Location: Tokushima, Tokushima; 34.038117,134.462683 (map)
  • Sect: Daikakuji-ha Shingon Buddhism
  • Honzon: Juichimen Kannon
  • Mantra: On-ro-ke-jim-ba-ra-a-ran-ja-ki-ri-ku! or On-ma-ka-kya-ro-ni-kya-so-wa-ka!
  • Goeika:

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 both religions.

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 20th century.

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 a 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 Akuigawa, a tributary of the Yoshinogawa along which Numbers 1-11 are located.


Main Gate

Main Hall

Daishi Hall

Temple #14: Joraku-ji (常楽寺)
  • Meaning: The Temple of Everlasting Peace
  • Location: Tokushima, Tokushima; 34.050333,134.475639 (map)
  • Sect: Koyasan Shingon Buddhism
  • Honzon: Miroku Bosatsu
  • Mantra: On-mai-ta-rei-ya-so-wa-ka!
  • Goeika:

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!


Main Gate

Main Hall
(as seen above)

Daishi Hall
(Sorry; original was lost, this was enlarged from a smaller copy.)

Temple #15: Awa Kokubun-ji (阿波国分寺)
  • Meaning: The Temple of a National Division; the "State Temple"
  • Location: Tokushima, Tokushima; 34.055611,134.473611 (map)
  • Sect: Soto Zen
  • Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai
  • Mantra: On-ko-ro-ko-ro-sen-da-ri-ma-tou-gi-so-wa-ka!
  • Goeika:

Do you remember reading about the Kokubunji system? I prayed at one near Mitsuke, 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.


Main Gate

Main Hall

Daishi Hall

Temple #16: Kannon-ji (観音寺)
  • Meaning: The Temple of Avalokitesvara
  • Location: Tokushima, Tokushima; 34.068472,134.474344 (map)
  • Sect: Koyasan Shingon Buddhism
  • Honzon: Senju Kannon Bosatsu
  • Mantra: On-ba-sa-ra-ta-ra-ma-ki-ri-ku!
  • Goeika:

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 tomorrow. Shoganai.


Main Gate

Main Hall

Daishi Hall


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! Small universe.

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 location...)

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...

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Posted October 10, 2019

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