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Temples 17 and 18
(Wed., Oct. 17th, 2001)

 Wednesday, October 17th, 2001
See here for the distances between temples

 The Shikoku Pilgrimage


Today is a milestone of sorts. As of today I have been on the road for six weeks. It's not a vacation anymore, it's a job. Chris from Amnesty International wrote today, thanking me for putting their link on my site. In his note, he mentioned that "After a day's sightseeing, all I want to do is sit and have a beer." Well, beer would be a violation of my pilgrim's vow, but I'll tell ya: it's not easy to do three or four hours of work on the page after walking all day! But it has become an obsession. Besides, I'm pleased with both the page and the feedback it has generated. What will I do when the trip is over?

And it will be over. I'm fatigued, and though I can't imagine myself doing anything else right now, I will probably be accelerating things a bit; I don't know if I can take another six weeks, which was the original plan.

Today is also a milestone in regards to the future: two months from today, on December 17th, I will fly back to Los Angeles. As tough as it is to imagine, I'll be a resident of the U.S. two months and one day from now. It's been almost five years, and the America that I will return to has probably changed more in the past 5 weeks or so than I have in five years. Will we still fit? Stay tuned.

And for the first time in six weeks, I took the wrong train. In Tokyo, where most lines run every 10 minutes or even more often, this might have cost me 10 or 15 minutes. But here in the countryside, where a train might come once in forty minutes or more, it cost me way over an hour. I took a train from near the hostel in to Tokushima; I was meant to take another on from Tokushima out to Ko, where I stopped last night. I stepped into a train and asked the driver, "Does this train go to Ko?" He answered, "Ikimasu, yo"--it goes (it does). Well, either my pronunciation is poor, and he thought I said another name; or my listening is poor, and he said "Ikimasen, yo"--it doesn't. I suspect the former, because I sat down near him and he didn't correct me. After two stops, when I moved toward the door, he asked me what was up and I said, "I'm going to Ko." "Ah, Ko," said he. "That's the other way." The American in me wanted to say, "No [stuff], Sherlock" but the "good gaijin" said, "I'm sorry, excuse me, I made a mistake."So I got off the train, waited interminably for the return train, waited for another train from Tokushima to Ko, and got there.

Now, remember that last night the stamp office was closed, and I had to return to Number 16 to get my book signed? Well, all these little calamities--having to backtrack, messing up trains--led to this: when I arrived back at Number 16, my friend Aki from last Sunday was there! I told her my story, and before I could say it, she said, "It's so we would meet again!" Exactly. We chatted a bit, and she told me that Number 12--the one I skipped--was by far the most amazing thing she's seen. Dang! Gotta go tomorrow. I got my book signed, and set off back in the same direction, past Ko station toward Number 17.

Temple #17: Ido-ji (井戸寺)
  • Meaning: The Temple of the Well
  • Location: Tokushima, Tokushima; 34.085167,134.485444 (map)
  • Sect: Zentsuji-ha Shingon Buddhism
  • Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai
  • Mantra: On-ko-ro-ko-ro-sen-da-ri-ma-tou-gi-so-wa-ka!
  • Goeika:

The local farmers had no water. In one night, the Daishi dug a well with his staff, ensuring a constant supply.

Do you believe it? I have a few problems with it.
  • Point: There's not one well in the temple's yard, but two.
  • Point: There is water everywhere in this area; it's near the confluence of two major rivers
  • Point: The temple has been here since 674; what did they do for water before the Daishi arrived?

The Well

The second well

Oh, well (!). Faith is faith. Bishop Miyata says that the well is called Omokage-no-ido, the "Well of the Image." According to legend, seeing your face in the well brings good luck; if you can't see your face, "you will meet with an accident within a few years." There is another such well at Kiyomizudera, Number 25 on the Saigoku (Kansai) 33 Kannon Pilgrimage. (This is not the Kiyomizudera in central Kyoto.) I saw my face today, and at Kiyomizudera last spring. Ed Readicker-Henderson didn't see his at either; anything bad happen, Ed?

The Well sits in this pretty building, in front and to the side of the hondo.

Ed also points out that although this temple is one of the oldest on Shikoku, its buildings are the newest of the 88; they were built in the 70's, after a 1968 fire. And the Bishop says--contrary to Ed's statement regarding Number 8--that this is the largest gate, not just on the pilgrimage, but on Shikoku Island!

Because of wasted time--and because it's 18 kilometers to the next temple--I tried something new today. I stood at the exit of the parking lot of Number 17 with a sign that said "To Number 18." After wasting another 40 minutes--during which Aki showed up and laughed at me--I trudged back to Ko station and caught the train toward Number 18, which is a few kilometers from my lodging.


Main Gate

Main Hall

Daishi Hall

Temple #18: Onzan-ji (恩山寺)
  • Meaning: Gratitude Mountain Temple
  • Location: Komatsushima, Tokushima; 33.986,134.57825 (map)
  • Sect: Koyasan Shingon Buddhism
  • Honzon: Yakushi Nyorai
  • Mantra: On-ko-ro-ko-ro-sen-da-ri-ma-tou-gi-so-wa-ka!
  • Goeika:

This may be the most atmospheric temple I've seen so far. (Of course, the deluge helped. The vertical lines in my photo of the hondo in the Gallery are not a problem with my camera; they're visible streams of water pouring down.)

I approached the temple on the car road, as the henro michi (pilgrim's path) was swampy. One thing that makes this place so attractive is that there is a henro michi, a grassy track separate from the asphalt road. On the way up, I noticed a sort of shed next to the car road.

When I reached the top, there was no gate. This seemed odd, given the general quality of the buildings. Heading back down, I had a hunch and--yup! Had I arrived on the henro michi, I would have seen the other side of the "shed," which was actually a Niomon--a "Two King's gate"--minus the Nio.

Instead, the gate (which you can see in the Gallery, with the red bridge of the car road behind it) had these huge sandals hanging on the front. I'll say more about these at Number 20, reputed to have the largest straw sandal in Japan. But here it seemed interesting that they were hung in such a way that they seemed like substitutes for the missing kings.

This temple has a gripping legend. The Daishi was born into a family whose association with the Emperor stretched back into the Legendary Age. Though they were somewhat in disgrace when he was a boy, nevertheless they maintained their traditions, including the embracing of Shinto. By becoming a big-time Buddhist, Kukai (his name as a monk) was insulting his family's honor.

This background makes the ending of this story all the more striking.

When the Daishi was staying at Number 18, there was a rule in effect that no women were allowed on the mountain. So when the Daishi's mother came to visit, she was refused admission. In a kind of pious protest, the Daishi began a ritual intended to overturn the ban on women. (I have three versions of this story, and each gives a different length for the ritual: The Bishop says 17 days, Oliver Statler gives 21, and Ed has 24; something's fishy here.) Anyway, the ritual was long--and effective. At the end of it, the ban was lifted, and Mom was admitted.

What else could be done, then, but to shave her head and ordain her a nun? So the mother followed the child into the Buddhist fold.

The name of the temple includes the idea of gratitude, which The Bishop says is "gratitude to parents." The temple was given this name after this story took place. Though I can't read all of the goeika, or poem for this temple, I know it includes the lines
"...that father's, mother's temple of gratitude..." or "that gratitude of father, mother temple..." Anyway, I said a special prayer of thanks for mine here today.


Main Gate

Main Hall

Daishi Hall

Back down the hill, caught a bus, which ran amazingly near my youth hostel, though I stayed on all the way to Tokushima station--almost an hour's ride--so I could get dinner.

Wow. 10:30 and ready to publish. These two-temple days are great! Especially since I have to get up early tomorrow morning and--rain or shine--face:

The Challenge of Number 12

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Posted October 10, 2019

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