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Temples 24 and 25
(Tue., Oct. 23, 2001)

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2001
See here for the distances between temples

 The Shikoku Pilgrimage

Cape Muroto

A great day. It was blue and beautiful, just as I'd hoped for. Today's only disappointment (any day with only one is a great day) was that I missed a bus by five minutes; the next bus was an hour and fifteen minutes after that, so I didn't get to Number 26 today. That means a long bus ride tomorrow, too. Oh, well. Shoganai.

I got off the bus at Cape Muroto. What an astounding place. It felt more like Cabo San Lucas than like Japan!

The weather was balmy, and the vegetation was tropical. There were agave...

...and banyan and palms everywhere.

Not that it's all paradise. This is a truly wild spot; I had to walk with my hat in my hand due to the fierce wind. What forces were at work here in prehistory to twist the sedimentary layers of rock like that?

What kind of winds must come here that a building has to be chained down?

A priest told Oliver Statler, "Muroto sticks out like a hook and it catches trouble..."

Then the priest added, "But all that aside, this place is sacred because it was here that the young Daishi set his life's course."

As mentioned back at Number 21, here is where the young man named Mao finally achieved satori, enlightenment, and took a priestly name, "Kukai." This means "sky-sea," a natural sort of name considering the surroundings. (It was decades after his death that the Imperial court granted him the title Kobo Daishi--"the great teacher who spreads the teachings widely"--or something like that.)

He meditated in a cave. Or some caves. Statler places them down on the coast, among the banyans; Ed Readicker-Henderson goes with the modern signs, and accepts the cave shown here, a few meters up the trail from the coast to the temple. (I'm not sure why part of the rock is painted red.)

"The" cave's mouth

Inside "the" cave

Where it happened is immaterial (though I took a stone from this cave as a keep sake); that it happened changes everything. Without that achievement, he would not have become the man he did.

Listen: Joseph Campbell distinguishes the shaman from the priest. The priest is a social functionary, a person given power by a society to do things for that society. A shaman is an individual who has made contact, who has re-connected, with the source. We call them mystics, or--sometimes--saints, though some "official" saints were also merely good administrators.

Kobo Daishi was, by this definition, a shaman. He had an authentic contact with his personal manifestation of the Godhead, Kokuzu Bosatsu, whose image is now enshrined in the temple above this cave (this modern image is on the temple grounds). Kokuzo is identified with Venus, the "Morning Star," as I mentioned when I discussed the ritual performed at Number 21. Bishop Miyata says that, according to legend, the Morning Star entered the Daishi's mouth at the conclusion of his meditation--in other words, he was filled with the spirit of Kokuzu Bosatsu, who represents the great wisdom of the Buddha that exists throughout the entire universe. (Notice the connection between this and the name "Kobo Daishi"--spreading teachings widely.)

This is one key to why a "mere human being" can be literally worshiped by so many Japanese--and me, as I pray in front of the Daishido at each temple. When a Hindu greets another with the Namaste gesture, he is greeting the god within that person. At Murotomisaki, perhaps in the very cave where I sat today, the boy Mao at the age of 19 became such a god.

Climbing on up the trail, one reaches the proper entrance to the temple--at the opposite end of the compound from where car and bus henro enter.

Temple #24: Hotsumisaki-ji (最御崎寺)
  • Meaning: The Temple of Cape Muroto
  • Location: Muroto, Kochi; 33.249008,134.175739 (map)
  • Sect: Buzan-ha Shingon Buddhism
  • Honzon: Kokuzo Bosatsu
  • Mantra: Nou-bou-a-kya-sha-kya-ra-ba-ya-on-a-ri-kya-ma-ri-bo-ri-so-wa-ka!
  • Goeika:

Well, most of the tale of this temple has been told with the telling of the Daishi's enlightenment. But there were still a few surprises in store.

For one thing, this is the first time that I can recall seeing a sumo ring on a temple's grounds. I have seen several at Shinto shrines, but this is my first associated with Buddhism.

Next "find": a singing rock. Pick up any of the smaller stones and strike the larger one, and it rings like a slightly-dull bell. There is a waka written on a sign next to the stone; anyone want to translate it for me?

Finally, a nice tie-in between my studies and my tour: I have been delving into the attributes and worship of the "13 Buddhas" of Shingon. (There is an excellent homepage about them at So, although I've seen them many times before, I was excited to see this "thirteen-story pagoda"--representing the 13 Buddhas--standing in the temple compound. (Why 13, perennially speaking? Well, how many full moons in an average year?)

Tearing myself away from this beautiful place, I began the walk toward Number 25. Here are a couple of views from the steep car road that now covers the old pilgrim trail.

The walk continues along the coast, past several boat harbors like this one. Many are protected by concrete walls over 10 meters high, and have circuitous entries to stymie the high seas. The priest that spoke to Oliver Statler said that typhoons tend to hit Muroto first, and after generations, I imagine the local fisherman have become rather cautious about what happens to their boats!


Main Gate

Main Hall

Daishi Hall

Temple #25: Shinsho-ji (津照寺)
  • Meaning: The Temple of the Illuminating Seaport
  • Location: Muroto, Kochi; 33.287806,134.14825 (map)
  • Sect: Buzan-ha Shingon Buddhism
  • Honzon: Jizo Bosatsu
  • Mantra: On-ka-ka-ka-bi-san-ma-ei-so-wa-ka!
  • Goeika:

Number 25 is what Statler refers to simply as "The Port Temple." And rightly so, as it's near the modern Muroto Port, which is probably the ancient Muroto Port. This is a place, as Statler points out, where women come to pray for the safety of their men at sea--or the repose of their souls if they're beyond any other help.

Peculiarly, the Daishido is at the base of the compound. Then a long flight of stairs leads through a very nautical Niomon (Two Kings Gate) up to a stucco, very SoCal-looking hondo. You can see all of these in the Gallery below.

Here I just have a few additional things to show you. One is the steps leading up--well over a hundred.

Next, in the second story of that strange-looking gate is the temple's bell.

Finally, an astonishing view from the area in front of the hondo.

And now, for a charming story: In 1601--just 400 years ago--a ship was being battered in a storm. The priest on board took the wheel and sailed the ship safely in to port. But when they docked, he was nowhere to be found. As usual, they went up to the temple to give thanks to the Jizo--patron of travelers--for their safe arrival. And he was all wet with sea water!

This figure, carved by the Daishi in 807, is called the Kajitori Jizo, or "Helmsman Jizo." (I like the Bishop's quaint translation: "The Jizo of Rowing a Boat.") The hondo is filled with figures of a Jizo holding a wheel, given by patrons from all over Japan.


Main Gate

Main Hall

Daishi Hall

That's it. Tomorrow I return to the jumping off point to Number 26. The temples in Kochi are pretty tough to get to, as train and bus access is limited. Walking between them--usually 4 to 9 kilometers--is quite feasible, but getting to the starting point and back from the end of the walk can be tough! Stay tuned.

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Posted October 12, 2019

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