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Temples 66 and 67
(Tue., Nov. 6, 2001)

 Tuesday, November 6th, 2001
See here for the distances between temples

 The Shikoku Pilgrimage

The day went off without a hitch--except near the end, when a couple of hitches happened, but I got rapidly and, in one case, spectacularly unhitched.

I left my room in Imabari, took a bus to the station, and a train to Kannonji (the town, not the temple). It was blue (with patchy clouds) and clear, but very cold and very windy.

Arriving at Kannonji, I stashed my bag--and my hat, because of the wind--in a locker, and did my "how to get to Number 66" research. A bus driver told me that the bus that used to approach the bottom of the mountain had been discontinued, but that a cab would only cost about three thousand yen.

Only? Well, I decided to do it, but I promised myself no more cabs today, even to get to my hotel. The cab to the bottom of the ropeway was in fact 2880 yen, not as bad as I expected.

I took the ropeway (cable car) up with about 15 bus henro and their attendant priest, as well as their tour guide. More about them later. ("Ropeway?" you may ask. "How lazy of you!" But as the Bishop writes, "Be thankful for modern-day achievements.") But first:

Temple #66: Unpen-ji (雲辺寺)
  • Meaning: The Temple of Hovering Clouds
  • Location: Miyoshi, Tokushima; 34.035222,133.723722 (map)
  • Sect: Omuro-ha Shingon Buddhism
  • Honzon: Senju Kannon Bosatsu
  • Mantra: On-ba-sa-ra-ta-ra-ma-ki-ri-ku!
  • Goeika:
    Temple-#66: Unpen-ji HA-RU-HA-RU-TO

Notoriously the highest place on the pilgrimage, at around 1600 feet (920 meters). Hence the name--it is among the clouds!

One of the strange things about this temple is that, although it's approached from Kagawa prefecture (old Sanuki-no-kuni), and is thus considered the first temple in that prefecture, it's actually located across the border in a little corner of Tokushima, the first prefecture of the modern pilgrimage. It used to be a guard station where officials from three of the old "kuni" could check papers, as the pilgrim trail also crosses back into Iyo-no-kuni (modern Ehime prefecture).

I mentioned the bus henro and their priest above. There he is, leading the pilgrims in a pilgrim's song (goeika) in front of the hondo. He is Shomyo Tono, a Shingon priest of the Koya-san School, and chief priest of Kanakurasan Konzogi Temple in Hyogo prefecture. I checked out his homepage [2019: Sadly, defunct, but this may be its replacement], which answered a lot of questions. Number one was that the temple is quite old and very respectable.

Number two, and more important to my curious mind, was an explanation of some strange things on the Rev. Tono's business card. There his name is spelled "Shomjo" instead of "Shomyo." And he is called "Chefbonzo." This is no language as I know.

It's Esperanto! I don't know who the enthusiast is--Rev. Tono or someone else--but the homepage is available in both Japanese and Esperanto, as is his business card. (It's common in Japan to find business cards with Japanese on one side and English on the other; the Padre's provides a little variation on this). The whole idea tickles the heck out of me.

Back to the mountain: Unpenji is in the process of installing a set of life-sized, cast-concrete gohyaku-rakkan, the 500 disciples of the Buddha (or "arhats") that I have mentioned several times, most recently on October 14th. These guys are creepy. And sometimes hilarious. I liked them so much that I've made a Words and Pictures page of them--mostly pictures, since I don't have a clue who they are!

Also on this mountain is what might be the creepiest pair of chairs ever made. I ain't sittin' there!

And the Holy Eggplant. This piece of sculpture (?) had a long explanation above it on a sign board--which naturally I couldn't read. It's right in the precincts of the temple (unlike those hands, which are over near the ropeway). If anyone wants to read this for me, I'll send a picture of the sign to you.

One more thing this place had: great views. However, the atmospheric conditions were such that my pictures don't do them justice, so I haven't published any here.


Main Gate
[Dang it, I plumb forgot to check, having come up the back side by
ropeway. It was probably less than half a kilometer from the hondo, too.
I'd guess it was a good one, as this temple is well-off. Next time.]

Main Hall

Daishi Hall

Tokushima and "Number 1"

I mentioned that Tokushima was the "first prefecture of the modern pilgrimage." That's because the numbering system is meant to indicate order, not starting place. In the past, a pilgrim would start wherever he (or she) was. If you arrived from Kyushu or from the area around Hiroshima or Okayama, you might well start at one of the temples near your landing point. And if you lived on Shikoku, you'd probably start at the temple nearest your home. After all, the pilgrimage is a circle, and a circle has no beginning or end.

So why is Number 1 Number 1? It wasn't always; the oldest guidebooks, according to Statler, put Number 75--the Daishi's birthplace (perhaps)--as the starting point, though there were no numbers per se. But a tradition developed of starting and ending the pilgrimage at Koya-san; and Number 1 is not far from the logical landing point if coming from there.

Statler gives this as a sufficient reason, but I'm not convinced. There are other temples that are actually closer to the most logical landing point, at Komatsushima (site of the world's dirtiest youth hostel). Why not start at what is now Number 18 or 19, for example, or even back at Number 17, which is probably the same distance from Tokushima as Number 1?

I suspect that it has to do with two things. One is that pre-existing pilgrimage from Number 1 to Number 10 that I mentioned back on October 15th. Since this was always a pilgrimage, even before the Daishi, it seems a traditional place to start. The other is that it is "neat" to have the pilgrimage start in one prefecture and end in another; if we started at, say, Number 17, we would end at Number 16, both in Tokushima prefecture. But by starting at Number 1, we are near the Kagawa-Tokushima border, so Number 88 could be in another prefecture. Even though we're supposed to "close the circle" by returning to our starting point, it allows for the system of "dojos" mentioned before. Recapping:
  • Tokushima (Awa-no-kuni): The Dojo of Awakening Faith
  • Kochi (Tosa-no-kuni): The Dojo of Religious Discipline
  • Ehime (Iyo-no-kuni): The Dojo of Enlightenment
  • Kagawa (Sanuki-no-kuni): The Dojo of Nirvana
So, having become awakened to the possibilities in Tokushima; having struggled through the difficulties of Kochi; and having become enlightened in Ehima, I have now begun my flight to Nirvana, because today I not only completed 75% of the circuit (visiting Number 66 of the 88), but I also pushed on into Kagawa proper when I visited Number 67.

I sort of made a mistake, but it was good. At the bottom of the ropeway, I decided to walk to Number 67 (not having many other options) and took what was probably a longer route than if I'd just taken the pilgrim's trail down from the top of the mountain (although walking the fairly-level paved road was probably easier than crashing down from 3,000 feet, but I'm sure the views were stunning).

It was a pleasant walk, despite frequent warnings to be careful of snakes and rockslides (dosekiryu, a new word in my vocabulary). In walking over 3 kilometers, I was only passed by two cars. Well, actually, one car whose driver seemed to have changed his mind rather quickly and passed me again going the other way.

Along the way, nearing Number 67, I passed a small cemetery (one of many) that had the most amazing small family shrine. So amazing, in fact, that I've made a second, small Words and Pictures page of it. (That's two in one day--equaling my total for the whole island before today!)

And finally I reached...

Temple #67: Daiko-ji (大興寺)
  • Meaning: The Temple of Great Growth
  • Location: Mitoyo, Kagawa; 34.102194,133.719167 (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:
    Temple-#67: Daiko-ji U-E-O-KI-SHI

...where the Rev. Tono and his bus were just leaving! They had stopped at a bangai between Numbers 66 and 67, which is why we met even though I had walked for almost two hours.

(About my walking: two months ago, when the trip began, it used to take me about an hour and fifteen minutes to walk one ri, or four kilometers--which is supposed to take an hour exactly. This was largely because I stopped as often as possible. Now I walk steadily for up to two hours, stopping very infrequently. I now do a ri in between 50 and 55 minutes, unless it's up a mountain. Today I walked around eight kilometers in about an hour and forty-five minutes. I guess this trip has done me some good.)

I chatted with the tour guide (who told me the meaning of dosekiryu) and they were off.

As I climbed the stairs to the hondo, I met another tour guide I'd met before. This guy speaks quite good English. I had met him two days ago, at Number 63. Jeez, I was thinking, his group is moving slowly for a bus tour! As it turned out, since I saw him last he had returned to his hometown of Okayama (just across the Big Bridge to Honshu) and had returned with a different group!

There's an interesting vestige at this temple. First a (tiny) bit of history and doctrine.

Shingon Buddhism and Tendai Buddhism are known together as Mikkyo or "Esoteric" Buddhism. Their founders, Kukai (Kobo Daishi) and Saicho (Dengyo Daishi) were contemporaries: first friends, then rivals. Saicho, slightly older than Kukai and somewhat of a celebrity, was on the same trip to China as Kukai to study various forms of Buddhism there. While Saicho did a sort of buffet, bringing back a smattering of goods and information, Kukai concentrated on one form. When they returned, after various maneuverings, Kukai founded Shingon (meaning "True Word," the same meaning as "mantra") and the complex on Koya; Saicho founded Tendai (Chinese T'ien-t'ai) and the complex on Hiei, overlooking Kyoto. As mentioned, the two priests--and the two sects--were not always at peace with each other.

However, at one point in this temple's history, it was comprised of (according to the Bishop) "24 Shingon halls and 12 Tendai shrines." Burned (like so many of Shikoku's temples) by the warrior Motochika Chosokabe in the late 16th century, the temple has now been reduced to a much smaller compound.

And yet a vestige remains. This temple has, not one, but two Daishi halls--one for practitioners of Shingon (shown in the Gallery) and the other, shown here, for practitioners of Tendai. It enshrines a statue of Tendai Daishi, the founder of T'ien-t'ai Buddhism in China. Needless to say, most people who are committed to neither go straight for the Shingon one, as it is the better marked.

You may have noticed that I have mentioned both Dengyo Daishi and Tendai Daishi. More Daishis? Yes; daishi means great teacher, and there have been many. But as Statler points out, the Japanese have an expression: "Kobo stole the title of Daishi." There are many daishis, but when we use "the" it can mean only one.


Main Gate

Main Hall

Daishi Hall

Pushing On

Leaving the temple around 4:00, I followed Ed Readicker-Henderson's directions to the letter-- and ended up screwed.

There was a bus stop where he said it would be, about an hour's walk from the temple. (I was getting tired.) But the sign didn't say "to Kannonji station," it said "to Kurokawa station." I figured, no problem, any JR station will do--it couldn't be far from Kannonji, right? Huh.

I had over a half-hour to wait, so I walked back in to a gas station and bought a soft drink. While I was there, a girl who worked there started asking "the usual questions." When that was over, I asked her if Kurokawa was far from Kannonji. Oh, yes, she said; very far. It turns out this bus was going to a station around 90 minutes from mine!

As I was shrugging and saying shoganai, (figuring I'd have to break my "no more taxis today" rule) the station's owner, who had been eavesdropping, went running out the front door. The girl seemed intrigued, and followed him with her eyes as he went. He stopped a motorist who had just pulled out of the station, ran back in, and beckoned me to follow.

I had a ride. In the car, the man explained that he was a friend of the owner, and had stopped by after work for a visit. (I had thought that what the owner had done was a little odd if this guy were just a customer.) He was just on his way back to his home in Kannonji--about 12 kilometers away--when the owner heard that I was going there.

Hitched--and unhitched.

As I had earlier learned that the bus to the ropeway has been discontinued, I wonder if the one Ed describes has been canceled too?

Back at Kannonji station, I fetched my bag and asked some lounging taxi drivers for directions to my ryokan. It seemed near enough, and I set off.

When I arrived, I was told that I had no reservation! All became clear, however, when the lady explained that there were two establishments in town with similar names, run by the same family. She called the other one, confirmed that I indeed had a reservation there, and sent me off on another five-minute walk to the right place.

Hitched--and unhitched--again.

I'm minutes away from tomorrow's first temples. And there are no mountains or tough approaches to deal with. All of tomorrow's temples are within a 30-minute walk of a train station--or each other. Luxury.

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Posted October 17, 2019

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