Oct 31, 2009

Day 14 - Entering Temple #26

As we neared the top of the mountain and the temple, we had to cross the temple parking lot (for people who came up the paved road in cars). On the opposite side there was a railroad car but not tracks. It turned out that this was a coffee shop. Of course, in keeping with our usual practice we immediately entered and settled down to a cup of coffee. We had two cups each and then someone came in and ordered an ice cream cone. It looked so good that Ian and I both had one. I bought a souvenir and, as we left, we stopped to play with the cat which obviously thought that it owned the place.

The cat sleeping on the front steps.
This replica of a Buddhist walking stick was in the middle of the bottom of the stairs up to the temple grounds. It was the only place we saw anything like this. You can see the size by comparing it to Ian's hand.
The main gate was at the top of the flight of stairs, although there were more stairs inside the grounds. The objects inside each space on the sides of the gate are straw sandals that are almost three meters tall. Sandals or warrior gods are quite usual as decorations in the temple gates through out Japan, not just at the Pilgrimage temples.
It is hard to see in the picture, but the tree in the middle had been cut so that one trunk was waist high and the other about head high. It was growing fine and had been carefully trimmed by the gardeners.

Oct 30, 2009

Day 14 - On to the next temple

We walked along a flat road paralleling the shore, an easy, pleasant walk. After about two kilometers, we entered the town and found it to be mostly one and two story homes along narrow streets.
However, we soon located the Muroto Shopping Plaza Ocean that the people in last night's lodge had told us about. It was a large one story building with a parking lot around it. We entered and near the door found a bread shop that had a special morning Viking (all you can eat for a fix price). There was freshly baked bread and rolls, salad, fruit, miso soup, etc, but most important was the endless cup of coffee. We stayed, drinking coffee and eating until the special service ended. At that point one of the waitresses came over and said that we could take more free coffee from the counter where they normally charged by the cup. So we stayed longer, a couple of cups worth of time. After this and the required trip to the bathroom, we started walking again. We first went to the nearest post office and I withdrew enough money for the rest of the trip. Then we headed off along the shore toward Temple #25.

I should point out that since Temple #19, a 140 plus kilometers, we had been walking toward the southwest. Now, starting as we left Temple #24 we were walking northwest and would continue to do so until the end of our Pilgrimage.

After about thirty minutes of easy walking along the coast road, we reached the turn-off point for Temple #25. As usual, the temple was on the top of a mountain and the Henro path was just a rough trail as you can see in the next picture.
Once we climbed toward the top of the mountain we discovered a spot with a fantastic view back toward the town we left a few minutes before.
The Pilgrim path was pretty undeveloped in places, but it was not going to be too long or too high, so it did not bother us.
In those places, like the one in the next picture, where it was not very steep, it was a very pleasant, peaceful walk, especially since we were in no hurry and knew that the temple was very near.

Oct 28, 2009

Day 14 - Temple #25

The first two pictures today show more details of the inside of the main hall at Temple #25.

Ian going through an inner gate (if my memory is correct). The structure of the roof is quite different from the other temples.
Two small shrines off to the side. Most temples have at least some small shrines around the grounds, particularly the larger ones which tend to have many small shrines, buildings, and statues.
After leaving the temple and heading two the town, we found this amazing red wall. I do not know if there is some symbolism or if the owner of the house just likes red, but it was extremely unusual.

Oct 26, 2009

Day 14 - First thing in the morning

Started out from the Kujira (whale) Lodge very late - 9 a.m. We only had to walk 2 kms to get to the first temple and the second was only 5 more, so we were in no hurry. I had left my white vest somewhere, so I stopped at the gift shop on the right just outside the Main Gate and bought a new one. The woman in the shop gave us four mikans and detailed directions on how to get to the Ocean Shopping Center. Then we left the shop and started up the stairs to the temple. The Main Gate is quite old and at the street level. However, there is another gate part way up the stairs that is newer and more Chinese-looking in style.
Here is Ian just entering the second gate.
There was a delightful little dragon spurting out water to use for washing you hands. I must admit that I really like these little dragon. I'd love to have one in a little garden on our veranda, except that it is too small.

After passing though the second gate we found a row of old statues that sharply contrasted with the second gate. They would have gone nicely with the Main Gate but they were not near it.The lights were on in the Main Hall so I was able to take pictures of the inside. Shingon temples are laid out in a very symmetrical way. Things tend to come in pairs and everything is laid out on rectangular lines. I think that this is part of the esoteric meanings that are relayed from priest to disciple.

Oct 24, 2009

Day 13 - Comments from my diary

I did not sleep well on the night between Days 12 and 13. I had to get up and go to the bathroom about five times with an upset stomach. No idea what the problem was but it sure cut down on my sleep. We did not have to go very far on Day 13 so we went down to breakfast on time and discovered that almost everyone else had already eaten and were leaving as we ate. Most were going to have a long day. Ian and I had a leisurely meal and then the old woman who served our meal offered us coffee. We accepted and stayed quite a bit longer. When we finally left she gave us a package, which she gives to all Pilgrims, containing a banana, a mikan and a yogurt drink. She had taken a liking t0 me so gave me a half of a package of chocolate in addition.

We left and after walking a little ways realized that a young woman from the lodge was running full speed after us. It turned out that Ian had forgotten his hat and she was bringing it to him.

We walked for about an hour and discovered a coffee shop. As usually we could not get past it. The coffee came with pieces of sweet potato, about the size of large french fries, that had been dipped in a sweet batter and fried. They were delicious. More of them arrived with our second order of coffee. We had a beautiful view out over the ocean from our seats. We were told that at the right time of year you could see whales, but all we saw were fishing boats - but they were nice to watch.

The walk was very nice and I would have thoroughly enjoyed it, except for my blisters and an upset stomach.

After stopping in the rest area and watching the cats. We started up the side of the mountain to Temple #24. The trail was supposedly only 750 meters long, but rose 150 meters. It was definitely had hard slog and much longer than the stated three quarters of a kilometer.

When we arrived on the temple grounds, we stopped and ate lunch. Then we did the chanting of the Heart Sutra and then decided to rest some more. In the shop I bought an amulet that is supposed to improve family finances (I think these are very popular at present) and got my fortune told. This comes on a slip of paper that supposedly details your fortune for the coming year. My was chukichi (medium good luck) overall. This was the same as I had gotten at the local Shinto shrine on New Years - maybe it will be true. Everything is excellent this year, except that I am working too hard, I guess that sounds like a mediumly lucky year.

After left the temple and reached our lodging on the coast below the mountain, we checked in and they asked us about supper. Ian mentioned that I am a (more or less) vegetarian. So they served us a very good, large dish of fried vegetables. Also a bowl of soup with soba (buckwheat) noodles in it. Plus the usual multiple bowls of rice. The soba was a change because up to this point we had been in Tokushima Prefecture and there the soup always had udon in it. Udon is more like a thick pasta or what I always called noodles and it is made from regular wheat.

We were very relaxed because on Day 14 we only had to walk 7 kilometers in total and there would be a town and two temples to explore, the second of which we would lodge in.

Oct 22, 2009

Day 13 - Leaving the temple

I forgot to comment on this picture in my last blog, so I have posted it again. It is so strange looking it deserves some explanation. These cartoon characters are cut out plywood and are about a meter high. From here on we saw them at every temple. They seemed to be some sort of cooperative advertising to get people out to the temples.

Now that our little friend has been explained, I will return to the scenery. This shows the coastline that is viewable from the temple grounds. As with most temples, Temple #24 was high on a mountain.
Although we had climbed up to the temple on a path through the woods, the way down was on a paved road. However, the mountainside was so steep that the road was just a series of hairpin turns and many of the turns had to be on bridges, because the land fell away so fast. Walking down was not easy. The road was extremely steep and our toes were crammed against the fronts of our shoes. By this point the toenail on my little toe of my left foot was falling off and the whole toe was swollen and covered with blisters. It hurt like Hell.
This was the view out the window of our lodging for the night.
The sunset was very pretty.

Oct 21, 2009

Day 13 - Still more at Temple #24

We found this delightful collection of jizo statues off in a corner. Jizo statues are usually found along the road or a path. They almost always have some cloth clothing and often there are small offerings like bottles of Coke or sake. They bring good luck or prevent bad luck, as I understand it.
The offerings to this stele containing a Bodhisattva are a red bib and some little statues that looked like Santa Clauses from the distance but up close turned out to be jizos.
We also found the group of the little jizos. I can read the sign but do not understand it. It says, " One word, please, Jizo". I suspect that people left them there along with a wish for something.
We had arrived early and had lots of time before we had to check in to our lodging so we were able to explore the grounds a bit. At one point we found an flat area with seats that overlooked the bay. It was a fantastic view of the harbor.

Oct 20, 2009

Day 13 - More at Temple #24

If you hit this large stone with a small stone, it rings like a bell. All along the top are little indentations containing a rock. These are holes made by people ringing the stone. It was truly amazing.One of the little roofed shrines that are found around the grounds. We stopped for a rest on the bench in the lower right foreground.
This is a view back out the main gate from inside the grounds. Notice the statues on the left. If you look closely, you will see that at least two of them are actually real pilgrims.
The bell tower was pleasantly nestled in a little grove of trees.

Oct 19, 2009

Day 13 - Still at Temple #24

This is the water spout where you wash your hands. I really liked this dragon. I believe that the reason for the dragon is that it will protect the water so that it will function properly to purify you.

The altar in the main hall was quite impressive, as are almost all of them. Usually you can not see much inside because of the darkness but the lights here allowed a pretty good view. I should point out that these are not just for show but that there are at least daily, and often more frequent, ceremonies in the hall. When Ian and I stopped for the night at a temple, the service was always held in the main hall.

The main hall from outside.
The two-storied pagoda that I showed you yesterday was very nice. As I said, I especially like the stone pagoda in front.

The construction of the roofs of the buildings is very complicated and pleasant to look at. You can see a little of it in this picture. Also notice that the room on the second floor is round.

Oct 18, 2009

Day 13 - At Temple 24

The building in the middle is a two storied pagoda. I parlicularly liked the stone 13-story pagoda on the left.Another view of the 13-story pagoda and a staure of Kobo Daishi.
This is, I think, a bodhisattva whose name in Japanese is Kannon.

Every temple has one of these little buildings for washing your hands to purify yourself before actually to into the grounds, particularly the main hall. They are inside the main gate but between it and the main section of the temple grounds.
The main hall with Ian getting ready to chant the Heart sutra, which we always did together even if we did the preliminaries (candle, incense, and a coin) separately.

Oct 16, 2009

Day 13 - Arriving at the temple

As we climbed the mountain, we got some stunning views of the ocean.

The rough stone stairs were carefully constructed, but they were deliberately irregular so that you were forced to pay attention to what you were doing at the moment - no daydreaming while walking.
We finally got to the top and arrived at the temple.
This building was quite different from most. Notice the sloping walls.

Oct 15, 2009

Day 13 -

After leaving the cat in the rest area, we started up a path that would eventually lead us up the side of the mountain to the temple on the top. Just before the path started to rise, we found a cave with a statue of Kobo Daish inside. The sign said that a thousand years ago Kukai (Kobo Daishi's Buddhist name while alive) had sat in this cave to meditate. Now, there is only the statue.
At first the path provided a pleasant walk, paralleling the base of the mountain and moving in and out of little groves of trees.
The path was well marked. The white sign with red characters says, Henro Michi, or henro road. The aged wooden sign of the left says that it is 300 meters to the temple. This proved to be another of those signs like we had experienced before where the numbers on the sign bore absolutely no relation to the actual distance on the ground. The true distance was over a kilometer, with a rise of 155 meters. It turned out to be a pretty tough climb.
This is another of the signs marking the way. Notice what looks like Nazi swastikas. These are actually a 2500 year old Buddhist symbol and they are often found around temples.
As the path started up the mountainside, it was paved with fairly large rocks. These rocks require you to pay close attention to your feet. This awareness is an important factor in Buddhism so the Henro Michi is actually a practical seminar in awareness training. As I have noted before, I found that as we traveled, I became more and more centered on and aware of the moment. Thoughts about the past and the future faded away and my attention remained on where I was placing my foot. I wonder if real mountain climbing is like this.