Dec 31, 2009

New Years Eve

Tonight we are having a small party - Ian and his wife and maybe a couple of more people. We will eat, drink, and enjoy ourselves until around midnight. Then we will walk to a Buddhist temple and make an offering. Then we will go to the large Shinto shrine which is just a little further away. We will stand in line until we can get to the front of the altar where we will ring some bells, clap our hands, and make an small monetary offering. Then as we move away we will receive a small cup of Japanese sake. After that we move off to the side and buy our fortune for the year, as well as a good luck charm for our wallets and for the car. It will be very late by the time we get to bed. I will try to take some pictures tonight and post them tomorrow or the next day.

Today I discovered that there is a Buddhist pilgrimage in this area. It is not as organized or as commercial or as old as the Henro Pilgrimage. It is called the Oushuu 33 Kannon and the temples are all in this prefecture or the ones immediately to the north and south. I would probably not walk the whole way. There does not seem to be such a tradition. What I would do is take a series of day trips by train and visit the temples one at a time. I would be able to spend more time at each temple, taking photos and drawing, as well as exploring a bit. I will gather some more information and keep you posted on my plans.

Dec 27, 2009

Day 19 - The end of the walking

This is the main entrance gate to Tosa Shrine. It actually seems to be a Buddhist gate. I am not positive but I think that some time around WW2, when Shinto became the state religion, the Shrine must have taken over much of the temple property, including this gate. However, this is only a guess and may well be completely wrong.

Ian and I walked the short distance to Tosa Ikku station where we just caught a train back to Kochi station. Although it was early in the afternoon, this marked the official end of our Pilgrimage. Temple #31 was a long walk away and there were no trains back to Kochi from there, so we had decided that we would not continue any farther. If we ever came back, we would start again at #31.

When we arrived at Kochi, we went to the souvenir shops in the station and spent quite a long time decided on what to buy as final presents for the people at home. Then we returned to the hotel where we sat in the lobby and watched sumo on TV. Ian drank a beer, the first since we left home, but I decided to continue observing the Five Precepts until we arrived home.

At six p.m., after the last sumo bout, we went back to the same restaurant we had eaten at the night before. However, on this day service was very slow and we had to stay until almost bed time. The reason was that a 28 player high school baseball team was staying in our hotel had reservations for a group supper. Ian had another beer. I was sorely tempted but in the end did not. After we ate, I went back to my room, packed and went to bed.

In the morning we arose early, had breakfast and caught the first train to Okayama and from there got a Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Tokyo, where we transferred to another Shinkansen train to Sendai. We reached the final end of our journey in the early evening.

Looking back, I see that I changed a lot during the trip. First it was probably the hardest physical thing that I did in my life - much more difficult than Basic Training in the Army, for example - and I was successful. Also my mind changed. My inner speech quiet down and I felt much more peaceful and less bother by worldly things. Also after returning to Sendai, I developed an urge to study Buddhism more deeply and to start meditating again.

During April and May I went out with my friends and drank wine, breaking the Five Precepts, but otherwise I followed them. Then in April I located an online meditation teacher and signed up for the course which started on the first of May. As a condition for the course, the student had to follow the Five Precepts and meditate every day. I had no problem with this and the next few times I went out with my friends, I drank tea rather than wine. At the end of the formal instruction, I decided to continue meditating and to continue following the Five Precepts. I meditate every day and plan to continue into the foreseeable future. I will also continue observing the Five Precepts to the best of my ability.

This marks the end of the Henro Pilgrimage blog. I will return to posting pictures, two or three times a week, of live in and around Sendai. Also, Ian said that he would send me copies of the few pictures that he took. If they are different from mine, I will post them. Thanks for coming with me on this journey into Shikoku and my mind.

Dec 26, 2009

Day 19 - The end

The sunken road continued out to a gate, which you can see on the other side of the cars. The road into the temple passed between the Shrine and the gate - very unusual.
The gate resembled the kind of gate that is found at a temple and when I looked in the space, where there is usually a warrior god to protect the temple, I saw this. At first I was a dumbfounded as you probably are. Below I will show you another picture that will clear things up.
Instead of being protectors, these statues seemed to be imprisoned, the grate containing more wood that space.
I finally found a spot where the wooden grate ended - there was still an iron fence, though. This is the statue that we could not see in the second picture. Look at that picture again and you will find that you can see the mouth, the hand, and the robe that flares out to the side.
Looking back through the gate. This is the first view that a new visitor would get. It is just possible to see some of the Shrine buildings in the distance. The red and white sign says that cars are not permitted though the gate. This picture also gives a good view of the massive wooden grate that protects the statues.

Dec 24, 2009

Day 19 - At the Tosa Shrine

Off to the right side we found this bright red building. The door on the first floor was closed so we did not even think about going inside. I assume that there would be some sort of shrine on the second (red) floor, very likely holding a mirror.

Another little outbuilding for the shrine. Most shrines and temples consist of a main hall and a number of smaller outbuildings.
This is a view of the right side of the main building. You can see that there are more of the wall-less walkways. Also there are more buildings on the right.
This is one of the walkways. Apparently when they have the various ceremonies, which in addition to the specifically religious occasions would include weddings, the various people involved would enter the main hall through specific walkways.
We found a shop off on the left side and I bought some good luck trinkets. We also got some pamphlets that told the history of the Tosa Shrine - it is very old and very important. We then started to leave through the main entrance. I was extremely surprised because I have never seen anything like this at another shrine. There was a long, straight walk from the main street entrance to the grounds to the inner temple grounds. We had entered the inner grounds directly. Something that was even more amazing was that this paved walk was sunken with knee-high stone walls along each side.

Dec 23, 2009

Day 19 - Moving to a shrine

We walked out into the middle of the road and stood there looking back at the temple. We could do this because the road had hardly any traffic on it. I took two last pictures of the temple buildings. Then we turned and proceeded into the grounds of a large Shinto shrine.

Almost as soon as we left the road, we encountered a large, wooden torii, or gate. These are always found at the entrance to the grounds of a shrine. We could see a large building in the distance.
After passing through the torii and entering the grounds, we discovered another torii and another group of buildings off to our left. I decided that this must be a secondary shrine, because, for one thing the buildings did not really have walls. Instead there seemed to be waist high screens between the pillars.
Without stopping, we continued into the main part of the grounds. The primary building was a huge, sprawling thing with many covered walkways leading to the actual entrances. These walkways had waist high fences but no walls. However, the main part, inside and at the back, had walls so we could not see into it.

Dec 19, 2009

Day 19 - Leaving Temple #30

I am not sure exactly what was going on here, but it looked like people but these little dolls here as a request to have some wish granted.
The above dolls were out side a small, new building that had a very nice almost life-size statue inside plus a lot of little ones. Again I do not know who is represented in the statues.
On one of the walls there was a row of shelves holding a large number of miniature replications of the large statue.
On another wall there was a poster that showed various information, in percentages, about Henro Pilgrims. After looking at this building, having our books stamped, and eating an ice cream
After looking at this building, having our books stamped, and eating an ice cream, we went back out to the road and crossed it into the grounds of a large Shinto shrine, which I will show you in my next entry.

Dec 18, 2009

This is a close up of the cartoon Buddhist monk. Notice that he is wearing a cloth bib like we saw on a lot of the statues beside the road or on the temple grounds.
This really surprised me because in a Shinto shrine there is a bell attached to a rope like this. When you approach the main hall of the shrine, you go up the stairs and ring the bell to get the god's attention. Then you pray after putting an offering in the coin box. Exactly how and why this is in a Buddhist temple is another of those questions that I was unable to answer.
This is a statue of a fudo myo, a warrior king who protects the temple from evil. It is similar to the statues found in the gate houses at the entrance. Maybe this statue was here because there was no main gate. I'll have more about this question in a day or two.
This is a view into the unlit main hall. The large bowl-like object in front is a place to put your sticks of incense after you light them. If you look carefully, you can see the smoke coming out.
This was on the grounds at the edge of a grave yard. Many (most?) Buddhist temples have a graveyard associated with them. People are cremated here, so there are no actual graves in the Western sense, but there are stones and sometimes ashes. The stone represents the whole family and not just an individual. During summer there is a festival called Obon when people go back to their hometowns and, among other things, clean the family grave. Also notice that someone has left a glass with something to drink at the statue's foot. It is common to leave food and drink. In the past people left unopened beer and sake bottles but because the economy is so bad people started stealing them to drink. Now, when they are left they are always open.

Dec 17, 2009

Day 19 - At Temple #30

I was never sure exactly what the layout of this temple was. We approached it along a paved road and did not pass through a traditional style gate, or any other gate for that matter. We just turned right of the road and we were on the grounds and almost at the main hall, which is the building on the left. I was standing in the road when I took the picture.
A better view of the main hall.
This is the administrative office where we got our books stamped. Notice the Kirin drink machine beside the entrance. The white towels are hanging by the fountain where you wash your hands.
This is the dragon that spews out the water for purifying your hands.
This is a statue of Kobo Daishi and standing beside it is the cartoon character which is used as a kind of trade mark. Near my home in Sendai, hundreds of kilometers to the north, I recently noticed that a store that sells Buddhist paraphernalia has a three dimensional, almost life-sized statue of the same character standing by the road. When I get time I really will have to get more information about this.

Dec 16, 2009

Day 19 -

After leaving Temple #29 and walking though some very low hills, we reached a river and walked along beside it for a while.
After a short while, we left the riverside and again entered low hills where we saw another old abandoned house, but with a view of the more built up area closer to Kochi City. The Buddhist idea of constant change is made very real by the devastation that the economic turn down has caused in Shikoku. Things arise and disappear according to the circumstances. Here the culture, people and structures, arose and are now disappearing, the cause in both cases being mainly economic.
We climbed on last short, steep hill and from the top could see Kochi City. A beautiful park full of blossoming cherry trees spread out before us.
At the bottom of the hill we found this strange structure. The first floor was mostly open and seemed to be a storage area for a construction company of some kind. An array of small buildings and rooms had been build on the roof of the storage area.
We were almost at the temple and found an interesting sight. It is hard to see but this is a sacred rock. It is Shinto as you can tell by the zig-zag paper streamers that are tied to the rope that goes around the stone and the one that goes around the fence. Temple #30 and the Tosa Shinto Shrine are side by side so this Shinto rock, so near the temple was not a surprise.

Dec 14, 2009

Day 19 - The last day of walking

The view out the window of my hotel room gave me a good look at the Kochi train station.
Outside the train station there was also a trolley stop. The end of the line, I think. Since our hotel was so near the station we did not need to use any of the local transportation - only the train to Gomen Station.
We took a taxi from Gomen back to Temple #29 and the started along the Henro Trail again. We soon discovered this delightful Shinto shrine, but as usual we could not explore because of the time restrictions.
We walked along the flat valley floor toward Kochi Station, although it was still a long way away. Some of the rice paddies were already planted and some, like the one below, were still being prepared.
There were some wooded areas along the way and this combination of bamboo and cherry blossoms was particularly pretty.

Dec 11, 2009

Day 18 - End of the day

Some people chanting the Heart Sutra, with the place for candles in the foreground. Notice on the right you can see the industrial netting that was coverning the building.
Because the cherry trees were truly in full bloom, the grounds were beautiful. This is one of the small outbuildings with flowering trees in front of it.

Some pilgrims chanting the Heart Sutra.
The bell tower. The way the access to the tower was arranged it did not seem to invite people to ring the bell, so we did not.
Ian and I had been around the grounds and while there was certainly much we could learn, we had seen everything. Just as we started back toward the main gate, a young woman approached us. She had a camera and asked in English if she could take our picture. We said, "Of course," and as she took a series of pictures, she explained that she had just gotten the camera and was trying it out. She was an amateur photographer and was taking a course. She had purchased the camera for the class. While she was doing this, three other young women - by young I mean 2os and 30s - came up and introduced themselves in Japanese as friends of the first woman, but they did not speak English. We ended up talking with them for about an hour. We gave the photographer our names and addresses and about a week after we got back she sent us prints of some of the pictures she took. Finally it was time to leave and they called a taxi for us and we left by going back out through the main gate (the next picture). The four of them came out with us and waiting until we were safely on our way.

Our plan was to take a taxi to the station and then a train to our hotel. Then in the morning we would return by train and taxi, so that we could walk to the next temple.

The station was called Gomen, which was kind of funny, because the name (the pronunciation, but not the kanji) means something like excuse me. It was even funnier then we discovered that they had written the name on the station wall in hirogana , a phonetic script. You can see the name followed by the kanji for station on the wall on the left.
At the station we bought tickets and asked about the train schedule. They gave us the wrong information but shortly after came over and corrected it. We ended up waiting on

It was crowded so we stood on the platform with our packs on and waited for the train to arrive. We wanted to be sure to get into the car early so that we could get seats. When the train arrived, the conductor said that we had to use the door at the other end of the train, which put us almost at the end of the line. We got on and did find seats but at opposite ends of the car.

We arrived at Kochi Station and found it to be brand new, with portions still under construction.
The hotel was nearby and had a discount for Henro Pilgrims. We checked in and then went to an izakaya, a Japanese style bar and restaurant, next door. Tomorrow would be our last day on the road and we would return to Sendai on the following day.

Dec 10, 2009

Day 18 - In the next to last temple

The main hall was covered with industrial netting, because they were repairing the building, so we could not see it. However, we were able to go inside to do our chanting and the altar was very nice.
This monk, the man in the conical hat, was wandering around the grounds, chanting sutras and talking to people. The woman in the picture later became friends with Ian and I but I will tell you about that in a later post. In the background you can see that a cherry tree is in blossom.
Two pilgrims were admiring the blossoms. I took their picture but we did no more than exchange greetings.
As with most temples, there were little buildings scattered around the grounds. They contained statues or other objects.
There was a large collection of little stone statues, most wearing hats and bibs.