Jan 30, 2010

Ian's photos 17

This is another view of the main statue and the supporting cast. Many of the temples had statues or something that people could purchase and have their name permanently posted in the temple. One popular item seemed to be fence posts, which I assume the named person paid for.
The next is me ringing the bell just after entering the temple grounds. We did this whenever we could, but some temples did not have a bell tower, the bell was missing, or the tower was blocked off so we could not get to the bell.
People chanting the Heart Sutra in front of the main hall.
After leaving the temple the Henro Trail passed though a bamboo grove where I stopped and posed for this picture.
This is the main gate at the next temple. Notice the difference in what the two people are wearing. They are both pilgrims but when is wearing 'the outfit' and the other is regular clothes and the only outward indication that he is a pilgrim is the walking stick he is carrying.

Jan 27, 2010

Ian's photos 16

This picture was taken just after we left the temple on the highest mountain. The building in the bottom right appeared to be a private house, probably someone who works for the temple.
I think that the next picture was taken sometime soon after we got down out of the high mountains. Maybe at the next temple.
I don't remember this at all but it certainly is a nicely landscaped garden. One interesting thing about the grounds of temples, at least the ones that have gardens around them. If you move just a few feet in any direction, you seem to be in a completely different place. I probably was standing just a little ways from Ian, but had a completely different view.
At this temple, we met a young man who was traveling with an older couple. He did not go to the main hall with them for the ritual. While waiting, he struck up a conversation with us. He had very good English. He was some kind of family friend who lived near by. He had met the couple to show them around during their time as Ohenro-san. He took the following picture of Ian and I.
There were what seemed to be hundreds of these little statues. I found a sign that said you could by one and have it placed with the others but in your name. They were quite expensive.

Jan 26, 2010

Ian's photos 15

To be honest I do not remember what this was. I may have been a little Buddhist shrine or it may have been a fire alarm. In any case you can see how low the clouds were. Also the walking stick, which represents Kobo Daishi so you have to wash the bottom every night, is Ian's. The covering at the top broke and kept sliding down. It have the advantage that no one ever took it by mistake at the places where we stayed.
This is two little Bodhisattvas in front of the temple at the top of the highest mountain.
This shows the trees around the Bodhisattvas that have been trimmed in the Japanese style. Nature is seldom left natural, if at all possible. Trees and gardens have extensive work done on them to improve over the way they would look if left as is.
On the way down the back side of the mountain we walked through a bamboo grove. In the summer these are almost always full of mosquitoes but in March there was no problem.
The Henro Trail took us down through these mountains. We more or less followed the valley and then turned off to the left and headed for the ocean, which we reached in about three days. The Trail would go down hill for a ways and then go up again to cross a ridge line into the next valley. It was a constant up and down that made walking quite tiresome.

Jan 25, 2010

Ian's photos 14

Occasionally the trail broke out to the woods and we would find spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. All of the temples have a paved road leading up to them. The trail usually goes more or less straight up but the roads zigzag and a many times longer than the trails, although less steep. At this point we emerged from the woods to follow the road for a few hundred meters, giving us a fantastic view.
Then it was back into the woods again. Because of the rain clouds, the woods were almost as dark as night. Although on the way down from this mountain, we did walk in the dark and it was really black. The next picture shows a little stream we paralleled for a ways. The white rectangle on the right is a sign marking the Henro Trail.
Another picture of the stream and the foreboding woods around us. One thing that was strange was the almost complete silence. As I said, there were no birds and we did not see or hear small animals. What other sounds there may have been were completely masked by the rain.
After a long, long day, we finally reached the temple. As you can see from the piece of sky visible through the trees, it was not dark yet,but under the trees it was a constant twilight.

Jan 24, 2010

Ian's photos 13

The day was rainy and we had to climb to the highest point on our whole pilgrimage. Then we had to go down about 300 meters before climbing back up to almost the same maximum. Because of the rain and clouds, remained quite dark and gloomy all day, especially in the deep woods on the mountainsides, which was where we spent most of the day. The next picture shows me in my rain gear with my backpack covered in plastic. The straw hats come in a variety of prices. The lowest priced ones do not keep off the rain. The mid priced ones, which is what we bought, come with a plastic cover. The expensive ones are well enough made that the rain can not get through the weaves.
In spite of the gloom, it was actually quite pretty in the woods as you can see in the next picture. Also it was quiet, almost no noise at all. Soon after starting out we reach an altitude above the birds so we no longer heard their songs. Also in the deep woods there was not much for them to eat so they tended to stay near the built up areas.

If you look carefully, you can see me in the middle of the picture about one third of the way down from the top.
This is me at the highest point on our pilgrimage. There was a huge tree and a statue of Kobo Daishi. I am standing next to the fence that went around the tree. I believe the main reason for the fence is to keep people from carving their names into the tree. The building in the background is a small temple, probably holding more statues.
This view, from the other side, shows the tree. The little building covers another statue and there were a number of one yen coins (about a penny) laying in front of it as offerings.

Jan 21, 2010

Ian's photos 12

Both Ian and I liked this statue. It is a Bodhisattva, probably Amida, surrounded by children. The flowers and the bright colored bibs on the kids adds a lot to the grouping.
This pair of praying hands with a statue inside was very impressive, both as art and as a religious icon.
This is a view into the Shinto shrine across the street from the above temple. It has a pair of life-sized, life-like statues of horses in front of the building with the main alter. We did not have time or energy to explore it.
We found this little complex in the mountains on our way up to the highest temple that we visited. The small building on the right contained a row of small statues of Buddhist figures. From the signs that were still around, in the past this was a place where people could stay over night, breaking the long uphill into an easier two day trip. However, the place had been closed a few years ago.
This is another view of the same complex. You can see from the buds on the tree that, even this high in the mountains, the spring blossoms were on their way.

Jan 19, 2010

Ian's photos 11

This is the bell tower on the left and the main hall on the right. The foundation of the burned down hall is off to the left.This is at the next temple. This one was unusual because the buildings were constructed on top of a strange looking rock formation. You can see a bit of it in front of the hall. In my pictures I had a view that showed the rocks better. Look back at day 2 if you are interested.

This is me; you can just see my white beard. I was sending an email to this blog with a picture of this temple.
I assume that the family that lives in this house had some young sons. The statue is one of the TV heroes who weekly save Japan from the monsters and aliens.

Jan 18, 2010

Ian's Photos 10

This is a hexagonal building holding a statue of a warrior king. This sort of building always has the door shut so that you can not see what is inside. I believe that they only open them when they have a ceremony of some sort.
This show more of the temple grounds. Notice the stone structure on the extreme left. It is a representation of a 13-story pagoda. The yellow marks at the bottom are the lines dividing up parking spaces and the small building in the middle is a telephone booth. Because of the general usage of cell phones, public telephone booths are becoming a thing of the past.
Another building on the grounds. I think that we may have chanted the Heart Sutra at this one.
Here is that stone pagoda again, except this time it is on the right. The building in the center is the main hall and we definitely chanted there.
The flat area on the right is the remains of the foundation of the original main hall of the temple. It was struck by lightening and burned down a long time ago, but some people still chant in front of it. The newer main hall is off to the left.

Jan 15, 2010

Ian's photos 9

Here is another of the mini-torii, with a telephone pole blocking any possible entry, even for midgets. The stone post on the left says that the next temple on the Henro Trail is 4.1 kilometers to the left. I should point out that we never did find the temple which has its name on the torii.
We walked the 4.1 kilos and arrived at the next temple where we found other pilgrims chanting on the steps of the main hall.
These colorful cushions were donated by a local ladys' group, so that Henro Pilgrims and everyone else could be comfortable while waiting for the train.I also took a picture of this. The sign and the stone post have different distances to the next temple.

The main gate for the next temple. Notice that this is red while most of the others were bare wood. I think that the red shows a Chinese influence.

Jan 13, 2010

Ian's photos 8

This temple had a new construction with a roofed area that extended from one of the buildings and then returned to it, creating an inner area. The roofed area had some benches where pilgrims could rest. Ian and I took off our packs and enjoyed the inner garden (in the following picture) and then complete our ritual for the temple.

This temple also had a nice bell tower and Ian took this picture of it.
On the hill behind the temple there was a small pagoda. One way to tell a pagoda from other buildings, when you can not see the actual shape, is the long extension rising from the roof. It is both symbolic in that the parts are meaningful, if you are in the know so that you can meditate on them, but also it acts as a lightening rod. In the past many temples were struck by lightening and destroyed by the resulting fire, so now they normally have lightening rods to protect them - they seem to work better than the warrior kings at the gates for keeping the electric spirits out.
This was extremely unusual. It is a Shinto torii, the structure that normally forms the gate to the shrine grounds. In this case, it was less than knee high - compare it to the flowers, and the sign is the name of the next temple.

Jan 12, 2010

Ian's photos 7

A shrine building at one of the temples we visited on day 2. Notice on the extreme right there is a large white object. It is a drink machine where you pay about 150 yen for a small can of beverage.
The roofed area in front of the main hall has a pilgrim placing incense in the large kettle, which will be mostly filled with sand and above that a layer of ashes from the incense sticks.
I believe that the writing below the statue of the Bodhisattva says clean heart, something that is a prerequisite for a true pilgrimage. If you do not have one at the start, you are supposed to develop one along the way. Also, notice that right behind the statue is a private house. Many of the temples, those not on mountain tops, are right in built up areas and surrounded by regular housing.
The next two pictures show the guarding kings who stand in the spaces on either side of the main gate to the temple. They protect the temple and keep out evil spirits, particularly those that come in the hearts of men.