Apr 30, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 11-12-13 Part 6

Public telephone booths are generally a thing of the past in this age of cell phones, but Temple "11 still has a beauty. It looks like a traditional Japanese building and apparently the phone still works.The scoops in the foreground are used to get the water to rinse (purify) your hands before entering the rest of the temple grounds. The statue appears to be an Amida but I am never sure unless they are marked. I guess at some point soon I should do some studying so that I can tell the difference.
This building, which is directly in front of the main gate, appeared to be the main meditation hall.

To right of the main hall, was the living quarters for the priest and his family. This was where we went to get our book stamped. A woman answered the door and took our books.
The woman said that she would bring us the books when she had finished and that in the mean time we should visit the statue of Kannon. She said that we should go even further off to the right, turning left after going up the stairs.

Apr 29, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 11-12-13 Part 5

We got closer and the red roofs were definitely the temple. We would see the graveyard on the hill behind, some statues off on the right, and double pillars that looked like they might mark the temple entrance.We continued toward the temple and on one of the zigzags we found this beautiful old cherry tree that was not yet in bloom, but still very nice to look at.
We had been right about the pillars. They marked the outside end of the entrance road to the temple.
At the inside end of the road we found the temple gate.
Passing through the gate, we could see a fountain for washing our hands of the left and a large meditation building in front of us.

Apr 28, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 11-12-13 Part 4

Near the north end of town we found a large sword that Ian immediately took in his hand.
Here is what the sword looked like without Ian. It was standing on the bank of the river, but we could not figure out what it represented. We thought that it was related to one of the hotels but none of the names seemed at all related and there were no words on the sword. I guess it is just another of those inscrutable mystery to which we will never know the answer.
We finally exited the town and found ourselves in a valley containing orchards of fruit trees. The trees are hard to see in the next picture, but they are there, just above the log wall and beyond the plowed fields.
Here are some more fruit trees. The foreground contains some sort of planting but not trees. Those are just in front of the ling of pine trees at the base of the hill.
It was a very pleasant walk with the bare trees on one side and the barns and farm houses on the other. We were getting close to Temple 11, which we assumed to be the red roofs in the center of the picture.

Apr 26, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 11-12-13 Part 3

As we passed through town, we crossed a bridge over a little river that was lined with hotels with hot springs. There were signs of new life everywhere, but the cherry blossoms were not quite out yet.

A bamboo fence crowned a slope at the side of the road. I think that there was a hotel on the other side, but we could not see it.
We passed this temple but it was not one of the ones on our pilgrimage so we did not do stop in. In a way this felt like the Henro Pilgrimage again - we had many kilometers to go and had to arrive at the third temple before they shut up shop for the night.
The landscape was a bit unusual. The steep sided hills poked up out of a relatively flat area along the riverside. We were very glad that our goal, Temple #11, was not on the top of this hill. However, as you will see the actual location of the temple was not much better.
This house was obviously abandoned, and in a few more weeks it would be invisible behind all the vegetation. Also I expect that it will only be a few more years before it collapses completely. The windows were broken and there we shingles missing from the roof.

Apr 24, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 11-12-13 Part 2

We continued through the town of Izaka, finding very few people and almost no open buildings. This seemed strange in a onsen (hot spring) town, but the terrible state of the economy has had a devastating effect on tourism in general and we guessed that that was the cause. As we approached the northern end of town, we saw a car stopped at the side of the road and some people taking pictures. As we got closer, we could see that they were interested in an old-looking wooden building and the park-like grounds around it. When we finally had advanced enough to see it, the building (in the center of the picture) was clearly an old fashion design - columns and windows, rather than walls.
The first floor windows were covered with paper on the inside to prevent people from seeing in but still providing some light. Although I called them windows, they are more like doors since they reach from the floor to above head height and slide sideways to open. We were also intrigued by the torii between the building and the street. The torii meant that there was a Shinto shrine nearby.
The small shrine was the next building north of the main building and beside the shrine there was a water tower. It was at this point that we saw a sign saying that this was a public bath, with water from a hot spring.
The little shrine was unimpressive but nice. We did not bother to stop and pay our respects (ring the bell, leave a coin, clap our hands, and then meditate briefly). Our goal was Buddhist Temple 11 and we still had a long way to go, because the temple was north of the town at the base of the mountains.
The dark building with all the windows, er, doors, was apparently a place for visitors to stay over night, because the next building past the shrine was obviously the baths themselves. We knew because the sign on the doors said so. As usual, the baths were divided into a men's section and a women's section with separate doors into each.
Forty years ago when I first came to Japan, many of the baths were not so strictly separated. I remember seeing a bath in Kyoto, just a couple of blocks from the train station, where the only separation was a rope across the middle of the large bath. Also in the country side there were many places where everyone bathed together in one large, swimming pool sized bath. However, times have changed and I know of no public places where mixed bathing is still allowed, although there might be some deep in the mountains.

Apr 22, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 11-12-13 Part 1

It was a beautiful Sunday morning as we started another day of the pilgrimage. Ian and I met at the wickets for the Sendai train station and then went down onto the platform to wait for the next train south. We were going to visit three temples in Fukushima Prefecture. The train arrived (see picture) and we boarded the express train.
Three quarters of an hour or so later we arrived at Fukushima city and transferred to a local line which would take us Izaka Onsen (onsen means hot spring in Japanese) from where we would start our walk. As we sped along, the mountains to the west played peek-a-boo between the buildings.
We were on the first train in the morning and the two cars were completely empty, except for us, the driver and a conductor from whom we bought our tickets.
As we got nearer to Izaka Onsen, a few people got on and off the train, but there were never more than a handful on the train at any one time. It took about half an hour to reach the end of the line. We left the station (see the picture) and looked around, trying to find the road that we should take to reach Temple #11.
We easily determined which road to take. It was the main road through town. The picture shows Ian in his bright red Gortex raincoat. The weather was perfect so he did not really need it, but he often wears it as the outside layer of clothes when we walk. We were quite surprised because almost nothing was open. The cherry blossoms were almost out, making it the season when people love to go to onsen towns, but there were few people around and even fewer who seemed to be tourists.

Apr 20, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 6-7 Part 13

We arrived back in Matsushima, tired, thirst, and hungry, at about 3 p.m. We had not planned the day in advance and only ended up here because of the wind - it was the only place we could get to - so we had not planned for meals. Usually on a trip like this we would have bought something at a convenience store and carried it with us. We stopped to eat a little before the tourist area. The restaurant was off to the left in the next picture. The food was nothing special but it tasted great because we were so hungry.
A hundred meters or so passed the restaurant we came to the park that forms the center of the tourist area. A tour boat was just loading and we were tempted to take a ride around the bay but decided that we were much too tired.
The port next to the park is quite busy. There are tour boats of all sizes and further ahead (to the right in the next picture) there is a commercial port.
This picture shows some of the many islands that are scattered around the bay.
This is Ian, standing in front of some meditation caves that have been carved into the rock cliff. They face the bay and must have been wonderful places to sit and meditate, at least before they built the tourist path between them and the water.
As we continued around the path, I was able to look back and get a good view of that large tour boat that we saw earlier.
This part of the bay was very pleasant and did not seem to have as many tourists as in the previous portion.
We finally reached the train station and I had just enough time to take this picture, looking back toward the bay, before our train arrived.
There was a fairly large number of people waiting on the platform and most of them were young, teenagers generally. When the train's doors opened, these youngsters ran, pushing and shoving, into the train and took all the seat. This meant that we, along with all the other older people, had to stand all the way back to Sendai Station.

All in all it had been a good trip, turning a disaster into a treat. Tomorrow I will be at school all day, but on Thursday I will begin posting the next segment of our pilgrimage.

Apr 19, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 6-7 Part 12

The view looking inland was just as impressive as that one looking out over Matsushima Bay.
We rang the doorbell on the priest's residence and, when he came out, we asked him to stamp our books. Instead of doing it in the book, he gave us a pre-written page which we could insert in the book in place of the blank page. We thanked him and started back toward the small gate to the grounds. We found a nice statue of Kannon.
A little further on we found two more statues but as usual we had no idea who they represented.
From there we walked back down the road and out of the hills. Along the way there was one particularly nice view looking down a valley. The photograph does not show how steep the slope was or how deep the valley was.
Back out on the main road, we returned the way that we came. Since we were walking in the opposite direction we saw things that we had not noticed the first time. This cave was dug into solid rock and probably had been a place for meditation, but it was not a storage cave.

Apr 18, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 6-7 Part 11

We went through the little gate and entered the temple grounds where we found a pagoda which will be hidden in the trees in a month or so.
We moved further into the grounds and discovered that there was a place where the pagoda dominated the view of Matsushima Bay in the background.
A short distance from the pagoda, was a strange looking tree that also dominated its share of the view.
This second picture of the tree shows a bit more of the landscaping. The pagoda is a couple of meters to the right of this picture.
Remaining in the same spot and rotating 180 degrees left me facing the meditation and chanting hall of the temple. It was very old looking, but we never were able to find out how old. The housing for the resident priest, the place where we would get our books stamped, was off to the left and connected to the hall through a covered passage.

Apr 16, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 6-7 Part 10

On the inland side to the peak, we found that at a lower level there was a graveyard and a road. This meant that the little red building and the bell tower must only be a part of the temple complex. Therefore, we started to explore more.
We circled the red temple and could see the gate again.
On the side of the peak opposite the bell tower, there was a small shrine. There were no signs and the doors were closed so we were unable to learn what it might be for, however, I am reasonably sure that there is a small statue inside.
Finally as we looked at the last part of the peak that we had not visited, we saw a thatched roof. This was obviously the rest of the temple complex. We expected that we would be able to find a priest to stamp our books for us, so we looked for a way down.
We found a narrow concrete staircase that brought us down to the road and after just a few paces we arrived at the entrance to the main temple and the priest's living quarters.