May 31, 2010
Here is another view of the empty building from the last post. As I said, it will make a good subject for a picture.
As we walked back toward the station, we found a field of flowers. I do not know their name but we see them everywhere. However, they are normally found in small bunches with only a half dozen or so flower. These covered a large area and were quite impressive.In front of the train station was a statue of a woman, nicely done but in need of a better background.
We entered the station, bought our tickets and crossed over the tracks to the platform from which we would catch a train back to Sendai. This station, by the way, is quite typical of those along this train line.
After waiting half an hour or so, we got a train that took us back to Sendai Station and from there Ian and I each went our separate ways - the end of another Sunday leg on our walking pilgrimage.
In the next post, I will started showing our trip to stops 4 and 5 on the Oushuu 33 Kannon Pilgrimage.
May 29, 2010
As is my practice, I stuck my camera up to an open space in the door and took a picture of the inside of the shrine at the top of the stairs. The statue of Kannon is mostly hidden under the curtains. It is interesting that in most of Asia, especially southeast Asia, one of the Buddhist precepts (rules) is no drinking. However, the object to the right of the statue and level with it is a keg of Japanese sake. Also on New Years this year, I was served a large glass of sake at our local temple.On the post beside the door, we found these little doll-like things. I think they are supposed to represent monkeys, but please do not ask me why there would be monkeys hanging beside the entrance to a Buddhist shrine.
We left the temple and headed for the nearest train station for the ride back to Sendai. The route we took was quite scenic. This is one of the more interesting places.
A little further on we passed the empty building. I think it will make a nice picture when done in ink and graphite.
May 28, 2010
After looking at the small shrine, Ian and I turned right and started up a slope toward the main building. We found this statue beside the path. As you can see it is very worn and people had piled small stones on every horizontal surface. As far as I can determine, the act of piling up stones represents building a stupa, originally a grave, to represent the Buddha. However, there may well be more to it than that.The main pray hall was quite typical and contained nothing unusual as far as we could see. It was, however, very pleasant to look at.
This is Ian offering a small pray in front of a small shrine building. Ian is much more conscientious about doing this than I am. He has been having some problems so he uses the pray as a chance to quiet his mind. I, on the other hand, have almost no problems at all and meditate every day, so I tend to look around more and spend time finding good places to take pictures for this blog.
This is Ian on the stairs up to the building that contains the statue of Kannon, which is the focus of this stop on the pilgrimage.
The next picture is the shrine at the top of the stairs. Notice the small building on the right. It allows the priest and others to enter the shrine from the right side (you can see the railing on the stairs). This is particularly important in bad weather.
May 26, 2010
Today, Wednesday, Ian and I were planning to walk before work, however, the rain is coming down in proverbial buckets so we canceled and will try again next week. Now back to the Oushuu 33 Kannon pilgrimage. We were in a town and right in the middle we found a Shinto shrine. As usual on a pilgrimage we did not have time to explore.We continued down the same street and entered what appeared to be the business area. We were stopped by a woman who thought we were lost because I was checking map for the shortest route to the next temple. The woman told us that the building at the end of the street (the one with the tower) was the old city hall.
We left the city center and then had to cross a main highway. This building, the white one with a low tower, was extremely interesting and like nothing I had ever seen before. It is the entrance/exit for a tunnel under the road. We crossed at the zebra crossing, but we could have gone underground and not waited for the lights.
We finally reach Temple #13 at the far end of a very nice public park. We had to walk by the housing for the priest and then past a little shrine.
The next picture is a close up of the little shrine. The door was locked and there were no signs so I have no idea what was in it.
May 25, 2010
We left Temple #12 and headed for #23. At one point we turned a corner and came face to face with a giant tree.The posts on the fence that surrounds the tree are about waist high, so you can see that the tree is really large. It is not the largest tree that I have seen in Japan but it is very near the top of the list.
A bit further on we found another fence. This one was along the side of the road and it was made from old railroad rails.
The railroad rail fence was quite appropriate because it funneled cars and people into a tunnel that went under the railroad line.
Once through the tunnel, we found ourselves in the middle of a real town - the first since we had left Onsen town at the end of the train line. To get to Temple #13 we would have to cross through the center of town and enter a park on the other side.
May 24, 2010
Still looking inside the building, I saw that one of the cabinets had a small lock. I wonder what was in it that it required such security. This sign over the door says "Kannon Room" so I suppose that the locked cabinet must have contained the statue that is the focus of this stop on the pilgrimage. The object in front of the sign is a bell, which people ring to get the attention of spirit world. I should point out that this is not really a part of Buddhism, but rather is part of Japanese folk religion that has been incorporated as a 'skillful means', upaya, to get people into the flock, so to speak.
These little statues were extremely strange. They were only about a foot high and had at some point in the past lost their heads. However, someone has place a stone on the remains of the neck. If the stones had been bigger, I might not have even noticed, but they are so disproportionately small that the stood out like sore thumbs, or maybe shrunken heads.
Off to the left we found the only newish building in the compound, the main meditation hall. In the extreme left hand portion of the building [almost out of sight in the picture], we found someone to give us the page of calligraphy and stamps to show that we had been there.
As was frequently the case, peeking in through the door gave us a view of the altar.
May 23, 2010
This is one of the posts that hold up the lintel I showed in the last post. This one has a large white sign on it that says that is the 12th location on the Oushuu 33 Kannon pilgrimage.
In front of the building was an old stone lantern. Like almost everything else at this temple it was old and had many chipped and broken places on it.
I took this picture of the altar inside the building by putting the camera up against a small hole in the door, which was locked. The large white sign that dominates the picture is attached to a paper lantern and says, wait for it, "Watch your head".
Further up the hill was another small building. It was just as old and dilapidated as the others. The flags on either side of the stairs were so old that they had turned gray.
Again I was able to take a picture through a hole in the door, but this time everything, except some small statues was behind closed doors. I think that the door in the middle may actually cover the statue of Kannon that is the center piece of this location.
May 21, 2010
I followed Ian through the gate and discovered that he was already on his way up another flight of stairs, headed for a fairly large building.I turned to my right and found the usual bell tower,which we both eventually climbed into and rang the bell.
The building that Ian had gone up to was quite old looking, well weathered to say the least. On the stairs, you can see Ian's backpack that he left there while he explored. I noticed that the area under the eaves had some interesting decoration, so I went up the temple stairs to investigate.
In the center, over the gongs that you right before chanting (we did not chant during this trip, since there is no single chant that is appropriate for every temple, and in any case we still feel quite self conscious because our chanting is so poor). I assume that the dragon is there to keep evil out of the temple.
At each end of the lintel there was another dragon. Also notice the interesting design of the decoration carved into the front face of the lintel. It looks like a vine of some sort.
May 20, 2010
Ian and I turned a bend in the road and found this ancient fire tower. They used to be quite common, but with the advent of radios and cell phones, they are no longer needed or used. They are picturesque, though. In the past, if there was a fire, someone ran up to the top and rang a bell, pointing the way to the fire.
We continued around the same corner and ran into another of those buildings with the siding that looks like stone block.Just a little bit further down the road, we came to some old stone stairs that led to Temple #12. There was a statue of a jizo (a bodhisattva) protecting the stairs from evil influences. I wondered whether the two gaijin (foreigners) would be one of those negative influences. Nothing happened to us, so I guess that we were not.
At the top of the stairs there was a flat area with more statues. Notice that these are wearing knit hats, even though the day was getting quite warm. Behind this little building was another flight of stairs going up to the main gate into the actual temple grounds.
Here is Ian climbing those stairs on his way to the gate.
May 18, 2010
Ian and I continued walking along the sides of the low hills and came upon this rather startling, bright blue structure. It was the equipment for controlling the water mix in two small canals that feed water into the rice paddies in the valley.We looked into the water and discovered two delightful ducks, feeding in the canal.
We continued on and the road started to climb the hills, rather than staying level along their sides. It became rather warm and it was obviously time for a break. We used some sheet metal, which functions as a bridge over a very narrow canal for run-off water, as a seat.
Still advancing into the hills, we came across this fire hydrant and a locker of hose. However, the truly interesting this was the wooden post on the right. This says that the road is part of the "New Oku no Hosomichi". The 'old' Oku no Hosomichi was the road that Basho took when he wrote is famous book of haiku poems. Apparently someone has renamed this road in an attempt to increase tourism in the area.
May 17, 2010
The country lane that we were now walking on took us into higher land along the side of the hills where we found a group of very strange houses.From the distance, as seen in the above picture, the buildings look as if they were constructed from large blocks of stone, like libraries and other public buildings some times are. However, when we got closer, as in the following two pictures, we discovered that it was actually some kind of plastic siding and not stone. The buildings looked totally out of place, surrounded as they were, with trees.
After a short ways with nothing but trees and turns, we came to a completely different group of buildings. This time they were much more in tune with the surrounding area.