Jun 29, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 4-5 Part 22

Sitting in the station with a long wait for a train, we amused ourselves by having an 'Aquarius' sports drink, resting, and looking at the surrounding landscape. Directly in front of us was a newly plowed rice paddy with a large house beyond that.Looking to our left, there were unplowed riced paddies in which two crows were scrounging their dinner.
Looking to our right, we could see more rice paddies and in the distance a road (a numbered prefectural road) and the tracks that would eventually bring our train. As with almost any scenery in Japan, in the far distance we could see hills and then mountains.
While we were sitting there a very scruffy old cat came to visit. He really did not have much interest in us but checked us out and then went on his way.

Jun 28, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 4-5 Part 21

Most, but not all, of the houses in the area were related to some sort of farming. This is a two-story shed containing various agricultural equipment.Another good picture of my finger. I really have to work on remembering to move my fingers to the side of the camera. The problem is that right in front of the lens is the most natural place to rest your index finger. Anyway, the structure in the background is the station. We had finally reached it again. It mostly consists of nothing more than an uncovered platform. In the middle there is a small section with a roof but I am sure that it would not protect anyone from the rain. On the other side of the platform there is a parking lot and beyond that there is a house which you can see on the right.
This is the station platform as seen from the road. The structure in the right foreground was something that both Ian and I appreciated - an outdoor toilet.
We had about 45 minutes to wait until the next train, so Ian decided to take off his boots and stockings and let his feet dry out. He has heavy, more or less waterproof boots that make his feet sweat when he wears them for a long time. I have a pair of walking shoes that are less waterproof but do not make my feet sweat anywhere near as much. Until I started practicing for the Henro Pilgrimage and then actually walking every day, I did not appreciate the comments about taking care of one's feet that always appear in books about infantrymen during a war.

Jun 27, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 4-5 Part 20

Ian and I missed the garden on our way to the temple because we were looking at the stuff on the other side of the road. Also it was a bit hard to see because of the angles. However, on the way back we had a really good view of this garden. It was huge, running from the road to the top of the hill but most of it was behind a house.We missed this on the way out because we were on the other side of the road and were concerned about where to go - there is an intersection with a light just beyond the building on the right. This was a dentist's office and the owner had written his name in bricks. The three groups of bricks are three separate kanji, spelling out his full name: Kojima Tadashi.
Nearing the station, we were in a flat farm area again.
The station was just around the next bend and behind the low tree covered hill. Walking was pleasant and easy but not particularly interesting. That is, there was nothing much to see.

Jun 26, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 4-5 Part 19

Ian and I headed back toward the train station. Since we were going in the opposite direction from when we came, we were able to see a lot of different things. The building in the background is made from a metal framework covered with sheets of plastic. This sort of structure is typically used for hothouses and for storage buildings.Some of the cherry trees seemed to be brighter from this side. I suppose it may have something to do with where the sun is in the sky - more sun, brighter blossoms.
The big traditional Japanese style house that we had seen was even more impressive walking east.
When we first came up the road, I had noticed the ditch but I had not noticed that, a little way from the road, it turned into a very pretty landscaped stream.

Jun 25, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 4-5 Part 18

Once we had navigated the stone stairs, the rest of the path was a typical mountain trail with little wooden bridges over the deepest of the rivulets running across our way.After a pleasant stroll, we wound ourselves back at the point where we had taken the 'short' path to the temple. We had come up the path on the right and then climbed the stairs that were now in front of us.
If you remember, on the way up we had passed that group of people looking at the plants. There were not there on our way down, being in the temple grounds, so we stopped to see what they had been looking at. These yellow flowers were quite attractive and had definitely been the focus of their interest.
We walked past the parking lot, then back down the hill, and then started along the road to the station. It was the same road that we had arrived on, but from this direction we saw many things that we had not noticed during our approach.

Jun 24, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 4-5 Part 17

We heard voices outside and the priest decided that it was time for him to get back to his office. Ian and I struggled back into our shoes and then looked back toward the path on which we had entered the grounds. We saw a group of people beginning to filter in. Another look revealed that they were the people we had passed on the way in.We decided that it was time for us to go - all the people would spoil the atmosphere. So we went back to the administrative building and, through the window, said goodbye to the priest. I took one last picture of a small building with a strange structure in front of it. In some ways, it looked like a Shinto torii, but it was different: only one crossbar and it was all square timber. We could probably spend 20 years in any one of these temples and still not unravel all of the mysteries.
Since we had come up the 'short' path, we decided to take the long path back. This path, according to the sign we had seen earlier, was the original path up the mountain to the temple. We found that it was paved with round stones that required careful attention, deep awareness of the present, to avoid twisting an ankle. I am sure that it was deliberate.
A little further on, we found a flight a stairs with stone risers and dirt steps. There was also a rope railing in the middle to help those who need a little support. The hill was quite steep but nowhere near the steepest we have encounter on a temple path.

Jun 22, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 4-5 Part 16

The priest, I never got his name, spent about a half hour telling us about the history of the temple and the shrine. He seemed particularly interested in how they had started as a Shinto shrine and then added the Buddhist temple, remaining united for hundreds of years before reaching the current state of being a Buddhist temple but supporting the shrine. Of course, the story involved a lot of famous and rich people. I really wish that I had had a tape recorder so that I had a permanent record of his talk. His was a really pleasant person, just what I would expect from a Buddhist monk, and Ian and I very much enjoyed our time with him.
One of the things that he pointed out to us was the ceiling. Each panel had a different picture on it, all done by local artists. This type of ceiling is rare enough to be interesting, whether or not the art is good, but not so rare that people do not know about them.
In many temples the authorities do not like people to take pictures. In many temples the statues and other relics are locked way so that the common visitor can not see them. Occasionally some temple will have a special showing of something that has been hidden away for a few hundred years. I was lucky enough to see such a show in Kyoto one time. A group of about 15 statues had been sealed in containers for 500 years and were brought out for maintenance. After repairs and upkeep, they were resealed and put away to be opened again in 2500.

We were very lucky in this regard because the priest said that I could take any pictures that I wanted. So, while he was taking, I wandered around and took pictures as I listened to him. The next picture shows the altar area
This is the altar area as seen from the left side of the room. I am always amazed at how chaotic the altar is - many statues, bells, gongs, candles, various instruments for ceremonies, offerings of food, money, and other stuff, scripts of the various chants and ceremonies, and who knows what else.
One thing that I found very interesting was a picture that was resting on the floor in the left front corner of the room. It was a propaganda picture from WWII or maybe the war with Russia at the beginning of the 20th Century. I assume that it was originally related to the Shinto shrine, but the Buddhists also supported the war effort even though they had to distort Buddhism to do it, so it could be where it belonged. The priest saw me take the picture but he did not say anything, which to me indicated that he did not want to talk about it since he told us about everything else that we looked at. I decided to keep the rapport we had with him and so did not ask about it.

Jun 21, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 4-5 Part 15

Ian and I greeted the priest and, while he did the calligraphy for our books, he asked us a few questions. I assume like many other people he was both interested in the answers and was finding out how communicative our Japanese is. We told him that we had walked part of the Henro Pilgrimage and why we had stopped. We also told him that we were now doing the Oushuu 33 Kannon Pilgrimage on weekends, when we had time. He said that we were the first foreigners to ever come to the temple and then offered to show us the inside of the main hall.

He gave us our books and took our money and then we followed him up onto the landing in front of the main doors to the building. These were the doors where I had taken pictures through an open space. I posted them here a few entries ago. The priest continued around the landing to the right side of the building and unlocked a smaller door. He went in but it took us a bit more time because we had to take off our walking shoes. Once inside were were greeting by the typical chaos of a Buddhist temple. The main section of the room was divided into three sections. On the right was a group of statues representing various people, real and imaginary, related to the history of the temple.On the left of the altar there was another group of statues of more people. As you can see, each statue has a sign with the name of the person on it. The problem was that we had no idea who they were.
Behind one of the structural pillars near the altar, was this delightful little statues. Again, I have no idea who it represents and, even if I knew the name, it would probably mean nothing to me. Behind the cabinet you can see gold plated lotus blossoms that are part of the altar display.
This is the table that is on the priests left hand when he sits in front of the altar to chant sutras. It contains various implements that he uses during the ritual. At the bottom you can see part of the tatami mat that he sits on while chanting. Also at the right there is a round black object sitting on a red and white cushion. This is a gong that the priest would ring during the ritual. The hand on the upper left belongs to the priest. Who was using this time to tell us the history of this 350 year old temple and attached shrine. Apparently until the end of WWII, the Buddhist temple and Shinto shrine were combined, but after the war they were separated. No there is no Shinto priest so the Buddhist priest carries out the necessary rituals as a substitute, but they are official separate. This is becoming quite common in Japan. There are not enough priests of either religion, so they often take care of each others' duties. This also applies to the various Sects within each.

Jun 19, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 4-5 Part 14

Here is another view of two of the row of statues. Just as with the group of statues that we saw as we entered the grounds, this line of exactly the same statues had a hard to define but very pleasing effect.The next picture shows the entire row, except the one at the left end that broke the symmetry of the series. At the right end, there is a small building that contains an altar.
That building, when seen from its front, turned out to be dedicated to pregnant women and children. It must be fairly popular because there were a number of offerings left there.
Ian and I had now seen everything on the grounds and we could hear the people that we had passed on the trail finally arriving, so we decided that it was time to take our books and get the temple's page of calligraphy. As usual, in addition to the calligraphy, the temple office had a number of amulets and other small souvenirs for sale. As we approached, we could see the priest sitting inside so we knew that we would not have trouble locating anyone as we had had at some of the other temples.

Jun 18, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 4-5 Part 13

After I had taken pictures of the inside of the shrine, Ian walked over and, after doing the usual ritual, a took a peek.Around back there was a small shrine of some kind. There were no signs so we had no idea what or who was enshrined. It was quite small, probably less than a yard high.
At one side of the grounds we found a long row of identical statues. They were all evenly spaced except for the one at the extreme left. I went over and stood in the space so that Ian could take my picture with all the bodhisattvas. It would be nice to have even a few of the qualities that a bodhisattva is said to have obtained.
Here is a close up of one of the statues. It does not matter which on it was since they were all truly identical. They looked like they had been cast from the same mold.

Jun 15, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 4-5 Part 12

Ian and I went through the gate and found that the path and stairs led to a really weather-beaten Shinto shrine.The open grill work on the doors allowed us a good view inside the shrine, although there was not much to see. Shinto shrines usually have much less around or on the altar than a Buddhist temple. Of then the only thing in a shrine will be a mirror and it will be covered to protect the surface. They are not unknown but shrines usually do not hold statues and lots of rich furnishings.
Off to the side there was an alcove with cat statues but they were not part of the decorations on the altar.
We walked around the side of the shrine and found this strange little staircase. It appeared that the stairs were the ends of the timber that passed all the way though the building and on the inside formed stairs that went up to a closed room behind the altar that we could see through the door. To me, the interesting thing was that these outside stairs led to a narrow balcony behind which the board wall may have concealed what was once an alcove. Also the stairs and the balcony were too narrow to be of any regular use.

Jun 14, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 4-5 Part 11

As we reached the top of the stairs, Ian and I found a large group of statues. We were not sure who they were supposed to by or why there were so many identical statues, but they were impressive.I walked up to the door of the main hall and, as I have been able to do at most of the temples, I shot a picture through a space between the two panels of the door.
Walking around behind the main hall, I discovered a small structure containing a statue dressed in a red cape. The signs pasted to the walls seemed to contain names of some kind, but who or what they were was beyond us.
I walked all the way around the main hall and they saw a gate that was even further into the temple grounds. It was obvious that we should go through and find out what was at the top of the stairs that we could see though the door. On the extreme right of the picture you can see some white things hanging from a pole. These are definitely Shinto, but what were they doing on the temple grounds?

Jun 13, 2010

Oushuu33Kannon Temples 4-5 Part 10

A little while ago, things were rocking and rolling here in Sendai. We had a quite substantial earthquake. It was a 4 on the Japanese scale but lasted for a long time. According to the TV it was a 5+ in Fukushima, the prefecture south of us. Apparently there was little damage as is appropriate for that level of quake. At 6, things start falling down.

We left our Pilgrimage at the top of a flight of stairs with a crowd of elderly people looking at the plants along the trails. Ian and I squeezed by them. It was a little scary because of the steep drop on the side that we had to walk on, but it was not really a problem. After we got by, the trail went down and then up again to the point where we found this sign. I still wonder what "the path of long-nosed" means.We took the shorter route and found a dirt path with no steps at all.
As we started up a really steep incline, we found that someone had anchored logs across the trail so that it was easier to walk. This trail reminded us of the trails that we had walked on Shikoku during our Henro Pilgrimage.
We reached the top of the hill and found more logs across the trail. This time they actually formed stairs because they were very close together. The first building we saw was a bell tower and behind it were two other buildings, one red and the other, smaller one natural unpainted wood.