Thursday, June 30, 2016

Shikoku Japan 88 Temples Foot Pilgrimage; Walking In The Rain To Temples 67-70 In Kanonji City

Shikoku Japan 88 Temples Foot Pilgrimage; Walking In The Rain To Temples 67-70 In Kanonji City

Today, in the pouring rain, we visited four temples in the Kanonji area.

Temple 67 - Daikōji – The Temple of The Great Growth 
Temple 68 - Jinnein – The Temple of God's Blessings or Of God's Grace
Temple 69 - Kannonji – The Temple of Kannon 
Temple 70 - Motoyamaji – The Temple of Headquarters.

We did not start the day with an ambitious plan. 
In fact, because of the rain, we intended to stay in Kanonji town for another night, so that we could visit some of the temples tomorrow, but the distances between the temples are not very great.

Our hotel is also not so great, and there are no really great places to eat near us, so we pushed it a little and decided to move on to the next town tomorrow.

Today we also experienced walking in one of the strongest rainfalls on our pilgrimage.
Unfortunately, we did not wear our rain pants, and so we walked with soaked pants, socks and shoes all day long.

We started the day without breakfast, because the dinner we had last night at the hotel's restaurant was not very good.
The only place that looked modern and cool in town, opened only for lunch, so we decided to visit temple 67, Daikoji, skip breakfast, and then head to the cool cafe for brunch.

Jules adds:  "Our visit to the mountaintop temple Daikoji was relaxed and very enjoyable, because there was only a light drizzle of rain while we were there.  

Just as we began descending towards the cafe after leaving Daikoji, the rain accelerated, and then did not let up for the rest of the day, until early evening.  
So our views of the next three temples we visited today were quite limited, because of the poor visibility.  

Still, we did manage to visit all four of the temples in the Kannonji area today, allowing us to leave for our next stop on the pilgrimage a day earlier than we had planned.  We're hoping for better weather tomorrow, when we also have plans to visit a number of temples in one day."

Daikoji has a very old and very beautiful Camphor tree that was planted by Kobo Daishi in the year 822.

We were drenched to the bone after visiting Daikoji as we walked back from the outskirts of town towards temple 70, when the rain began in earnest.  
We stopped at the nearby Knut Cafe and had brunch among a trendy crowd.

To be honest, at this point you would do best not to take my word about what is trendy.
Anyone with a nice hat and clothes that look clean, new and not so functional, looks trendy to me.

Most of the customers were young mothers in floral dresses with their tiny babies, who had lunch with their friends, all dressed in fashionable clothing and wearing funky hats.

We had some honey lattes and Jules had the honey French toast, while I had a salad and a mustard and egg sandwich.

We hoped that the rain would ease a little while we were having brunch, but it did not let up.
With acceptance of our destiny, we just stepped out into the pouring rain and were soaked in minutes.

At that point, we stopped trying to avoid the rain puddles on the road, since our feet and shoes were so wet that it made no difference where we stepped.

Temples 68 and 69 are located on the same hill.
We did not have to climb much, just a staircase.

It was hard to enjoy the temples when we could hardly see anything through the rain torrents, and the person at the Nokyosho office looked at us with pity as we double bagged our pilgrim's book and stepped back out into the heavy rain.

These two temples also had giant Camphor trees that had roots that bulged in waves of swellings out of the ground.
They looked majestic.

The trees we saw today had huge trunks and gnarly branches that twisted into the sky.

To cheer ourselves up, as we were walking in the rain, I said to Jules that all we needed to do, was to imagine that we were ALREADY swimming and diving in the warm waters of the Philippines islands.
You would expect to be wet if you went diving, right?

I was so wet, that even my raincoat was failing to protect me and my upper body got wet and steamy, making me cold whenever there was a breeze.

Walking while soaked to the bone reminded us that it is also the rainy season in the Philippines....
Is it smart to fly to the Philippines after our pilgrimage is over, just to be soaked there?....

Back in our hotel, I peeled off my wet clothing and ran into the shower.
I wore my Yukata and went downstairs, to enlist the assistance of the front desk to help me make some changes to our hotel reservations.

Because we will be leaving a day earlier, we needed to change the dates of our upcoming hotel bookings.

While I was getting help at the front desk, Jules walked over across the street to the Aeon mall, to do our laundry at the coin operated laundromat.
Our hotel did not have a washer and drier.

Instead of eating another mediocre dinner, we decided to eat a simple meal in our room.
On our way back to the hotel we bought some Avocados, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, green Shiso leaves, mustard and bread made from brown rice.

I spread big bath towels on our bed and made us veg sandwiches.
It was a simple but wholesome meal, followed by a fresh apple for dessert.

Both of us fell asleep very early.

Here is a little bit about the temples we visited today:

Daikoji, Temple 67, was founded by Kōbō Daishi in 822.
The temple has been associated with the three Kumano Shintō Shrines since its founding. 
At one time, it contained twenty-four Shingon Buddhism Halls and twelve Tendai Shrines. 

The great camphor tree in the compound was planted by Kōbō Daishi. 
The statue is of Tendai Daishi, the Chinese founder of Tendai Buddhism. 
There are also two Daishidō Halls in the compound, one for Shingon and one for Tendai.

Like many other temples, this temple was burned by Samurai warriors led by Chōsokabe Motochika in the 16th century. 

Temple 68- Jinnein, The Temple of God's Grace.
On March 21, 703, Nisshō, a monk in the Yogacara School, had a vision here. 
Seven colorful clouds arose on the western horizon and hovered over the mountain of this temple (Mt. Kotohiki). 

Suddenly a ship floated on the sea and the god Hachiman appeared to Nisshō.
Hachiman said: "I am the god Hachiman himself, and I will stay here to protect the Buddha's Dharma and the ruler's law."

Later, Kōbō Daishi painted the Kotobiki (harp playing) Hachiman in the form of Amida Buddha, and dedicated that to the temple. 

The picture of Amida is now a National Treasure. 

Down below the temple, on Ariake beach, there is a very large coin-shaped circle made of sand, that was originally built in 1633 in imitation of a coin of the Kanei period.
Because of the rain and the mist, we did not get to see it.

Temple 69 Kanonji
The temple and the town below it, share the same name. 
Kōbō Daishi stayed here and was the seventh priest of the temple. 

In this temple, during the Mongol invasions, Emperor Kameyama came here and prayed for the safety of the nation.

One priest manages both Temple 68 and Temple 69. 
Temple 69 has several National Treasures, including an icon of Buddha entering Nirvana, Fudō Myōō, and painted scrolls of the temple's legend of the god Hachiman. 

Temple 70, Motoyamaji
Founded by Kōbō Daishi in the year 807.
It is said that he built the Hondō (main hall) in a single night. 

The huge main shrine was built in the 9th century but had to undergo substantial repairs in the Kamakura Period. 
Unlike most other temples on the pilgrimage, this temple has NOT been burned down, and is now classified as a national treasure.

This temple used to be the biggest temple on Shikoku Island. 
Legend states that it was spared the ravages of Chōsokabe's armies when they were driven away by a huge swarm of bees that live at the temple.

This is the only temple on the pilgrimage that enshrines the angry-faced Batō Kannon as its honzon. 

When we visited, the five-story pagoda that was built by Kōbō Daishi, was undergoing major renovations and was completely covered.
Thus we did not get to see it.

Day 52
Our Location On The Earth:
34°06′12.08″N 133°43′09.68″E
34°08′03.56″N 133°38′51.71″E

Temples visited:
T67 - Daikōji (大興寺) –Temple of The Great Growth or Great Emerging 
T68 - Jinnein (神恵院) –Temple of Blessings or The Temple of God's Grace
T69 - Kan'onji (観音寺) –Temple of Kannon 
T70 - Motoyamaji (本山寺) –Temple of Headquarters 

Overnight at Kanonji Grand hotel in Kanonji City

18,240 steps 
14 kilometers 
Active walking 3:30 hours
Active day 9 hours

Walking grand total: 1069 km

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Shikoku Japan 88 Temples Foot Pilgrimage; Nirvana At Unpenji, Temple 66 - The Temple of Hovering Clouds

Shikoku Japan 88 Temples Foot Pilgrimage; Nirvana At Unpenji, Temple 66 - The Temple of Hovering Clouds

We have now entered Kagawa, the fourth and final prefecture on the island of Shikoku.

On our long pilgrimage, Kagawa is the dōjō of Nirvana.
This means that we have finished walking between all the temples in the dōjō of Enlightenment, which were located around Ehime prefecture, and now we are entering Nirvana.

I would have said that those are symbolic terms that do not mean much, but during our visit today to temple 66, Unpenji – The Temple of Hovering Clouds, I literally felt for the first time on this pilgrimage, a real sense of Nirvana and bliss.

But allow me to start from the beginning.
Breakfast at the LiveMax hotel was a simple affair.
It was a humble, self service buffet, but I was happy with my choices.
I took some steamed rice, miso soup, a Hijiki seaweed salad, cooked Burdock root, Natto, pickles and a green tea.
Jules just ate some rice and miso soup.

It was very rainy, so we dressed in our rain pants and rain jackets, covered our backpacks and shoulder bags and walked towards temple 66.

I used Google maps to locate a nice looking cafe about an hour or two into our walk, but I had no idea if the cafe was still in business or even open, but since it was on our route anyway, I decided to stop there.
We walked on narrow paths between rice fields, to get there.

The old farm house had a sign in Japanese that read "Blueberry Cafe."
It looked closed, but we walked to the front door anyway.

It was open!
It was a cool little rural cafe inside an old and well restored traditional farm house.
We chose seats by the fire pit and ordered two blueberry tarts, cafe au lait and a hot Yuzu lemon tea.  
Outside the farmhouse, we could see the blueberry bushes that gave the cafe its name and its specialties.

We considered asking them if we could leave our backpacks there, and collect them on our return walk towards Kanonji City, but we decided to give ourselves the freedom to return on another route and not to be obligated to return there.

We continued walking towards the rope way that carries Temple visitors up the steepest slopes, but the road was not flat, it climbed steeply up through a farm area with orchards that smelled from strong fertilizers.

I also think that we passed by a fertilizer chemical plant, because at times the smell was really bad.

During our walk, we saw no other pilgrims, not walking pilgrims, not ones who drive cars and not a single bus full of pilgrims.

Jules suggested that maybe the rope way was not operating today, and maybe we were walking a LONG way for nothing.... 
But I had faith in Japanese efficiency and said that if the rope way were closed, they would have posted some signs along the road, saving us from walking for many kilometers for nothing.
Besides, we had passed by a bee keeper who was washing his waxed trays in a creek, and I stopped to chat with him.

I told him that I love honey and he asked me where we were from and where we were going towards, since I had chosen to walk on small farm roads that were not part of the normal pilgrimage route.

I told him that we were walking to Unpenji, and he asked if we were going to the rope way.
I said that we were, and he pointed across the bridge and down the road towards a Shinto shrine.
If the rope way was not operating, he would have told me.
Locals always know everything through the grapevine.

When we got to the rope way, Jules was very cheerful to see that it was operating.
We rode up the gondola alone with a young Japanese woman in very high heels, who was supposed to talk about the elevation of the different peaks, the forests below us and to warn us when the gondola reached the top and bumped into location, but because she saw that we were foreigners, she decided that we would probably not understand anything she would say anyway, so she said nothing.

The ride up felt like riding into a cloud.
Nothing below us or around us was visible.
Everything was misty.
It felt as if we were riding into a white tunnel of the unknown.

At the top, we left our backpacks in the rope way shop.
The temperature at the top was more than ten degrees Celsius lower, so we put on our rain coats that we had taken off on our walk, because we'd gotten overheated on our long climb up the road.

The grounds of the temple were dotted with HUNDREDS, and I do mean HUNDREDS of amazing sculptures of Buddhist deities and enlightened masters, all carved of stone.

They stood in large groups, some standing on mythical lions, holding small monkeys, raccoons, dragons, elephants, flowers, snakes or mythical birds.

The mist covered the tall ancient trees that surrounded the sculptures, and they were so full of spirit, that I could hear them talking to me, as I roamed around them alone and full of bliss.

I was in Heaven.
I wanted to photograph all of them, one by one, so I could use them in the future as inspiration for my paintings.

I started photographing one by one but as I turned the next corner, there was another hill with about a hundred more standing below me.
And then a hundred more farther down the path, each with his own facial expression and unique posture.

I knew that I would have no time to photograph more than about one hundred of those five hundred life size masters.

I asked Jules to go and find the Nokyosho office, to stamp our pilgrim book so I could wander around the forest and be with the masters some more.

Jules adds:  "As I wandered through the clouds and mist, looking for the office, 
buildings, altars, sculptures, bells all emerged and receded from view.  
It was a magical time in a magical place, worth the entire Shikoku pilgrimage just to experience.  
We had truly entered the dōjō of Nirvana..."

As I walked among them, I found myself talking to them, asking them questions and hearing their answers to me.

Not long ago, the performance artist Marina Abramović performed an art piece at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, which she called "The Artist Is Present."

During her installation, she sat in a chair and people visiting the museum came to sit in front of her.
She did not say a word, just sat there being attentive and very present.

The waiting list of people who signed up to sit in front of her was humongous.
People were standing in lines for blocks outside of MOMA.

Many people cried as they sat in silence in front of her.
Eyes can tell SO MUCH...

Today,  as I roamed in the mist among those masters, I stood in front of many of them and looked into their eyes.
I then paid attention to what thoughts and feeling arose inside of me.

I was AMAZED at the insights and wisdoms, emotions and vibrations that I felt.

One of the masters was holding a small dragon.
I found myself asking him how did he tame this dragon.... How did he do it...
How do I do it?....

Other masters talked to me about courage, determination, being patient, strong, gentle, loving, quiet, content, free, powerful, forgiving....

No one else was around as I walked among those amazing stone teachers.
Just the old trees, the flowering hydrangeas surrounded in a thick mist....
I did not want to leave....

Somehow, Jules found me and it had started to rain harder.
We deposited our Osamafudas in the temple's main hall and Daishi hall, chanted the heart sutra and reluctantly made our way to the rope way.
We still had about three hours of walking to do in the rain, before we reached our hotel for the next three nights.

We made our way down the hills and into the flat area.
The city still felt rural, not very built up, as there were no high rise buildings on the horizon.

We walked in the rain for over two hours.
Our feet hurt and we mentioned to one another that we had gotten used to walking without our backpacks, and how much harder it is to walk all day long with those extra pounds on our backs.

It occurred to me that we must not be walking on the best road into town, since we had passed by no shops and no places to eat.

I checked on Google maps to see if there were any cafes along the way, and found one a few blocks away.
It turned out to be a charming place.

The owner of the cafe invited us in with much warmth.
We were dripping rain all over his clean cafe.

He made us two delicious iced coffees each and a big toast to share.
He told us that he had walked the Shikoku pilgrimage himself, and when it was time to pay the bill, he refused our money and said that everything we had drunk and eaten was his gift (Osettai) to us.

We insisted on paying but he only took money for two iced coffees, giving us the other two and the toast for free.
He even left the cafe and walked us out when we left, waving goodbye to us.
What a kind and wonderful man.

We felt more rested after our food and coffee break at his cafe.
The last four kilometers walk felt a bit easier on our feet.

Our hotel, the Kanonji Grand Hotel, is not so grand.
The front desk was surprised to find out that we've booked three nights.
It is usually a place that business people move through.

We've booked three nights, because we plan to walk to all the temples in this area without our backpacks, and then walk out of town when we are done.

We knew that today's walk to visit Unpenji temple and back into town, was a long walk  and we would have no time to walk the extra ten kilometers to reach temple 67, Daikoji, before they close at five in the afternoon.

So we will visit Daikoji, temple 67 and temples, 68, 69 and 70, and even continue walking farther, towards temple 71, in order to give ourselves an easier day on the day  we leave town.

We had dinner at the hotel's restaurant.
All the other guests were business people, dressed in dark suits on business meetings.
They bowed to each other multiple times.
It was lovely and respectful.
I love bowing.

The hotel has Wifi only on the first floor.
After dinner and a good shower, we sat on the old chairs by the vending machines and did some research online.

Here is a little bit about Unpenji, temple 66:

Unpenji is also known for its eggplant-shaped stone seat on which I sat.
It is said that any prayers made while sitting on it, will be granted. 
We shall wait and see.....

Kōbō Daishi enshrined here a Buddhist relic in the year 790, and then returned at a later date, founded the temple, and carved the main deity. 

Emperor Kameyama (years 1249 – 1305, the 90th emperor of Japan), came here and planted a Ginko tree which bears a Sanskrit inscription.

In the late 16th century, a Samurai from a clan in Kochi/Tossa province named Chōsokabe Motochika, climbed to the temple and was so inspired by the grandeur, that he decided to try to conquer the three other Shikoku provinces of Awa, Iyo, and Sanuki. 

The temple priest tried to talk him out of it and, even though Chōsokabe refused to listen, the priest's forthrightness and willingness to speak his mind, may have been the reason that the temple complex wasn't burned down like so many others on the island. 

This temple is located at the highest elevation of all the pilgrimage temples.

Day 51 (June 28th 2016)
Our Location On The Earth:
34°02′13.61″N 133°43′21.3″E 

Temples visited:
T66 - Unpenji (雲辺寺) –Temple of Hovering Clouds 

Overnight at Kanonji Grand hotel in Kanonji City

32,590 steps 
24 kilometers 
Active walking 6 hours
Active day 9 hours

Walking grand total: 1055 km