Estimated distance walked this day: 9 kms
Cumulative distance walked: 395 kms
We had another easy day planned, and had only two temples on our list to visit. We left the city of Zentsuji in the morning, and took the train to Gōshōji, Temple 78. While it was originally a Shingon temple, today, it is one of the few temples on the pilgrim path that is a part of the Pure Land sect. I know that Westerners have a tendency to idealize Buddhism, and believe that Buddhists have never engaged in holy wars or try to convert others to their particular brand of Buddhism. Well, they don’t know the history of Buddhism in Japan. At one point, in the 13th century, the fight on the holy site of Mt. Koya between the monks of the Shingon sect and the followers of the Pure Land sect became so bloody, that the shogun had to intervene. All the Pure Land Buddhists were ordered off the mountain, and they were mostly resettled at this temple. It then prospered as a training center for this sect.
The temple itself was beautiful, set into a hill overlooking Sakaide’s harbor. A lengthy suspension bridge connects Sakaide with the main island of Japan, Honshu, and you could see the bridge spanning the waters of the Inland Sea.
It also had an extensive cave of golden statues, mostly of the Amida Buddha, also of different boddhisatvas. It had a mysterious (but not at all creepy) flavor, to enter the dark cave and see the statues glinting in the lantern and candle light.
After visiting Temple 78, we returned down the hill, and had lunch at a somewhat higher end coffee shop, a cut above our usual workingmen’s noodle house. Along the way, we saw in a window a series of sculptures covered in 5 yen pieces.
We then set out for Tennōji, Temple 79. There’s more than one temple on the trail with this name, because it means “Emperor’s Temple”. In this particular instance, it was named for an emperor who was exiled to Shikoku in the 1100s, and then, after he died, his body was stored in the temple’s pond. This story, frankly, sort of grossed me out – the idea that for three weeks a putrefying body was floating in a pond, and I confess, I did not spend a lot of time looking for the pond on the temple grounds. Plus, the temple was undergoing extensive repairs, and there was not a lot to see. Instead, since the temple is sort of a two-fer, with an extensive shrine adjacent to it. we probably spent more time at the shrine than we did the temple.
We then dropped down to the train station. We caught the small train out to Kokubu. While it was getting late in the afternoon, since we had the time right then, we decided to walk from the train station to the nearby Kokubuji, Temple 80. We were able to visit this temple before it shut down for the day. This temple has a huge (16′) Kannon statue with eleven faces and forty-two arms.
After our visit, we walked down the busy road to our inn. The inn that was both closer to the train station and Temple 80 was full, and it always makes me a little nervous to be in what is everyone else’s second choice.
But as it turns out, this tiny inn was clean and pleasant, and probably was second-choice only because it was, indeed, further down the road. An older man ran the place, and we were the only guests. I could tell that he thought we were a curious pair. Once again, out of deference to us being Westerners, we got what is thought of as Western food with our evening meal: a piece of fried chicken, tiny hamburger, a potato croquette, along with the usual miso soup, white rice, pickles, and salad.