Monday, 7 April 2014

Temple 38 - Kongofukuji

I have decided to call Temple 37 the "Marilyn Monroe temple", because with finding her picture on the ceiling is that someone of the 575 artists must have thought enough of her to paint her picture in her memory, so her spirit would live at the temple.
I was up early to wash up, so as not to be late for the 6 am chanting and then off to try and catch the 6:42 am train. Last night I was reading in the 88 Temple Route Guide book where each perfecture (or province) on the 88 pilgrimage route is given a Buddhist dojo (place of spiritual training ) name.
Takushima (temples 1-23) is the Hosshin dojo - Place of Spiritual Awakening.
Kochi (temples 24-39) is the Shuygo dojo - Place of Ascetic Training.
Ehime (temples 40-65) is the Bodai dojo - Place of Enlightenment.
Kagawa (temples 66-88) is the Nehan dojo - Place of Nirvana.
So maybe this Buddhist nun last night noticed this lost soul and decided I needed some ascetic training. I am sure she sees all kinds of foreigners and interesting she chose me to take the time to try and teach me.
Enjoyed the morning chanting. I decided to take a front and center seat so I could get a good view of the monk doing his ritual. I wanted to say goodbye to my nun and friendly check-in lady. I couldn't find them. As roshi at the Bodai Zen center used to say, things just appear and then disappear. Don't try to figure it out. So, it wasn't meant for me to say my farewells.
The morning chanting was over around 6:20 and it was a very cool morning. I decided to gather my things and head out to catch the early train. However, I took a quick picture of the Marilyn Monroe panel and said my goodbyes to her on behalf of someone else who has helped me immensely. (Picture 1)
At the train station I couldn't figure out the fare, so asked the station ticket counter agent. Showed him Nakamura on my book and he said platform 1, dozo (which means go ahead in Japanese). Not sure how I was to pay and when. I waited by the train with two other ladies. When the conductor moved the train to it's designated platform spot, a whack of high school students in their smart looking school uniforms suddenly appeared and piled on the train. It was interesting to see all the guys wearing ties to go to school.
As the train proceeded it got fuller and fuller with students. At one point the train conductor said something to one man and he got out some money and paid. He seem to pass by the students. When he came to me I showed him on the book Nakamura. He said the fare, but I gestured for him to show me. It was 1090 yen. In exchange I received my payment slip, which I later found out I had to surrendered when I got off the train. Not so bad. So far, so good.
The bus depot was just outside the door. Now to figure out which bus. I napped a driver as he was getting off his bus and showed him the temple and I was in luck it was his bus and was leaving in 20 minutes. Time to find some royal milk tea, while the driver had a smoke break.
I motioned if I could get on the bus and was told dozo. So, I got in making sure I took my ticket upon entering. Acquiring this knowledge from previous trips to Japan was helpful on how the bus system works. You enter via the back door, take the ticket as you enter, and then exit via the front door, depositing your ticket and the appropriate fare displayed on the front panel that corresponds to the number on the ticket you have. A good system, once you know how it works.
My guide book said about 100 minutes. We picked up passengers along the way and at one point after an hour we took a detour. When the bus stopped in a small town everyone piled off and boarded the bus that pulled up behind us. I thought, now what. The driver got off for a smoke break and didn't tell me to get off. When he got back on I showed him the temple in the book and he nodded yes to indicate to stay on the bus. So off we went, not sure if I was on my way back to the train station or on my way to the temple.
Along the way we picked up another ohenro. I thought, good, I will follow him when I get off the bus. The road became very narrow and didn't know how the bus managed to get around the narrow turns. Barely enough room for the bus let alone to let cars pass. There were some tight squeezes to let cars go by. It was very steep looking down the banks. I thought we would be at sea level. Then the bus stopped and the ohenro got off. I thought, by my map, this is not the temple. I asked the driver and received an indication to stay on the bus. When we arrived, he stopped, and pointed the direction to the temple. I paid my 1900 yen (worth every penny ) and the temple was right there. Whew, I made it.
I went in and completed my temple ritual and got my book stamped (Picture 2 is of the temple). Since I was early it was nice to walk around and enjoy the wonderful temple. Very beautiful. They have granite paving stones, where for 1000 yen, you can write your name on the backside (I think). So decided to make a donation and practice writing my name in kanji.
Since we were about 200 meters up from the ocean, there was a beautiful pathway with beautiful views. I spent about an hour walking them. This was my ohenro walk for today.
I found a coffee shop on the second floor of a gift shop. I ordered udon. I put vegetable in the translator. She said something and I said OK. It ended up being seaweed udon, which was very tasty. I have grown to like Japanese seaweed.
The waitress brought me an English guide book. I asked her where my minshuku was and she quickly brought me a map and showed me where it was. I have to say the Japanese are very helpful.
I then was able to find the post office and mail a package of towels and souvenirs I had collected to Kaz in Tokyo, so I wouldn't have to carry them around.
I went back to visit the temple and take some pictures of the many shapes and sizes of the many different Buddha's. I ran into a Dutch couple, who were doing the pilgrimage for their fourth time. The first time they did like me, walked, as well as, took some trains and buses. It gave them a good feel for what to expect. The next three times they are walking it.
I went for a walk along the coast to this natural cave (hole through the rock where you could see the ocean through it). I decided to take off my shoes and soaked my feet in the cool water, which was so clear and clean. I would have loved to have gone for a swim.
I built a inuksuk out of rocks to say I was there, which probably won't last the first typhoon.
I then headed out to find my minshuku. Well, I thought I found the place, took off my shoes and waited but no one was there. After about 20 minutes, this young guy appeared and when I showed him the minshuku name, I was pointed to another place. So I went in and there was a surf board and shorts. Can't be it. I quickly left with the other young guy coming after me pointing me farther down the street. I could see the school near the post office, so knew it was too far. I rang the door bell at one place and no answer. The next place looked like an abandoned hotel. There was only one other possibility which had a small sign. I went in and wasn't quite sure if it was the right place. I told the lady I wanted to just leave my day pack and do some more walking. Finally, we understood each other and was able to leave my pack. 
I headed back to the cave (picture 3) and wanted to hike to a shrine at the top of it. There was something written in Japanese, which might have said "dangerous" don't climb up. I climbed up and after about two thirds of the way, I thought, oh shit, how am I going to get down. 
It was amazing at the top. So peaceful and I lit a candle for dad and said my heart sutra. When it was time to climb down, I thought if I fall, they will find this poor dead ohenro and at least it would be a good final resting place. Well, I was scared shitless on the way down, needless to say, grabbing on what I could to hang onto. I thought, what if I come across a poisonous snake. Oh well, I guess this was meant to be my ending. At one point my stick, which was suppose to represent Kukai spirit, was more of a hindrance than a help, and I was going to just throw it down the cliff. I didn't. Instead I asked for Kukai to help me get down. Well as you guess, since I am posting this blog, I lived thru it. I am chalking it up to part of my ascetic training and a test by Kukai. I am sure he must have hiked up to the shrine. Amazing what thoughts goes thru your mind when you are in a scary situation.
Made it back to the minshuku and checked in. Supper is at 6 pm followed by a bath. Breakfast is at 6 am to catch the 7:10 am bus back.
Another great day. One bit of tidbit is Temple 38 is the farthest away from Temple 1. The Dutch couple mentioned it was badly damaged by a typhoon back in 2010 and had to be rebuilt. It had beautiful placed huge stones that made a nice rock garden area. A very peaceful place to spent time meditating.

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