Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Chichibu afternoon bike ride to shrines no.s 28 + 29

Passing the cyprus lumber-yards, limestone quarries, and stopping in briefly at a cultural museum, I proceeded south to Temple no.28 Hashidate-ji. This temple has a very unusual setting. The Kannon Hall is overshadowed by a huge cliff-face that inclines overhanging the buildings and luminous autumn trees. It was truly breath-taking when I first stopped to look up and see the magnitude of the imposing rock above looming immense and powerful and natural above the tiny man-made shrine. This Kannon Hall is also unusual because it is dedicated to the Horse-headed Kannon, a manifestation of the goddess of mercy that is rare among the one hundred Kannon temples of the three pilgrimage courses. The horse-headed Kannon was the mediaeval guardian of travellers. Here at the shrine I burned some temple incense to remember Kakizakai's father whose funeral was today.

The overhanging cliff is the site of rare prehistoric human evidence. Excavations in 1949 brought to light remains from the early Yayoi period (c.400BC to AD300?) including pottery, stone tools, human and animal bones. A stalactite cave at the base of the giant rock can be inspected wearing a white hard-had: a unique pilgrimage experience!

Temple no.29 Chosen-in under the giant weeping cherry tree. Beside the shrine hall is a beautiful grove of thick bamboo and a garden that was showing the last signs of autumn and falling leaves. This was a fairly hilly encounter on the bike but the scenery, mountains, gorges, bridges, rivers were spectacular.