Thursday, 13 December 2007

Temples No.4 Kinshō-ji and No.8 Saizen-ji + Pilgrimage

Today we were especially fortunate that Megumi-san could take us by car to two of the more remote, outlying temples. Temple No.4 Kinshō-ji features a large Eighteenth Century two-storey gate bearing two enormous straw sandals and several pillars inscribed by calligrapher Matsuda Kaiken, one of the finest calligraphers in Chichibu. The temple is filled with more than a thousand stone statues, exhibiting various expressions, carved from soft sandstone. As you follow the stone pathway up the hillside, rows of statues line each side and populate the gardens as well. Megumi told us of the bizarre story in which some gamblers thought it would be auspicious or lucky to cut off the statues' heads and indeed, a row of statues is all but headless and devastated by this act (that we might call vandalism). Kundan wondered whether new statues might be added to the collection or replace those injured but it appears that they remain un-restored, sad-looking, headless. On the veranda of the temple sits a famous statue of a mother and child. Many people expecting babies visit this statue to ask for a 'painless'/problem-free childbirth. She is said to have been donated by a man from Edo in 1792. It very much resembles Christian Baroque sculptures, perhaps heralding from the then-forbidden practice of Christianity (outlawed by the shogunate) whereby Japanese Christians of the period veiled their saints in the appearance of the Traditional Kannon. Some other statues are Jizo Bodhisattva statues wearing bibs and crocheted beanies.

Faith in the bodhisattva Kannon has deep roots in Japan, and one of its expressions is making a pilgrimage on foot to a series of Kannon temples. Making that "journey for two ... walking with Kannon" is still a popular act of devotion that draws many pilgrims to Chichibu's 34 Kannon temples. The Kannon Pilgrimage to 33 Sites in Saikoku (Western Japan, Kansai) dates from the Heian Period (794-1185 AD), but was reportedly founded earlier, in 718 AD, by the monk Tokudo Shonin 徳道上人. But the circuit did not become widely known. It was rediscovered by Emperor Kazan in 988 AD. By the Tokugawa period, the pouplarity of the Saikoku route led to its replication. According to the Sugimoto-dera Engi of 1560 AD, the Bando Pilgrimage was designated in 988 AD by Emperor Kazan (aka Emperor Hanayama, 968-1008 AD). According to this text, Kannon Bosatsu appeared to Emperor Kazan in a dream, saying "I have divided into 33 bodies throughout the eight provinces of the Bando area, and a pilgrimage to these 33 sites will bring release from suffering." Emperor Kazan, it is said, visited Sugimoto-dera in Kamakura and designated it as the first temple on the Bando Pilgrimage. In later years, Sugimoto-dera also became the first temple in the Kamakura Pilgrimage to 33 Kannon Sites. But the Bando pilgrimage remained little used and mostly unknown to commoners until after the Genroku Period (1688-1703 AD), when it became popular among lay people. By this time, both the Saikoku and Bando pilgrimages were formally linked to a third circuit, the Chichibu Pilgrimage (Saitama area) to 34 Sites Sacred to Kannon, making a complete circuit of 100 sites (Hyakuban Kannon Fudasho). On the Saikoku and Bando circuits, many temples belong to sects of Esoteric Buddhism. But on the Chichibu circuit, many sites are associated with Zen Buddhism, which in particular revers the Sho Kannon, the 'pure' form of the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. ... more from Mark W. MacWilliams (1997) The Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 23/3-4.

Chichibu Pilgrimage
Chichibu 1 Shimabuji, Saitama
Chichibu 2 Shimpukuji, Saitama
Chichibu 3 Josenji, Saitama
Chichibu 4 Kinshoji, Saitama ✔
Chichibu 5 Chokoji, Saitama
Chichibu 6 Bokuunji, Saitama
Chichibu 7 Hochoji, Saitama
Chichibu 8 Saizenji, Saitama ✔
Chichibu 9 Akechiji, Saitama
Chichibu 10 Daijiji, Saitama ✔
Chichibu 11 Jorakuji, Saitama ✔
Chichibu 12 Nosakaji, Saitama ✔
Chichibu 13 Jigenji, Saitama ✔
Chichibu 14 Imamiyabo, Saitama
Chichibu 15 Shorinji, Saitama
Chichibu 16 Saikoji, Saitama ✔
Chichibu 17 Jorinji, Saitama
Chichibu 18 Godoji, Saitama
Chichibu 19 Ryusekiji, Saitama
Chichibu 20 Iwanouedo, Saitama
Chichibu 21 Kannonji, Saitama
Chichibu 22 Dojido, Saitama
Chichibu 23 Ongakuji, Saitama
Chichibu 24 Hosenji, Saitama ✔
Chichibu 25 Kyujoji, Saitama
Chichibu 26 Enyuji, Saitama ✔
Chichibu 27 Daienji, Saitama ✔
Chichibu 28 Hashidateji, Saitama ✔
Chichibu 29 Chosenin, Saitama ✔
Chichibu 30 Hounji, Saitama
Chichibu 31 Kannonin, Saitama
Chichibu 32 Hoshoji, Saitama
Chichibu 33 Kikusuiji, Saitama
Chichibu 34 Suisenji, Saitama

Temple No.8 Saizen-ji is in a district of fruit growers (strawberries, grapes) and crops with an allegedly spectacular outlook on Mount Bukō (though today he was hiding behind mist) near Yokoze village. Twice annually the temple holds ceremonies of Sixteenth Century kagura shrine dances with flute and drums (like we saw at Chichibu Jin-ja during the Yomatsuri). Most stunning, however, was the magnificent spreading Maple tree in the forecourt, that is said to be between 500-600 years old and it has clearly been pruned, tempered, trained, tortured, assisted throughout that time to develop the most elegant shape and unfurling branches. Its splay is profoundly broad. It is easier to be swept away by the magnificence of nature (albeit with human intervention) than by ancient buildings and monuments so the splendid trees, rock formations and natural attractions, thousands-of-years-old Cedars at Ise Jingu (for instance) really are among the features that have most impressed me reminding us of the importance of protecting and nurturing our precious environment. The lantern in the garden was moved from Tokyo (Shiba) in 1964, bearing the 3-leaf crest of the Tokugawas. The autumn leaves had fallen into a sea of rustling brown on the ground revealing the mantle of thick green moss on the trunk of the beautiful old tree.