Oniko's Travel Diary:|
The Three Mountains
(August 5-31, 1998)
Monday August 24th, 1998
I got up and out early today, but not too early... stores don't open until ten, and I want to do some shopping. I intended to walk to the mummified Buddha first, then swing around to the local doll makers, and then visit the shopping area and it's temples before heading back to the hotel this afternoon. If only I was that lucky.
I walked back to the shoping area I visited yesterday, carrying the box I needed to mail. There was a post office in this area, but I knew it wouldn't be open yet... which would give me the time to explore a temple I saw nearby. It's a quiet place, on a corner; it has a decent sized pond with turtles living in it, a small Shintou sub-shrine [it's not unusual for Shintou shrines and Buddhist temples to share the same ground], and a playground for children [a nice touch]. I watched the turtles for awhile; I suspect they have some special significance for this temple, but there was no one around to ask. At the main hall, everything was closed up except for the box to throw coins into and one other thing... a coin operated fortune vender.
It's not unusual to have small fortunes offered at temples and shrines; typically at the same place you can buy a mamori -- protective charm -- you are able to buy a random fortune for 100yen. Some temples I've seen have left a bowl of these out so you could take one yourself after dropping in a coin... of course, some people might not drop in a coin, eh? [I wonder if they get bad fortunes?] So this coin operated vender makes perfect sense if the fortunes are left unattended for long periods of time... and seeing it made me suspect that this temple was locally maintained, with no actual live-in priests. In any case, I bought a fortune and moved on... maybe I'll be able to read some of it later, and I need all the help I can get, eh?
By now the post office was open, so I entered and once again negotiated the hows and whys of sending a package to the United States. The one thing that seems to confuse the process most is that the post office workers keep expecting me to have a permanent address in Japan to enter as a "return to" address; when I tell them I don't, it ususally takes about another 15 minutes to convince them that it's okay to send the package anyway. The second snag is that they usually think my choice to send packages by surface mail rather than by air mail is an error, because surface is weeks slower than air... but it's also much cheaper, which is more important to me. But I managed to sort out what they needed and got the box out of my hands, finally. And so, unencumbered, I set off to visit the Buddhist mummy.
The tourist map made the mummy and the doll makers look a lot closer than they actually were. I walked a long way. I stopped at a large book store I was passing both to browse a little and to cool off; it was turning into a hot day outside. Looking at the map, I couldn't understand why I hadn't seen another temple yet; but I figured it couldn't be too much farther, so I walked on.
And I walked.
Now I've been told by some of my Japanese friends that I have "nagai ashi" -- "long legs". This means that I can walk ridiculous distances without straining; distances that kill most people. I have to remember this when I go for walks with others, and I try to watch how they are doing to judge when we've walked far enough. But here's the point... I walked far enough that I was starting to doubt my ability to go farther. Especially after trudging up and down Fuji, I was not in any shape to do this sort of marathon hike again; but the further I went, the more determined I became to find that mummy... it was the only way to justify the effort.
Just when I was ready to give up, I caught sight of a huge torii -- a sacred gatepost that marks the entrance to a Shintou shrine. It seemed to coincide with a turn in the road that I had been looking for for around an hour; I muttered a quiet "thank you" to whatever may have been listening, and shuffled to it as fast as I could... only to find it wasn't open. The shrine was under heavy re-construction. It looked like the whole of the building was being torn down and replaced, the parking area was torn up, and in general it looked to be not open for business unless you wanted to get run over by construction vehicles. After a moment, I had a good thought... I compared the name of the temple on the map to the name on the shrine's wall; I couldn't read either, but I could tell that they were written with different Chinese characters. This wasn't the place I was looking for.
Ah, but it was close! Just around the corner I found a temple, and the kanji on their sign did match up to the map. It had been about a seven mile hike to reach it, but I was definitely feeling better now that I was here.
UPDATE 2002: At the time I took this trip, I didn't know much about the mummified 'Buddhas'. Nowadays, I know a lot more about them...|
|For the record: the name of the mummified priest I visited is Tetsuryou-kai... which translates roughly as "Iron Dragon". His temple of residence is Nangaku-ji, in Tsuruoka, Yamagata prefecture. For his pictures, Click Here!|
|All illustrations in these pages are copyright (c)2002 Garth Haslam, and shouldn't be used without his permission. To contact him Click Here!|