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13 June 2009 @ 11:32 pm
Virtual Chichibu Pilgrimage: Temple 3  


Temple 3 - Jousen-ji

fudaraku ha ihamotodera to ogamubeshi mine no matsukaze hibiku takitsuse

The walk from the nokyousho for temple 2 to temple 3 is relatively short -- only three-tenths of a kilometer. We walk along paved roads, past fields and a smattering of buildings. The rain has let up and the umberellas can go away. My shoes still squish unpleasantly and I worry about getting blisters from the chaffing. All part of a day in the life for a pilgrim.

Through most of the walk there is still no one about, for all that we cross a main thoroughfare. Off to one side is a large hotel on the banks of a river, but otherwise this area feels peaceful and provincial. We cross the river, turn, then turn again down a lane that's barely wide enough for a single car to drive along. At one end of the lane is a bus parking lot. A bus with a load of pilgrims had pulled in just before us, and we're passed by stragglers hurrying to catch up with the main group. At the other end of the lane is our destination: temple number three.

The temple is on a slight rise at the edge of the valley, backed up against a small wooded hill. It's not large, though the building complex stretches out long and thin along the foot of the hill. The temple office sits on one side of a small, rectangular pond. Up a set of stairs is the hondo. The compound in front of the hall is filled with supplicants from the group that passed us on the way in, all chanting. This is the first time we've seen an organized group form up to chant. We loiter at the foot of the steps for a while so as not to disturb them, then eventually go up and sit on a bench to listen. The chant is the Hanya Shingyou, or Heart Sutra, famous for it's brevity and depth of meaning. It contains words handed down from Kannon-bosatsu, the deity this pilgrimage is dedicated to. The pilgrims recite it quickly and steadily, a sing-song march of syllables, each one carrying meaning of a concept translated from Sanskrit. It means nothing to us, but sounds lovely.

The tour guide spots us and motions for us to go ahead and go up to do our own devotions. We gesture that we are fine with waiting. (And particularly fine with waiting while sitting on a bench -- it has been a couple of miles' worth of walking since the last time we had a sit!) It doesn't take the group long to finish and they all straggle back down the road to the bus, a line of white tracing in between the green fields. Once they are gone we approach the main hall to complete our devotions, then get our books signed. We notice that the pilgrims aren't stopping to get books signed, and are relieved. The group contained twenty people easily, and it would have taken a while for the temple staff to do the intricate calligraphy of the goshuin for that many books. We're done with our business at the temple a few minutes later and are on our way, alone on our journey once again.