Shikoku Mountain & Shore

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We see a Thursday morning market along the street as we exit Kochi to drive to inland Makino Botanical Garden and the adjacent Chikurin-ji Temple.   No time to stop for the market but it is good to see the small stalls selling fresh vegetables in town.   

Bill at Chikurin-ji Temple

I will need to leave the description of the botanical garden to others (although I did hear a comment from Geri that it is “very large”).   Bill and I decided to spend most of our time in the Temple and headed directly for it.  Shikoku is known for its pilgrimage walks to 88 temples around the island which began in the 17th century.   We were told that it takes around 3 weeks even with a car to get to see them all.  But there are people who walk the whole route, about 750 miles, which would take many weeks and a lot of stamina as I assume all of these temples are, like the ones we have seen, elevated with many stairs to reach them.  We will only see 2 of these temples on this tour.  This is Temple No. 31 and Bill and I are two of very few visitors on the grounds.  As we enter, I hear a familiar chant, the Prajnaparamita Sutra, formerly chanted in Japanese at the San Francisco Zen Center and therefore familiar to me. We saw a group of about 10 pilgrims, identified by the clothing they are wearing, with a priest who is leading them in the chant. We visit the main hall, a subsidiary hall and then follow a sign (in Japanese which we can’t read) to a very modern building with a long corridor and closed side panels and a meditation garden in the back.  We can’t figure out what it is although Bill really admired the new architecture. Later, at the information desk we ask what the building is used for and, through Google translate, we are told it is a “charnal house”.   So, like a columbarium, it is used to store the cremated remains of Buddhists connected to the temple.

Chanting Pilgrms at Chikuran-ji
Main Temple Altar
Side Altar

I had read online about the special statues in the Treasure House and finally found it on our way to the exit.  The doors were two closed solid wood without any sign and when I pushed the center lock, they swung open to reveal — a treasure.  I gasped.  Seven ancient Buddhist statues were arrayed in dim lighting but enough to reflect the gold on their forms, each individually placed and labeled.  A treasure house indeed.

Treasury House

At the gardens, Bill and I only went to the Conservatory where under glass is a tropical forest complete with piped in bird and animal songs.  The Japaneses art of gardening has been transposed into a completely different kind of setting and done very well.  What I remember most are the gigantic Lilly pads that were floating on a thin layer of water.

We travel to the coast to the Katsurahama Beach area where Paula Marilyn and I have a very high quality sashimi lunch together — with mugwort mochi filled with red bean past for dessert. Our stomachs felt good,

Katsurahama Beach

The beach was fine gravel, not sand, and I headed up toward the light house for a view and then on the way back to join the group, climbed quickly up to the famous statue of local samurai hero Sakamoto Ryoma, who helped unite the country under the emperor.  Several boy scout troops were there for a field trip and while they were posing for a photo, I took their photo.  

A sleepy group got on the van for a trip to Nakatsu Gorge where our hotel for the night was located.   It was already 4:30 and the sun was going down behind the mountains, but we gamely began a hike to a waterfall, over very uneven steps, steel grilled staircases, scattered rocks and many concrete steps without railings.   I turned back with Marilyn before the top as I was very concerned about getting down without a fall as it was risky indeed.  Geri Rich and Bill made it (and said we were only 5 minutes from the top when we turned around) but I was very glad to be back safely in the gathering twilight.

This gorge is known for it bright blue color but it was dusk by the time we arrived

Speaking about physical challenges:  The Japanese have taken on accommodating all physical limitations with an amazing degree of care.  Every new building is designed with not only ramps but very complete toilet facilities for those with limited abilities.  In addition, older buildings have been renovated with accessible features as possible.  Curbs all have cuts, spoken information at traffic lights, and rough surface walkways for those with poor or no eyesight.  But this needs to be compared to the very dangerous, by American standards, walkways, sidewalks, and  staircases in the majority of places, with no railings, uneven height steps, and narrow walkways (like walking on a balance beam over a stream) that are found throughout the country.  It continues to be a country of contradictions with the most modern technology and the most traditional culture in many places.    


The beginning appetizer courses of our dinner. The fish in the middle is a very common dish here — some kind of river fish grilled on a spit with salt. The dish on the upper left, thin slabs of a beige unknown source was declared by everyone uneatable.
We think it was a form of yam (konyaku) .

As a finale of the day, Geri and I went for a soak in very hot baths where we were the only women in the large empty washing and soaking area, indoors and out.. Very helpful for sleep!