Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Not For The Faint of Heart

I just added this to the Shikoku Henro web site, but since not everyone looks at that regularly, decided to post it here as well:

Let's suppose that you show up at one of the temples and you have a very, very special favor to ask of either the Daishi or the deity enshrined as the Honzon. I don't mean your garden variety, "if it's possible, could you help me with..." type of wish, but your "Daishi-sama (Yakushi-sama, etc.), i really, really, need help with this and i don't know who else to turn to. I've tried everything i could think of, but i can not do this alone" type of problem.

What's a henro to do? Well, there is a solution available. If you have ever spent any time watching Japanese TV drama shows that are set in the olden, samurai days, you've probably seen the scenes where the heroine needs exactly this type of help so she heads to the local temple to make her request. First she goes through the usual routine of making the request in front of the door, in sight of the altar, but then she heads back out into the yard.

After walking a short ways away from the front of the temple, she touches a stone marker, turns around and runs back to the temple, prays, runs back to the stone marker, touches it, runs back to the temple, prays, back to the marker, touches it, back to the temple,.... well, you get the idea. 100 times!!

This is done 100 times, no more, no less. And for this reason, the stone markers are called "One Hundred Times Stones," Hyakudo Ishi. You can clearly see the kanji in the picture just below. They can still be found at most of the temples on the henro trail. I don't know if i should say "all" the temples because i have never gone out of my way to look for them, but certainly i would think it is fair to say "most" of the temples still have them.

They can be as fancy as this new(ish) one, with counters that give
you the ability to keep track of what number you are on:

Or, they can be as small and old as this one:

So, keep these Hyakudo Ishi in mind if things aren't going well and you think you need help getting around the island. Don't try this in hiking boots, though, you'll do serious damage to your legs.

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