Noilly Prattle: Getting Reacquainted 9 – The Inland Sea – 瀬戸内海 [Setonaikai], Conclusion

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Getting Reacquainted 9 – The Inland Sea – 瀬戸内海 [Setonaikai], Conclusion

     I have never heard a story of filial piety and devotion as striking as this one about the Reverend Kosanji Koso the founder of the Kosanji Temple on Ikuchi Island. The story of his devotion to his mother, not to mention her sumptuous home, would turn any mother emerald green with envy.

Rev. Kosanji Koso's Mom's mansion
Mom's dining room
Mom's garden

picnic in a quiet corner of Kosanji
       After getting off the Shimanami Highway onto a local road on Ikuchi Island we followed the coastal road around the southern end of the island to Setoda-cho, the town in which Kosanji Temple is located. We had been unable to find any convenience stores in the smaller villages and I was craving some junk food after a fairly steady diet of how-many-ways-can-you-prepare fish that is typical in Japanese inns since Japan is mostly surrounded by water one way or another. Setoda-cho was big enough to have a few convenience stores so we stopped at the nearest one and I bought a sandwich and a bag of potato chips and Road Buddy bought an onigiri (riceball that is a popular snack food here) and a bottle of coffee and headed for the temple where we planned to have a picnic. We found some free parking at a local municipal meeting hall near Kosanji, parked and headed for the temple on foot.

entrance gate to Kosanji
       My first “WOW” moment came when I saw the colorful, almost garish, gate to the temple precinct. Entering the gate and paying an entrance fee led to a continuing series of WOW moments, not the least of which is the story of the Reverend Kosanji Koso. Before becoming a Buddhist priest he was a successful and wealthy businessman. He first built a mansion (above) for his mother in gratitude for her “loving care throughout the hardships of his life." After she died he became a Buddhist priest and built the Kosanji Temple over the next 30 years. According to the brochure the “whole temple is … a materialization of [his] gratitude to his deceased mother. In a way, this is a 'Pure Land of his gratitude' and a 'temple dedicated to his mother'.”  Greater love for his mother, indeed, hath no man...

entrance gate from inside the temple precinct
vermilion color predominates everywhere

five-step pagoda 

the containers will soon be filled with lotus blossoms

giant statue of Kannon, a Buddhist deity

octagonal building is a copy of a structure 
at the Horyuji Temple in Nara, Japan

intricately carved gate is a copy of one in Nikko, Japan

[abandon all hope ye who enter here!]
       As we were strolling around the temple we came across a cave-like opening that Road Buddy told me (my own ability to read Japanese is limited) was the entrance to Hell. Having recently reread Dante's Divine Comedy, the banner “Abandon all hope ye who enter here” above to entrance to the Inferno was still fresh in my mind, so of course, I had to risk abandoning all hope [我門を過ぎる者、一切の希望を捨てよ!] and we walked into Buddhist Hell. Road Buddy felt uneasy and went back to the upper world of air and sunshine but I, undaunted, ventured deeper into the cave. It was dimly lit with bas-relief panels affixed to the wall in quite garish colors and illustrations of the various punishments inflicted on those unfortunate enough to go there after death. It reminded me very much of the punishments Dante inflicts on the various people he felt deserved to roast in hell forever. I guess hell is hell no matter what your religious affiliations are!

scenes remarkably reminiscent of ....

... those in Dante's Inferno section of  The Divine Comedy

walking paths of Carrara marble
looks like a scene from the Aegean Sea
       Adjacent to the Kosanji Temple is the remarkable Miraishin no Oka garden (a somewhat fanciful translation yields “Heights of Eternal Hope for the Future”--a direct translation reads “Hill of Future Spirit”). It covers 5000m² made entirely of white marble that was shipped stone by stone in container ships from the marble quarries of Carrara, Italy and installed by Japanese sculptor Kazuto Kuetani. It is composed of abstract sculptures and geometric shapes strewn hither and yon and connected by plazas and footpaths composed entirely of white marble. Photos don't do it justice, you have to see it, walk on it and touch it to get an idea of what it's like. 

overall view gives a surreal abstract effect - like something out of Pablo Picasso

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