KANONJI 観音寺

The city of Kanonji, so named after Kanon-ji Temple, now a sister city of Appleton, Wis, USA, is the cultural and business centre of the westernmost part of the prefecture. With its west front wide open to the Inland Sea, the area is generously supplied with marine products, while its farming area produces a large yield of rice, fruit and vegetables.

The downtown area is connected to a seaside resort by Sanka-bashi 三架橋 and other bridges over the River Saita.

Kotohiki koen park 琴弾公園

Kotohiki Koen park is the city's recreation centre featuring a beautiful sand beach known as Ariake-no-hama and a sacred hill called Kotohiki-yama dotted with shrines and temples.

Ariake-no-hama Beach 有明浜

A shoal beach stretching 2 km makes for a popular place for sun-bathers and swimmers in summer, with its pine woods offering some shady relief. Several patches of beach plants on the fine sand--25 varieties--are Natural Monuments protected by the city.

Zenigata Sand Art 銭型

The Zenigata is a huge coin known as Kan-ei-tsuho 寛永通報 carved about 2 m deep in the white sand among the pines on the beach. It is best viewed from Zogahana Observatory 象ヶ鼻展望台 on the northern tip of Kotohiki-yama, which can be reached by the driveway or by just walking down there if you have already arrived at Kotohiki Hachiman-gu Shrine.

Its broad rim looks completely circular, but in reality it is elliptic with a circumference of 345 m. Some say it is over 350 years old: others say about 130 years old. How it came into being is a mystery, too, though most people like to believe it was completed overnight in the 10th year of Kan-ei(1633)by local farmers and fishermen. Lord Ikoma IV was coming on a tour of inspection. People wanted to please him. But how? All they had in abundance was the sand on the beach. Why not offer a colossal coin of sand?

Now this coin has become the symbol of the city. Twice a year it is carefully remodeled by volunteers. They say the mere sight of the coin will keep you well-to-do all your life.

The Zenigata Festival annually held on the lst weekend in August is a big attraction to the city, with the Saturday night dancing event as its animated climax.

Kotohiki-yama & Kotohiki Hachiman-gu Shrine 琴弾八幡宮

Kotohiki-yama, a pine-wooded hill 58 m high, was where the history of this town dawned long ago, as is often told in a legend as follows:

One day in the 3rd year of Taiho (703), Saint Nissho was performing ascetic practices in a hermitage on top of what is now called Kotohiki-yama. Then all of a sudden there was a thunderous peal in the sky and darkness fell around him.

The saint sprang to his feet and rushed down to the shore to see what had happend. He could hardly believe his eyes and ears. In the offing he saw through the mist a very beautiful boat floating, sprinkling enchanting notes from a koto or Japanese harp.

Then he heard a voice saying: "I am Hachiman from Usa. I am so pleased with the land and sea around here. I shall be staying here forever."

The saint called the villagers. They hauled the divine boat up to the top of the hill and dedicated a shrine to the gods from Usa. That was how Kotohiki Hachiman-gu Shrine or Harp-strumming Hachiman-gu Shrine came into existence on top of Kotohiki-yama.

The Hachiman gods, guardians of the local people, have attracted quite a few visiting warriors, as is proved by their relics. Yoshitsune was one of those warriors. When he finally defeated the Tairas, he dedicated a torii gate in gratitude for the gods having guided 3,000 cavalrymen to his side when he badly needed them. You will see the 800-year-old wooden torii gate on your way to the shrine.

The approach to the shrine consists of 372 stone steps, but climbers are usually entertained with koto music coming from the shrine above.

Its annual festival (October 14 & 15) is a great attraction, too, with Iavish chosa floats hauled around the town.

Kyodo Shiryo-kan Museum 郷土資料館

This Local History Museum displays about 700 articles of archaeological or historical interest, including pottery from the Muromoto Iseki Remains in the neighbourhood. One of the pots, the oldest of its kind in the prefecture, dating back to 300 B.C., had unhulled rice preserved in it when excavated from the deep sand.

Koin-kan Hall コイン館 in the same precincts houses a museum dedicated to coins from ancient to modern, and in the future, from every corner of the world.

Jinne-in & Kannon-ji Temples 神恵院・観音寺

The 68th & the 69th Sacred Sites of Shikoku

Early in the 9th century, the story is told, Kobo Daishi visited Kotohiki Hachiman-gu Shrine. He carved an image of Amida-nyorai as an incarnation of Hachiman. He presented it to the shrine, rendering it the 68th Sacred Site of Shikoku. Then Daishi created an image of Kannon as an incarnation of the Empress Jingu, Hachiman's mother. He enshrined it at the guardian temple of Kotohiki Hachiman-gu Shrine. The temple was named Kanon-ji 観音寺 and became the 69th Sacred Site of Shikoku.

In 1868, when Buddhism and Shintoism were separated by law, the Amida-nyorai of Kotohiki Hachiman-gu Shrine was moved to the West Main Hall of Kanon-ji Temple, as was "the 68th Sacred Site of Shikoku" under the name of Jinne-in 神恵院. That is why the 68th Temple is situated in the precincts of the 69th.

Jinne-in Temple possesses a couple of Important Cultural Properties. One is a painting of Amida-nyorai coming from the sky to escort the just-deceased Buddha to paradise, about 700 years old. Another is a pictorial chronicle of Kotohiki Hachiman-gu Shrine, also created about 700 years ago.

Temple Hymn No.68

Harp-playing, singing, dancing, pipe-blowing, and

even winds in the pines are all voices of the Buddha!

( 笛の音も松ふく風も琴弾くも 歌ふも舞ふも法の声々)

The Main Hall of Kanon-ji Temple or what was Kannon-ji Temple, rebuilt in 1525 and repaired in 1961, is an Important Cultural Property.The images of Kannon, Buddha and Yakushi-nyorai, about 1,100 years old, are all Cultural Properties registered by the Prefecture.

The other treasures include an image of the Buddha reclining on his side immediately after his entering Nirvana, about 1,100 years old, an Important Cultural Property, and a painting of Amida Buddha, also an Important Cultural Property.

Temple Hymn No.69

May the great mercy of Kannon relieve these burdens of us sinners!

(観音の大悲の力つよければ 重き罪をも引き上げてたべ)

The Mystery of Zenigata

The origin of Zenigata never fails to provide a subject for debate among local people. Some say it was and still is a base for UFO's; others attribute it to Kobo Daishi.

Recently not a few people support the theory that the 4 characters of 寛永通ほう were created in 1633 by Nishijima Hachibe as a practical joke anti-Government people played on the Edo Shogunate.

Nishijima Hachibe (1596-1680) was a talented civil engineer under Lord Ikoma IV. During his stay in Sanuki (1621-1639) he pioneered land reclamation, turning swamps into fertile land, changing the course of unruly rivers, repairing the banks of Manno-ike, and building some 90 reservoirs.

In 1633 the Tokugawa Shogun's delegation was to be sent to inspect Sanuki. Many in this province hated the Shogun for the national isolation policy he was about to enforce, especially the Lords Ikoma, the Shiwaku seamen and some clans of ironsmiths and coin casters.

Those ironsmiths has a big round altar for their guardian god of wind carved in the sand of Ariake-no-hama Beach, from whence the wind god was believed to arise. By and by those anti-Tokugawa people came to draw in the central space of the altar a design of hyotan (gourd) which was suggestive of the coat of arms of the Toyotomi clan, former rivals of the Tokugawas.

Now Tokugawa's inspectors were coming. What if they saw their hated mark? Then Hachibe was called upon to turn that anti-Tokugawa sign into Tokugawa's most popular currency 寛永通ほう. It was their bitter irony secretly expressed to the Tokugawas even though it pleased their unwelcome guests.

Ichiya-an Hermitage 一夜庵

Ichiya-an Hermitage is in the precincts of Kosho-ji Temple 興昌寺 on the slope of Koshoji-yama Hill. This is where Yamasaki Sokan (1458-1538), allegedly a father of haikai (haiku) spent the last 25 years of his life.

Ichiya-an, literally meaning "One Night Hermitage," comes from his witty poem whose calligraphy he hung on the wall of his front room:

To my guests: to leave soon is best.
To stay until sunset is not so good.
To stay until nightfall is even worse.
But to stay overnight is the worst worst of all worsts.

Sokan, once an attendant of the 9th Ashikaga Shogun, entered the priesthood when he saw his 25-year-old master die at a military camp.

One of his good friends in his new career as a Zen priest-poet-calligrapher was Baikoku, a Zen priest of Tofuku-ji Temple in Kyoto. Baikoku had come from Kosho-ji Temple here in Kanonji. When he returned home, Sokan just came to see him during his journey round Shikoku. He found the place very accommodating, and stayed there year after year until he died at 89.

The hermitage, rebuilt late in the 19th century, retains its original style - a representative tea house of the early 16th century. The stone pagoda in front of the hermitage is the poet's tomb.

Many celebrated haiku poets have paid a visit to this hermitage. All the haiku they composed here are carefully kept at Kosho-ji Temple.

West Kagawa

Urashima Taro 浦島太郎

Once upon a time there lived in this village a young man named Urashima Taro, a fisherman by trade.

One day he saw some children hitting and kicking a big turtle on the shore. Taro, a kind-hearted lad, stopped them at once and released the poor creature into the water.

A few days later, the turtle came back to Taro while he was fishing on the rock as usual.

"Taro, Taro, Urashima Taro!" called the turtle. "It was very good of you to have helped me."

"It was nothing, pet," answered Taro.

"My Lady wants to see you to say thank you. Won't you come on my back to her palace?" asked the turtle.

The young man, out of curiosity, accepted the offer. Soon he was on the way to the palace called Ryugu, following a fascinating course deep under the blue-green sea.

"Here we are," said the turtle, in front of the most magnificent palace imaginable.

Taro, entering the palace, was even more enchanted by the Lady herself - Queen Otohime. He was simply overjoyed when he was welcomed with open arms by this beauty of beauties.

Otohime expressed her heartfelt thanks by entertaining him with loving kindness. How the young man enjoyed her company in this heavenly palace where all the lovely deep-sea creatures never tired of singing and dancing around him, serving him with the most delicious food and drink he had ever tasted!

His pleasure was such that he never knew a long time had passed since he left home and his parents.

One day, he happened to think of them. He found his longing for them growing and growing every day, until at last he decided to go home, leaving Otohime and her paradise he had loved so long.

At the farewell party, Otohime generously produced a very, very precious-looking treasure-chest of pearls and corals.

"This is my present to you, Taro," said the Lady to her departing friend. "Please remember me sometimes."

Taro thankfully received the beautiful gift and promised that he would never forget her and the kindnesses she had done for him.

Then Otohime said: "It is very good of you to say so. But there is one more promise you must make to me - never, never take the lid off the chest."

Taro nodded and assured her that he would never do so.

Soon Taro was hurrying home on the back of the dear old turtle.

He was wild with joy when he saw his old village again! He looked all round, then he rushed to his home. But where was everyone?

He ran all over, looking wildly for his parents, brothers, sisters and friends, but all in vain. All he saw were total strangers in and around strange houses.

Heart-broken, Taro cried and cried, but his grief only attracted more strangers. They asked Taro who he was and what was making him cry so. Taro told them about himself, his home and his parents.

Then an aged man stepped out of the crowd and said to him: "Well, young man, I remember hearing about 'Urashima Taro' when I was a very little boy. My great-grandfather often told us about 'UrashimaTaro,' a youg man who got lost long ago. No one could ever tell why, and in the end he was given up for dead.

But isn't it strange that Urashima Taro...."

Taro suddenly realized that he had spent hundreds of years at Otohime's palace, even if he was still the same young man he had been when he left home long, ago...

Taro resigned himself. He managed to live on, fishing every day on his old rock. But was he really fishing? He was just waiting and waiting for the turtle, dreaming of its bringing him back to Otohime again.

It was a very sad day when he saw the dead body of his dear old turtle lying among the flotsam and jetsam on the shore. How he regretted having left Otohime and her paradise! How he cherished and hugged the chest of pearls and corals, the only memory of his happiest days! But it was too late.

He was lonely, sometimes helplessly lonely. One day he got desperate, too desperate to recall the promise he had made to Otohime. He lifted the lid of the chest!

Out came puffs of white smoke, which turned the strapping youth into an old man with all his hair, beard and eyebrows as white as snow. Taro tottered around in despair and soon dropped dead.

There is a port named Hako 箱 (Chest) in Takuma-cho. Another interesting name in the neigbourhood is Namari 生里 (Birthplace), which is considered to be where Taro was born.

NIO 仁尾

Along the south-western coast of the Shonai Peninsula rests the small port town of Nio. In summer, Tsutajima Island 蔦島, 4 minutes by ferry from Nio port, is one of the most popular resorts for bathers and campers.

In 1981 a project for solar generation was carried out in this town for the first time in the world. Making use of ample sunshine, it was a successful scientific experiment. But it turned out to be scarcely economical.

The town saw better cays as a major port and commercial centre of western Sanuki during the Edo Period (1603-1867) and even into the 1920's. That is why the old downtown area off the main road, dotted with temples and shrines, still retains the atmosphere of former times. Kakujo-in Temple 覚城院 is known for its belfry, an Important Cultural Property, about 400 years old, and Kannon, about 1,000 years old. Jotoku-ji Temple 常徳寺 is a Zen temple, whose Entsu-den Hall, built in 1401 and repaired in the 1830's, is an Important Cultural Property.

There are stores and shops which sell their traditional products, too, such as dolls, papier-mache tigers and carp streamers. The town is also known for mikan (mandarin oranges) and vinegar as well as a variety of marine products.

Sanuki Gennojo 讃岐源之丞

Farmers' Bunraku Puppet Theatre 

One of the attractions of the Daibo-ichi season in Mino-cho is Sanuki Gennojo, a 3-hour Bunraku performance given on the afternoon of November 23, at Fukushi Centre 福祉センター, 5 minutes' walk from the Daibo-ichi fair ground.

Daibo-ichi: A temple fair about 650 years old, held from November 21 through 25 in the precincts of Hommon-ji Temple.

This puppet theatre came into being in the 1890's when local farmers began to learn the art from traveling puppeteers from Awa (Tokushima Pref.).

In 1925, 14 farmer-puppeteers were invited to Tokyo by its Mayor and presented their performance for 15 days to packed houses at the Honjo Cinema in downtown Tokyo. The money they earned was to contribute to the building of the Memorial Hall for the 99,331 killed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

Mr. Nakamura, the Mayor of Tokyo, greatly pleased with them, bestowed on their art the honourable title of "Sanuki Gennojo" after Uemura Gennojo who had been leading the most successful company from Awajishima Island until "Gennojo" came to mean Bunraku itself.

For 30 years or so, Sanuki Gennojo enjoyed great acclaim. Then the times changed. In the 1960's people lost interest in this "old-fashioned" theatre.

Now the middle-aged puppeteers are trying hard, sponsored by Mino-cho, to have the younger generation preserve their art. Their 40 dolls and 50 costumes are Tangible Cultural Properties registered by the prefecture. With 17 plays as their repertoire, they are always ready to offer their performance wherever they are invited, free of charge. For further information, make inquiries at Mino-cho Town Office 三野町役場 〒767 ・ (0875) 72-5151.

Tsushima-jinja Shrine

Tsushima-jinja Shrine 津島神社 perched on a tiny island is dedicated to Susanoo-no-mikoto, a younger brother of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu. The god, known for his bravery and strength, is believed by local people to be a guardian originally of cattle and now of children.

Its annual festival (June 24 & 25 of the old calendar) attracts some 60,000 worshippers, including parents with newborn babies. The 250 m. bridge leading to the shrine is used only on this occasion. JR trains stop, too, at the temporary station - Tsushima Eki.

Motoyama-ji Temple 本山寺

The 70th sacred Site of Shikoku

The five-storied pagoda makes the temple easy to find. The main gate, built in 1147, is an Important Cultural Property, incorporating 3 styles - Indian, Chinese and Japanese. The main hall, completed in 1300 and repaired in 1955, is a National Treasure.

The main image, carved by Kobo Daishi, is a Horse-headed Kannon, adored by local farmers and cattle-dealers generation after generation.

Another cherished statue is of Amida-nyorai, whose story is often told with awe and reverence:

One day in 1578, Chosokabe Motochika and his men were trying to break into the temple, when a priest rushed out of the main hall and stood against them with his hands wide open.

An angry swordsman slashed him, but he, instead of falling, kept standing, to their great horror. Those who entered the main hall found an Amida-nyorai statue in the sanctum bleeding. They all fled in fear and trembling, leaving the main hall free from fire and violence.

The Amida-nyorai with a scar on its right hand is still there in the same place.

Temple Hymn No. 70

These flowers, planted here by the unknown, will provide you with good offerings to the temple.

(本山に誰か植えける花なれや 春こそ手折れ たむけにぞなる)

The Brave Seven

In Toyonaka-cho there is a modest shrine called Shichi-gishi-jinja shrine 七義士神社 (50 minutes' walk from Motoyama-ji). This is a memorial to "the Brave Seven (Shichi-gishi)" who in 1750 gave their lives for their fellow farmers. It is often called Gombe-jinja Shrine in honour of Onishi Gombe 大西権兵衛 (1703-1750), chief of "the Brave Seven." They were all from western Sanuki. The "farmers' riot" they led is told and retold by local people with great feeling:

The 1740's were unusually hard years for the farmers. Drought after drought had ruined the paddy fields. Typhoons and floods that followed damaged what little harvest they had expected. There were earthquakes, then epidemic diseases among the cattle. Things went from bad to worse every year, until death by starvation became only a matter of time.

Yet they were not free from land-tax and mandatory tributes of rice and many other impositions. Betrayals of trust among village squires had made matters even worse.

Onishi Gombe, a comparatively wealthy farmer, was trying hard to find a way out of the dilemma. The kind-hearted man had already sold his own farms in order to pay the taxes for his poorer neighbours. Now, no farms were left. He also had to go to prison because he could not pay his own tax.

Once a petition written by villagers was presented to the squire. But, to their disappointment, he was not the sort of person to bring it to the Lord of Marugame-han.

"Things must be the same with all other villages in West Sanuki," said Gombe to himself. He visited his former classmates from a private school he had attended in his youth. They lived in different villages. But things were curiously the same. They talked and talked. Finally they reached a conclusion that all the people of the 101 villages should bring their petition over to Marugame-jo Castle in order to make their voices heard by the Lords Kyogoku of Marugame-han and Tadotsu-han.

Gombe and his friends drafted a petition, suggesting 13 areas for improvement so the farmers could live with human dignity.

On Jaunary 23, 1750, thousands of people gathered in the precincts of Motoyama-ji Temple, and started a demonstration. They burst into one squire's residence after another, with more and more people joining in on the way. There were more than 60,000 by the time they arrived in Zentsuji.

Officials of Marugame-han and Tadotsu-han, hearing of the uprising, came to meet them, saying: "What's the matter? Put down your arms, and we'll listen to you!"

With the chief priest of Zentsu-ji as the intermediary, Gombe and his 6 friends met the officials at Zentsu-ji Temple, presenting their petition, and appealing for a prompt consideration of their requests. 10 of the 13 requests were immediately granted by the Lords. The village squires who had been guilty of underhanded practices or swindles were thoroughly investigated and severely punished.

In those days, however, starting a riot was strictly forbidden by law. So its organizers had to be condemned to death.

On July 28, 1750, the seven farmers were martyred on the Kanakura river beach in Zentsuji.

Onishi Gombe, whose wife and 4 children were also to be executed there with him, composed a farewell poem for the people crying over them:

This life I had always held to be but a bubble. Unlike you, my countrymen, how happy I am today!

(此の世をば泡と見てきし我が心 民に代わりて今日ぞ嬉しき)

 In the precincts of Gombe-jinja Shrine we can see this poem beautifully engraved on a big stone. On the evening of their memorial day, July 28, local people perform a dedicatory play called Gombe-shibai to the souls of the Brave Seven. It is a very moving occasion.

Doburoku Matsuri

Uga-jinja Shrine 宇賀神社 in Toyonaka-cho (20 minutes' walk from Gombe-jinja Shrine) is known for brewing unrefined sake called doburoku. It is served to visitors on its Spring Festival on the Spring Equinox and Autumn Festival on October 9 & 10.

This is the only shrine in Shikoku that is permitted by the Tax Administration Agency to brew their own sacred sake (o-miki) for these occasions.

Daiko-ji Temple 大興寺

This temple, generally known as Komatsuo-ji, was founded in 743 as a branch temple of Todai-ji in Nara. The main image of Yakushi-nyorai is a Cultural Property designated by the prefecture.

There are 2 Daishi-do Halls - one for Kobo Daishi, the other for Tendai Daishi, the great Chinese Priest Chih-i (538-598), who established the T'ien-t'ai (Jpse. Tendai) sect on Mt. T'ien-t'ai in China. The statue of Tendai Daishi in Meditation is another Cultural Property registered by the Prefecture. Other treasures include the Twelve Guardians of Yakushi-nyorai, reportedly carved by Tankei, one of the best sculptors of the Kamakura Period (1185-1333)

Temple Hymn No. 67

Listen to the breeze in the pines; it is whispering the Sacred Teachings.

(植えおきし小松尾寺を眺むれば 法の教の風ぞ吹きぬる)

Hagiwara-ji Temple 萩原寺

The best season to visit this temple is about the middle of September, when the hagi or bush clover flowering throughout the spacious precincts is at its best. Hagi Festival held on September 23 (Autumnal Equinox: a national holiday) at this temple and the Hagi-no-oka Park in the neighbourhood is a big attraction organized by Onohara-cho.

In 1578 when Chosokabe Motochika began to invade Sanuki, he made this temple his headquarters. This kept its buildings and many valuables from being destroyed by warfare.

The Treasure House is well-worth visiting. The 2 mandala about 800 years old, and Kyujusho, a textbook on calligraphy attributed to Kobo Daishi, are Important Cultural Properties.

Umpen-ji Temple 雲辺寺  

The 66th Sacred Site of Shikoku

Umpen-ji Temple or "the Temple near the Clouds" is usually shrouded in fog or mist, as it is situated on top of 910 m. Mt.Umpenji - the highest of all the 88 Temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage.

Commanding a view of 3 provinces of Shikoku - Iyo, Awa and Sanuki - this was also a place of strategic importance, especially to Chosokabe Motochika who intended to rule Shikoku. When this warlord from Tosa was about to invade Sanuki in 1578, he is said to have been advised not to do so by the then chief priest Shunso of this temple, saying: "Indeed you have already conquered Awa, but this doesn't mean you are a match to be ruler of the whole of Shikoku. I'm afraid you are too insignificant for that. It would be like putting a kettle lid on a bucket."

But Motochika was too ambitious to listen to his warning. He burnt this temple to the ground, descended the mountain, and continued his military expedition until in 1584 he finally did conquer the whole of Shikoku. In the very next year, however, he had to surrender to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the subjugator of all Japan.

The temple was reconstructed by Lord Hachisuka of Awa as his place of worship. The original one is said to have been much larger. The Daishi-do Hall is believed to mark the site where kobo Daishi performed ascetic practices at the age of 16.

The main image, a Thousand-handed Kannon, about 1,000 years old, is an Important Cultural Property.

The lookout platform to the north commands a view of the sea, the plains and mountain ranges. To pilgrims on foot, this used to be one of the hardest temples to reach - 4 or 5 hours climbing and crossing the ranges. Not a few local people try this ascent on New Year's Day.

Japan in Miniature

Return to the Table of Contents

Updated on 22 September 2016 | E-mail Steve | 四国新聞社出版『KAGAWA』より

Bilingualism and Japanology - Online publications by Steve McCarty
annotated in English | Japanese: バイリンガリズムと日本学