Post typhoon, the morning is bright with watery sunshine and a lot of fast moving, ragged cloud. We set off for Eiheiji Temple arriving about 10.30. On the road there is a lot of debris from the Sugi and other trees. People are out clearing up everywhere. We note more serious typhoon damage here and there, mainly vinyl houses and advertising signs but, occasionally, bigger problems where roof tiles have been lost.
The temple is large, with numerous buildings connected by covered passages and stairs but, as it nestles in a narrow mountain valley, it is necessarily compact. There is a spacious, tatami floored hall with a high ceiling, each panel of which contains an individual picture of a flower or bird. Each painting done by a different artist. Possibly, some artists have done more than one picture.
Built on a mountainside, the temple is on different levels so the covered corridors are also staircases and the small internal gardens are slopes or terraces. Looking out of the windows gives compact views of Sugi and Momiji with high temple buildings framing the scene.
Unusually, perhaps as the temple is compact, the monks living quarters are obvious as is their bathroom. Understandably, these areas are off limits to the tourists. This gives the temple an aspect of being a living, functioning place not an empty museum as is the more common case.
We are lucky to catch a ceremony in one of the upper halls ‘Shoyoden’. It began with much banging of gongs and then a large group of monks entered the hall and stood silent for a while before the chanting began. (I understand that this order perform zazen standing rather than in the more orthodox lotus position.) They then began to circle the hall, in single file, in a complicated pattern. I think it was three times but the complexity renders me uncertain. They also bowed their heads to the floor in what seemed to me very Tibetan. When it is all over, they file out and the tourist regain possession.
In this temple, generally, the monks are very much in evidence, cleaning brass urns with metal polish, sweeping up or signalling to each other that it is time to bang a gong.
We look at the temple museum but this is a little disappointing. There is a letter from Nobunaga with his seal. So, I wonder, – did Nobunaga write this and apply the seal or did some clerk do it on his behalf? Was he a hands-on despot or did he delegate successfully?
D. has her Goshuin book inscribed before we leave to climb a steep track, on the opposite hillside. This offers a bird’s eye view of the whole temple complex. The reward hardly compensates for the rigour of the climb but back down again we ring a large temple bell. This used to be possible at some temples in Kyoto but I doubt if it is now.
Finally, we leave Eiheiji a little before 2pm pick up something to eat at a Family Mart and head off to the Echizen Coast.
＊Eiheiji ; 500 yen / adult
In the aftermath of the typhoon, the way through the mountains is open but, in places, there is a lot of running water on the road in and others small landslides have been hastily cleared.
On reaching the coast, in the late afternoon, it is obvious that the typhoon caused a lot of problems. Here the mountains drop steeply to the sea, the coast is very rugged and the road and the villages are squeezed between the two.
The coast has the look a of disaster area. This, plus the fact that many of the shops, hotels and restaurants along the road are derelict, makes it all rather depressing. We find a michi no eki on the coast but the promised onsen is closed. Whether this is due to the typhoon or just the day of the week, I am unable to say.
D. is unhappy with the whole atmosphere. Parking for the night under oppressive cliffs with evidence of landslides all around is not conducive to a good night’s sleep, so we head back inland to Sabae and stop for the night at Nishiyama Koen michi no eki.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.