Walking the Pilgrimage (2~17, Jan, 2010, Wakayama, Japan)
Environmental ethics enables us to find appropriate ways to articulate ecosystem values, which calls for nonlinear complex thinking beyond traditional scientific methods. Today, while the devastating effects of the anthropogenic climate crisis are clear, rich and diverse means exist for knowing, understanding, valuing the world and taking action. This calls for a powerful coalition of science, ecohumanities and arts with a solid foundation in environmental ethics. Through this course, we wish to learn and also communicate a profound humbleness and appreciation of the Planet Earth: “to underscore our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known (Carl Sagan)".
A fieldwork at Machiko Kuroda's Minka (farmhouse) in Kimino - working so hard, weeding, slashing vines, restoring trails and giving a good tidy up to the property. We also planted 5 chestnuts trees - so in 3 years time, we all should be back to taste the fruits of hard work! Machiko, a quilt artist, purchased this 90 year old house about 10 years ago. It was a major orchard, which had closed about 3 years before the purchase. She said her responsibility to this place was 'simply because she witnessed it' - perhaps that applies to all of us being on this planet today. Shima-san, a tea master, demonstrated tea and the significance of Inyo Gogyo (5 qualities of Ying and Yang - wood, fire, earth, metal, water), which is the base of many aspects of Japanese culture and influence harmony/balance of the world. Tea includes all 5 elements. Tea cakes, which we enjoy having tea, are to be enjoyed with all five senses, including the sound eg a sugar frosted green cake is called 'Snow on pine leaves" so we enjoy the imaginative sound of snow falling on pine trees. Shima-san explained that all these stories are becoming less known in Japan, including Go Sekku (5 seasonal dates), Jan 1, March, 3, May 5, July 7 and Sept 9 observed in Japanese life.
At Wakayama Uni, we were welcomed by the students from Intercultural Communication class, who organised a small party. Salisbury group introduced their university, their major and interests. Nishida-san from the prefectural office kindly brought us ume juice. The Japanese students also brought snacks and drinks to share. After the class, we were invited to a tea ceremony, where students explained the meaning of tea and everyone had a chance to taste and make tea.
The morning started with a very crisp - 10 degrees! but the day was sunny with blue sky. After a morning service at 7 and breakfast, we set out to a guided tour, lead by Yasu. Okuno-in was closed due to snow, but we were able to visit Kukai's mausoleum (Gobyo) and observed serving of meal at 10:30. The ritual is conducted everyday at 6am and 10:30am with a service that follows. Today the menus vary, even including Western style meals! It's also great to know that Buddha is concerned about the the climate change. After a free afternoon to explore the Koya more, we board bus home at 4. On the way home, we were able to stop at Nyu-tsu-hime Jinja, where Nyu-tsu-hime, the sister of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu Omikami is enshrined. The remote shrine is also part of the world heritage.
Koyasan, the headquarter of Shingon Buddhism, is a temple town up on a 900m mountain. The trail leading up to Koya is the Cho-ishi-michi trail, starting at Jison-in Temple where Kukai's mother resided, as women were not allowed in Koya until late 19c. Jison-in is in the town of Kudoyama (lit. 9 times mountain), as it is said Kukai visited his mother 9 times a month. The Cho-ishi is a stone marker that marks the trail every 109m (cho), starting with No. 180 at Jison-in to No. 1 in Koya. So the trail is approx. 20km. Accompanied by Yasu, who works at Koyasan Tourist Information Centre, we all completed the walk up to Tate-ishi-chaya tea house, the 13km point. 5 of us walked the rest of the trail, mostly covered with snow, and the rest took bus to the temple we stayed - Yochi-in Temple. Yochi-in (lit. cherry blossom pond) is one of the higher ranked temples in Koya, which allowed to carry imperial crest, 16 petal chrysanthemum. The Sho-jin Ryori (temple vegetarian meal) was rather a feast contrary to our expectation. The deep sound of temple bell at 9 took us to a quiet sleep into the Koyasan night.