Yuko and I began our own Western Japan 33 Temple Pilgrimage [西国３３寺巡り] same as Yuko's mother had just finished. The pilgrimage goes to 33 temples plus 3 bangai, or extra, ones around the Kansai region. Each temple is devoted to Kannon [観音], worshiped in Japan and China as one of the few female Bodhisattva. Kannon is a compassionate figure who devotes herself to listening to the sorrows and prayers of us in the earthly realm. It is said that Kannon can manifest herself in 33 different forms when she comes to the living world to help save people.
Pilgrims mark their trips to each temple using a book, a scroll or both to collect the special stamps and names of each of the temples. We purchased our scroll, the cheapest and smallest available, for ¥9,000 at the first temple Seigantoji [青岸渡寺]. Although the more expensive scrolls are bigger and more elaborate, Yuko's mother recommended getting the smaller one because it's easier to take with you and hang in your house. Our scroll is already hanging with it's 2 filled in squares. Looking at it is a promise for all the fun we will have getting the rest of those stamps. Hopefully, our child will be old enough to remember going to some of these temples by the time we finish it.
This is the first temple in the pilgrimage located on Nachi-san at the end of the Kii Pensiulla in Wakayama Pref.. The near by Nachi Waterfall is a popular tourist attraction for Japanese and foreigners alike. It was the beauty of this place that lead a traveling monk paused to work on his faith. While meditating, he had a vision of Kannon and built the temple here in her honor.
The temple is high above omiyage store lined streets with their tourist buses. Going uphill it's a decent climb but one my pregnant wife could do. I guess it took us 10 minutes or so.
I enjoyed the massive paper lanterns inside the temple and how they were so delicately faded.
The second temple on the pilgrimage is also up a steep, but not as long, flight of stairs. Named for the 3 wells found on the temple grounds, Kimiidera [紀三井寺] is popular for its cherry blossoms in the spring. I wish we had more time to explore the grounds of this beautiful temple and all of the blooming sakura, but we had come to late to do that.
More photos can be found on flickr