Monday, January 28, 2008

Yashima Island

On Sunday, Amy and I took Cash up to a famous touring spot with a student of mine named Miwa (Yes, it is actually Fox doing one of these posts in the first time since forever). Yashima looks like a peninsula, but a river cut around it making it an island, even though the river is not all that wide. It is very famous because it was the site of one of the biggest battles in the Genji wars. All throughout the temple grounds at the top of the island visitors can see paintings and bas relief sculptures depicting scenes from the battle. My student told us that there were so many bodies at the end of the battle that a pond turned red and was called Chinoike (Blood pond).

The island is shaped life a tall plateau. The locals here think it looks like a roof, hence the name Yashima (Ya- from "yane" which means roof & "Sima" which means island). We actually drove up the side of the island to the temple on top, though we could have walked up the steps like all of the pilgrims do. At the top is the 84th temple of the Shikoku 88 temples. It is a very special place for women wanting to become pregnant or have healthy pregnancies. It is believed that the temple founder was led through the fog to the place where the temple would be built by a tanuki (a sort of badger) disguised as a man. Tanuki are known for their rather large genitalia, so they are seen as a good spirit for expectant mothers.

We toured the temple quickly, since it was somewhat similar to other temples we had visited. But at the top, we took turns flinging small clay discs about the size as the top of a soda can off of the top of the plateau. It is thought that the further you can throw the disc, the greater your luck will be. Everyone was throwing them like you would skip stones on a lake. They went about thirty feet or so. I winged mine like a frisbee, and it flew out and curved around the mountain so that it was still sailing as it passed out of our line of sight. Everyone around us made sounds of being impressed. I tried again, but accidentally flung it behind me onto the roof of a building. I had to make sure to apologize quite loudly since everyone had been watching me on the second throw. The third and fourth throws went out really far like the first, and everyone was impressed again.

We kept walking, stopping occasionally to take in the artwork and artifacts of the historic samurai battle. We passed several hotels that had long-since closed down and made the entire place feel oddly creepy.

Passed the hotels, we came across a small aquarium that was set up near the temple. We didn't go in, but we could see some dolphins swimming in their tank through a space in the outside fence where we were standing. After a few seconds of watching them circle the tank, it became evident that they were doing far more than swimming. We all started laughing out loud together as it dawned on each of us simultaneously that these dolphins were copulating. At first I thought it was just me, but the comically shocked look on my student's face told me that she saw it too. I took some photos, but then realized that it was just a little dirty to be doing it. Then the voice of hilarious awesomeness in the back of my head berated me for hesitating. I mean, how often are you gonna have a chance to witness dolphins gone wild and then put it on your blog (sorry, gramma)?!?!?!

We laughed all the way to a picnic spot where we ate some sandwiches and took in the view. Amy and Miwa had to keep talking me out of sneaking into one of the abandoned hotels. I kept feeling the pull of Silent Hill telling me to wander into the creepy abandoned place. But my wife would have none of it. So we finished our lunch and made our way down to the parking lot. Every few minutes on the ride home Miwa and Amy would tease me that the tanuki and the dolphins were a sign that the Ellises should have another baby.

Tanuki at the temple

You may not be able to read this, but it's the story of the tanuki and the priest

Ellises at the temple

Actual Samurai armor from the battle of Genji. This was kept in the same building that I hit with a clay disc.

A fierce lion outside the temple

The view from the top

More of the same view from the top

Amy and Cash with our friend Miwa

WARNING: the following is a paid-program from Dolphins Gone Wild. Some content may not be suitable for younger dolphins

naughty Naughty NAUGHTY Dolphins!!!!!

Cash was completely tuckered out by the time we got home.