The Story of Hakoguruma
When visiting the 88 temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, you will encounter a less common offering called "Hakoguruma". There are three in Temple #22 Byodoji, one in Temple #57 Eifukuji, in Temple #44 Daihoji, and in Temple #88 Okuboji (6 in total).
Hakoguruma is an old device consisting of wheels attached to a large wooden box in which a person who has difficulty in walking could be placed and pulled or pushed by another person, similar to a wheelchair in modern times.
This page introduces the story of the of Hakoguruma of Rinnosuke Tsutsui from Kochi Prefecture, which is stored in the main hall of Byodoji Temple.
The Hakoguruma of Mr. Rinnosuke
photograph: 1923 Hakoguruma
At first glance, it appears to be an old wooden shack. This photograph shows "Hakoguruma", which originally had three wheels and pulling handles (it is pulled from the front similar to rickshaws in Kyoto), and was donated to Byodoji Temple in 1923 by a blacksmith from Jizoji Village, Kochi Prefecture Rinnosuke Tsutsui and his father Fukuji.
According to the historical records remaining in the temple, in 1921, Rinnosuke (then 31 years old) experienced difficulty in walk because of lower body numbness due to an illness of the spinal cord. His father Fukuji (age 54 at that time) visited many physicians and tried various treatments, but did not recover, and the symptoms gradually worsened. Paralysis came to affect the upper body two years later, and Rinnosuke could no longer use crutches.
"There is no choice but to depend on Kobo Daishi,"
Fukuji created the "Hakoguruma" in the photograph, put Rinnosuke on it, and together went on the Shikoku Pilgrimage starting from Temple No. 35, Kiyotakiji.
Becoming Unable to Walk
After somehow managing to cross the mountains, fields, and rivers in Shikoku, they visited Ehime, Kagawa, followed by Tokushima, and arrived at Temple No. 22, Byodoji, in October 1923.
Perhaps due to exhaustion, the two seem to have stayed in a temple for 4 weeks while drinking "Kobo miraculous water", which was supposedly effective for curing all kinds of diseases and receiving prayers by the chief priest, Rev. Shinryo Taniguchi.
Then one day, Rinnosuke's body recovered to the point where he could walk by using a single cane (Kongojo). The "Hakoguruma", which was no longer needed for transport, was donated to the Medicine Buddha Bhaisajyaguru, and it is said that they visited the rest of the temples and returned to Tosa on foot.
For a father in his mid 50s, walking along the mountains and the coast of Shikoku while drawing a heavy "Hakoguruma" would have been a considerable physical challenge. The front of the cart was glass lattice and as the two saw the same scenery, it may be that they continued their pilgrimage while encouraging each other to go on.
When looking at this old wooden box, please keep in mind the image of a father and son who believed in the virtuous merit of the Shikoku Pilgrimage and were saved.
photograph: 1923 Mr. Rinnosuke Tsutsui and Rev. Shinryo Taniguchi