Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Day 36: Temple 6 to Temple 1

The end. The final day of walking for this Henro is now complete. It's been a wonderful experience.

Left the templle lodging at Anrakuji, Temple 6, after breakfast and was at Ryozenji, Temple 1, a little after 10:00.

The main gate: 

A statue of the bodhisattva Jizo just inside the main gate. Jizo is the protector of children and travellers, and kept his eye out for me all around the island.

But for this pilgrimage, this is the man that tradition says makes sure that everything runs smoothly. This is the Daishi Hall at Temple 1, so this is where you tell him that you are setting out and this is where you tell him that you are back, and have finished successfully.

And once you have finished, this is the first thing to do --- get out of those hiking boots and let the feet feel free again. I can't complain about these boots, though, they have been very, very kind to me over the past few years. They have carried me over a great many kilometers of trail, road, and street, all without one blister or the need for even one band-aid or piece of tape. Boots, i am in debt to you. Thanks for your help, patience, and care.

I know i've said it before, but i just don't see how a month and a half have passed already. No matter how hard i try, i can't make it feel as if i have been on the trail for 36 days. Plus the two tours that i helped guide before that. It just doesn't seem possible.

I still do think, though, that this was my last personal walk of the entire trail. My gut tells me that four times is enough. My gut tells me that what i needed to see, what i needed to do, what i needed to experience has been seen, done, and experienced.

Tomorrow and Thursday i have no plans other than to take it easy. I'll stay here in Tokushima tomorrow and move to an, as yet undecided, hotel in Osaka on Thursday.

On Friday i plan to spend the day in Kyoto exploring the three temples that Kobo Daishi, or Kukai, as he was known then, was associated with while he was alive. When he returned from China he was kept on Kyushu for a few years. When finally given permission to return to Kyoto he lived in Otokuniji for some time. After that he moved to Takaosanji. While he didn't live at Toji, the government gave the temple to him and allowed him to make it a temple dedicated to training only Shingon buddhist monks.

On Saturday i'll go to Mt. Koya and The Daishi's mausoleum. On Sunday i return to Chicago.

Another wonderdul spring on the island of Shikoku.....

Monday, May 16, 2016

Day 35: Temple 88 to Temple 6

A 30 km walk, but it went by quickly---probably because i'm on my way back to Trmple 1.

The first 20 km of the walk  is beautiful as you work your way out of the valley that T88 is located in and back down into the Yoshono River valley, where T1-11 are located. The second half of the day, the remaining 10 km, is another day of walking on back roads and residential streets; the same streets we walk on during the first two days of the pilgrimage.

We got lucky today. It was supposed to start raining around noon,but it held off until 4:00, just after we checked in to the temple lodging at T6 for the night.

The evening service here at T6 has gotten quite complex over the years. It used to be a simple talk in the Hondō, but now it is a multi-stage procedure that includes the talk and several other stops in other rooms to worship other deities, to offer prayers for your ancestors, znd to submit a request/wish for yourself.

Some of the trail coming down from T88.

Some henro who didn't quite make it to the end of the walk.

The Hondō here at T6.

The pagoda as well.

Tomorrow off to T1. Should be there by noon. I'm still in shock that this walk will finish tomorrow morning. I just don't know where the time has gone.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Day 34: Temple 88

Intentionally got a very late start today. Didn't leave the lodging until just after 7:00, and then went to Temple 87 and hung around until almost 8:00.

From there i headed to the convenience store for a donut and OJ before finally setting off for the henro museum on the way to Temple 88. Got there in an hour.

I had to wait until 10:30 for a friend to arrive so i sat around and chatted with whoever would listen. Tom showed up on time and finally at 11:00 we were on the road to T88.

Four hours later we arrived and for the most part i am now finished. Here i am at the top of Mt. Nyotai before starting to long drop into T88.

It's hard to believe that i've done this walk over Mt. Nyotai three times this year. 

Once down the other side, here's the Hondō at T88.

And me, one last time, posing as a Henro completing his pilgrimage.

Tomorrow morning we're off to Temple 6, where we'll spend the night. That's about 30 km from here. Then on Tuesday morning we'll get back to T1 and my henro will officially be complete.

Have had a good string of nice weather recently. Tomorrow the rain is supposed to start around 3:00. Can i get to T6 before it starts??

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Day 33: Takamatsu to Sanuki City

...and then you fall asleep, and when you wale up and turn the page you find yourself in a new chapter.

Matsushita-san met me at the hotel at 7:30 and we set off for the climb to Temple 85. After getting there and visiting the Hondō a Daishidō, we went to the cable car station and asked them to watch my backpack while we "walked around."

Matsushita-san didn't want to tell anyone where we were going because they would all freak out and say it was too dangerous. No one wants a foreigner getting injured or killing himself at their temple.

From near the hondo we headed up to the Shugendō trails that visited the five peaks (Gokensan) behind the temple.

Here's one section; notice the little shrine at the far right, you'll get a better picture later.

M-san climbing some ropes to get to the first ladder.

Another view of that little shrine but from a peak above.

M-san getting ready to start down on some more ropes.

A look back at one set of ladders we had to go down to get to a saddle so we could climb to the next peak.

Finally getting to that shrine.

And a selfie next to it.

A look back into Takamatsu from atop. The hill to the right is where T84 is located.

An incredibly good day. Best day of this henro by far. 

From there, we walked to T86, had some lunch, then he headed to a bus stop and i headed to T87, where i'm spending the night.

Tomorrow i walk to T88. Will spend the night there, then walk back to T1 over a day and a half.

I find it impossible to believe that i get to T88 tomorrow. Impossible. Where did 33 days go?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Day 32: Takamatsu City

Took one picture all day. The gate going into Temple 84.

That's it.

A long boring day going from the west side of the city, to the south side, then a hot walk along the citiy's back roads and allys to get to the east side.

Matsushita-san is back and wants to take me out on some back trails tomorrow before i head down to Temple 87 in the afternoon. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Day 31: Kokubunji to Takamatsu City

Walked about 18 km today, but on paper it doesn't look like i went very far. Climbed to Temples 81 & 82, and am staying at lodging at the foot of the mountain T82 is located on, just around the corner from where i stayed last night. 

In the list of firsts here on Shikoku, i have another to add to the list. After checking in, they called me and told me it was my turn to take a bath about 4:15. Seemed a little early, but it's not unheard of.

After my bath i was laying in my room reading when someone showed up at my door at 4:45. With a large tray containing my dinner. A quarter to five! Dinner. I was told that i had an hour to eat, at which time they would be back for the tray.

From the sounds of it, they have rented out the dining room downstairs to a large group. I hope their food is better than what i got; mine was barely eatable. For the first time ever i had sashimi that you couldn't just put in your mouth and eat---part of each slice was too tough to chew. Tempura, but no tempura sauce. Rice that had been cooked either a couple hours ago or with too little water. I left half the food on the tray.

Had a wonderful surprise today. On the trail from T81 to T82, i saw a foreigner headed my way. Turned out to be a Canadian that had been in the tour group i helped guide in April. We walked together for a few hours and had a thoroughly enjoyable time.

Some other pictures from today.

The view of the hills i had to climb today as i set out at 6:40, after breakfast.

Some of the trail up.

A view back down to where i had started from, from about halfway up.

The view from the other side of the hills, looking down on Takamatsu City and port, from about half way down.

The place where they put the temple stamp in your stamp book at T82.

A small pagoda at T81.

And, another sign, going into T81, telling visiters that they have to dismount here and walk the rest of the way. (The tall statue in the middle)

Met a woman at a convenience store this afternoon who was driving a brand new 2016 VW Golf. I told her i drive a 2004 model and we chatted for a while.

Two features her car has that mine doesn't: When she's backing up, the VW emblem on the hatchback flips up and a camera shows her what's behind on a screen in the dashboard. Also, if she gets too close to the car in front of her she'll get beeped at. If she doesn't slow down and increase the gap, the car will automatically brake to do it for her. The size of gap that is allowed depends on how fast you happen to be driving.

I'm staying at a hotel near T84 tomorrow. Two minshukus told me they were full and another said they were no longer in business. Will visit Temples 83 & 84 and call it a day. Should be about 25 km.

Day 30: Zentsuji to Kokubunji

We had a huge storm last night. It woke me up sometime after midnight, and i thought it was going to blow the hotel over. Torrential rains and very strong winds. I'm sure glad it waited until i was checked in before it started.

Early morning henro at one of the temples today. Maybe it was the early morning light, or maybe i wasn't fully awake yet, but they looked just like pigeons at the time.

Here's the entrance to another temple, but what's interesting to me is the stone marker in the middle of the sidewalk, before the gate. It says "Dismount," as in get off your horse here. Obviously a tradition left over from a previous time in history.

A statue at Temple 77, i think, with a child entreating the Daishi for something.

A grest many temples have straw sandals hanging on, or in the back side of, the niōmon. This is to grant walking henro strong feet, which is definitely a wish we need fulfilled.

Saw the skinnyest house i have ever seen this afternoon.

Tomorrow i climb to Shiromineji and Negoroji, Temples 81 & 82. After that i'll visit one of the bangai temples before calling it a day. It's not very far, but to make lodging work out in the long run i decided to stop pretty early tomorrow. I'll spend a lot of time at both Temple 81 & 82 and maybe do some exploring on the way back down off the mountain just to use up some time. 

My schedule is now set. I'll get to T88 and spend the night in a minshuku there on Sunday night. All i have to figure out now is by which route i am walking back to T1 from T88.

I want to walk a new route, but to date i can't get lodging where i need it and unless that changes i'll be forced to walk the standard Temple 88-->Temple 10-->Temple 1 route one more time.

Overcast a lot of today, but it is supposed to be nice for the next three days.