March 27th day 13
It felt good to be working with clean clothes and my body felt pretty good as well. I got away at 6:30 and walked for three hours, a short break and then to a Lawson’s about 11:30. Having a lunch sitting on a Coke crate I was joined by Jimmy from Denmark. He is going a bit faster but will end up staying at the same place tonight.
I got to our hotel at 12:30 and took about 15 minutes before leaving my pack and heading up to Temple 27. It is billed as a nancho and so I am glad to have been able to leave my pack behind. It took a little over an hour to work across the flats and up the switch backing road onto to a trail to the temple. Some of the nicest Sakura I have seen so far lined the road and the trail up the mountain.
I spent about 45 minutes at the temple at least some of which was recovering from the hard day that I had had. It was another hour back down the mountain and across the flat to my minshuku. There were four of us in the hotel and strangely 3 are foreigners. Antonio from France who I had last seen at Temple 17 joined Jimmy, me and a middle aged Japanese man in one of the roughest minshuku yet.
It was nice to be able to have a bit of a conversation over dinner. Unfortunately we would separate in the morning because Antonio still had to go up to 27 and Jimmy was going to fire on down the road. The weather now a bit hotter was beginning to play on my performance. Moving on seemed a struggle from the beginning even though my day was a bit shorter and it was actually a pretty nice walk. The last half was on a separate bicycle trail that often was bordered with cherry blossoms. I seem to be stopping quite early these days. This basically gives me a chance to wash clothes everyday. This nights stop was a lovely place right on the sea. As I was stretched out in my room a man came in to join me, beer in hand. He spoke excellent English so we had a pretty good conversation. He and three friends he’s traveling with are doing only a few weeks and take transport help if needed but not by design.
March 29th approaching Kochi
Next day after the first few hours walk the trail left the main Highway and started meandering among the rice fields on the east side of Kochi. I got lost and ended quite a ways away from where I should have been. A young fellow helped me get a taxi which took me to Temple 28. Three more hours through the market garden area of Kochi got me to Temple 29. On this stretch I was in a henro hut having a break when a woman from Switzerland joined me. It is strange how I continue to meet new people even after two weeks.
From Temple 29 to 30 I began to drag again with the heat. I now seemed to be entering the suburbs of Kochi along a river channel. Often the henro trail is away from the roads on small pathways. But the final bid on this day joined a busy road over at pass and down to my minshuku for the night. I left my bag and walked about 20 minutes to Temple 30. Temple 30 is paired with Tosa Jinja, the most significant Shinto Temple in Kochi Prefecture.
My three minshuku mates were 71 76 and 77. Our hostess was 75. This is obviously an old man’s sport. They were all staying in the same place the next night which is the place I wanted to get to but of course it was booked and I will have to do an extra four kilometers.
The next day we were fully in the city of Kochi. Following the henro markers in cities is tough but I managed with only two little hiccups. The first had me bushwhacking on the mountain that Temple 31 sits on. That cost me a bit of time and effort before I found my way into the Botanical Garden on the way to the temple. Dropping down from #31 I left the route a second time, this time to find a post office. I mailed some of my things back to Tokushima. I am now committed to staying in booked places. I’ve carried my bed roll over 300 km and had not used it so I decided to lighten my load little.
To get to Temple 32 we actually backtracked east a ways and found another mountain to clamber up. At this temple I saw my third mate from last night (I had met the other two at 31) and he looked as bedraggled as I felt. You can see much of Kochi harbour from here. Now I left the Henro route again for a three hour tiresome walk along a busy road and over a scary bridge to my ryokan. But I was in early, showered and bathed, my hostess took my clothes to wash and I begin to recuperate.
This was a very nice place after a tiresome day. City sections of Ohenro will not be my best. I think there was one other guest but I never saw him. I ate both dinner and breakfast in the kitchen with the hostess. She was very, diligent cleaning all the time and making sure that all my needs were satisfied.
The next morning I had about a 45-minute walk to get back on the henro route at Temple 33. Everything seemed better. I walked easily, the weather seemed cool and I never made any navigation errors to get to the temple. From Temple 33 the route was now completely in the countryside and it felt so good. I started taking pictures again and once again I was able to stay on route. Like Temple 33 Temple 34 was on the flat. Surprising. The walking continue to go well, over a large bridge to the town where I would be spending the night. I was way too early so I found a 7-Eleven where I use the ATM to stock up on money and sat for about an hour.
I left my bag against the minshuku wall and headed on up to Temple 35. This one back to the hill top style. I spend some time with a man that I had met a couple temples ago. He tried to phone for room bookings for me but was unsuccessful. It was too early in the day. An easy 45-minute walk put me back at a high end Bakery where I had a mid-afternoon snack and where I came back later for my dinner. This minshuku did not provide meals. As diligent as my hostess was the previous night this one was not. If there’s a less than pristine bathroom in Japan then it must be in this minshuku. To be fair my hostess is not very spry. She also has a very tough time communicating with me. I finally tried the audio from my translator app. She had not been able to read the written translations. Perhaps she doesn’t see very well but she was able to book a place for tomorrow and I know it will not be far enough. I have had a hard time getting the distance between my accommodations ideal.
April 1st Day 18
Coffee and yogurt got me going at 6:45. This is Sunday, the streets are deserted, gorgeous. The road crosses over a small pass into a village on a large bay. I had a second snack at a new convenience store and tried their ATM. Success, I am no longer stuck with 7-Eleven banking. The road continued on over a large bridge around the outside of the bay. I missed the turn to the next temple and walked almost 2 km to a resort on the top of a hill overlooking the sea. There a young couple found the temple on their cell phone and drove me all the way back down the hill to the turnoff to Temple 36. I had a nice visit at the temple with a couple I had bumped into at a few other temples. This was their last one as they had to head back to work. They give me a drink and a cookie as their final ossetai .
I now had to head back up the hill that I had already gone up an hour earlier. Past the point where a woman jumped out of a car to give me a 500 yen ossetai, past the turnoff to the resort and on along the lovely ridgetop road that I would walk for the next day. No matter how many mistakes it seems I am too early in the day for where I expected to be. I had close to an hour stop at a little food side vendor at a scenic lookout and then just before the turn off down to the fishing village where I had booked a place a car was waiting. It was my minshuku hostess. She was afraid I would miss the turn. Once again I was finished walking at 1:00. After walking around the village for a while my hostess started filling the big tub for my bath and demanded I get my clothes off so she could wash them.
I have been walking 20 to 25 km each day and as of the last 2 days it has not been near enough. I am falling quite a bit behind where I need to be to finish my 88 temples in the time that I have. From here on I will have to stretch myself a bit.
April 2nd Day 19
Our Hostess drove me and the young guy who came in late last night back up to the highway and off we went at about 7. I thought the young guy would take off like a shot but I got away first and I never did see him. He must be stopping even more than I am to take pictures of this lovely quiet walk. It was certainly the right advice to go on this longer route then the normal one.
I joined the main walking route after about 2 hours where I had my first vending machine drink of the day. Over the next hour and a half I passed five other henro, two of whom I had met earlier. That put me in a town that had a 7-Eleven where I got more money. From this town I took a 15-minute train ride to Temple 38 and certainly the nicest ryokan I have stayed at. From this town I now hope to ramp up to fulll walking days.
My Temple Process
I have tended to gloss over what happens at each of the temples that I visit. There are so many that it would be very repetitive. I have pointed out previously how lovely they all are. My process in each Temple does not compare with the process that good Buddhists go through. But it is my process and here it is:
1. Temples almost always have a torii often somewhat removed from the temple itself. Buddhist temple torii are quite different than Shinto Torii. Often some of the longest staircases rise above the torii to the temple grounds.
2. Once in the temple grounds I try to find a place to leave my pack and find a toilet if necessary.
3. A water well and dippers are used to purify yourself by rinsing your hands and mouth.
4. I then find the bonsho, a large bell under it’s own pavilion that is rung once by swinging a large suspended log onto it.
5. At the main temple or Hondo the devout begin reciting sutras, most notably The Heart Sutra. I try to be peaceful, particularly if I have been rushing. Each temple’s Hondo is dedicated to some aspect of Buddha. Ideally I would have thoughts related to someone’s needs associated with that aspect. That doesn’t usually happen. I leave an osamefuda.
6. I then visit the Daishi temple, dedicated to Kobo Daishi. Here instead of chanting sutra I hope that all henro have good experiences on their Ohenro. I leave a second osamefuda, which is a name slip with a wish.
7. I then take a few pictures from the many possibilities including the temples, the statues, other henro, the gardens, the views,…
8. I get my Nokyocho, temple book signed.
9. I might make some notes, have a vending drink, ensure I know which way to head and off I go.
All this takes 30 minutes or a bit more. Say 48 hours for the full contingent out of 50 or so days.