Since my last post my knee has improved as I found a way to walk it back to 80%. I have been able to complete the walk to all of the 88 Shikoku Temples. I still have more to do, get back to Temple 1 and then extend the pilgrimage to Koyasan, near Osaka. There will possibly be one more post on this trip
April 24th day 40
After a number of full walking days the rest of the trip will be shorter days. I am using more days than I need on Ohenro rather than having too many days after Ohenro. I will be going from 20 – 25 km days to 15 – 20 kilometer days. There are still a number mountainous days even some henro-korogashi sections remaining but I look forward to those days.
After the morning service at # 75, Zentsuji, and a late breakfast it was off to a rural side-street day. There were three temples 76, 77 and 78 to visit. Number 78 had particularly nice gardens. Along the way I had stopped for early morning coffee and then for a late morning hour and a half early lunch during which I made a Skype call to Julie in Calgary. This could be part of my approach for easier walking days, long breaks during the walk.
I arrived at my accommodation at 2:00. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I was quoted 1000 yen to stay. This is less than a quarter of what I normally pay for accommodation-only places. I was not given a room when I arrived but was invited in to a sitting area and was offered tea. It was now raining quite steadily so my plans to head out to find a restaurant were put on hold. Over the next couple of hours both Peter and young German Chris along with a Japanese boy arrived. We were still all sitting in the living room with the owner while his wife brought us tea and snacks. Along the way we each took our turn in the hot bath.
Somehow we found that there was another room with four sleeping mats. Peter and I wanted to go out to find something to eat. The woman said that the closest restaurant was too far walk in the rain so she would drive us. So off we went with the plan to walk back. We had a nice visit and dinner but it was still raining so, as she had asked, we called and she came to pick us up.
In the morning we had a full Japanese breakfast and she also packed a rice ball lunch. When it was time to leave we were asked for 1000 yen. This was at least a 5 to 6000 yen night. Peter and I tried to pay more but were refused. This is obviously a zenkonyado of sorts, where people offer free or low cost accomodation to henro.
April 25th day 41
My first short day was reasonably successful. I had a long mid-day break, I missed the afternoon rain and had a nice evening. This next day was not as enjoyable or rewarding. I visited Temples 79 and 80 but was unable to find a nice stop during the day, so I arrived at my minshuku before noon. My minshuku hostess didn’t turn up until 3:00, so I hung around temple 80 and sat in a couple of little restaurants longer than I wished.
But she made up for it when she did arrive. She immediately got my clothes off and washed them, the meals were great and when I was able to get her to understand my agenda she completed my bookings through to Temple 88. This latter task was assisted by the quiet man I had been connecting with since Temple 38. This would be the last i would see him now as I was moving onto the slow track.
April 26, Day 42
This next day involved two mountain temples, 81 and 82, a little henro-korogashi and lots of forest. I was enjoying my walk a little too much and missed the first turnoff. To shorten the story a bit, I got a ride with a car-henro, walked part of the trail twice including the climb to the highest point, missed another part and only walked about an extra km or two.
I connected with Peter at 81 just after he tripped on a chain across a road that he didn’t notice. He scraped his knees and nose and loosened a bridge. I guess I’m not the only one doing these things. There was a nice long trail down off the plateau leading onto the back streets below. I went through an area where they were making bonzai trees and watched an ancient man setting up to begin work.
The next day a couple of hours zig-zaging into Takamatsu got me to Temple 83 where I made another navigation blunder. I took the wrong major feeder road which meant the short 14 km morning became 17 km. Still I left my bag at my business hotel at noon and spent 3 ½ hours in Ritsurin Gardens, a great way to break up the day.
Peter, also spending the night at the same hotel, came in delighted that he got the two front teeth on his bridge glued back on for 1000 yen, about $10. We had a final dinner and beer together as he is taking a couple of days off here to go to one of the small islands. Like me he has extra time and is finding ways to kill days.
April 28th Day 44
Trying something a little different Peter and I had a late breakfast together and I left at 8:30. I walked for a couple of hours heading towards my next Temple but my first destination was Shikoku-mura Village. This is a Heritage Village with many old buildings gathered together on the side of the mountain that I would be climbing to get to Temple 84.
It was not too much out of the way but I spent two hours there and so by the time I made my way back to the henro trail it was afternoon. The trail was an easy broad but steep walkway. I began to realize the penalty for getting a late start. The muggy heat was tough to handle and I paid for it when faced with the rough henro-korogashi trail leading down from the mountain. After some super market oranges at the bottom I began the gradual uphill that would ultimately lead to the next Mountain Temple.
But I was looking for my minshuku for the night. This minshuku was not providing dinner but there was an udon restaurant close by that I hoped to find. It seemed to me that I was just getting into an industrial area that on this late Saturday afternoon wouldn’t have any restaurants open. In a concrete yard a guy was still working and I asked him if he knew where the restaurant was. He pointed a way through their yard on to the next street over. And there was one of the nicest restaurants I have seen so far. I had a high-end udon set meal with a liter and a half of beer, feeling quite happy with how smart I am. Or should I say it is better to be lucky than smart.
My minshuku was just a few minutes away. The elderly couple running the place where very nice and could speak pretty good English because they have a son who went to school in Edmonton. It was here that I encountered the smartest toilet I have seen. When I opened the door the seat raised itself and after I did my business I pushed the Eco button, it flushed and the toilet seat lowered itself. I wouldn’t be surprised if it also scrubbed down my splatters as well.
In the morning it only took half an hour to get the rest of the way up the mountain to Temple 85. I love the temples early in the morning. The air is so fresh, very few people around, the birds are singing and the light is special. The way off of this mountain, in contrast to yesterday’s rough trail, was a switch backing paved narrow road. An hour or so later about two and a half hours after I had left my minshuku my host pulled up beside me in a car. He smiled and held a small plastic bag out for me. In it we’re two osamefuda, the little name slips that I leave at each Temple. He must have been driving around for the last couple of hours trying to find me to return them. Much of the henro trail is on quiet little streets or even car free paths where he would not be able to find me. These two little sheets of paper are worth about $0.01 each and I have lots of them and that would have been apparent to him as well. Yet another example of the kindness and generosity of the Japanese people.
As the day went on I visited Temple 86 which was very rough and disheveled but had an elegant zen garden tucked away behind one of the buildings. Such a contrast. Around noon I went wandering again leaving the henro trail to find something to eat. The restaurant in my book was closed and so I ended up eating in a super market. This little deviation took an hour and a half. It is lucky I have lots of time. My day ended at a minshuku beside Temple 87.
April 30th Day 46
The long approach climb heading for the final nancho Temple took about two and a half hours. Along the way I stopped in at Maeyama Ohenro Koryu Salon. This is a fairly significant three or four room Museum of things related to Ohenro. I filled in some forms for their data base, looked at the displays and was given lots of ossetai. I also received a certificate celebrating my completion of ohenro and I guess I go into the record books. Once over two and a half hours of ever smaller roads the rough paths began. In my mind this section had some of the roughest henro-korogashi of the whole trip. There was some Hands-On-The-Rocks scrambling to get over a little summit at about 770 m and then a very rough trail that took me another hour to get down to the final Temple number 88, arriving at about noon.
I spent an hour just sitting at this final Temple trying to digest the last 46 days. My walking is not over yet, as I will add on a little orei-mairi. I don’t quite know all of the aspects of orei-mairi, but for me it means taking two days to walk back to temple 1 to more or less complete the circuit. And then a few days later I will travel to Koyasan near Osaka for a few days. Koyasan is a the burial place for Kobo Daishi, and probably the most important Buddhist site in Japan These concluding activities are to complete or to re-visit the experience. To others orei-mairi might mean repeating the trip, or doing it backwards. But let’s not talk of those. For now I am just dealing with having finished my Ohenro.