Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Ohenro Blues

I have been home now for about three weeks. Things at work have settled back into some semblance of order, having to deal with hundreds of emails.

I have to say I am now experiencing the post ohenro blues and am yearning to be back walking the Shikoku Pilgrimage. I am already planning in my mind for when I will do my next one.

A dear friend of mine, Bob, visited last weekend, who had just recently finished the Camino Pilgrimage in Spain. I enjoyed being able to share my experiences and many osettai stories with him, as well as, hearing about his adventure.

I just finished reading another ohenro's blog (  and enjoyed following along in my Route Guide book, tracing his footsteps. It brought back fond memories and gave me some great ideas where to stay next time.

I wanted to bring back Kukai (my walking stick - kongozue) back to Canada. When the Air Canada check-in agent at Narita came around from the counter and enquired about it, I asked if I could take it on the plane. She said it would depend on security. She took it over to security and came back with the bad news that it would not be allowed thru security. However, as my last osettai gift, she offered to check it thru (at no charge). I removed the handle cover and bell. She asked her baggage helper to go get a large plastic bag. He wrapped Kukai carefully in the plastic and placed a fragile sticker on it. Mentally, I said my farewell to Kukai and thanked him for helping me complete the pilgrimage, thinking maybe he would get lost on the flights home and I would never see him again.

Kukai, now stands proudly in the corner of my dining room for all to see. He made it to Toronto and then on to Ottawa. I had the opportunity to go for a nice hike to the Gatineau hills two weekends ago and took Kukai with me. He was happy to be in the mountains again.

Thanks to everyone for reading my blog and for all the lovely comments (which were emailed to me). I enjoyed getting them as I journeyed on my pilgrimage.

If you are reading my blog for the first time, the posts are in the reverse order (newest to oldest). I haven't found a way yet to reverse the order easily. If you want to read the entries in the order I travelled, you can use the list on the right hand side and work your way up.

I humbly thank Kukai and all the wonderful ohenros I met on my journey for making it an experience of a lifetime. Arigato Gozaimasu.

One of the things I enjoyed was the variety of fountain ornaments at each wash station basin and below is a picture from Temple 1 - Ryozenji, which has both a statue of Kukai and a dragon spout. I enjoyed seeing the many different dragon spouts at many of the temples.

Temple 1 Ryozenji Wash Basin Station

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Narita airport - on my way back home.

Finally able to do up another post as I was having problems with my cell phone connection. Sorry there were no posts for a couple days as Fido cut off my service. They kept calling at 2 am and leaving messages to call back a 1-888 Canadian number, which of course doesn't work from Japan.
So had to wait til I was able to get free WiFi at Narita airport before checking to see if my last post posted OK.
I am at the Narita airport waiting for my flight back to Canada.Should be boarding my flight in about an hour.
Yesterday, I enjoyed the day visiting the temple in Asakusa.  There were lots of people since it is the end of Golden week. Went shopping on the restaurant supply street and was able to buy some cherry blossom shaped dried bread for miso soup I enjoyed at my many stays and some matcha salt.

It will be a long flight back. It was a wonderful trip and a great ohenro experience. Thanks to Kaz for all his help in getting me started, hosting me in Tokyo and all his great suggestions. Thanks to Masa for making all my accommodations bookings, which made my ohenro life so much easier. I had a fantastic trip and an WOW adventure and journey. I am glad and honored to be able to complete the ohenro pilgrimage with kukai's help and be known as an ohenro-san and a Henro Ambassador.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Motsu-ji & Chuson-ji Temples

Today I took the Shinkinsen to northern Japan to see two World Heritage Temple sites - Motsu-ji and Chuson-ji.
Motsu-ji is a Buddhist temple of the Tendai sect in Hiraizumi. It contains the ruins of two older temples, which were burned down in 1226, when taken over in a feudal war and it was considered the northern boundary of Japan. The current temple was built in the 18th century and the pond is preserved the way it was 800 years ago.
Chuson-ji is the head temple of the Tendai Buddhist sect and was founded in 850. The Konjiki-do or "Golden Hall" is a mausoleum containing the mummified remains of leaders of northern Fujiwara clan who ruled much of northern Japan in the 12th century. It contains two buildings that survived feudal war. The Golden Hall is made of wood and covered with gold leaf and decorated with mother-of-pearl.
When I arrived the local tourist information office was very helpful and provided an English map. I took the loop bus to the farthest away temple Chuson-ji. It was located on a hill. It was not that bad of a walk up. It was very scenic with places to look at the beautiful view. The Golden Hall was very beautiful. I really enjoyed it. When I went in, I noticed they had a stamp office and a special stamp book for ¥2000, so I thought what the heck, lets get it. They said they could put my name on it. I wrote it in alphabet and they said they could do it in alphabet. It was very busy and lots of bus tours.
Instead of taking the bus to Motsu-ji, I decided to walk, as it wasn't that far. It was only a hop, skip and jump, compared to the Shikoku pilgrimage. On the way, I stopped at the Hiraizumi Heritage Center and they had an excellent display of the history of the area in Japanese and English. I enjoyed the visit. Then I visited Motsu-ji and got my book stamped there.
I then caught the train back to Tokyo.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Kiyomizudera Temple

Up early for 6:30 am breakfast, so I could catch the 7:40 bus to Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
It was interesting yesterday when I was waiting to board the Shinkinsen in Osaka, I noticed a Japanese woman with a full day pack and collapsible walking poles strapped to the side. I thought, wonder if she is an ohenro. The train ride to Kyoto was only 15 minutes. When I got up to get off I noticed she was sitting 2 rows behind me and when I reached up to get my day pack and sedge hat from the rack, she smiled at me. After I got off the train, using my walking stick, as I walked past her, she smiled and waved from the window. I waved back. Maybe she too was an ohenro, who had just completed her pilgrimage and understood the amount of walking involved to complete the pilgrimage. Her friendly smile and wave lifted my spirits. I was ready to re-integrate into the world of lots of people.
Last night as I walked around the Kyoto station to find a Family Mart to buy my supper bento box, I noticed how young people today love to walk and text at the same time. It is a wonder they don't get run over. A next generation uniqueness I guess. They had a nice fountain with lights, water spray and music display, which I stopped to watch as I was checking the bus schedule to see when the bus I wanted to take to the temple left. The water and light show was very impressive.
I was glad I decided to take the early bus to the temple, as when I returned, there was a line up of hundreds of people waiting for it. I noticed lots of school groups. Must be part of their Golden Week to take a class trip. I hiked up to the temple with my walking stick. Kukai was happy to be in the mountains again. Actually it wasn't too high. When I arrived at the main gate and was about to take a picture this school group piled in in front of me for a photo. I thought what the heck and took the picture with them in it. It is the first picture with the gate. 
The Kiyomizu-dera (Clear Water Temple) takes its name from the clear pure waterfall which originates from unknown source deep within Mount Otowa. It was established over 1200 years ago. Euchin the priest was told in a vision to "look for clear water origins of the Yobo river". After a long search he stumbled across the site in error. The last picture is of the Otowa-No-Tabi (sound of feathers) waterfall. It is one of the 10 most famous pure water sites in Japan. There is an image of Fudo Myoo enshrined on the waterfall. Many devout stand beneath the waterfall to perform the rite of cold water, while worshipping before Fudo-Myoo.
After touring the temple, I found the stamp office and had my book stamped. Probably the last stamp for the book. Next to the temple was the Jishu Shrine which is the dwelling place of the god of love and matchmaking. I found out later from Kaz, that the temple is actually not one of Kobo Daishi's temple.
Picture 2 is of the shrine. Picture 3 is of one of two stones. The two stones are set about 10 meters apart. They are called "love-fortune-telling" stones. If a person walks safely from one stone to the other with their eyes closed, his or her love will be realized. It is very popular among Japanese and foreigners.
Picture 4 is of the washing station, of which, I love the dragon spout. As well, in the corner of the shrine is a place to put a plaque with ones wish and a shrine, where there is a bronze statue you touch so your wish will be granted.
It is said the Jishu Shrine's god, the Cupid of Japan, can give the people of the world endless love, wisdom and happiness.
After visiting the temple and shrine I walked back down the hill, where now all the shops were open. I had to resist the pottery shops. It started to rain heavy. Good thing I brought my sakura umbrella. I was planning on walking back but because of the rain, decided to catch the bus back. I caught the 12:33 Shinkinsen train for Tokyo. It was a nice train ride back to Tokyo. Such a smooth ride and just zipping along. I got a window seat, but unable to see Mount Fuji, because of the low clouds.
A good day and back in Tokyo to spend a few days before flying back home to Canada. 

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Kyoto - Toji Temple

After the morning service and breakfast headed out to make my way to Kyoto. First you have to catch the bus to the cable car station, as you are not allowed to walk on the road to the cable car, as it is narrow with lots of curves and only enough room for buses. You buy your ticket at the cable car station that gets you all the way to the Namba station in Osaka. Much easier process, as only have to change trains at Hashimoto and it is set up you get off one train and the next train is on the opposite side of the platform. Makes it easy for foreigners.
Got off at a stop before Namba and switched to JR loop train to Osaka station. Then took another JR train to Shin-Osaka, which is where I caught the Shinkinsen to Kyoto. I had done this before when visiting Cheryl, so knew there are two Osaka train stations - one for local trains and one for the Shinkinsen high speed trains.
I thought there sure were lots of people at Koyasan (compared to walking around Shikoku. Well, the Osaka train stations was packed with people and then it was nothing compared to Kyoto. Everywhere I went the crowds got bigger and bigger. I was longing for the peace and quiet of walking the Shikoku trails. I was looking for the right exit at Kyoto, which was closest to the hotel, but couldn't seem to find the south exit sign. Since I found a tourist bureau in the station, I decided to ask and get an English map. The lady was good at giving me directions. Found the R&B hotel OK and was able to drop off my stuff, since check in wasn't til 4 pm and it was only 1 pm. 
I was able to walk to Toji Temple, which was about a 20 minute walk from the hotel. Toji Temple is the central seminary for Esoteric Buddhism set up by Kobo Daishi. There is a 5 storied Pagoda, which is the highest in Japan, measuring 187 feet. The original was built by Kobo Daishi in 826. The original burned down when it was struck by lightening and rebuilt in 1644.  Pictures 1 and 3 are of the pagoda. In the Lecture Hall there are 21 huge Buddhist statues arranged according to the Mikkyo Mandela described in the main sutra of Esoteric Buddhism. They were brought from China by Kukai. I wanted to take some pictures, however, there were lots of signs saying no photography, no sketching and would be subject to prosecution under the Japanese Cultural Heritage law. So I took some pictures outside of the two Halls (Pictures 4 and 5) but none inside.
The hall next to the Lecture Hall had this huge Buddha statue and his two attendants, Nikko and Gakko Bosatsu.
Picture 2 is of the garden around the pagoda, where if you look closely, there ate turtles on the rocks. I counted 16, at least.
Picture 6 is another temple that is part of the complex.
I enjoyed my visit to Toji Temple. I found the stamp office and had the Toji stamp added to the end of my book, which has some extra blank pages.
Tomorrow my plan is to try and visit another of Kukai's temple by bus and then catch the 12:30 Shinkinsen train for Tokyo.

Koyasan Day 2

Reflecting on yesterday, I realized time is irreverent. Sometimes you have lots, sometime you have none, sometimes you don't know what to do with it. There were times yesterday when waiting for the train I had to tell myself be patient, and just wait for the next train. No big deal. If you are to early you can't check in til 3 pm anyways. Sometimes it is nice to take the extra time and enjoy it in quiet thought.
This morning, I went to the 5:55 am morning service. Since I was ready early, I decided to go early and enjoyed just sitting in the main hall quietly meditating, while the monks stood there to greet people as they arrived. It was an interesting chanting service. At the end, the head monk gave a talk, which was very animated, even though I didn't understand the words, the body language and tone was vibrant. I am sure he was an actor in another life. After the service, I had breakfast in my room before heading out to explore. It rained last night and is still raining and cold outside. Looks like sakura cherry blossom umbrella day.
Picture 1 is of the main temple entrance I am staying at. Picture 2 is the Zen garden view from my room. It is nice to sit on a chair and look out at the Zen garden while typing my blog.
Well, it pretty well rained steady all day. I was just glad I wasn't walking on the pilgrimage. At least I could duck into buildings to get out of the rain. They don't allow any photography in the temples and it was raining too hard outside to take any pictures with my phone, so I never bothered. As well, it was so cool outside with the dampness, made it a yucky day. There are lots of foreigners walking around and I would say "nice day if you are a duck".
In the English brochure it mentions to try Yakimochi, which is a famous confectionary of Koyasan. I found the shop that made them. They had a place to sit and enjoy them, with free hot tea. Picture 3 is of two Yakimochi - one is green tea and one is plain that I enjoyed. They are a kind of mochi filled with red bean paste and fried on a grill. Picture 4 is of the man making them in the front window of the shop. They were very tasty and I enjoyed them. It was a nice break to get out of the rain.
Besides the rain, had a good day exploring Koyasan. Tomorrow I make my way to Kyoto for a day before heading back to Tokyo.

Sunday, 27 April 2014


Had a nice evening in Tokushima. The room was really nice. Got up early for 6:30 am breakfast, so I can catch the 7:15 am bus for the ferry.
Was able to catch the bus OK and made it on the ferry. Very efficient operation and everything is right on time. It was great there was free WiFi on the ferry, which is hard to find in Japan. Was able to catch up on emails and check the CBC and Ottawa Citizen news online.
When I arrived, the ferry terminal was connected to the local train. I thought lets just use it to get to the JR station (instead of taking a taxi), so asked how much and purchased my ticket. When I got to the JR station, I asked which platform for JR. So far so good. However, my good luck was soon to change. When the JR train arrived and everyone boarded I thought I am on my way to Hashimoto, which is 21 stops away and then change to the local train. Well, two stops later everyone piles off and I asked the conductor do I stay on for Hashimoto? He said no, platform 4 (adjacent platform). Had to wait 20 minutes for the train and then on my way again. I thought great. Wrong. We get half way to Hashimoto and everyone piles off. One other passenger says end of the line, get off. I go into the unmanned station (which seemed in the middle of nowhere) to check and see the next train to Hashimoto is in 30 minutes, however, which platform. I ask a guy and he said platform 1 disgruntledly. So I waited and got on the train and kept my fingers and toes crossed it would go all the way to Hashimoto. The good news is it did, however, now had to figure out how to transfer to the local train. I saw the sign to transfer but there was a gate and a machine to pay. This one lady saw I was an ohenro and said Koyasan to me. I said HUI and how much should I pay. She yelled at the station manager to let me thru the gate and I could pay him. So I went in and got my ticket and was told which platform and at what time. I thanked him immensely. As I waited, they had a booth selling tickets for reserved seats. It seems, the time I was going they had two cars designed so you could see the view sideways. I asked the lady how much. She said ¥500 and I asked her if the ticket I had qualified. She said yes. It was the best ¥500 I ever spent. It was a nice trip up the mountain and nice view. Kukai was happy to be in the mountains again.
When I brought my ticket at Hashimoto I asked if I could arrange for my ticket on the way back. He said you have to do at Koyasan. So, when we arrived, I went to check about the return ticket and was told I had to do it on top and to please get on the cable car. It was a nice view on the way up to almost 900 meters.
So when we arrived at the to,p I went to check on a return ticket and was told can only buy on the day I need it. I said OK and off to get on a bus. The good thing was when I brought my reserved seat ticket, she gave me an English pamphlet on Koyasan and could see where the temple (Daienin) I was staying at was. So when getting on the bus I asked which stop closest to Daienin. I found the temple and was able to check in. He was impressed I was an ohenro and here to complete my pilgrimage. I dropped my stuff in the room and headed off for the 40 minute walk to Kukai's tomb to give thanks for helping me to complete the pilgrimage.
Picture 1 is of the temple that looks out at Kukai's tomb. Pictures 2 & 3 are of his tomb. Picture 4 is of a shrine next to it. Picture 5 is of part of the long pathway of tomb stones on the way to Kukai's tomb. I was able to do my final routine and was feeling a little emotional that it was over. When I went to get my book stamped the guy was impressed I had done all 88 at one time. I said this was my final stop to give thanks to Kukai for helping me make it. I held up my walking stick and said he is happy to be in the mountains again. I gave him a Canadian pin and he gave me a special osame-fuda of an ohenro that has done the pilgrimage 236 times.
Since it was close to 4:30 pm; and supper was set for 5:30; and I had a 40 minute walk back; I thought I can check out more tomorrow and best not to be late for supper. Picture 6 is supper that was served in my room. The room is very nice.
It wasn't the best of weather with light rain, but since I was on trains for most of it, the weather wasn't a problem.
Well I made it and mission accomplished. My last stamp for my book.

Saturday, 26 April 2014


Orei-mairi is the action of visiting the first temple from which one started the journey. It can also mean going to the Okunonin (Kukai's tomb) on Mount Koyasan, where Kobo Daishi rests in eternal meditation, to report to him and give thanks to him for the successful completion of the pilgrimage.
Had an interesting supper last night with fellow pilgrims at Yasokubo minshuku. The owner's mother is a hoot and is 82. She gave me a special osame-fuda. I gave her one of mine and a Canadian pin. She was so happy.
Breakfast is at 6 am, so we can catch the 7 am community bus to the JR train station, where I will head back to the Bando train station and back to temple 1. Feels funny looking at map 1 again after being at the end of the book.
Yesterday, I forgot to mention that when I arrived I came thru what looked like a newer Gate. Later on the found an older Gate that leads from the shops to the Main Hall. When I entered the newer Gate I saw the bell tower and washing station. So before I removed my pack I washed my hands and went to the bell tower and gave that bell the hardest whack I could. I am sure there is a permanent crack in the bell. I let the sound resonate thru my tired body and mind. It is bad luck to ring the bell when leaving or when you are finished your routine. It is to announce your arrival. Sometimes I wouldn't find the bell tower til I was ready to leave, so didn't ring it. I was glad to be able to find it right away, by going thru the wrong gate, and gave it a good heave with the log you swing to ring it.
After breakfast, I noticed everyone waiting outside the minshuku, instead of going to the bus stop. When I came out, they pointed at the car. I said I am taking the bus and headed towards the bus stop. The owner called out and they waved me back. What I didn't realize is the first bus isn't til 9 am at the bus stop and the owner was driving us to the local town to catch the 7 am bus. She had to make two trips. I left my osame-fuda on the table in my room with a thank you note in Japanese and my last two maple syrup candies (one for her and one for her mom).
At the bus stop it show two JR stops. I asked the other ohenros and the first was Orange Town. I checked and thought I could catch the train to Bando (stop closest to Temple 1) from there. While waiting for the bus we compared the height of our walking sticks, which had worn down due to using it. Mine was the tallest and I said I didn't walk as much.  When it was time for me to get off the bus it was sad, like I was leaving my ohenro family of six that stayed at the minshuku last night behind.
When I arrived at the JR station, looks like the trains only go to Hiketa station. When I arrived at Hiketa at 8:40 am, I asked when the next train to Bando was. The station manager (the one and only JR employee at the station) said at 11:15 am or I could take train to Itano at 9:06 am and switch to local train at Itano. I thought what's the worst that could happen was to get lost on the JR train system. Surely, I could find my way eventually. While I waited, I noticed the station manager snipping the beautiful pansies that were planted in planter boxes, for something to do, in between trains. He seemed to take great pride in keeping them trimmed and looking nice. When I boarded my train, he said local train platform 3 at Itano. I thanked him and mentioned how nice the flowers looked. His directions worked great.
I decided to get off at one stop before Bando and walk 1 km to Temple 2, to check out the shop. I remember Kaz mentioning things were cheaper there. I wanted to buy a new Hakui (vest) as mine was faded from being washed every second day from being soaked with sweat. Then I could walk the 1.3 km to Temple 1 to complete the 88 circuit. It would give me time to catch the train to Tokushima, where I will stay this evening.
When I arrived at Temple 2 there were people galore. Guess it is because it is the start of Golden Week, where everyone has the week off. It was a great feeling, when I rang the bell to say I was finished. It was interestingly to see the many ohenros starting out on their journey. After I did the full routine I checked out the shop. I then headed off to walk to Temple 1. Along the way it looked like an ohenro dad starting his walk with the vest on with three kids along, for moral support. One had the staff, one had the bell and the third was bringing up the rear. I had a chuckle and thought, dad, do you know what you are in for.
When I got to Temple 1, it was a zoo. People everywhere. Lots of tours starting. I must say it felt different now that I was finished to just relax and enjoy the surroundings. I remember day 1, it rained and I was trying to deal with rain prep verses seeing the temple. I ran into a couple from Holland and asked one of them if they could take my picture in front of the gate.  I had my new Hakui stamped to make it official. I celebrated by having a green tea ice cream at the shop close by, which I didn't notice was there the first time.
On the walk to the Bando train station, to make my way to Tokushima, this lady came running and opened a sliding door, where there was a seating area. All I understood was osettai. The next thing I understood was coffee or tea. I said tea "ocha" in Japanese. Her elderly mother was there and so happy I was from Canada. I gave them an osame-fuda and pins. They provided me with a tray of snacks. I decided to have one to be polite. I tried to explain, I finished my pilgrimage and was on my way to Koyasan. Her elderly mother had a box of small bags she sewed and wanted me to have one. She then filled it with candies. After I finished my tea, I politely bid my farewell and next received a small hand towel. I thanked them and headed for the Bando train station.
When I arrived in Tokushima, there was an English tourist information center and I checked where I catch the 7:15 am bus for the ferry in the morning. I picked up a map of the city. Lots of big stores, which might be brutal if I want to shop, as my day pack is already full of osettai.
Found the Agnes hotel OK and settled in. It is very nice. They have free WiFi in the lobby, so I can post the pictures I took.
All on all a wonderful orei-mairi day.
Picture 1-Golden week fish kite flags on walk to Temple 2
Picture 2-Temple 2 Gate
Picture 3-Temple 1 Daishi Hall
Picture 4-Temple 1 Gate
Picture 5-Temple 1 Gate with me
Picture 6-Temple 1 Pagoda

Temple 87-Nagaoji and Temple 88-Okuboji

The Grand Finale today. The weather looks like it will be a nice day. Hope to have some extra time to stop at the Maeyama Ohenro Museum, which is along the way.
Kechigan Toshiuchi
Kechigan is the action of completing one's visit to all 88 Temples.
Toshiuchi is doing the whole pilgrimage at one time.
So today is my kechigan toshiuchi day.
When I arrived at Temple 87, I came in the wrong way, because I followed the directions of a road-work construction worker. I was looking for a suitable place to leave my day pack and noticed where the gate entrance was, so thought, I might as well do things correct and headed for the gate. The next thing this woman came chasing after me, handed me a lovely little pilgrim and said osettai. I thanked her and gave her one of my Canadian pins. I bowed at the gate and made my proper entrance and then dropped off my day pack and put on my wagesa.
I noticed she was sitting there waiting for pilgrims to give them osettai. I thought what a nice way to start my last day. I went over and gave her one of my osame-fuda and thanked her again. She really enjoyed receiving the osame-fuda from me.
Since it was close to 9 am, I decided to take my photos and head off to Temple 88. Picture 1 is of Temple 87 with Main Hall on the left and Kobo Daishi Hall on the right. Picture 2 is of the Temple 87 Gate.
The walk to the Ohenro Museum took over an hour and got there after 10 am. Along the way I saw this little old lady walking slowly with her cane and stopped and gave her a Canadian pin. Later on, I past this little old man walking ever so slowly, with his cane and reminded me of my father. I turned around to go back, and when I spoke to give him a pin, he didn't stop. When I tapped him on the shoulder, he pointed to his ears, that he was deaf. I thought no problem, as I can't understand Japanese anyway and gave him a pin. He seemed pleased to receive it.
There was this wonderful lady at the museum, who was so friendly and invited you in with tea and a snack. She then asked me to put my name and address in a book. She used it to fill out my certificate, which is picture 8. They also give you a official ohenro ambassador pin and a DVD of pictures of the pilgrimage (I think-I will have to wait til I am home to see what is on the DVD). It was all free and when I typed in the translation for "donation" on my phone and showed I wanted to make a donation,  she refused. She said it was osettai. I gave her and the man that run the museum, a Canadian pin and my osame-fuda and two of the remaining four maple syrup candies. They enjoyed receiving everything. I spent about 45 minutes, looking around the museum. On the wall, they had large maps with the places from around Japan, where if you were from the area, you could leave your osame-fuda in the slot next to it. They had one labeled international. I noticed the last one was from David in the USA, I walked with for 2 days. So he must have made it, as I told him to make sure he drops into the museum to get his certificate. I added mine to the front of the see thru slot holder.
I asked about the old pilgrim route and was told both routes takes about 3 hours. The short one you have to climb up to 700 meters and back down to 500 meters. It is a tough climb. The old pilgrim route is a paved country road and longer but still a climb.
I decided to take the old pilgrim route. Well it was still quite a climb, like climbing some of the steep hills in the Gatineau Park. At one point it was taking me through a path verses the road. I decided to stick to the road. I noticed later this was shown on the Japanese map she gave me. As I continued on this narrow country road the markers disappeared and I kept going up and up and up. Of course my mind took over and questioned was I going the right way. I thought there is no other road. The problem was there wasn't a single car go by. If I was getting lost I couldn't even flag down a car. This was not feeling good. I thought of this Japanese animated movie (Spirited Away) I watched with Masa, where this family gets lost in the countryside, as the road got narrower and narrower. They end up in this magical place, where the parents get turned into pigs for eating to much and the kids have to fend for themselves. I felt like I was in the movie right now. I thought, what if I did take the wrong way and end up in the middle of nowhere. Then, I saw this man walking down the hill, with this small curved scythe to cut plants. I thought now I am in trouble. The grim reaper has found me. I quickly got out my Route Guide and looked up the name of temple 88. I said Okuboji and pointed straight ahead. He shook his head yes. So, he wasn't the grim reaper and I lived to continue on my pilgrimage. It wasn't a bad dream after all.
When I reached the top of the climb, there was a small rest area marked on the map, so I felt better, and from there on, started to see the markers again on the way down. You could see some delapitated old abandoned homes, but other than this, no life at all. There started to appear Kukai marker statues again to mark the way, which was a good sign.
Finally, I made it back to the main road and had about another 6 km to go. At the end, I had to climb up to 500 meters to get to the temple. The final 3 km were a killer being uphill and the mind kept saying "how much further".
Ran into a couple harvesting what looked like fiddleheads. She wanted to chat but I couldn't understand the Japanese. I had to friendly say, I have to go. I think she wanted to know if I did all of the temples.
I arrived around 1:15 pm, so took me about 2.25 hours, which wasn't bad. Mind you my back, legs and feet were sore.
I took my time and visited the temple. It is a very nice temple and enjoyed the extra time there. Since it is Saturday and the start of Golden Week, there were lots of Japanese visitors.
Picture 3 & 4 are of the temple and pictures 5 & 6 are pictures with me in them. Picture 7 is of the glass enclosed building, which houses all of the Kukai walking sticks that were left at the Temple. Since the staff is suppose to represent the embodiment of Kukai to guide pilgrims, one tradition is to leave it at the temple, at the end of your pilgrimage, as Kukai's job is finished. I am going to try to bring mine back to Canada for my next pilgrimage.
Outside the temple there are a few shops, so found one that sells green tea ice cream. I decided to treat myself, as part of my celebration and enjoyed it, while sitting on the temple grounds.
There is no fan fare when you get your book stamped for he last temple. No big deal. I asked for the ¥2000 certificate and was told can only do my name in kanji (not alphabet). I quickly pulled out one of my business cards with my name in kanji on the back (I made up before I left) and he agreed. He read the kanji as "Arnold Smith" and I said proudly, that is correct (HUI). I paid my fee and was told to use the hairdryer before rolling it up to put it in the tube they give you.
I spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the temple energy.
Around 3:30 pm I made my way to Yosokubo, the only minshuku close to the temple. It is very nice and glad Masa was able to book it for me in advance. When I arrived the owner said "Arnold Smith Canada" and I said a loud HUI.
I was able to take my shower right away and arrange to wash my clothes, as my shirt was soaked with sweat walking up those mountains.
The room is very nice and I have my own toilet and sink, which is a nice treat.
All in all, a wonderful day and feeling great I made it to temple 88. The plan is to find out what time the bus is to the JR station tomorrow during supper and make my way back to Temple 1.
Mission accomplished. I am now an official ohenro ambassador.
Thanks to everyone for reading my blog and leaving comments, which get sent to my gmail email. They help make my day. I will continue my blog, as I make my way to Koyasan, which is where Kobo Daishi's tomb is. As well, will visit a couple of Kobo Daishi's important temples in Kyoto before heading back to Tokyo.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Temple 84-Yashimaji; Temple 85-Yakuriji; Temple 86-Shidoji

Had a wonderful stay at the Kirara onsen last night. Was able to soak those aching muscles. The good thing is they open at 6 am, so you can use it before leaving in the morning.
The weather looks like another nice day for walking.
Well, the walk up to temple 84 was more of a hike that I was anticipating. The climb was a nice paved hiking path up to the temple, but it was much higher than I thought. I started to use my SAT NAM breathe work to help me make the climb. There were local walkers, that probably do the hike for exercise, as I passed them, as they were walking very slowly. As I got higher and higher, I could hear all these children voices, like they were playing. I thought, they must be at the temple playing, so I am almost there. Wrong.  I came across this school group of about 200 kids, probably between 5 - 7 years old, slowly walking up the hill with their teachers. They all had their colorful pink hats on. As I was walking faster than them, they all wanted to say "ohio godimus " - good morning in Japanese, and expected me to reply, as I was huffin and puffin, my way up the mountain. So I had to oblige. Picture 2 is some of the school group with their pink hats, as they broke them up in groups to walk around the temple.
I really liked Temple 84 and I could have spent a half or full day there. They had a temple museum and garden, which I would have liked to see, but didn't have enough time planned for it.
Picture 1and 3 are the Main Hall. Picture 4 is the 7 lucky deities statues. Picture 5 is a pagoda along with gate roof and part of the bell tower.
The hike down the other side of the mountain was treacherous (which is an understatement). It was very steep with lots of huge steps. Sometimes there was a rope handrail to hold onto, so you didn't fall. It made the walk up the other side of the mountain look like a piece of cake now. The shortest way to the next temple was to walk down the other side of the mountain. It was a killer on my knees and quads.
Then once you made it down, you had to walk on level ground thru the town, then up to the next mountain and temple.
Thanks Dara for mentioning the tram car. I was so tired, by the time I reached it, on my way to temple 85, I thought it is worth the ¥560 (one way). I thought I could walk down the other side of the mountain on the shortest way to Temple 86. I was so tired when I brought the ticket, that when the guy pointed the direction,  I saw the tram car sitting there, so open the door to go get in. Next thing this lady came running, yelling something in Japanese. I think the gist of it was I had to wait in the waiting room til I could board. I thought why did the ticket guy point me in the tram direction. I was so tired, I felt like I was in a daze. When these two ladies said something in Japanese, I thought they were asking where I was from and I replied, Canada, but I don't think that is what they were asking, as there were strange looks. They had a look of disgust on their face and probably thought "stupid foreigner". I thought I am so tired,  I don't care and plunged down my day pack (which felt like it weight a ton) and got out the half bottle of cold drink (I brought at the last vending machine). I downed it along with a couple candy bars I received as osettai at the last temple. I figured I needed the energy. I felt much better afterwards. Thank heavens for the world of vending machines, at every corner in Japan (well not every corner, but at lots of places, except when you really need a cold drink). The two ladies continued to chatter to each other and stick their head around the corner to see what I was doing next.
Finally, the lady that scolded me, opened the door and said dozo. I expected the two ladies to board as well, but they didn't and I was the only passenger.
It was a nice ride up and I sat up front for the view , next to the lady who scolded me, that was the operating the tram. I was feeling a bit better, after the short rest.
Temple 85 was a nice temple and I could have easily spent a half day at the temple. Picture 5 is of the gate. Picture 6 is of the Main Hall and picture 7 is of red pagoda. But I had one more temple to do and a mountain to climb down, so couldn't spend allot of time enjoying it. The way down was on a country road, so was a much more pleasant and safer descend. Like yesterday, there I was, my walking stick in one hand and my Route Guide book in the other. I felt like a traveling preacher with the bible in one hand. Every once in a while I would stop and look and read from the Route Guide and sometimes ask people questions from it, to figure where I was. It was still steep in places on the way down, and still a killer on the knees, but at least it was smooth pavement, not rocks and tree roots to climb over. Better than on the way down from temple 84. About half way down, there was this pond you could look down about 10 feet from above. I saw a bird (like a crane) diving for food. Then I heard these loud splashes. I looked and there were all these turtles sitting on a cement ledge, sun bathing and a couple decided to jump in the water. I noticed about six turtles swimming (all about 18 inches in diameter) and four sitting on the ledge. They swam for a bit and then just seemed to float. It was a good rest break (and just what I needed) from the hard walk down.
Made it to temple 86 around 2:30 pm, so had about 30 minutes to wait before I could check into the minshuku. The minshuku was close by. Picture 8 is the pagoda at Temple 86.
I had a hard time figuring out, which building was my minshuku. I asked a lady in the sweet shop and she guided me to the place. I would have never found it otherwise.
It is an older minshuku called Ishiya, but I love the character. Just like in the movies where there are these connecting corridors overlooking small zen gardens. My room is up a set of narrow stairs. When I slid one of the Japanese panels, there was this wonderful sitting area with two wicker chairs, overlooking one of the zen gardens. A great place to sit and write my blog.
The owner is very nice. In his limited English, he told me supper was at 6 pm (and showed me where, on our way by) and bath would be in 20 minutes. That is all I needed to know for now. I will pay at supper and find out the breakfast time then. As well, he wanted to know if Japanese food OK. I said yes. At supper it will be interesting to see how many people are staying here or if I am the only one (as it is awful quiet).
All in all, another great day. Good weather, bit tired, but hopefully will get a good nights sleep tonight for the mountain climb to Temple 88 tomorrow. The grand finale.