Saturday, 29 March 2014

Temples 19, 20 and 21.

After an early morning breakfast, I headed out about 6:45am. Rain, rain, rain was the theme of the day. Not just rain , pouring rain like I have never seen before, or as Kayoko says "like cats and dogs".
Let's go back to last night first. At supper there was only three place settings. Two together and one alone. I was directed to the one alone probably as to not make the Japanese couple uncomfortable. I noticed there was one more place setting next to me but no food. Maybe for a late comer I thought.
After supper and doing up my blog, I looked at my game plan for tomorrow. The plan was to walk to temple 19 (about 4.2 km - 60 minutes) then take a cab to temple 20 (which is a hard 13 km climb).
I asked the owner who knew the odd English word, thru my phone translator, if he could book the cab for tomorrow. Basically I was told, because I couldn't confirm a time, he said best to do it from temple 19 when I get there. So, I left like a puppy with his tail between his legs again. 
I found 4 futons in the closet and stacked them up to get some height to sleep on. Around 8 pm I decided to go to bed. As I was on my way to the toilet, there was the Japanese woman (Kayoko) who had scolded me for lighting the candle wrong, however, by the end of today, I realized she was not scolding me, but trying to teach me. However at this point, when I saw her, I thought l am in trouble. To boot she was in the room next to me with the paper thin walls. What if I wake her when I get up to go pee in the middle of the night. I said a friendly hi and she said you stay at same place.
I was awake at 5 am, so decided to quietly go to the common washing area to shave and brush my teeth. Again our paths crossed, as we both did our morning washing. Funny thing there is one common sink area for men and woman. No big deal, as we both washed our face and brushed our teeth.
Then at breakfast, low and behold, she was at the empty spot from last night, next to me. So I thought, what the heck, let me try to break the ice. She said she arrived late last night. I gave her my nameslip and business card, as well as, a Canadian pin and maple syrup candy. She wrote her name and address on the back of her name slip. I found out her name was Kayoko. She asked where I was staying tonight and she said she is staying too far, she will never make it. The good thing is because she was Japanese she could easily call and change her accommodations. For me, since I had Masa call and book some of my accommodations before I left from Canada, I had no easy way to change them. I remember Masa explaining that even thought I was a foreigner, I could sleep on futons and eat Japanese food. Some places were OK with foreigners, while others were not comfortable with foreigners. I was so grateful Masa could explain in Japanese the best he could to try and convince them to be comfortable in letting me stay at their accommodations.
There was an egg in the shell at breakfast and wasn't sure if it was cooked or not. I watched Kayoko break it over her rice (from the corner of my eye) and thought here I go, I can handle eating a raw egg over rice. No big deal.
I said my farewell to Kayoko, paid the owner for the night's stay and said gosheso-sumadisda and he replied with a smile on his face.
As I was leaving it started to rain, so I put on my rain gear. For awhile, as I walked it looked like it was going to stop raining, however, I decided to keep my rain gear on until I got to Temple 19. Well the skies opened up and it poured and poured and poured. I've never seen it rain so hard. When I got to Temple 19 it was raining so hard, I found a place where there was a shelter, near the stamp office and was able to take off my day pack. I tried to go do the temple routine but it became almost impossible. Once I tried to lift my rain jacket the bag with my stamp book (cell phone and other precious stuff like my passport) would get wet with the heavy rain. When I went to get my book stamped I asked if they could call a taxi and no one could speak English, so I was out of luck. Now what was I to do. Just as I was going to get my day pack I could see Kayoko making her way up to the Buddha Hall wearing her signature black floppy hat. I thought I would ask her even if she would think I wasn't a serious ohenro and think it was terrible to even consider taking a taxi. As she came in the stamp office she was surprised to see me. I asked if she could help me after she had her book stamped. When I asked if she could call a taxi for me, she said sure and if she could ride with me.  I said by all means. She only wanted a ride to where she wanted to visit a shrine. She said the rain was really heavy like it's raining cats and dogs. In the cab we had a nice talk and she showed me a picture of her husband. She was doing the ohenro walk in his memory. He died at the age of 57 due to heat stroke last October. I told her I was doing it in memory of my dad. She said she found it so lonely in the house by herself, so decided on the ohenro walk. It made me think of mom how lonely she must feel with dad gone. I could feel the pain and sorrow she was feeling with her husband's loss. I asked if she could ask the taxi to wait while I did my temple routine at temple 20 and then drive me to the ropeway (lift) to temple 21. She did and it was no problem.
It is strange how things work out and I made a connection with Kayoko. I realized her intention was not to scold me over the lighting of the candle, but to teach a poor foreigner, who can speak little Japanese, some of the ohenro customs.
When the taxi driver dropped me off at the ropeway, I noticed Kayoko black signature floppy hat on the floor of the back seat of the cab. I thought the cab driver would have no way of returning it to her. I thought I would take it with me back to Canada and email her when I got home, to get her mailing address and sent it to her in the mail. It was nice to go in the ropeway building to get out of the rain, get dry and feel human again. They had a nice historical display, which I enjoyed and spent time looking at it. The ride up was spectacular and hoped Kukai (Kobo Daishi) would understand this was my best for today with the rain.
I loved temple 21 (pictures 1 and 2). The sun came out and I enjoyed a couple of hours of peace and quiet just sitting. I could have spent the whole day there. This is the part of the pilgrimage I enjoyed and wanted to spent as much time as possible at the nicer temples. I got to dry out my rain gear and found a vending machine with the hot royal milk tea (my favorite). It was like being in heaven. I watched a chameleon, which I think does the croaking, walking from his hiding spot to the next hiding spot.
I took my time walking the 5 km down the mountain to the minshuku. I stopped to listen to the chameleons croaking along the way. As well, there were these white and grey crabs walking along the road and some crushed ones that didn't make it. Wonder what they were doing in the mountains.
I found the minshuku around 2:30 pm. Since it wasn't 3 pm (the official check-in time) I sat across the street near a row of cherry blossom trees (picture 3). As I sat there, a woman came across the street and asked if I was Arnold Smith. I said yes, and she said please come (dozo). 
After I was shown my 6 tatami mat room and where the bath was, she said there was no charge to use the washer and dryer. The last place charged $1 (100 yen) to use the dryer. I have been hand washing my clothes each night, as I didn't have much to wash. However, today I decided to wash more as my hakui was getting very stained and my pants needed a good wash.
Supper was a blast. There is a bus tour staying in these large rooms. The dining area was Japanese style with low tables and just mats to sit on. They had about 6 of us sitting separately. One guy could speak some English and they decided to move all of us walking ohenro's together including me. They were surprised I could use chopsticks so well. I am learning to like sashimi (raw fish). I asked about the custard bowl and was told it is an egg pudding. One older guy (72), they call the joke man and he was funny. Looking forward to have breakfast with them tomorrow and maybe walking with them. I told them I took taxi today and they said "no problem" to do the ohenro any way you want, by bus, by car, by bicycle, by train, by taxi. They said each pilgrim does the pilgrimage in their own way and there is no right or wrong way. It is the journey that counts and how we each get there is up to each and every one of us.
Even though the day started off with allot of apprehension on my part, it worked out well, thanks to the blessing and help of Kayoko. I really enjoyed my longer visit at temple 21. I decided to sent Kayoko an email to let her know I had her black signature hat and wondered if there was a way to drop it off at a temple for her to pick up. If not, I would mail it to her from Canada. I figured she probably wouldn't read the email til she finished her pilgrimage.
I realize the ohenro pilgrimage is a journey full of surprises with great satisfaction. Wonder what tomorrow will bring.

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