Thursday, 10 April 2014

Temple 41-Ryukoji, Temple 42-Butsumokuji, Temple 43-Meisekiji

Spent most of last night working on trying to figure where to stay for the later part of the pilgrimage.
It starts to get confusing from temple 60 onward as they are so close together.
Was up at 5 am. Didn't hear or see another soul all evening, so think I was the only one staying here. Did my early morning ablutions of shaving and brushing my teeth, as I prefer shaving in the morning, verses at night with my bath. Followed by taking some hot water from the hot pot (as there is only cold water at the wash up area) in a basin to wash my face, so I feel awake and alive.
Breakfast was an orange and banana, I brought last night and some of the Japanese snacks and green tea that was in the room.
Off to try and catch the 6:37 am bus to the closest train station - Uwajima.
So far, today has started off as "cat day". As I waited for the bus, standing still like you have to do during Zen training at the Bodhi, I noticed this tabby cat in the parking lot across the street very painstaking and with much detail, digging a mount of dirt, working with it to get it just right. Then another cat appeared and ran across the street. A third white cat watched the tabby cat and started to creep up on the tabby cat and I thought her comes a fight. Instead the white cat slowly creped up on the tabby cat and started to help tabby to arrange the dirt, just so. Amazing what amuses one mind when waiting at 6:15 am, by yourself for the bus. Then a white and brown cat came over and jumped up a 5 foot cement wall. Then tabby jumped the wall. I was amazed they could jump that high. Then an older lady joined me at the bus stop. She said something ending in " deska ", and I figured she was asking where I was from. I said Canada and she smiled. I showed her the Uwajima station and pointed to bus. She nodded yes. Meanwhile, the white cat was still working on fixing the dirt pile, just so. I looked over at the old lady cleaning some small rocks from the road and when I looked back for the white cat, she disappeared. Very Buddhist, where things just appear or disappear.
The bus arrived and was already full of students with their blue navy like uniforms, as well as, some with brown uniforms. As we traveled along, the bus became packed with students. It was about a 60 minute ride to Uwajima city, where all the students got off. Wow, an hour bus ride to school each day. The older lady who was sitting in front of me got off, where I think was an hospital in Uwajima (which is a large city). Maybe she was going to visit a sick relative (like her husband) in the hospital. She bid me farewell, as she got off the bus.
Since, I have about an hour and half to wait to catch my train to temple 41, I worked on writing my log and see if I could get a WiFi connection. I was just upset with myself, that I should have taken an earlier bus, then maybe wouldn't have waited so long.
When I got off at my train stop, I started in what I thought was the right direction. Please let me see a marker. Sure enough I found the first marker and was happy as a lark.
When I arrived at Temple 41, there was a Japanese lady who was just finishing up. I put my day pack besides her, removed my sedge hall (sugegasa), put one my wagesa (stole) around my neck. She could see I was tired. I said konicewa and she said "from Canada". I said yes. I wanted to follow her to the next temple, so I wouldn't get lost,  but was too shy to ask. I thought, do I quickly do my routine, or take my time and do it properly. I decided to take my time. I went and did the wash my hands and mouth. Then went to ring the bell, ever so gently, as I was feeling in a gentle mood.
I could see she was watching me. At the Buddha Hall, I did the lighting of the candle, 3 incense sticks, dropped off my osame-fuda, dropped my donation with a clang and rang the Hall bell followed by my chanting. Off to the Daishi Hall to do the same. Then I took a few pictures and went to get my book stamped. When I came out, to my surprise, she was still there. I asked her which way to the next temple. She said she would show me and walk with me. Yes, I was in luck. I removed my wagesa, put my sedge hat on and did my four count check to make sure I had everything - 1 for hat, 2 for day pack, 3 for stamp book bag, and 4 for my walking stick(Kukai), which is suppose to represent Kobo Daishi spirit that is walking with you. She laughed and I said I don't want to forget Kobo Daishi (as you see a few of them left behind at temples).
We started with a hill climb through a cemetery, which I would have never found. Along the way, she told me she had been to Canada 5 times and loved it. She recognized the Canadian flag on my day pack. She said she was to Whistler, Banff and Jasper, which she really liked. When we came down the mountain and hit the road, she says she was a slow walker and it was straight along this road. I said I would meet up with her at the next Temple. I thought with her behind me I had someone looking out for me.
I arrived at temple 42 and waited for her. We did our routine together and noticed she was only getting a white vest (hakui) stamped. It is said that it becomes a family treasure and later is put on the deceased before cremation.
I gave her my osame-fuda and she gave me one of hers. Her name is Osei and she is from Kobe. She said this is her 5th time walking. I gave her a Canadian pin and maple syrup candy. She gave me a bag of munchies as osettai.
We then headed out for the 11 km walk to temple 43. She said she was only walking half way, as she was staying at an old minshuku she has stayed at before, which she liked. Well, the road led us to a trail and then it was a 538 meter walk up a mountain. I thought, I would have tried the tunnel route, instead of the climb, but later realized, I would have followed the markers. It was very steep and again, just as you thought you were at the top, there was a bend and continued up and up. At one point the path was narrow and I couldn't look down. I thought if I do look down and lose my balance, (like I hate getting on the roof now), I am a goner. When we finally got to the top, the view was fantastic and well worth the effort to make the climb. I said Kukai is happy because he loves mountains. She laughed. As we rested admiring the view, she asked to see the picture of my father on the back of the nameslip I gave her. She said she lost her mother 20 years ago in the big earthquake in Kobe. We took pictures of each other and started the dangerous trek down, which can be just as bad. I thought maybe it was meant to be that I had to wait 1.5 hours for the train. If I hadn't, I would have never met Osei, and got to listen to her story about losing her mother in the terrible earthquake of Kobe. I felt we made a connection. When we made it back to the road, we came to the Michibiki-daishi shrine and she showed me what to do at a shrine. She said her minshuku was just over there and it was all along the highway from here for me to temple 43. We shook hands at first and then hugged each other, as we bid farewell to each other. Some how, she must have sensed I needed a guiding hand and helped a fellow ohenro.
However, after our farewells,  I still had 6 km to go to temple 43 and it was already near 2 pm. So I pushed onward. Every time I would see a sign with the distance, I would make up a little song. First it was 3.3 km, then 2.5, then 1.1. Yeah, on to the home stretch. Then there was a 600 meters sign, but it didn't say it was all uphill.  600 meters for the last stretch uphill can be a killer. What a slug. Then just when you think you are there, guess what, more steps to get to the gate. I noticed a small shop in the parking lot with a large soft ice cream cone on display. I thought I need one of those when I come down from my hot sweaty climb and walk.
After doing my temple routine and getting my book stamped, I headed down for my ice cream. I pointed to the large plastic cone. She probably asked what flavour. I saw displayed on the machine vanilla or vanilla chocolate mixed. Then I heard her say green tea (matcha). I said yes, my favorite. My treat for the day, since I only had a banana and some small munchies (these green matcha tea chocolates I like).  When she told me the price I was so tired I just handed her my leather change purse (I brought at the 100 yen store) and she fetched out 300 yen and put 50 back in. I didn't care what it cost, as I was in heaven enjoying my green tea ice cream.
My guide book showed a different way that would lead right to the street my minshuku was on. I asked the green tea lady for directions and she drew me a map. I had to go back up the stairs and climb the mountain for another 5 minutes. WHAT!!!!! I said this can't be happening, climb the mountain again. Then she said it was downhill for another 15 minutes and it should become a road. I didn't want to make a wrong turn and be in the middle of nowhere in the dark.
At least I had my green tea ice cream and if I die, I will die happy. It tasted so good.
Sure enough, her directions were exactly as she said and worked out great. My minshuku is close to the train station, so I went in to check the departure times. Decided to try and catch the 6:55 am train tomorrow. When I found the minshuku, as the ice cream lady wrote the name in Japanese, I went in, placed my Kukai walking stick in the umbrella rack, took off my shoes, put on a pair of slippers. I knew the routine. Since no one was around, I started to walk around looking for someone, hoping I wasn't in someone's private home. When I found someone by saying "konicewa" out loud, this wonderful lady came out and as soon as she saw me she said "Arnold" in Japanese. I said yes and was very relieved I had found the place. She quickly took my Kukai walking staff (kongozue) and went and washed the base and took me upstairs to my room. She placed the kongozue on a shelf in a prominent place. We discussed supper time was at 6 pm. Breakfast was at 6:30 am. I asked if it could be earlier so I could catch my 6:55 train. She wrote 6:15 on the paper. I said OK. She said she would draw the bath. She served green tea and snacks. Before I knew it, the phone rang and she said bath. Off I went with my yukata and towel in hand. I was getting use to the minshuku routine. She gave me a mesh laundry bag to put my dirty clothes in. After the sweaty walk they needed to be washed. She said she would wash them and she pointed to the washing machine. After my bath I placed the bag in the laundry bin, wondering if I will ever see them again. About 45 minutes later, another lady knocked on the door with my laundry bag with a rod and hangers to hang them on to dry them.
At 6 pm, I went down for supper, which was great. Sashimi (the real stuff), noodle soup, tonkatu, salad, assorted pickles, rice, tofu and a bunch of other stuff that is hard to explain. I was so hungry, I could eat just about anything. There were place settings for 4. I heard some other people arrive, so I am not alone. Another ohenro joined me for supper. It is his third time doing the pilgrimage.
The owner is so nice and helpful. A great place to stay.
Gonna end my blog for today here.
I have included five pictures:
1. Temple 41
2. Temple 41 seven lucky deities
3. Temple 42
4. Temple 42 seven lucky deities
5. Temple 43 gate.

1 comment:

  1. I remember the seven lucky deities at temple 42. I spent a lot of time with another Henro discussing them. Lovely.