Thursday, 17 April 2014

Temple 65-Sankakuji

Made it to Shikoku-Chuo city OK with the plan to head out to Temple 65 tomorrow.
It was good to take the day off and just do some shopping (at Fuji Department Store and 100 yen store) verses walking.
The train ride was interesting. I arrived about 45 minutes early for the 7:49 am train. As it got closer to 7:49 more and more students in their navy blue school uniforms appeared. They were all cramming for the first car. I decided to get on the last car, which was still packed with students, but not as bad. Guess I picked the wrong time and would soon find out the wrong car.
We started on our journey and everything was going well, until we came to one stop and all the students went piling off the car. I thought this must be where their school is. Well I was wrong. A cleaner came on the train car and shooed me and other unsuspecting passengers off the train. When I asked about my stop he pointed to the next car in front of us, where all of the students were packed on. I managed to squeeze on (with my ohenro pack and walking stick taking up more room than I should) with a smile my face. No sense getting upset. I could see one Japanese girl smile back, where the rest of the students were focused on their smart phones and couldn't care less.
We continued on and at another stop allot of the students piled off again. I asked the conductor OK to stay on to my destination. He said "hui" and motioned I could sit and relax.
When I eventually made it to my stop the rest of the students piled off that were on the first car. As I waited for the students to push forward, another ohenro I met yesterday, who was on the first car, smiled at me and rolled his eyes at the masses of students.
The hotel was large and newly renovated. Was nice to have my own bathroom and take a shower in the morning. However, the forecast is rain for the morning and it was raining as I got ready for breakfast. Guess it is rain gear day and might have to modify plans.
Last night I meet another ohenro at the train station, who turned out to be from the USA. I had to wait til 3 pm to check-in, so spent some time talking with him. His name was David Turner and he tried doing the ohenro 4 years ago, but fell and twisted his ankle badly. He continued on at the time, but it was a mistake, as his ankle got worst. So he had to quit. He is now back to finish it. He asked where I was staying and it was at the same hotel. He used to live in Japan with the US military and stayed after he retired from the military and went to a Japanese university. He could speak Japanese pretty good. He said he was planning on taking a taxi to Temple 65, because the forecast called for rain. I asked if I could share the taxi with him in the morning. I thought "what the heck, one more taxi ride". It doesn't matter, how you do the pilgrimage and I thought it would be nice to walk with a  fellow ohenro who knew some Japanese.
Sure enough the next morning there was a steady rain. When we arrived at the Temple by taxi there were still lots of steep stairs to climb that were very slippery and uneven.
So, it was hard to take good pictures. I did manage to take one of the Main Buddha Hall and one of the washing station. I found the dragon at the washing station very "kewl" and wanted to share it with you.
The walk to the minshuku was wet, misty and sometimes cold in the mountains. At a couple of times, I could see my breath. I walked with David and we had a wonderful chat along the way about our experience so far and he talked about his first attempt. His wife is not interested on doing the ohenro and he talked about keeping in touch with his wonderful grand children.
On the way down the mountain, David mentioned he wanted to stop at Bangai #14 (Jofukuji) marked on the map and I could go ahead if I liked. I decided I wanted to stop for a rest and see what a Bangai was like. I found out they are similar to the temples, and there is a separate book you could buy, where you could collect the stamp from each Bangai. The routine is the same as at the temples. We took a short break and then headed on our way.
Instead of going over a mountain, we chose going thru a 1 km tunnel. Let me tell you it was scary at times, since the walkway (sidewalk) was literally the width of your body. At one point when this huge tractor trailer truck went whizzing by, the suction almost pulled me into the oncoming traffic. I was very glad to see the light at the other end of the tunnel.
We stopped at a restaurant and had tempura udon soup, which was very tasty. It was nice to get in from the dampness and cold to dry off and warm up. We rested there for awhile, as we didn't want to get to the minshuku before the  3 pm check-in time. We exchanged osame-fuda and David was glad to be able to try and finish his ohenro. It was good to walk with some one else, as we almost got lost and did end up going the wrong way. When we backtracked and started to head in an alley way of someone's back yard, we were told we were going the wrong way by the home owner, who headed us in the right direction.
We made it to the minshuku OK and will probably walk with David tomorrow to temple 66.
When he shared his story about falling and spraining his ankle, I told him this is one of my fears, so instead I am walking more slowly, and trying to be careful.
Hopefully, the weather will be better tomorrow as Temple 66 is the highest Temple at 927 meters (almost 1 km above sea level).

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