Shikoku 2018

Day 15: Temples 40 – 42

A long and hard day, warm, but with some light clouds. I needed to get a train at 7.55 am, so I was up at 6 am, packed, checked out and ready for a repeat of yesterday’s 7am breakfast rush. For some reason, breakfast started at 6.30 today. After a very quick breakfast, I walked the 2 km to the station in time for the train.

I have no sense of direction, so when the train departed, I panicked as I had expected the train to go in the opposite direction. It was OK, and 40 minutes later I got off at Sukumo, close to temple 39, that I had visited yesterday.

Already on one of the first days walking, I had decided that I would try to avoid walking the stretches along main roads, as the scenery is often the same – industry, petrol tanks, convenience stores, run down houses and lots of traffic. I would concentrate on the stretches taking the back roads, where the scenery is often more varied and beautiful. Of the 27 km between temples 39 and 40, the first 15 pretty much follow the main road whilst the last 12 kms there are two routes, one following the main road and one taking small country roads and paths through the forest. So I waited an hour for the bus that could have taken me directly to temple 40, and got off in Ipponmatsu and walked the 12 kms to temple 40 with a full back pack.

It was very peaceful. Very few cars on the road, and a lot of people out in their already perfect gardens. It was a very picturesque tour, as you can see from the pictures. I met my 3rd snake, ca. 50 cm long in the middle of the path. It refused to move, I gingerly walked around it, and suddenly it disappeared into the long grass.

It took me two and a half hours to get to temple 40, including a stop at a beautifully assorted Fuji supermarket, where you could see cooks preparing sushi, and other finished meals. I went in because there was a baker and I am getting very tired of the mass, pre-fabricated food there is so much of here. I bought a doughnut but when I saw the sushi, which was made on site, and 10 pieces cost 4 €, I couldn’t resist.

The 4 or 5 km to temple 40 follow a river, and there were several large birds hovering over the river. I found a spot to sit down and eat my sushi and all off the sudden I felt a very strong current of wind hit my face, and one of the hawk like birds had flown very, very close to me. I hurried up and ate up.

Many places you walk there are large kites, formed as fish, flying in the wind. Just before temple 40, there hung three very large kites waiting for the wind to catch them. Whilst I watched them, waiting for the wind to blow, a lady came out of the house where the kites belonged. I explained that I’d like to take a photo, and she pottered back inside, only to reappear with a glass of apple juice for me, saying “very hot today”.

Temple 40, Kanjizaiji is not only the first temple in Ehime province, it is also the furthest  away from temple 1, so I am now ca. halfway, and every step I take brings me closer to completion. The temple itself is founded by Kukai in 807 and partly rebuilt in 1964.

It was my original plan to only visit temple 40 today, but with 50 km to the next temple, primarily along the main road from Ainan Town to Uwajima, I decided to take the bus. I only had to wait 10 mins, in which time I also managed to withdraw some money from the post office across the road.

The bus trip to the castle town of Uwajima was largely inland, but occasionally the road ran along the coastline. There were many nets set out in the water – I’m not sure what they were catching. Uwajima is another 10 km from temple 41, and I’d worked out that if I could do 41 and 42 this afternoon, I could save myself a 12 km hike up over the Hanaga Pass at 600m over sea level with full back pack tomorrow, as the train goes from Uwimaga to 43, but there is no public transport between 42 and 43, so you have to walk.

The bus dropped me off at the station, and I checked that the next train towards temple 41 was in an hour. It was enough time to find my hotel, dump my gear, except the stamp book, change into running shoes and be back at the station in time to catch an extraordinary train.

The 15.35 train was a very special train, one carriage and very slow, but a nose was added to make it look more like a high-speed train, and inside there was a model train exhibition. Many had their cameras ready when the train pulled in. I think it is truly fantastic what they do to make their trains a bit different.

It was 2 km from the station to temple 41, and I knew I would have to be quick if I was going to make 42 as well. So I set a quick pace walking through the countryside before arriving at temple 41, Ryukoji, which was built here as Kukai met an old man carrying rice and believed he was a transfigured rice god. People come here to pray for a good rice harvest, and more recently for prosperity in their business. Again this is a temple at the top of a lot of stairs and is very compact, with a great view. I had trouble finding the office to get my stamp and went up and down a couple of times.

After finally getting my stamp, I checked on Google Maps and my estimated time of arrival at temple 42 was 5.10 pm, ten minutes after the temple closes. My plan to not have to walk as much tomorrow, was falling apart. I therefore decided to run to temple 42 – not all the way, but the most of it. I arrived at the temple at 4.50 pm, plenty of time to look around and get my stamp.

Temple 42, Butsumokuji is built here, as legend would have it, because an old man suggested to Kukai to ride on the back of a cow. After some time they came upon a camphor tree in which was a jewel that Kukai had thrown from China. Kukai carved a statue and placed the jewel between its eyes and constructed a temple. Originally people came to pray for prosperity, but lately in memory of lost pets. It also has a thatched roof bell tower.

The scenery between temple 41 and 42 was stunning – the sun was setting behind the mountains sending a golden glow over the rice fields and reflecting in the water. It was truly magical – unfortunately I couldnt get the same experience on camera.

There is a bus stop outside temple 42 and it said that a bus would arrive at 17.09. I did not understand where the bus would be going to, or in which direction, but decided to wait the ten or so minutes. At 17.09 sharp a bus came in the opposite direction than I wanted. I was just about to start to walk when the bus made a u-turn and started to head in my direction. As luck would have it, it was destined for Uwijama.

I got off at the station and walked around the city and along the covered walking street where most was closed or closing. All in all, it must be ca. 1 km long.

For dinner I had steak Japanese style, it was excellent.

I have now visited 42 temples, and am soon halfway with 46 remaining. I walked 18km on route, and have now reached 285 km, and 8 km off route, in total 98 km. There has been some very beautiful scenery today, and not least the sun going down whilst running to temple 42 gave the rice paddies an amazingly warm colour.

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