Shikoku 2018

Day 18: Temples 44 – 47

I’m sitting at a bar desk waiting for a Shinsin steak, whatever that is. It’s been a long and hard day. The good news is that I managed to get to the four temples I’d planned, but not in exactly the way I’d planned. The not so good news is that I havn’t previously felt so tired as I did today, and I fell over a branch and pulled a muscle in my back.

From the beginning. I went to bed at 21.00 last night, and was up at 5.30 and ready for the bus at 6.33. My view from my window over the mountains I was due visit did not look promising – covered in clouds. Luckily the bus stop was just outside the hotel. The trip lasted an hour and the only other passengers were school children on their way to high school in Kuma. The trip took us up into the mountains, and the rain from yesterday was still hanging in the air as mist. It felt as if it was still raining.

The first temple was 2 km walk out of the town from where I got off the bus. Temple 44, Daihoji, marks halfway in temple visits, if you do them in the right order. In 701 a priest, upon returning from Korea placed a statue in the forest, that was later found by two brothers, who built a temple around it. There was nothing out of the ordinary and I quickly moved on.

Temple 45 was 10km further into the mountains. The outbound and return journeys follow the same route, so I’d planned to walk one way and take the bus back. I started off along a mountain path, but soon found out that it would take forever as there was water everywhere following yesterdays rain. I decided to take the road, which goes up to 700m above sea level, and ran through a beautiful landscape that fully competes with Switzerland. I had to walk through a 700m tunnel at one point, and to walk through you have to pick up a reflective band and deliver it again at the other end. Generally the cars were good at giving me a lot of space.

5km after the tunnel you choose the mountain route, which is shorter, or the road route. It’s some time since I walked in the mountains, and I love the pure silence, only interrupted of a bird song or toad croak. It was hard work and quite slippery, up and down. At one point I had to step over a fallen branch, and for some reason my back foot got caught in the branch, causing me to lunge forward. With the help of my hands that hit the floor first, I managed to stay on my feet, but must have twisted my back which is very sore.


By taking the mountain path you arrive at the back side of the temple. You are met by this, a few hundred meters before the temple and totally hidden before you are almost on top of it. It gave me a shock at least (sorry about the picture quality).

An English gentleman, a few years older than I, looked at me when I arrived and asked why I came that way. He had taken the road, and come in through the main gate. So far he had walked each and every kilometer and intends to walk the whole way. Temple 45, Iwayaji, was, according to legend given to Kukai by two female recluse.

The temple is considered a difficult temple to get to. I knew that through the mountains, the trail was tricky, what I didn’t realise was that from the temple to the main gate on the road, there is almost 1km uphill walk. I was going downwards and that was hard enough. So by taking the mountain path I had at least saved myself a slog up to the temple, but a sore back.

I had planned to take the bus back to Kuma, but the next bus was in 75 minutes, so I decided to walk. As the English gentleman had told me, the last part of the road, the part where I had taken the mountain path, was also beautiful, including karst hills.

I walked for an hour, and reached a bus stop where the bus was due in 20 minutes. I waited and began to freeze as it wasn’t so warm and it was windy. The bus didn’t arrive and waited 10 more minutes, thinking that a bus not showing at all, wasn’t like Japan. I reached the tunnel again and there came the bus, empty. I tried to wave to no avail. There would be no choice but to walk all the way to Kuma.

When I arrived in Kuma it was 14.00 and I was feeling cold, so I went into a supermarket to get some coffee. Coffee is sold at all convenience stores, but when you really need it, there wasn’t any. There was a baker, and it sold dark(ish) bread. So I purchased a loaf and had to stop the lady slicing it. It wanted to eat chunks of it. There was no longer time for me to walk to the next temple, so I decided to take a bus closer to temple 46.

The times shown at the bus stop did not correspond with the time I had been given. When a bus finally arrived, it wasn’t my bus, and the driver told me that I had to stand at the next stop. So I moved along and this time the bus came on time. I followed the route on google maps and managed to get off at the right stop, halfway down the mountain. The driver was totally surprised, and asked if I was sure?

I followed a very small road with several hairpin turns – so small that when a car passed by, I had to press myself into the barrier so they could drive past. There was a beautiful view over Matsuyama, and at the bottom, several dams filled to the brim with water.

After ca. 4 kms I arrived at temple 46, Joruriji, at 16.00. It is simple and small, not pretentious in any way. It is now my favourite temple, so far. There is a tree that is over 1000 years old, but they all looked old to me. The inside of the halls were also open, which is most often not the case, unfortunately.

It was only 1 km to temple 47, so I could just about reach it before it closed. On the way I saw this sign in somebodys garden:

And another along the road:

Temple 47 is also simple and beautiful with a red bridge to walk over to get in. The temple, Yasakaji, was established in 701, and restored by Kukai.

A Japanese gentleman told me that I must not light my candles with other candles already lit, but should bring a means of lighting the candle. I have now done this in 53 temples, without anybody commenting!

By now I was cold and both I and the other part of me, my feet, were also complaining. The bus was not scheduled to arrive for 40 mins so there was little to do than to look at the beautiful houses in this fairly prosperous residential area. The bus arrived to take me to Morimatsu where I would change bus. This bus dropped me just in front of the hotel.

I had a long bath and decided to eat sushi. There were several sushi restaurants near the hotel, but they were either closed, only made sushi for lunch, only had a set menu, had no English menu, no menu with pictures or were empty. So I ended up with (a small) steak.

I met 4 walkers today and saw two from the bus. One of the walkers was probably walking like I do, as he did not have a big backpack. All walkers were Japanese except the English gentleman that I met at temple 45.

30 km more today, bringing the total up to 343 km and 2 more off the route, 108 km. With the four temples visited today I’ve visited 53 and 35 remain. Due to me running to reach temple 42 a few days back, I now have a day in hand, which I will use to visit temple 54, which will mean less backpack carrying on Friday. But more tomorrow.

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