Shikoku 2018

Day 21: Temples 60 – 62

It’s a great feeling when what you had hoped would happen, but could not plan to happen, actually happens. That was how I felt at 9.45 as I started the 9.5 km ascent of Mount Ishizuchi, where temple 60 lies at 750m.

I woke at 6.30 and had an OK breakfast with youghurt, cornflakes, toast, scrambled eggs and even salted salmon and caught the 8.20 train from Imabari to Saijo. To be perfect I would need to be able to deliver my backpack, not have to wait long for a train to take me 4 stations back to Iyo-Komatsu, and a taxi would be waiting to take me the 3km to catch the route from temple 59 to 60 (meaning I didn’t walk ca. 13 km between 59 and 60).

When I checked the train times, the train I needed to take departed 10 minutes after the train I was sitting on arrived. Not enough time to go to the hotel. I knew Saijo station had lockers, as all the bigger stations do, so my plan was to get off the train, over the bridge, leave my bag in a locker, buy a new ticket and back over the bridge to what turned out to be the same train that was now returning. The only problem was, the locker only accepted 100 yen and I had a 500 yen (it cost 700 yen for 24 hours). Back into the main hall of the station, into a seven-eleven and the girl behind the counter understood what I wanted to do and exchanged my 500 yen. Back out to the locker, get the key, back into the station to buy a ticket and over the bridge to the train with 2 minutes to spare.

It took only 10 minutes before the train pulled into the station I needed to get off. No taxi at the station, so I walked up to the main road. At the traffic lights two taxis were waiting for red – but neither would take me and pointed in the direction I was walking. I’d walked about 300 meters when somebody suddenly shouted taxi, I was just outside a  taxi garage, and one of the taxis at the red light must have called back to base, and a driver was standing outside waiting for me to walk past. I got in and he dropped me off outside FamilyMart. What good fortune. I gave him 1.500 yen (the meter stood on 1.380), but he flatly refused to keep the change and returned the 120 yen (1€).

The first 7 km towards temple 60 go slowly uphill through a beautiful landscape, first with small farming and forest, all along a road. After about 1 km I passed a yard full of coca-cola machines. Vending machines are everywhere in Japan, so I suppose there are many such yards across Japan.

After 6km I met a Japanese walker who seemed the worse for wear. There is a rest hut after 7km and I took a 15 minute rest and changed from the running shoes I used on the road, to walking shoes. When I left hut, the Japanese walker still hadn’t made it, and there was no sight of him.

The final 2,5 km go up ca. 500m on a very rough path, alongside a stream. I met 20 or so Japanese who had driven up to the hut and then walked towards temple 60. It was beautiful scenery. Close to the top I met a Japanese gentleman doing his fourth pilgrimage, he only walked the first one. This time he was travelling by car and walking.

Temple 60 is reputedly one of the most beautiful temples, and it lived up to its billing. The following week, I am sure it will be even more spectacular, as all the rhododendron will be in full bloom. There was a foreign walker at the temple. We exchanged a few words, he was staying the night at the temple.

Temple 60, Yokomineji, was built in 651 and restored 1909. Kukai spent time training here, and it is reputed that praying here cures brain illness.

After about 30 minutes, I started the downhill trip. Without a doubt, the first 3,5 km down from temple 60, were the most difficult I have experienced so far. It was barely a path, and lots of rock and small stones – I had to use my hands on several occasions. This would not have been fun in the rain, luckily I had beautiful sunshine to accompany me. The next 3.5 km down to the main road was totally opposite – stunning views, beautiful bushes with red flowers and a path that was OK to walk.

It is 10km between temples 60 and 61, so there was still 3km to go when I reached the road, passing a waterfall and a reservoir before reaching the temple.

Temple 61, Koonji is different from all the others, as there is just one very bombastic concrete building split into 3 parts each housing a temple. There has been a temple here since the 6th century. Legend has it that when Kukai arrived, there was a pregnant woman in great pain. He lit incense and prayed for her, and a son was safely born. This temple is therefore widely know as the temple for protecting children.

The, what I believe are an, American couple, were here. He was taking a nap on a bench whilst she was busy filming and taking pictures – just as last time I met them. I had trouble finding the temple, there are two temples next to each other. I visted the wrong one and couldn’t find the office to get my stamp. I was standing on the parking lot, a bit frustrated, when big BMW pulled into the parking lot, and two kids (early 20’s) got out in full attire. I asked them where the temple was and they pointed me in the right direction. I met them again at the stamp office, and we chatted a bit. They were very impressed that foreigners consider walking all or part of the route. They told me that they would never consider walking, (life was too short for that), and neither would the vast majority of Japanese. They knew some walked, but the numbers are small.

It is a further 1,4 km to temple 62, a complete contrast to the bombastic 61. This temple is very small. Hojuni is so small that they are tired of groups filling the whole temple, and therefore refuse to stamp the books for people in groups. Instead, they get their stamps in a parking lot close to 61! I met an American here who was not only in the correct attire, but could also the sutras. Very impressive.

Temples 63 and 64 were close by, but I felt it was time to give my feet a rest. The station was 2 mins away, and I quickly checked Google to see the train times, and a train was leaving for Saijo in two minutes. I hurried to the station and the train was already on the platform, waiting for a train to pass in the opposite direction. Again I was lucky.

I picked up my backpack and had no problems finding the hotel which was across the square from the station. For dinner I found a steak restaurant which was empty, expensive and not particularly good. But I didn’t know that when I went in.

I wanted to wash clothes tonight, but somebody washed 3 hours ago and hadn’t taken their clothes out of the machine. The hotel refused to do anything. So I’ll go to bed instead. I met a Japanese man working for Intel – he spoke excellent English.

22 km on route bringing the total to 403 kms on route and 106 km off route. I now have visited 62 temples, 28 still to go. It was an enjoyable day and the weather was again great.

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