Shikoku 2018

Day 22: Temples 63 – 64

It’s Sunday, and I’m into week 4. Today was a quiet day after yesterdays long and hard day, and in preparation of tomorrows even harder. I went to bed at midnight without washing any clothes, but had expected to be able to sleep until 8’ish. But this is Japan. At 6.30 there was a communal activity to clean up the street, and many of the streets inhabitants were out sweeping, weeding and making the street look even more presentable than it already did. Saijo is famous for its natural spring water, with a fountain outside the station.

I got up and the washing machine was free, and as I was only going to walk 10km today and check out was 11.00, I decided to do the washing. I went down for breakfast, but decided there wasn’t enough I would eat for breakfast to warrant the cost, and went to the baker next to the station.

Clothes washed and dried, bag packed and deposited at reception, I was ready for the 9.30 train back to where I ended yesterday. The temple is close to the station and I could see that there were many people, probably due to it being Sunday, a National holiday on Monday and the start of Golden week where people take vacation. Temple 63, Kichijoji, was another smallish temple. There is a stone with a hole in the middle, and it is said that if you close your eyes and walk from the main hall to the stone and put your staff through the hole, your prayer will come true.

For the first time I experienced a queue to have my book signed. Many people don’t have books but scrolls of linen. The stamps and calligraphy are painted onto the scroll at each temple. This takes longer. The lady in front of me presented a book where she already had a stamp and calligraphy from this temple, so she got new stamps next to the old ones.

It was just less than 4 km to the next temple, along some small roads running parallel to the main road, route 11. Next to Temple 64 is a shrine with a massive red gate at the junction to the main road.

Temple 64, Maegamiji, was exactly the opposite to 63, it covered a large area and its halls are at different levels. It also has a beautiful main hall, the gives the impression of being at three levels. When founded in the 7th century it was a place of deep faith for the nobles, military and their families. On the 20th of each month three statues are opened for the public, and if you rub your body against them, then sickness in that part of the body will be healed.

I met the Japanese gentleman I had a picture taken with yesterday on the way up to temple 60 and also the guy who slept at temple 60. They were up at 5am to start the walk down from 60, and he agreed that it was tough. He told me that this was his second visit, he had done temples 1 to 36 last time and couldn’t get it out of his head, so now he returned to do the rest. He’d walked all but 100km so far.

He was going to rest for a while as I started the 6km walk back towards Saijo. I needed to withdraw some money. The couple of post offices I’d passed were closed, but it turned out that Lawson’s convenience stores also have ATM’s. I bought an ice cream to celebrate.

Back in Saijo there was a street market along the covered shopping street with food and all sorts of other stuff. I saw 30 or 40 foreigners amongst the thousands of Japanese, and also met an English guy with his Japanese wife and their two small kids. He said that there were quiet a few foreigners in Saijo. I asked him about his Japanese skills and he told me that they were low to non-existent.

It wasn’t 13.00 yet, it was warm, so so I decided to visit the train museum to get inside. The museum pretty much consists of 6 trains on view, including one of the original Shinkansen trains and a prototype of a later version that could run on both wide and narrow tracks.

After the museum, that didn’t take too long to walk through, I was on the train again at 14.30 to Iyo-Mishima, and the closest hotel to temple 65 that I could find. I had evidently only purchased a child ticket, and was called back when handing my ticket in to pay the difference. In light of the long walk tomorrow I decided to take a taxi to the hotel rather than carry my bag the 4km from the station to the hotel.  It means I’ll have walked 10km of the 45 kms between temples 64 and 65, but judging the trip in the taxi, it certainly wasn’t the most inspiring stretch to walk.

Being on the outscirts of town, 4km from the station, there wasn’t much going on around the hotel. In fact only a big shopping center and a drive-in family restaurant. I walked over to the supermarket in the mall and purchased sushi for dinner and stocked up for the trip to 65 and hopefully 66 tomorrow.

I walked 10 km today and reached 413 km. 5km off route brings me up to 111 km. With two new stamps, it’s now 64 collected and 24 remaining.

I met two walkers today, who I’d also met the day before.

Tomorrow is another big day and the highest point on the trip at 912m. I’m currently sitting a few meters above sea level. To get to temple 65 I will climb 354m, then down again to 100m before rising to 912m over 10km.

It was fun to see the Japanese on a day off, both at the market and at the train museum. As many work Monday to Saturday, they try and make the most of their day off.

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