Shikoku 2018

Day 23: Temples 65 – 67

The other day I wrote that it was a fantastic feeling when everything one had hoped would happen, but you couldn’t plan for, actually worked out. It is an even greater feeling when things work out far better than one had even dare dream of.

That’s what happened today. Below a view of the first mountain to climb.

Today was the day that had caused me most concern when planning this trip. A day where I would walk at least 30km. An initial climb up to 335m, down to 100m and finally up to the pilgrimage’s highest point at 912m. And after all that there would still be ca. 10km to the train station to get back to the hotel. Given it was a public holiday, the local buses would not be running. I would not have noticed that today was public holiday if I hadn’t have know. It otherwise just seemed as business as usual.

I was up at 6.00, and ready to go down to breakfast as it opened at 6.30. When checking in yesterday, the reception had also stressed that as it would be a public holiday today, so breakfast will be served for 30 mins longer than usual. So I assumed the Japanese would lie in. I counted 45 chairs in the breakfast room and there was only one left at 6.35, when I arrived. Breakfast was OK. I took the usuall scramble egg, potatoes, bacon, yoghurt with cornflakes and canned fruit and toast or bread.

Outside there is a sign saying there are 80 rooms in the hotel, and it was clear at breakfast, that the vast majority of rooms are frequented by single males. And most were off to work, despite it being a public holiday.

I was ready to leave at 7.15, when I suddenly got a nose bleed. Luckily nothing serious and I was on my way five minutes later. The climb to temple 65 was through a residential area, where I passed a house with the following sign!

The last couple of kilometers towards temple 65 were mainly through forest along a cement path, so it was fairly easy going, despite it being uphill.

Temple 65, Sankakuji, was established in the early 8th century and is believed to ward off misfortune and allow for easy childbirth. As is most often the case you need to go up a lot of steps to get to the main hall. The area is rectangular with the temples more or less in a line. A younger Japanese lady, here with what I assume was her father on crutches (and I have no idea how he got up all those stairs) asked where I was from and we spoke for several minutes. She spoke very good English, but complained that she never got a chance to use it.

There was another Japanese lady, with backpack. I had seen her on Saturday at temple 60, where she left, just as I had I arrived. We exchanged pleasantries and I moved on. She was evidently about to leave and for the first 8 kms of the 25km trip to temple 66, she was 1 – 200m behind me. Below is a million dollar view, from the way down from temple 65. Today it was hazy, but I am pretty sure that there are days where there is a fantastic view along the coast and the city below.

As I reached 100m above sea level there was a very small, but very beautiful temple, Tubakidou. This temple is not one of the official 88 temples. The Japanese lady stopped as well and told me that “you walk quickly”, and I responded that she walked just as quickly, as she was always ca. 200m behind me. We spoke for a few minutes, she was walking for the 5th year, she takes 5 days every year to walk the pilgrimage. She expets to finish next year. She left for temple 66, whilst I hung around and got a stamp in my book – there are a few blank pages. As I was leaving the gentleman that signed the book asked if I was walking to 66, and gave me a canned coffee.

I soon had the Japanese lady in sight, and caught her up when we needed to make a decision about which of the four alternative routes to temple 66 to follow. She was going to stay on the main road and take the route up to the temple with the steepest climb, but shortest distance. I was tired of the main road and decided I would go inland where we stood – it was longer, but easier. She changed her mind and decided to go with me.

We walked through the forest on OK paths and spoke about Japan and Denmark. She is 45 years old and in super form, walking just as quickly as I did, and far quicker going down hill. She had recently run the Honolulu marathon. As we started to go more uphill the path got worse and was flooded many places. As I was still wearing my running shoes, I told her that I needed to change shoes, but she should go on. I spent 5 minutes and set off again walking more than 6km an hour uphill. When I got to the temple, she said she had been at the temple max. 5 mins – she was quick.

If anybody was going to come to Shikoku to see one temple, temple 66 would be the one to see. It is extremely elegant with white granite and grey marble everywhere, super elegant temples and lots to see, including hundreds of figures and a very big statue.

Temple 66, Upenji, beyond being the highest temple (in terms of elevation), and being very elegant is also famous as place of learning. In addition, it has a ropeway up and down the mountain.

It was 2.30 when my book was stamped, and was feeling good to try and reach temple 67, which was not part of my original plan.

I decided to take the ropeway down and walk to 67. The distance is pretty much the same, whether you walk from the top (and the path is easy) or walk from the bottom after taking the ropeway down the mountain.

I was still managing 6km plus per hour, even though I was closing in on 40km for the day. A man was parked on a lay by, jumped out of his car and gave me half of a very bitter orange. The walk was downhill through beautiful agricultural land. The sun was going down and the water in the rice fields gave a fantastic warm light effect.

I was due to make it to temple 67 with 30 mins to spare when an older Japanese man pulled up, gave me a piece of paper and then showed me books with the names and countries of people he had met – so far 8 from Denmark. I was becoming a little impatient, worried about making it to the next temple, and finally he took a picture of me for his collection and I took one of us, and wrote something in his book. He gave me two biscuits.

I finally made it to temple 67 with 20 minutes to spare. Temple 67, Daikoji, was founded in 822, and was a large center for religious learning. There is a large tree as you start, yet again, up steps to get to the actual temple, is said to be planted by Kukai.

I was now 10km from the nearest station, and had walked 38km. I was very pleased with myself, but did not look forward to 10 km more. I was thinking over this when the Japanese lady that I had walked with earlier in the day, turned up. She had said she wasn’t doing 67 today, but had since found out that her lodging tonight was close by. I told her I would start walking and hope to find a taxi. Two minutes later she came running back and told me that there was a taxi phone in the temple. She called for me. If it wasn’t for her, I would have probably walked another 10 km.

Outside people were sitting with massive lenses pointing at a tree. It was an owl sitting in the tree.

The taxi came and took me to Kan-oji, where I will be staying for 2 nights – starting tomorrow. My train was about to leave in 10 minutes, so I was back at my hotel 18.15, with a great feeling.

Dinner was at one of these places where you select your ingredients and fry them. Not great, but OK.

Another 38 kms on the clock and three more stamps. 451 km in total and 67 stamps, 21 remain. Off route now onto 112.

I didn’t meet any walkers today, the Japanse lady is a periodical walker, and I was introduced to a French lady who the Japanese lady had met at an earlier temple. I am not sure whether she is a walker or not – but would soon find out, that she was.

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