Shikoku 2018

Day 24: Temples 68 – 73

Another beautiful sunny day, where I managed to visit 6 temples and walk 27 km. I had planned today to be a quiet day, after yesterdays marathon, but my legs weren’t complaining and my feet always complain anyway.

I forgot to mention yesterday that I actually walked in three of Shikoku’s four provinces, as 65 is in Ehime, 66 in Tokushima and 67 in Kawanga which is the place of Nirvana.

I was up at 7.30, all the Japanese had eaten at 6.30, so there was plenty of room at breakfast. The hotel called a taxi to take me to the station. It is the third time I have taken a taxi between the hotel and the station, the third different route the driver has taken, but the price has always been the same. The train to Kan-onji, my base for the next 2 days, was scheduled to depart 20 mins after my arrival.

It is difficult to find lodgings on the net in this area, but I had booked a guest house that I had found where they spoke a little English. When I arrived the doors were closed and a Japanese lady came running and was clearly not expecting anybody. She called her son, and they worked it out – there was some mess-up and they had forgotten to register my reservation.

The first temples were very close by. Temples 68 and 69, Jinnein and Kannonji, are joined together, something I first realised when I got two stamps. It was a long rectangular ground with a pagoda. The young monk signing and stamping the books must have been relatively new, as when I asked if I could take his picture whilst signing the book, he had to ask somebody else if it was OK. All the others just answered yes or no.

Temple 70 was almost 5 km away along the river Saita, where I passed mostly small agricultural plots – not many rice fields.

There was a hidden speed control along the main road, and when somebody breaking the speed limit was caught, a policeman with a red flag and a whistle jumped out from behind the bushes and stopped the speeder. This happened 3 times whilst I walked this stretch of road.

Temple 70, Motoyamaji is a smallish temple with a pagoda being restored, packed in plastic. The temple was founded in 807 upon the wishes of Emporer Heizei and legend has it that this temple has avoided any destruction, and have been protected by a swarm of bees.

At temples 68 and 69 I had noticed an American looking gentleman with a Japanese lady. As I was leaving, they arrived. We spoke for a few minutes, he lived in Japan and taught at Matsuyama university. He told me that he will retire next year and would like to walk the whole route, and had wondered why I didn’t have a big bag. I explained the hub and spoke system that I had used. It is funny almost everybody I have explained it to thinks it is a great idea and why didn’t they think of that.

We said our goodbyes and I started the 11,6 km walk to temple 71, Iyadaniji, primarily through the countryside, occasionally along a main road.

Whilst walking through a village with my headphones on, I heard somebody calling out in Japanese – I assume to somebody else. The calling continues so I turn around and an elderly lady was running after me with two rice balls, one covered with green tea leaved the other with breadcrumbs. I thanked her, took her picture and moved on wondering what to do with them – rice with green tea leaves is not for me! (I will tell you what I did with them tomorrow).

It was warm, and I was waking at a good pace, ca. 6km per hour. Temple 71 lies up a mountain side. The temple stretches along the mountain with lots of buildings and stairways. There must be 1000 steps in total between the different temples. There was an old lady with a surgical leg walking up, with who I imagine were two grandchildren. I thought it would take forever, but one step at a time she made it up, and then down again as I met her again at the next temple.

In difference to the other temples, you pray inside at the main hall and not at the entrance. Of course after taking your shoes off. The temple, was originally called 8 provinces, as one can see 8 provinces from the mountain. The temples is attributed many miracle like cures over time.

Of course, after going up all the stairs, you need to go down them again before starting the 3,6 km walk, first through a forest and then along roads to temple 72. Since temple 70, there have been lots of smaller and bigger lakes that I have walked past, and between temples 71 and 72 there were a number of people fishing in them.

Temple 72, Mandalaji, is a smallish well kept temple, built in 596, halfway up a hill and originally the clan temple for some of Kukais ancestors.

A Japanese couple that left temple 72 at the same time I did, asked me where I was from and told me I was a very quick walker. I had assumed they were in a car, but they were walking, a few days every year and not the long stretches.

The next temple was only 1 km away further up the hill with a fantastic view over the adjourning countryside and towns along the coast. There is a statue of Kukai looking out. There was a long path up to the temple, but the temple area itself was very small, perhaps the smallest I have seen.

Temple 73, Shusshakaji, is associated the legend that Kukai, at the age of seven, climbed the mountain and said “I want to enter the world of Buddhism and save many people. If it is not possible for this wish to come true, I command that Shaka Nyorai appear. If not I will throw away my life.” He then jumped off the cliff and Shaka Nyorai and a heavenly being appeared and saved his life. As a result he created this temple.

I met the Japanese couple, as well as the old lady with the surgical leg and her grandchildren as I was leaving – she had also been at temple 72. I had a choice of whether to make a dash for temple 73, or go to the train station. Temple 74 was on the way to the station, but also close to 75, which I anyway need to come back to see tomorrow, so I decided to walk to the train station.

I was tired, and there were 5km to the station, so I took my time walking through the countryside in the beautiful afternoon weather, it was 25 degrees. A couple of miles before the station I checked the train times and could see I would have to run to catch the train. My feet protested, but I made it with a minute to spare. The train was at the platform, and when I got on, the Japanese couple, who arrived at 73 after I was leaving, were already on the train. I asked them how they had managed that, they had taken a taxi.

They were also staying in Kan-onji and we needed to change train, the second train seemingly waiting at evey station for a train coming in the opposite direction. As we got off the Japanese lady gave me an orange, saying they’d already carried two around all day without eating them, so I could have one of them.

After a bath, the landlady pointed out 3 places to eat close by. It turned out that the first was closed, the second was full and the third, which was more a drinking than eating place, was empty. I walked towards the station, nothing; I went in a hotel, they didn’t have a restaurant and the only restaurant he knew was at another hotel, the Grand Hotel, but was at least a kilometer further away. But is was where I ended up. Neither of my debit cards worked, I was seriously concerned. I tested one of them at seven eleven, and could withdraw cash. That at least was something.

Another 27km on route and 6 off route brings me up to 478 km on route and 118 off route. 73 temples visited, 15 remaining.

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