Shikoku 2018

Day 28: Temples 84 – 87

When walking as far as I now have, it is inevitable that there will be some wrong turns every now and then. Usually by taking the next left or right turn you are back on track. Today was the day where I made two wrong turns where there were no quick fixes, just extra kilometers. But there was evidently a reason for the wrong turns. More about that later.

I woke at 6.00 but couldn’t pull myself together to get up before 6.30 with yet another long day in the sun ahead. I was on the road an hour later with beautiful views of the islands and the ferries coming and going; as well as Japanese running to catch a ferry. The Japanese never seem to rush, apart from runners in running gear, and it isn’t often I have seen anybody run for a traffic light or bus or similar.

The climb to temple 84 was steep, 21% many places. Again many were taking this as their weekend exercise.

I met an Italian, Giuseppe, who had walked the whole way. We chatted and exchanged experiences. He was taking the hill at his pace, (I later learned that due to a stroke he must take it easy) so after some time I moved on. The climb was 1,5 km long up to almost 300m. The temple was full of people, the vast majority of which had driven.

It was a big temple with many halls and buildings and a beautiful red gate. Temple 84, Yahimaji was built in 815 and is situated on the  Yashima plateau which protrudes into the Seto inland sea and is know nationwide as the site for where the Genpei war occurred in 1185. There are beautiful views and numerous hiking paths; a place many people visit during the weekends.

I hung around a bit so I could offer Giuseppe the rice ball with tea leaves, but he told me he already was carrying too much to eat. I ended up giving it to Sacha, a French guy from Paris who I have been walking in parallel with for more than a week (I have mentioned him as a Japanese walker in earlier blogs), and arrived at the same time as Giuseppe.

I left the temple and followed what seemed to be the right path. After about 1,5 km I had my doubts as it should go downhill but was going uphill. I checked Google maps and it wasn’t the right path. I back tracked and found the right path towards temple 85.

The first part was steep and very slippery, again climbing not walking. I managed not to fall but slid on a couple of occasions. Then came my second wrong turn. I was so relieved to get to the road I misread the map and did not realise that there was another downhill path. I instead followed the road. Before I realised, it was too late to turn back and instead did 3 extra kilometers to be back on track. When I got to the bottom, I could see that there were so many people wanting to drive up the Yashima plateau, that they were stopping cars, so one car coming down enabled one car to drive up. I would estimate that there were 100 – 150 cars waiting to drive up.

The views were again spectacular, which I am sure the following pictures do not do justice.

It was again a steep walk up to temple 85, so much so that there was a cable car, and as with temple 84, traffic chaos. I walked up to the top to find a sculpture of Kobo Daishi looking out over the landscape.

Temple 85, Yakuriji, was spread out across the mountain side and as with temple 84, well visited. It is said that before goong to China, Kukai planted 8 chestnuts and prayed that his journey would be safe. When he returned, five swords fell from heaven and God appeared declaring the land to he sacred, and the chestnut seeds grew into large trees.

Giuseppe and Sacha arrived just as I was about to leave. They had left temple 85 just after I had, but taken the correct route. We spoke a briefly and I left for the next temple. A couple of minutes later I could hear somebody calling stop. I turned around to see Sacha who told me that he had bought a Bourgogne to celebrate we had reached so far and he hoped I would join him. Thanks to two wrong turns I was in temple 85 at the same time as Sacha and Giuseppe and thereby able to share a glass of wine.

I left them to collect their stamps and moved on towards temple 86, which was down a 21% slope. I would rather walk 21% uphill than downhill; downhill is hard on the legs and knees.

It was a 7km walk to temple 86. On the way I passed by another temple that seemed to be a combined temple and old peoples center. Again this was a smaller temple and somehow a temple that people belonged to rather than just visited. There was a service taking place and was asked if I wanted to join in, which I declined.

Temple 86, Shodoji, was different in that plants, bushes and trees grew everywhere. It was probably the least well looked after garden of all the temples I have visited. The temple was founded in 626 when a nun carved a statue. The temple has prospered and fallen into ruin before it was rebuilt in 1671.

As I was leaving, Sacha and Giuseppe arrived. It seemed to be becoming a theme for the day that they arrived as I was leaving. They would stop after temple 86, whilst I wanted to reach temple 87, another 7 km away and little over one and a half hours to get there.

I bought some water and ice cream in seven-eleven and walked through the countryside towards temple 87, the penultimate temple.

When I got there with 20 minutes to spare, there was one other person. After I had lit my candle and put my name slip in the box, I could not find the office. Luckily two other pilgrims arrived and one went to the office, the other to pray. With five minutes to spare, I got my 87th stamp.

Temple 87, Nagaoji wasn’t a beautiful temple, it seemed to be a sand area with a few buildings around the edge. Kukai also visited this temple before travelling to China and conducted a fire ritual for seven nights.

The train station was next to the temple and I only had to wait 5 minutes for the train to depart for Takamatsu and after an hour, 2 minutes to my hotel. The Japanese love trains, and most trains have had pictures taken of them as they arrive and depart. Here is a picture of the train from Nagao that took me to Takamatsu.

I had decided to eat sushi at a restaurant near the hotel, where lots of plastic sushi was displayed in the window. When the waiter gave me the menu, there wasn’t any sushi at all on the menu. When I asked the waiter, he just said sold out. I left. I didn’t want to walk too far so I choose another place to eat, but choosing steak in a fish restaurant wasn’t smart either!

I now have one temple left to visit and 87 stamps in the book and with 29km I have walked 568km on the route and 145 off the route.

Tomorrow is the last day, if you exclude returning to temple 1, but to get to temple 88, I need to climb up over 800m, and by all accounts, it is a climb, not a walk!

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