Shikoku 2018

Day 31: Full Circle, Temple 1

I was up at 7.00, breakfasted and took the train back towards Takamatsu. I had planned to walk 25 km, half the distance between temples 88 and 1, but the weather forecast was rain, rain and more rain, so I got off a stop earlier at Hiketa and cut the walk down to 20 km.

It was still dry as I walked along the coast for three or four kilometers. The path turned inland and up over 400 m through the forest. It was a fairly wide path, nice and easy, in difference to the climb up to 88. There were some nice views over the coast. On the way up I felt the first drops of rain, but the forest blocked the worst. On the way down, the path was more open, so I had to put on my rain jacket and walk in the rain for the second time during my trip.

Going down, there was a long stretch with stones which were very slippery in the rain. I slid on three occasions, without falling, each time making me more careful and therefore more likely to fall.

Out of forest and back on the roads, I put up my umbrella, and it stayed up until I reached temple 1. Luckily there wasn’t a lot of traffic on the roads I was walking, as there was a lot of water on the surface and it sprayed a lot when not least big lorries came thundering by.

To get back to temple 1, you also pass temples 3 and 2. They were nowhere near as busy as that sunny Sunday more than four weeks ago, that I visited them. What a contrast to now with the rain pouring down.

Temple 3.

Temple 2.

As I reached temple 1, the first person I saw was Giuseppe. He asked me to take a picture of him. As I stepped into the temple I met the French girl (I think she is called Marion, but we never shared names, so I am not sure), who had just arrived.

I walked around the temple – it was pretty much as I had remembered it, but nowhere near as many people as there was the first time. I went to the office and got my final stamp to complete the circle, and a certificate of completion. I was also given a cup of green tea to strengthen myself after all my efforts. I got the final stamps in my book to show I had gone full circle – see the picture at the top of the page.

Beyond having your book signed and stamped at each temple, you also receive a slip of paper with a sketch of the statue in the main hall (or at least that is what I guess it is). I now had 88 slips of paper and asked at the office what I was supposed to do with them? The showed me a book with a picture of each temple, next to which you could add the slip of paper. As there wasn’t much reason to collect all 88 slips and not do anything with them, so I decided to purchase the book as well.

It was time to leave, walk through the main gate, turn around and bow for the last time – circle complete, and a feeling of emptiness. What now?

The immediate next step was to put up my umbrella and walk to Bando station, a kilometer away. The train was in 40 mins. A French guy arrived ten minutes later. He was about to begin his pilgrimage. He had some questions which I answered before we said goodbye and I wished him good luck at Tokushima station.

Back at the hotel, I started to put the slips in the book, learning the Japanese number system (up to 88) to put them the right place. I then sorted my clothes, and packed my bag, as this was my last day in Tokushima.

I have bought a Japan rail pass which I needed to collect, so I had to go the station to collect it and plan tomorrows marathon trip in search of Kobo Daishi – more about that tomorrow. I purchased take away sushi and ate it in my room whilst packing. Later I went to Starbucks next to the hotel and took a coffee, before going to bed.

With 20km walked today, I passed the 600km mark, totalling 603 km walked of the 1146 km. There were days where I could have walked more, but all in all this is OK. I have primarily cut out the long slogs along monotonous main roads, but as I have mentioned previously, there are a couple of stretches I would have liked to have done now I have seen them. But that’s life. Next time?

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