Shikoku 2018

Day 5: Temples 20 – 22

I got up at 6am, had a very quick breakfast, that opened at 7am sharp, and by 7.25 was on the bus that drops you at the bottom of the mountain that temple 20 is at the top of. Again, the bus was full of school kids, most of who were still on the bus when I got off – 1 hour and 15 minutes later. That means they “waste” 2,5 hours, plus the time to get to and from the bus station. Are these schools so much better to justify that amount of travelling?

Today’s menu is three temples and three mountains, two of the temples are at the top of the first and second mountains. Doing temples 20, 21 and 22 in a single day is equally as tough as the climb from temple 11 to 12. Luckily the weather was pleasant.

Temple 20, Kakurinji, is situated at 493m. We were 5 people that got off the bus to visit temple 20, a Japanese gentleman, a family from the US and myself. The family from the US were 3 generations, father, daughter, grandson. They’d actually almost finished all 88 temples, only 20 and 21 were missing, as they could not find accomadation when they’d planned to visit, due to a marathon. On their trip they had mostly used public transport and taxis, and were going to take a taxi up to both 20 and 21.

Almost 500m ascent in only 3,4km, is pretty steep, For me it was the steepest hill I can ever  remember, the difference from other climbs was that this just kept going up for 3,4km. It took 55min and I cannot imagine any 3,4 km that will be tougher on this trip. The American family had just arrived by taxi when I arrived. This temple is dedicated to white cranes, who were protecting a statue with their wings, when Kukai arrived. As with all three temples today, ther are lots of steps up to the main temple.

Downwards was equally hard, with uneven steps all the way down. This was hard on my feet and knees, and at one point I was only doing 2km per hour. I was relieved after 2,8 km, that it started going up again towards temple 21. A cement path made it very easy going. It was fantastic scenery, the path followed a stream that started ca. 1km from the temple. The last 2km up to the temple are steps, and the terrain much more steep. I met a Danish girl from Aarhus who planned to walk most, if not all the way. She was with a Japanese gentleman, and we walked and talked ca. 1km together before I left them.

The final 400m is extremely steep and once you reach the gate, it only gets worse, first a steep climb to the office area, then many steps up to the temple itself. This is easily the most beautiful of the temples I have visited so far on this trip. There were many people, sitting and relaxing, chatting with each other. There is a ropeway up to temple 21, which most people used and explained the many people at the temple. I met a second Danish girl, who wasn’t planning on walking so much, just savour the experience and get around by bus or train. I also spoke to a French guy and several Japanese people. Tairuji, as temple 21 is called, is situated at 618m, and is one of the temples where Kukai trained.

After getting the stamp, I said goodbye to the two Danish girls, who I’d introduced to each other and set off for temple 22. I had in my mind that it was a flat stage, but after finishing the descent from temple 21 and walking along a main road for 3 or 4 km, I had the choice to follow the main road for 7km, or walk 4,5 km over yet another mountain, ca. 400m high, I chose the shortest route, but am sure the longer one would be quicker.

As soon as the ascent started, a snake slid out in front of me. It was ca. 1m long. The path was very rough and very steep, and after passing the top at ca.  400m, the descent, passed through a bamboo forest. This is one if the paths marked as a henro fall path, which I fully understand, it was hard work. Luckily I did not fall, but at one point I stumbled, said something and a 1,5 m snake, as thick a a table tennis ball, slid out in front of me and disappeared. Not a prity sight. At the bottom of the mountain, there was still 2,5 km to the temple, passing a modern henro hut and rice paddies with farmers getting ready to plant the rice.

Temple 22, Byodoji also has a well dug by Kukai using a staff. The story tells that a white milky water came up that cures illness, and brings good fortune. Especially people with leg problems have been healed, and have left wagons here because they did not have to rely on them any longer. I spoke to a couple of the Japanese gentlemen I had met during the day, about the next couple of days. They were looking forward to having a beer after the long day.


Just as I was leaving, one of the Danish girls arrived at the temple, she’d taken the ropeway down the hill from temple 21, taken a bus and then a train. It took somewhat longer than walking.

I walked to the station, waited 20 mins for the train to bring me back to Tokushima. It was the same train I’d caught yesterday, and again, it took forever and again there were lots of school children.

I could not be bothered finding a place to eat, so I bought sushi at a department store across the road from the hotel and enjoyed it in my room with a couple of beers.

Three temples today, and only one more during the next three days as I move away from Tokushima. The temple total is now 22, which is exactly a quarter of the the way. 25 more hard earned kilometers, so now at 107 km.

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