Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Kokubunji - Ritsurin Kōen

Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage, day 41.
Temples: #80-83 (Kokubunji, Shiromineji, Negoroji, Ichinomyaji).
Distance: 32.7km (1178.4km), time spent: 11:23.
Weather: Wonderful.


It was a great thing to see, looking out of the window today, the clear sky outside. Today was an anticipated day, so I had hoped for good weather, as the route takes on the Goshikidai plateau. This plateau, named five colours by Kūkai, juts out into the Seto inland sea and is home to two of the temples of the pilgrimage (three if you include Kokubunji). The colours are red, yellow, black, white and blue.

Morning outside the templegate of Kokubunji.

After a good breakfast and a smiling farewell by the hostess at Ebisu-ya Ryokan, the pilgrimsday begins with the mandatory, but much wanted, visit to the State Official Temple (#80, Kokubunji). I have some temple-rituals to perform, but almost just as important, I have an obligation to do. It is time to make my ohenro attire complete, by buying the kongōzue, the pilgrim staff that is the embodiment of Kōbō Daishi. In that regard, I am to take care of the kongōzue first when arriving at a temple or accommodation, meaning that I have to wash the end of it before I can put it at its appointed place. As Kōbō Daishi might be sleeping under a bridge, I should not tap the staff when I am going over a bridge.

Morning sun at Kokubunji.

The light is wonderful when I am the temple, the morning sun is sprinkling its rays through the trees. I notice a man throwing water in a half-circle in front of him before going over to the hondo, I wonder what it means. This temple is like a garden and it also features a dimly lit pathway lined up with unnumbered statues on each side. This is the finest of the provincial temples so far. Outside the temple there is a nice miniature model of the old temple complete with a tall pagoda as well.

View from the climb up to the Goshikidai plateau.

With the staff in hand, which feels somewhat strange and awkward in the beginning, I make my way up into the five coloured plateau. It is hot, due to the absent clouds on the sky, but it makes for some great views from the climb. Countless are the natural stairs, though made by men, that carries me upwards. It is still unusual to a Norwegian to walk on these stairs, as we are not used to make these kind of steps back home in the forests or mountains.

Shiromineji.

The paths between Kokubunji, Shiromineji and Negoroji are forming a sort of a triangle. Towards Shiromoneji, I go on the road side of the triangle, but even with the hard surface I find it to be a good walk. All around there are colourful trees that has a head start on the fall. It goes past a self defence forces area and I walk past several troops out on an exercise. I probably should not shout out a loud 'ten-hut'. I have to go back and forth a bit to Shiromineji, but that does not bother me at all when the path is so wonderful as it is.

A Shinto guard with a lot of the tiny neko cat figures.

Two things stands out at #81, Shiromineji (White Peak Temple), the colours of the fall about to strike out in full and the numerous small cat figurines called neko that I find there. It must truly be beautiful here when in full autumn. Naomi is here too and shares some sweets with me. It is a very forestlike temple, making good use of the layout of the landscape for its templegrounds and buildings, which are some of the oldest on the pilgrimage. The hondo is from the seventeenth century. An emperor is buried here, at the back of the temple, Sūtoku.

The small waterfall at Bishamon-Kutsu, the okunoin of Shiromineji.

From Shiromineji I have to walk back again for a while on the same path going to the temple. Next to the path are old stone lanterns, even a very old stone pagoda (Manirin) and a stone (Gejō) signifying that all should walk on foot from this point on, regardless of class. No problem for me there. The inner sanctuary of Shiromineji, Bishamon-kutsu, is reached on a small path from the henromichi (in the guidebook that I have, which is not the newest one, this is wrongly marked as the okunoin of #88 Ōkuboji). It is a small and peaceful place, located next to a small waterfall running over some low cliffs. The shrine itself is a small and simple wooden building outside a hole in the cliffs with a small idol inside.

Old stone lantern and stone stairs on the Sanuki Henro Trail.

Sanuki Henro Trail.

Back on the wonderful path going between the two temples of Shiromineji and Negoroji I feel exhilarated. The walking is lovely and sometimes the light through the trees makes the forest seem ethereal. No wonder it is a national historic site, called the Sanuki Henro Trail. I think this path is one of my favorite forest trails on the pilgrimage so far. I meet a man out collecting mushrooms in the forest, and an older female henro that I passed by on the climb up to Goshikidai. She had taken the path from Kokubunji that went directly to the Sanuki Henro Trail between Shiromineji and Negoroji (I took the path going on the road remember). That path is called 'juukyu-cho-uchi-modori'. Apparently this path did not exist at the beginning of the pilgrimage, but later pilgrims began climbing up to Shiromineji first, then visiting Negoroji before descending to Kokubunji on that path. 'Uchi-modori' signifies that the henro has to visit Negoroji first and then backtrack to visit Kokubunji. I wonder if this was what Osata-san had in mind.

The protected Keyaki (Zelkova) tree at Negoroji.

Above Negoroji there is a great henro hut named after the plateau. Enclosed, with toilets nearby, a perfect place to stay the night at. If I had not decided to revisit Zentsūji and see the Nakazu Banshōen, this is probably where I would have walked to yesterday. Halfway down to the temple, I find out that I have forgotten the staff at the henro hut. I knew this was going to happen. I hope Kōbō Daishi can forgive me as I walk back up to retrieve it.

Templegate of Negoroji.

To approach Negoroji, temple #82 and Fragrant Root Temple, you first have to walk down some stairs before climbing up another set of stairs. Shiromineji is situated near Shiromine (white) and therefore I think that this one should be called Aomineji, as it is located next to Aomine (blue). At the hondo, I have to walk around in a tunnel to resite the sutras. The tunnel also features a lot of statues that I believe to be of Kannon. It has an interesting layout this temple. Protected underneath a roof and inside a wooden fence is a thousand year old tree, a Keyaki (Zelkova) tree. However, I walked right by the most interesting part of the temple when arriving at it. Outside, in the woods, stands a tall monster. It is an ushioni, or an ox demon. It looks too immobile to be a threat to me though.

An Ushioni or ox demon in the woods outside Negoroji.

Back at the Goshikidai henro hut, I make a horrible decision, as I usually prefers paths to paved roads. I follow a henromichi signpost pointing in the direction of a forest path and I can see a path on the map that will return to the main route and road later. Seems better, but the path is horrific, overgrown and boring, sometimes overgrown. As I venture longer and deeper onto it, I wonder why I chose to walk on this path. In the end, I spot an emergency exit leading up to the road. Back at the road, it does not get better as the views from the road are wonderful. So much that I walk back up on the road, all the way up to the junction from where the road beings at.

View towards Takamatsu from the descent from Goshikidai.

Coming down from the Goshikidai plateau on a good walk, I need to find a place for lunch. I head for a 7/11 marked on the map, but when I am at the location, I find nothing but an empty lot there. The path over the Kōtō river is closed due to high water level. Another henro that I first met at Minshuku Aozora in Awai looks a little bit bewildered. In this way, I find the English guidebook better than the Japanese one. The maps in the English guidebook is always centered towards the north, but the Japanese maps are centered in no particular order, making it difficult to orientate it if you loose the direction. I show him the correct way, before I walk over to the nearby Lawson for lunch. I want an icecream too, but they somehow fail to register it at the cashier, ending up giving it to me as osettai.

Evening sun at Ichinomiyaji.

A series of small roads and tiny paths, including a walk across a large parking lot outside a store, brings me to temple #83, Ichinomiyaji (First Shrine Temple). The light was wonderful when I was the first temple today, it then seems fitting that the light is wonderful when I am at the last one too. Then it was the morning light, now it is the warm evening light. Both Naomi and the wayward henro is here. The evening sun is giving the nice temple a warm appearance.

Tanuki-statue at Tamura Jinja.

We start walking together from the temple, but they soon miss me as I get curious and get lost in the nearby Tamura Jinja. A weird and surreal shrine, featuring one of those strange tanuki statues carrying what looks like a large sack of money. There is also a golden statue here that to me looks like a golden Jabba The Hut. To get to my accommodation for the night, I still have some walk to do. Slowly the sky turns darker, with a nice sheen, but I also wonder if I am on the correct road as no waymarks are found next to it. When I finally arrive at Business Hotel East Park, it is completely dark.

Arriving in Takamatsu in the evening.

I walked this far so that I can have time in the morning tomorrow to visit the famous Ritsurin Kōen. Naomi is also at the same hotel, but she had already had dinner, so I have to go out alone. I go to the recommended izakaya nearby, Torisuke, where I am greeted by a very friendly host and a young couple also eating at the place. Ramen is the main course for me, but I add some other small dishes to my dinner as well. Walking this far today has made my appetite big. The owner has actually been running this place for twenty years now. It is a nice and good place to end this beautiful day at.

Dinner at Torisuke in Takamatsu.

<- KokubunjiNagaoji ->

Monday, October 30, 2017

Marugame - Kokubunji

Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage, day 40.
Temples: #78-79 (Gōshōji, Tennōji).
Distance: 17.2km (1145.7km), time spent: 5:04.
Weather: Slightly overcast, then nice.


I do not know if it is my stubbornness that is at play, or it is my curiosity. Whatever the reason is, I have decided to start this day by sort of backtracking. Leaving my stuff behind at the hotel, I take a morning train back to Zentsūji (I have to change train at Tadotsu). At the combini at the train station, I buy food and then head back towards the birthplace of Kōbō Daishi for a second visit to the temple. This time in good weather.

Zentsūji with its pagoda seen from the town of the same name.

This is one of the best places that I have had breakfast at, sitting down in the Garan templegrounds of the temple and watching the sun shine through the trees next to the Gojunoto (the five-storied pagoda). On the other hand, it must be said that my combini breakfast of course is not as good as the breakfasts I have got at the various places that I have stayed at.

Zentsūji and the Gojunoto in the morning.

From the Kaidan-Meguri. See the marks the people walking the tunnel has made on the wall, as they feel their way to the pitch black tunnel with their fingers touching the wall.

In the fine weather, it is much nicer and easier to walk around and look at the temple than yesterday. Then it is time for 'Going through a pitch dark tunnel', or the Kaidan Meguri. At the Miedo (or daishido) you can enter a tunnel that is a walk of faith. This tunnel goes underneath the temple building and is pitch black, without light and you are supposed to walk it while you are chanting 'Namudaishi Henjōkongō' (the name of Kōbō Daishi). Letting your faith guide you. After walking in the dark, I come to a small shrine with a sort of cosmic theme. To exit, there is another pitch black walk. At the end there are some wonderful drawings of dragons and mythical beings. It was wickedly cool. Having walked the Kaidan Meguri, I can also visit a small and nice museum at the back of the temple.

A dragon wallpainting at the end of the Kaidan-Meguri.

Naomi is at the temple, she had slept at the shukubō at Zentsūji. A better idea than what I chose to do actually, given that I now spend time revisiting the temple, but probably too short of a walk anyway. She shows me a video of the staircase up to Iyadaniji (viewable from my previous post), telling me that her feet where completely engulfed by the water. It is so nice to see her again, she will actually walk to the same accommodation as me today. From Zentsūji of course, she will now walk and I will take the train.

Stepping stones to walk on over the other side of the pond in Nakazu Banshōen.

An old cabin and a red bridge in Nakazu Banshōen.

Not back to Marugame at once however, I have another stop before that. Located almost next to the Seto inland sea in Tadotsu you find Nakazu Banshōen, a Japanese garden. I wish there were some gardens back home like this that I could visit. How do they make these gardens? They are so wonderful. Centered around a beautiful pond, I find amazing small bridges, wonderful pathways, even stepping stones out in the water, these fantastic well-trimmed trees. I wanted to stay longer. Back at the train station I meet a Canadian, Matthew, who lives nearby and works in Takamatsu, these small twists of fate that makes people meet.

Nakazu Banshōen.

Back in Marugame, I am not continuing on the pilgrimage yet. There is a castle to explore. Some sort of competition going on at the foot of the castle, with all sorts of exquisite flower stands. The castle itself is quite small, maybe one of the smallest I have seen so far, and there is some maintenance work outside of it. Views are still quite good from the castle. One of the more modest castles on the way.

Marugame Castle, the symbol of the city.

A flower stand at a fair below Marugame Castle.

At the time I finally return to the way of the 88 temples, the clock is almost twelve o'clock. It feels good to be going again, but the way is not the most interesting as it is now mostly going next to a busy road towards the next temple. I get a bottle of herbal ice tea, which does not taste sweet at all, as osettai. When I called yesterday to book the accommodation for the night, I got a strict message that I should be at their place before five o'clock. I toy around with the idea if some word about me has gotten around, about this Norwegian that always arrives late at his accommodation, some secret communication going on between the minshukus and ryokans.

Amida statues in the tunnel at Gōshōji.

Gōshōji. Osata-san and Otsu-san chatting lively.

At Gōshōji (#78, The Temple of Illuminating Local Site), I find both Osata-san and Otsu-san. I remember when Otsu-san and I began the pilgrimage from Ryōzenji at the same time now so many days ago, nearing the end of the pilgrimage there is a possibility that we might be finishing it at Ryōzenji at the same time too. That would be cool. Gōshōji is not situated high up, but it is still quite a lofty temple and so it is windy while I am here.

A shutter painting on a store in an arcade in Sakaide.

Located at the back of the temple, I find a stairway leading down to a dimly lit tunnel. Inside the tunnel there is a wonderful collection of Amida statues, literally thousands of them. With small lanterns and lights illuminating the tunnel it is not a walk of faith, but might still be one. Definitely a walk of cool.

The special torii of the Shiraminegū shrine.

The walk after Gōshōji follows in the same vein as from Marugame, just on lesser roads this time. I eat lunch at the Hiruta-ike-kōen henro hut, which is nice, but probably not good to stay the night at unless you have a tent. Through Sakaide, the route goes through an arcade, I like the paintings on the shutters of the stores that are closed. Pipot is another henro hut, small and features a painting. Walking, I meet both Osata-san and Naomi. I abandon the idea of visiting Rurikōji, which is the okunoin of Tennōji. With the strict warning of losing my room at Ebisu-ya Ryokan, I walk fast and spare no time for curiosity detours.

At Tennōji.

If it were not for Naomi, I would have walked straight past Tennōji (#79, Emperor's Temple). The name of this temple must be the most misleading or ironic yet. This is definitely at the other end of the scale from Zentsūji, without doubt the smallest temple, almost shy. I was walking through the Shintō shrine Shiraminegū, which is larger than Tennōji and shares the area with the temple, when Naomi told me that I actually was at the temple. I was about to leave. A not so interesting temple, but the man in the nōkyōchō-office was very kind.

Walking next to the Aya-gawa river.

Osata-san told me that he would go towards Shiromineji (#81) first, instead of going to Kokubunji (#80) as I would, but I could not really grasp the reason why. The final walk of today would bring me to the foothills of the Goshikidai plateau, where my accommodation is located right next to the Kokubunji temple. The sun is declining as I walk next to the Aya-gawa river, walking past various love hotels that must have seen better days. I end up following a set of waymarks that takes me on a walk that differ from the route in the guidebook, but it appear to be a nicer way than the one in the guidebook. The guidebook route follows the larger road, but this one goes one lesser roads and paths.

At Kokubunji.

I have to take a short visit to Kokubunji before I go to Ebisu-ya Ryokan, making me appear right on time at my accommodation at five o'clock. Naomi has already arrived. At the ryokan they take care of my laundry as osettai. They were actually just smiling when I arrived. The dinner I eat together with the other guests is good, and it is also a good thing that Naomi is here too. Then I have someone to talk to when I eat dinner together with others as well, as the other henros appear to be little communicative in English. I have no regrets going back to Zentsūji again, and visiting the wonderful Nakazu Banshōen.

<- MarugameRitsurin Kōen ->

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Iyadaniji - Marugame

Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage, day 39.
Temples: #71-77 (Iyadaniji, Mandaraji, Shusshakaji, Kōyamaji, Zentsūji, Konzōji, Dōryūji).
Distance: 21.5km (1128.5km), time spent: 8:42.
Weather: Typhoon, clearing up later.


During the night, the typhoon arrived in full and I awoke to the sound of the wind and rain pounding at the windows and walls of Tomoyoshi's zenkonyado. As a result, the house was full of creaking noises. I was happy that it was too early to stand up and that I could wrap my blanket even tighter around me, and postpone the inevitable wet journey I had in front me a little. Of course, when the morning light finally arrives, although not in this part of Shikoku, I have to stand up. Tomoyoshi-san then drives me back to Iyadaniji after breakfast. It is raining heavily.

Kongōkyo Bosatsu at Iyadaniji.

I think his hospitality is encouraging me onward on this day. Already on the climb up again to Iyadaniji are the stairs covered by water, at the point of turning into a river. It is fascinating to see how much greener the vegetation around appear in rain, as if the green colour is being enhanced at the touch of water. Iyadaniji (#71), Eight Valley Temple, becomes the mysterious cloudy temple in the rain. A path and then some stairs at the back of the first level of the temple leads up to the hondo higher up. Carved into the sides of the cliffs are statues and idols, with small shrines found underneath the cliffs. From the hondo I can stare out into a grey void, with cloudy tentacles crawling up the forested hillsides.

Iyadaniji.

Looking inside the hondo of Iyadaniji.

At the daishido you have to take off your shoes to enter, which I momentarily forgets and gets an instant rebuke from one of the monks. I bow and say gomennasai to express my apology, but he just smiles back and waves me on. The reason you have to take off your shoes is that to conduct the temple-rituals at the daishido, you have to step inside of it. Which is nice given that it is raining a lot. I bet that this wonderful temple has more to offer than what I get to see, paths and byways obscured by the clouds and rain.

Forest path after Iyadaniji.

I make sloshing noises when I walk on the path through the bamboo forest after Iyadaniji, no wonder that, as the path is wet and muddy from the rain. And slippery, but thankfully no korogashi. It is not a long walk, tightly wrapped up in my raingear, to the next temple. Which is Mandaraji (#72), Mandala Temple. It is a nice, but quite confined temple, making the pouring rain feeling confined within its walls too. Now, just standing under cover and listening to the sounds the rain is making is actually quite relaxing.

Mandaraji.

At the entrance of Shusshakaji.

Shusshakaji (#73), The Temple of Shaka Nyorai's Appearance, lies just a stone's throw away from Mandaraji so to speak. Not just one, but two Kōbō Daishis, greets you at the entrance of this temple, which is quite small. It provides a nice place to rest at, with tables and benches, all under cover. The temple was actually first located at the top of the mountain that I can barely see from here, but was moved down here to make it easier for the pilgrims. I would like it to still be up there, so I could get an excuse to climb up, even in the rain. Now, I just stand looking longingly up at the shrouds wrapping in the mountain, knowing that I will not be seeing the okunoin of Shusshakaji this time, Shashingadake Zenjō.

At Kōyamaji.

Today became quite the blur, especially at the start of the day, I guess the rain is to blame. I walk quickly, passing from temple to temple, possible missing seeing things that I normally would have spotted. Kōyamaji (#74), Armor Mountain Temple, is next up. This is the temple where the rain is at its most intense, making it hard to conduct the rituals, even under what little shelter I can find. I like the shrine tucked away underneath a round structure in the rocks.

Zentsūji, Tanjoin.

While arriving in Zentsūji, both town and temple (#75, Right Path Temple), the rain ceases a little, but in its wake the number of people increases. This is by far the biggest temple on the pilgrimage so far, no wonder, given it is the birthplace of Kōbō Daishi. The name is derived from his father, Yoshimichi, which means Right Path. Not only one templegrounds, but two, Tanjoin and Garan; separated by a small road. A muted and laidback tone is found at the temple now, as the surroundings feels quite bleak in this weather.

Zentsūji, Garan.

Despite that it is far more people here than usual at a temple, it is far from overcrowded, or crowded at all. There are also some foreign tourists here walking the premises. Visiting the temple means some walking, due to it size, and there is a lot to see. If I have understood it correctly, the hondo of Zentsūji lies in Garan and the daishido lies in Tanjoin (called Miedo). Five stories tall stands the pagoda here, although with this background it does feel a little bit like a cool dark tower. Here also are numerous Gohyaku-Rakan statues, all following me with their intense expressions as I leave the temple. First thing I do afterwards is going to a 7/11 for some lunch and getting some warmth back in my body.

Konzōji.

On the way to Konzōji, I realize that I forgot to visit the Kaidan Meguri at Zentsūji, which is a pitch black tunnel going under one of the buildings of the temple (a walk of faith). At Konzōji (#76), Golden Storehouse Temple, I am almost alone. Not surprisingly, I have not seen many other henros today. Here the temple buildings are nice, but common in appearance. What I like at this temple is the numerous tress spread out across the templegrounds, there appear to be a purpose of where they have been planted.

Receding typhoon.

Kuzuharashohachimangu shrine.

It is wonderful to see the change happening on the sky as I make my way further, seeing colours coming back to life again as the typhoon is passing away. Contours and shapes in the background becoming visible again, even light from a sun hidden somewhere. It is making my stay at Dōryūji (#77), The Temple of Arising Way, marvellous. As blue sky appear on the sky and sunlight illuminates the temple. And it has a miniature-pagoda as well. I am happy at this temple.

Kōbō Daishi at Dōryūji.

The rest of the walk to Marugame should be an easy walk, but even though I have not walked a long distance today, I feel tired and the way feels like it takes forever. This I can attribute to the typhoon. Arriving at my hotel in the centre of Marugame feels good, APA Hotel. The two Japanese henros and Russian henro that I have met earlier are also at the hotel. It has a private onsen at the top floor with views overlooking the city, oh joy. It cannot be accentuated how good a visit to a Japanese bathhouse is after a walk, especially a wet one.

A shadow of a tree on a wall of a Dōryūji templebuilding.

For dinner I go out to a recommended place by the hotel, Honetsukidori Ikkaku, where I eat a rather good chicken dinner. And they have dark beer too (which I like). In front of Marugame Train Station and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Genichirō-Inokuma) there are stones glowing in the dark.

Dōryūji.

Marugame in the evening, the glowing stones in front of Genichirō-Inokuma (the Museum of Contemporary Art).

I visited seven temples today, and did not rush it at all at the temples either. I do not know how I made it, but it is a good sign that I have become comfortable with the temple-rituals now.

Video by Naomi showing the stairs up to Iyadaniji has almost become a river.

<- IyadanijiKokubunji ->