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.

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