Monday, October 23, 2017

Taisanji - Iyo Miyoshi

Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage, day 33.
Temples: #57-59 (Eifukuji, Senyūji, Kokubunji).
Distance: 26.3km (955.9km), time spent: 9:05.
Weather: Some clouds, but mostly nice.


The feeling of looking out of the window in the morning, is beyond words. Outside is the grey and rainy world from the last nine days breaking up, blue sky pierces through the clouds and I can see the sun. Long have I yearned for this moment. I get so excited by seeing the sun again that I completely forget about breakfast and just get back to where I stopped walking yesterday as soon as I can. There I look for a place to buy breakfast, I do not find any close by, so I start walking.

Morning glory. First day of sun after nine days with rain. On the approach to Eifukuji, walking next to a small channel. Otsu-san on the other side.

Soon enough, I understand that I should prioritize finding something to eat, so I veer off the route before I cross the Sōja river to a Family Mart. Upon leaving the combini, I hear a voice calling me, "ohenro-san, ohenro-san". I turn around facing an older woman, who proudly presents me with a small plastic bag full of coins. This is the most valuable osettai that I have received. Of course, this money is not meant for me to use personally. The money is meant to be used at the temples, for donations, so that I carry with me her donations to the temples I visit. I will gladly do so.

Osettai. A small plastic bag full of coins that I got from a woman at a combini. These coins was given to me for use as donations at the temples.

Another pleasant surprise awaits me when I am about to cross the bridge over the river, this day seems to be a day of surprises, as Otsu-san with his trolley suddenly appears. He had actually stayed at the same hotel in Imabari as I had. We walk almost together to the first temple of the day, he always a little bit further than me as I sometimes cannot help stopping up to look at the sun. I find the name of temple #56, Eifukuji, quite fitting for this day. The Temple of Good Luck. When Kōbō Daishi was here, he prayed for safety at sea and so stopped a storm. It feels like something similar has happened today.

'Buddhist feet rocks' at Eifukuji, these are copies of those from the temple in India where Shaka achieved enlightenment.

Eifukuji is a small, modest and compact temple, located in the foothills of the small Futō-mountain. With the return of the sun, henros are reappearing and although not many, there are quite some cheerful talks to be heard at the pleasant temple. I get a small cake as osettai from the young munk in the nōkyōchō-office. It was at the top of Mt. Futō that Kōbō Daishi conducted the goma fire ritual to prevent accidents at sea, so I climb up the numerous stairs to the summit where I get a good view of Imabari with the sea behind. The surface and the stairs were still wet.

Eifukuji. Otsu-san resiting his prayers to the right, Takemachi is the henro in the middle at the back.

Senyūji, temple #58 (Hermit in Seclusion Temple), is at the top of another spike in the elevation profile. It is however not a very tall one, but the pleasant walk up to the temple has a short steep climb at the end. On the way, I pass by a dam that looks like a claw on the map. The path up alternates between going on a road that offers some views as consolation for the hard surface, and through forest paths lined up with statues of Kannon. There are supposed to be 33 of them, each associated with a particular temple on the 33 temple Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage.

View from Mt. Futō over Imabari. Chikamiyama to the left in the picture.

The shrine at the top of Mt. Futō is Iwashimizu Hachiman Jinja, this is the torii of the shrine that is located down by Eifukuji.

Although I could see the temple up into the hills a long time before I began the climb up to it, there is not much view from the temple itself to speak of. Senyūji feels like one of the more modest temples of those that are located higher up than the others, but the hondo is a quite nice almost two-storied structure. Here the legend tells about a hermit (sennin) that spent forty years here resiting sutras, then suddenly disappeared without a trace. I disappear, but probably with a trace, up to the top of the mountain above. There are more statues along the messy path up, and the views are limited to what I can see through gaps in the vegetation.

A Fudō Myōō statue near the temple gate of Senyūji.

Senyūji temple hall.

Instead of walking down the same steep path I came up, I follow the road down back to the temple gate. The descent from the sanmon and down is wonderful and one of the few forest paths on the trail that is not going under cover by trees, here I can walk out in the open and look out over the scenery. Usually I find the ascent to the temples in the mountains better than the descent, but this time it is the other way around. A snake of an unknown kind is slithering across the road when I am down, I see more snakes down from the mountains than up in them.

Looking down at Senyūji with its two-storied hondo.

At a Lawson Station, I join a small group of other henros for some food in the warmth of the sun outside. Towards Kokubunji, the next temple, I walk together with Takemachi. Temple #59 is the official state temple of Ehime, and is quite an ordinary temple. The short staircase up to it is nice though and it features a statue of Kōbō Daishi that you can shake hands with. When I leave, I meet the two french women that I briefly met before Ishiteji and on the walk to Dōgo Onsen. This is however their last day on the walk.

The descent from Senyūji out in the open.

Takemachi wanted to rest a little bit longer at the temple, so I continue on alone. This section of the route is less noteworthy, but I care little, I am so happy to be walking in nice weather again. I stop for a larger lunch at the Imabari-yunoura Onsen michi-no-eki, eating a large bowl of udon noodles. I see Takemachi walk past outside.

A staircase in the woods, at the bottom of the descent from Senyūji.

At Sendanji (Seta Yakushi), Takemachi is suddenly coming up behind me. I wonder how that came to be, he tells me that he had stopped for a bath at the onsen. We both aim for the same place to stay for the night, a zenkonyado in Iyo Miyoshi. Sendanji is nice enough, but it is not nice of them to display a map of the temple with the path up to the Okunoin and summit above visible. I go a few circles around myself, trying to shake off the ideas I get, but I am unable to. I have to climb up. This might also mean that I may be too late to be able to sleep at the zenkonyado of Kōmyōji, as you should be there before five o'clock.

Shaking hands with Kōbō Daishi at Kokubunji.

The path up is great, becoming steeper and steeper, but also more open to the landscape below. Just before the Okunoin there is a large Fudō Myōō statue under maintenance. Of course there is a long staircase leading up to the small temple. Satisfied, I am about to head down, then I notice that there is a path leading further up. Telling myself that I should not do it, I start climbing further up. At the summit of Setayama, at 339m, there is a pavilion, but the thing that make me scream of joy is the outcrop of cliffs I find. Climbing out on the cliffs, I get a great view of the landscape below. In the mountains at the back, I know Ishizuchisan is lurking between the clouds. The rays from the sun are colouring the ridges, hills and mountains below in various shades. I should have brought with me food and water, and camped next to the pavilion. This was wonderful, but the clock is ticking and I have to walk down fast.

My henro shadow on the road, on the way towards Iyo Miyoshi.

With the sun setting behind the mountains, I walk fast towards Iyo Miyoshi. At a small shrine with a hut, I see Takemachis backpack, it appeared we did not talk about the same place to stay after all. I arrive at Kōmyōji just after five o'clock, at the time the head priest was about to leave. He gives me permission to stay at the zenkonyado, but on a note I read that if I arrived at a later time, I could just write a note asking for permission and leave it at the main hall and it would be fine. The zenkonyado is in a small building in a corner of the temple. Inside there is a bunkbed, tatami mats, a small table and a lot of stuff on the walls and in the shelves. There are also some washingmachines outside. Otsu-san is there, I am not surprised.

The Okunoin at Setayama.

View from the summit of Setayama. Somewhere in the clouds at the back is Ishizuchisan.

At another note in the zenkonyado I read that there is a public bathhouse nearby, but I do not bother to go there now. I do however go to the nearby supermarket to buy dinner for tonight and breakfast for tomorrow, it also has a microwave oven that I can use to heat up the food. Otsu-san does not speak so much English, which I know from before, but we try to have some conversations with the help of an app that can translate what you say. It sometimes completely misunderstands what I am saying, too much amusement. He goes early to bed. I spend the rest of the evening reading, trying not to make so much noise, so not to wake him up, but he has a good sleeping heart.

All that I could think about when I went to sleep, was that the sun finally had returned.

Painting the layers of ridges, hills and mountains in different shades, view from Setayama.

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