Monday, September 25, 2017

Kokufu - Kushibuchi

Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage, day 5.
Temples: #18-19 (Onzanji, Tatsueji).
Distance: 25.5km (122.3km), time spent: 9:47.
Weather: Wonderful.

From here the official route goes through the centre of Tokushima. Which means a long and monotonous walk with little change of scenery along the way. I do not look forward to it. Instead I look forward at the map and locate the Jizō-goe route crossing over Mount Bizan. All the more alluring to me. I am more drawn towards landscapes than cityscapes. So my plan is set, except where I will end up when I stop walking today.

A pond next to the Jizōin temple before the start of the Jizō-goe route. On tables next to the pond, there were old people sitting, talking, and playing cards.

The weather is in an equally good mood as I am after a good nights sleep. It is a little noticeable walk to the small pond and temple (Jizōin) that marks the beginning of the Jizō-goe route over the mountain. The path up appears to be little used, with numerous spiderwebs blocking the way. All of them with nasty spiders crawling in them, not so charming as the surroundings. On the way, a man sits in a makeshift rest hut, trying to convey something to me, as if the path is closed or something. I clearly misunderstand and continue walking.

A statue with a broken umbrella sits guarding over the Jizō-goe route.

I doubt many other henros are walking this way, mostly sticking to the official route through Tokushima, though I could be wrong. The path over is disused, tight and steep at short times. At the top a small convent of statues. A short final brush down through the trees, and then a walk on road trying to locate the main path again, but I do not stop there. By returning to the main path.

One of the clear passages on the path over the Azuri pass.

There is another alternate route, going over another pass, Azuri, that I take. It is a mistake. No one goes on that path. By the look of it at least. Constantly brushing aside vegetation and the now ever present spiderwebs, it is not a fun ride. I really do not want any of those spiders to crawl around on me. The tiny statues at the top of this pass though, was cute. Emerging out from the forest on the other side, I hope to be finished with this path. Only to find out that there is more to come, and even more overgrown. I have no clue to what things I brush past as I push through the thick vegetation blocking my way. Broken and lost buildings in the trees. Finally, I arrive at a road again. Next to a nice Shinto shrine, Jizōin.

Tiny Buddha figure at the top of the Azuri pass.

Returning to the fold again, I meet another henro almost immediately. His name is Tomoyoshi Kubo and should influence my pilgrimage at a later stage, although I do not know it at this time. We keep company from here on. Now here is an interesting (and funny) fact, although an disputed fact. Next to the trail lies what is noted in the guidebook as the lowest mountain in Japan, Mount Benten at 6.1m. I just have to climb it. It is barely more than a large boulder, but there is a small shrine at its top. With my successful ascent, I can now add my name to the (probably very long) list of the conquerors of this mighty mountain.

Picture taken when summiting the lowest mountain in Japan at 6.1m, Bentenyama.

Coming down from the high altitude, I join up with Tomoyoshi-san and head for a place to eat lunch. He wants to give it to me as osettai, but instead we both end up being given lunch as osettai from a woman at the place we stop at. The long walk through the outskirts of Komatsushima is of course not as tense as my excursions over the Jizō-goe and Azuri passes. Plenty of wind though, which makes wearing the sedgehat quite tedious.

Horse and fierce samurai warrior statues at the top of Hatayama.

The path up to temple 18, Onzanji (The Temple of Gratitude Mountain), is a wonderful old path on stairs of stone covered by moss. Women was originally not allowed to enter the temple, but when Kūkai's mother came to visit the temple while he was training there, he performed an esoteric rite that lasted for seventeen days. Upon his completion of the rite, women was allowed to enter. Good thing that is, for it is a lovely temple, which should be open for all.

Leaving the temple, the path goes through another of those bamboo forest that I like. This one, like every other carries the consent that what happens is to be, so there are fallen bamboo trees crossing all over the place. There are however no ninjas in them when I look up though.

Statue of Kōbō Daishi at the entrance of the Onzanji temple.

Tatsueji (The Temple of Arising a Bay), #19, is an uneventful, but hot, four kilometers after Onzanji. Not surrounded by trees this time, but by buildings. Although all temples are like small oases in their surroundings. I find this one wonderful too, then of course, having a pagoda at a temple increases my admiration of it. There is one thing that unfortunately bothers me here, the kids running and screaming around all over the place. I thought the temples was a place for quiet contemplation.

Onzanji, the eighteenth temple.

On any walk that I do, I expect to meet other people, from different places. What I had not expected was to meet a group of henros coming from no other than New Caledonia. Julien and Didier are sitting at a bench next to the temple gates and I join them for a while, conversing in a mix of english and french (they speak french at the tiny island). There is another of the group, Yves, who is resting back at the place they will spend the night at. It is a nice meeting.

Tomoyoshi-san going through the bamboo forest after Onzanji.

For my Japanese friend, Tomoyoshi-san, it is also the end of his day. He will take a train back to Tokushima from here. Before he go, he gives me his card and tells me to give him a call when I am either at temple 68/69, 70 or 71 and he will come and pick me up for a stay in his zenkonyado. Such wonderful hospitality. I have still a lot of kilometers to walk and temples to visit before I get there, so I hope I will not forget it.

Ornaments and lamp in the roof at Tatsueji.

I am however not finished with my day, I have a small hope to get to Katsuura and the Hinanosayo michi-no-eki (road station) there, it should have a place to camp and a restaurant to eat at. Time is not on my side, so for safety, I stock up on some few provisions in a small nearby store (and two beers from a vending-machine, teenagers would go wild about these back home).

At Tatsueji.

Near Hosenji, a rather uninteresting temple in Kushibuchi, there is another zenkonyado. It was marked in the guidebook and was my plan b if the time got tight. It has, but the free hut is extremely hot inside, messy, dusty and not very inviting. Although, I see no other choice than staying at the place. I let the two fans get to work, while I sit outside waiting for it to cool down.

Inside the zenkonyado near the Hosenji temple in Kushibuchi, my home for the night.

I eat my meagre dinner and drink my two beers, then relax. There are cockroaches crawling around on the tatami-mats. I only use the futons available as underlay for my sleeping madrass and sleeping bag. Still grateful for these free shelters though. A far from uninteresting day.

<- KokufuByōdōji ->

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