Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Kushibuchi - Byōdōji

Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage, day 6.
Temples: #20-22 (Kakurinji, Tairyūji, Byōdōji).
Distance: 25.6km (147.9km), time spent: 10:38.
Weather: Magnificent.

I had not slept long last night before I woke up by a sound outside the hut, whereupon I shortly could see some light outside through the windows. Then the door went up and someone came in, all I could see was a light shining at me as I sat up slightly horrified. I voice in the dark tried to calm me, I was not. The man then set about installing himself in the hut, making food and preparing a futon, all the while I tried to get back to sleep again. Eventually, after a long time, he went to bed and fell asleep almost instantly, while I remained awake for a long time.

Looking up at the mountains I am about to venture up into from Katsuura, on the way to Kakurinji.

The next morning I woke up to discover that the other man was an older henro on bike, though he wore rather ragged clothes and had a musky smell about him. I suspect he was a kind man, he had made some food and coffee that he shared with me, though I did not relish it as the cooking facilities in the hut looked very unsanitary and dirty. He boiled up a huge amount of eggs, of which I got three of upon my departure. I needed to get an early start, as I knew I had a long day ahead of me, therefore I did feel kind of rude when I left.

The path to Kakurinji.

View of the valley below with the Naka river running through, from the path up to Kakurinji.

It turned out that I did the right thing staying at the zenkonyado, I would not have made it to the Hinanosayo michi-no-eki in Katsuura before it got dark. There are no places there where I can pitch my tent, though I could probably have spent the night in the henro hut outside of it. As planned, I eat a large breakfast at a nearby convenience store, I need it, it is from here the fun of the day begin. The fun is not flat.

The old pagoda at Kakurinji.

The next and twentieth temple is another of those located at the top of a mountain (though, there are many that would call it hills). As is the norm here, the path up is steep and this will not be the only steep ascent that I have to do today. It is also marked as Henro-korogashi on the map, literally meaning henro fall down. On a rainy day, this would be a hard and tedious climb. With or without rain, the walk up is beautiful and atmospheric, on a mixture of natural surface and wooden stairs struck into the ground to aid the climb. There are great views of the valley below at the beginning of the climb and later on there is a wonderful view of the valley you will descent to after visiting Kakurinji, with the Naka river running through it.

Ingrid and Laura at Kakurinji.

Kakurinji (Crane Forest Temple), is an ancient looking temple that has escaped being burned by fire throughout the years. The pagoda there looks old. With the danger of repeating myself, this temple is also very nice, most of them so far has been. Just before arriving at the gates of the temple, I meet Ingrid and Laura from Holland. I had seen their names on an osamefuda in an henro hut yesterday, wondering if they actually were from Norway (a far-fetched hope of course). They have a long time available to do the pilgrimage, and will take their time enjoying their walk. That is a luxury I do not fully have, be able to take my time that is, I hope I still will be able to enjoy my pilgrimage of course. So far I have done so.


The Awa Henro Trail (National Historic Site) between Kakurinji and Tairyūji.

Getting to Tairyūji involves another steep ascent, after having to walk all the way to the bottom of the valley again, all elevation gain lost. The path up is on a path devotedly maintained for hundreds of years and a Place of National Historic Site, called the Awa Henro Trail. It start off on a small paved walk, almost crumbling, next to a small river with small waterfalls, before it changes to a soft surface underfoot. Sunlight through the trees adds to the wonder of the walk, and a nice hut on the way is good place to take a breather underway.

Inside the hondo at Tairyūji.

Temple number 21, Tairyūji (Great Dragon Temple), carries its name with pride it appears. Ingrid and Laura had warned me about the beauty of this temple. They are spot on, it is quite amazing and a new favorite. Also called 'Western Kōyasan' since the temple buildings are constructed in a similar way to those at Kōyasan, and are scattered around on top of the mountain, not located closely together. Another legend about Kōbō Daishi is that he performed the Gumonjihō here when he was 15, this is done by reciting the Mantra of Kokūzō one million times. (Is it just me, but when I read about all the things Kōbō Daishi should have done in the guidebook and other places, I cannot help getting a sort of Chuck Norris facts about them. When I read about this one, all I can think of is the 'Chuck Norris has counted to infinity. Twice!' fact.)

Tairyūji hondo.

It is now that the egg crisis occurs. I have completely forgotten about the eggs I got from the old henro this morning, I put them in a side pocket of my backpack. Looking at my backpack when I am about to leave, I notice that the bottom of it are full of egg yolk. The eggs were not hard boiled, and had cracked. This is going to smell later if I do not do anything about it, I clean the worst of it at the temple.

Tairyūji daishido.

Shashingatake, the okunoin of Tairyūji.

I say goodbye to Ingrid and Laura, I will probably not meet them again unfortunately (though, you never know). Most henros seems to take the path down from Tairyūji that goes on the road. I cannot fathom why. There is another path that goes through the woods and mountains that I choose, on the Iwaya and Byōdōji trails. All natural underfoot and on the way I get a good look out from the mountain, where I can see the ropeway going up towards the temple. However, the gem of the walk is Shashingatake, the okunoin of Tairyūji. Here is a wonderful statue of a sitting Kōbō Daishi overlooking the verdant mountains, another beautyspot. A big black snake slithers across the path when I am getting close to Asebi.

A jizō statue on the Iwaya / Byōdōji trail.

Determined to go further, under threat of not having any place to sleep, I cross over another pass after reaching Asebi. Ōne pass is on the other hand not as steep as the previous two. The pass has also given name to an unusal henro hut, that looks like a tower, quite cool actually. I arrive at temple 22, Byōdōji (The Temple of Equality), just before the nōkyōchō-office closes. So, I get my stamp in my book, but seeing this as the end of my day, I choose to wait performing the rituals until tomorrow (they were also closing off the temple halls at this time).

Old age at work, an old women sitting in the field, but still keep on working.

With the help of the temple staff, I get a room at an accommodation some kilometers away from here, Emoto. They will come and pick me up, great. Yesterday, I had originally tried to book a room at the Japanese inn next to the temple, Sazanka, but they were fully booked. Now, although too late, another henro that I met comes out to tell me that there had been a cancellation and it was a room available. There is also another free hut nearby, but I yearn for a shower now, and it looks like there are no places to eat nearby. The dinner at Emoto is good though, a traditional meal consisting of fish, rice, pickles, miso-soup, but also with meat that I prepare myself on a small burning pot.

The Ōne Henro Hut.

Probably the best day of my walk so far, even if it got off at a bad start and the first part of walking was not that interesting. Once I took to the mountains for the climbs to Kakurinji and Tairyūji, it was all rewarding. Now for the task of cleaning the bottom of my backpack.


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  1. I enjoy reading your blog. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    1. Hi, glad to hear that you enjoy reading my blog.