Saturday, September 30, 2017

Ozaki - Kongōchōji

Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage, day 10.
Temples: #24-25 (Hotsumisakiji, Shinshōji).
Distance: 26.7km (270.8km), time spent: 9:16.
Weather: Slightly overcast, then nice.

I wake up early this day, deliberately. Outside, both the sky and the ocean are slowly turning into a burning red and purple hue. The sun is on its way up, not yet reached the horizon, but it is there beyond the sea, painting the sky unreal. When the sun is just above the sealine, it looks like it is melting down into the sea. Pacific sunrise, a glorious start of the tenth day. I was so lucky to get this room.

Wonderful colors on the sky and ocean at Ozaki in the early morning before sunrise.

The farewell to Lodge Ozaki after breakfast is however an emotionally letdown after the wonderful morning. When I am about to leave, Koh wants me to join the others for a photograph outside, but the strange Japanese henro is waving me away. It feel so exclusionary that I just pick up my backpack and leave.

Pacific sunrise, with the sun melting into the ocean.

From Ozaki, the route will take me the last of the walk down to the tip of Cape Muroto-misaki, it is in the same vein as yesterday. The topography and geology around this area and cape is interesting, with the rock formations formed by the constant buffeting by strong winds and high waves extremely old. Shortly after I left, I pass the towering stones called Meoto Rock. It appear to be a place of special importance as there is a rope hanging between two of the tall rocks, like the ropes found around sacred trees in the temples and shrines. All along the coast there are several of these fascinating rocks, in various shapes and sizes, some of them with small manmade walkways on Gorogoro-ishi sections to walk on between the sights. Walking on those walkways gives me a sort of the same feeling that I had while I played the Myst or Riven computer games.

The couple called Meoto Rock.

I have been walking for some hours when a large statue of Kōbō Daishi catches my eye, it is huge. The statue belongs to the Raieiji temple, just south of the Deep Sea World. Clearly, my curiosity requires me to go look at the statue, which on a closer look is standing on top of a small model of Shikoku. Further back is a a Nehan statue, a sleeping Buddha. As I step onto the staircase leading up to the Buddha, I become aware of a movement in my right eye. Just twenty centimeters away from my foot is a snake, and it is not just any snake, it is a mamushi viper. I catch my breath and slowly climb to the next step, if I had just stepped some centimeters closer...

Mamushi viper. I stepped dangerously close to this one on the stone stairs up to the sleeping Buddha at Raieiji.

Now, you obviously do not want to be bitten by a snake, but you certainly would not be bitten by a mamushi viper by any means. It is the one snake that every henro is being warned about. I manage to get down with a safe distance from the snake and then go to the old lady in the temple office to inform her about it. When I show her the snake, she embarks upon on a long tirade in Japanese. I am not sure if she is talking to me or to the snake. Next to the temple there is a (double) cave and shrine called Mikuradō, here Kōbō Daishi spent long time practicing his ascetic training. The caves are now closed off due to rockfalls. I got a stamp for both Raieiji and Mikuradō in my nōkyōchō.

The sleeping Buddha behind the huge Kōbō Daishi statue at Raieiji.

I feel anticipation rise as I start the climb up to temple #24, Hotsumisakiji (Cape Temple), the first in Kochi and the first in three days. It is a short steep walk up, but the path is nice, passing by two other small caves, one with a shrine inside and according to legend another cave that was made by Kōbō Daishi to provide shelter for his mother during a storm. Being back at a temple feels good, Hotsumisakiji lies at the tip of the cape surrounded by trees, so there are no views from it. However, if you are looking for views, it can be found at a lighthouse close by. Most notable property on the temple ground is a rock that makes different sounds depending on where you hit it with a stone, I forget to try it. Naomi arrives not long after me, with Koh more tired later on, the somewhat impolite Japanese henro is further behind them. I did find him a little bit rude actually, but even so, I do hope he does not get any big problems with his feet.

Topology and geology of the Cape Muroto-misaki.

Leaving Hotsumisakiji, I soon realise that I probably will not make it to the place I had in mind to camp at tonight, a michi-no-eki at Kira Messe. There is a triathlon today and the road down from the temple is closed off, I have to wait an hour before I can start walking again. It was nice to cheer on the athletes struggling upwards though. A young Japanese henro is racing past me as the winding road opens again, the views from the road is great. I overtake him on the road to Muroto and we walk together to the town. Soon we are three, Naomi has caught up with me and Osata.

The path up to Hotsumisakiji.

Temple #25, Shinshōji (The Temple of the Illuminating Seaport), lies in the middle of the town and is a wonderful different temple, not big. To get to the hondo, the pilgrims have to climb a long set of stairs, at one point going underneath the bell tower. I find it pretty cool. Julien, Didier and Yves are also at the temple, I am surprised, but not unhappy, to find them here (they had taken a bus at a point). Seeing that I cannot reach my planned goal, I get the staff at the temple to book a shukubō for me at Kongōchōji. Too late to get dinner though, so I have to buy food and carry it with me up to the temple.

Hotsumisakiji, with its soundmaking rock.

A collection of small Kōbō Daishi statues at Hotsumisakiji.

I have an another issue also, I need to withdraw some cash and I have found out that there are limited places where I can use my card here. ATMs at the usual banks here does not work for me, neither do those at a Lawson Station, but those at a 7/11 and the post offices does. Leaving Muroto, I have to take another route to go past the post office.

Looking further at the top of the winding road leading down from the tip of Cape Muroto-misaki.

To get to Kongōchōji before five o'clock, I have to walk fast, passing by Koh and the impolite henro on the way. I am not worried about arriving after the temple office closes, but arriving too late for my accommodation at the temple. More surprising is it to meet Naomi coming down from the temple when I am on my way up, I wonder why she did that, as she would be walking back up again tomorrow. Looking at my clock when I stand in front of Kongōchōji (Vajra Peak Temple), #26, I made it just in time. The temple rituals will have to wait to tomorrow, I just take a quick look at the temple and then go straight to the temple lodgings.

Shinshōji with its large staircase leading up to the hondo.

It is a wonderful shukubō, I just feel sorry that I cannot get dinner there, as does the manager, repeatedly saying gomennasai to me. Osata is there, as is the henro I met on the last part to Byōdōji (Yoshi I believe he is called) and an older henro that also stayed at Anrakuji, Ujeda. Taking a bath in the private onsen is great, I really do love sinking down into the hot springs after the walk. I can fortunately eat my rather small dinner together with the rest of the pilgrims, with the manager of the shukubō feeling so sorry for it all that she brings me some extra food. The other henros are also willingly giving me some of their food. Almost at the point of me feeling that I am freeloading. This is henro solidarity.

Inside the hondo at Shinshōji.

A dramatic day in a tiny way today, stepping so close to the snake was not fun. It went well and the rest of the day proved to be another good day at Shikoku.

The stairs at the final approach to Kongōchōji temple.

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