Monday, October 9, 2017

Irino Matsubara - Ibiru

Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage, day 19.
Temples: None.
Distance: 33.5km (555.9km), time spent: 9:29.
Weather: Nice and sunny.

It comes to no surprise to me that the first henro I see in the morning is Kobayashi-san, he always seems to start walking very early. He walks while listening to the Hannya Shin-gyō (Heart Sutra), also a way of getting to know the words by heart or memory. This part of the Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage is home to several routes or alternatives to choose from. As the route follows the eastern coast down to the tip of Cape Ashizuri-misake where the Kongōfukuji (#38) temple is located, the henro has to decide upon which way to go to temple #39, Enkōji, afterwards. The most common choice is actually to backtrack along the way you have walked after having visited Kongōfukuji, and then go to Mihara and Enkōji from the Shinnen-an shrine. If you choose to do this and stay at an inn before Kongōfukuji, you can ask to leave your backpack behind while going to the temple.

I have other plans.

A small park near Irino Matsubara.

Fishermen using a hoisting crane to lift up fishing nets for preparation.

First however, is the choice of routes after Irino Matsubara. I have really no idea which of those routes that are the recommended one. One goes to the town of Nakamura following the busy route 56, one goes inland crossing over to the Shimanto Ōhashi bridge, one goes further around the coast, but involves either a ferry or a long detour to get back with the others. Someone has said that the golden middleway is the best, I follow in the footsteps of Kobayashi and Uieda, going for the inland route. It is pleasant enough. For entertainment there are several figures from the Anpanman cartoon for kids standing along this route, he is a character whose head is made of bread (pan) filled with red bean paste (anko) and lets everyone who is starving get a piece of his head (I think it was a box full of Anpanman that I got as osettai on the way to Hiwata earlier).

This will be another day of just walking.

Figures from the Anpanman cartoon standing next to the route.

Kobayashi-san and Uieda-san at a bench near a wending machine on the inland crossing towards Shimanto Ōhashi bridge.

Walking over the Shimanto Ōhashi bridge is nice, and so is the following walk next to the Shimanto river afterwards. Near another one of those specially designed henro-huts, this one called Shimanto, is Shimanto Wild Bird Park (notice that everything is named Shimanto here). This is a nature park featuring a pond, a walking path through the park, with several observatories for watching birds. I let go of my backpack at the hut and walk around the pond, listening to the birds.

In a guestbook in the henro-hut there is a page with the following words written on it: "So much fucking rain!".

Dolls in the trees, preventing thievery or stealing for themselves?

Shimanto Wild Bird Park.

After the park is a small hill, Judaiji, where there is a shrine above a large Japanese letter carved out of the grass, 大. For some reason, I feel a little bit pressed for time today. Which is the reason why I do not choose to walk the old henro trail going over the Izuta pass to Shinnen-an. I sorely regret it afterwards. The new henro trail goes through a tunnel, the Shin-izuta tunnel, which is 1610m long. My mouth are dry when I emerge again, I forgot to fill up with water before the walk up to the tunnel. Next time I will definitely walk over the mountain, be it bad weather or not.

The shrine and the large Japanese letter in the hill at Judaiji.

Not the tunnel of love, walking through the Shin-izuta tunnel that is 1610m long.

I get my small taste of a wooded surface trail anyway when seeking out the hut that Yuben Shinnen is believed to have built near the mouth of the tunnel. Shinnen (died in 1691) is believed to be one of the founders of the pilgrimage, he wrote the first guidebook, 'Shikoku Henro Mischishirube' (1687), and so was one of the people that made this pilgrimage popular among common people. Going to Shinnen-an, I go through a bamboo forest with sunrays illuminating the various jizō-statues and gravestones next to the path and shrine. Atmospheric. Kobayashi and Uieda awaits me in the resthut nearby, next to a restaurant. They were sure I had walked across the mountain and was a little bit surprised when I told them that I had not.

Gravestones at Shinnen-an.


At the mouth of the Shimonokae river is as far as they will go, but I continue. Heard that before? Well, it is my belief that they will do what most other do, walk to temple #38 and back again from there. I will not. Why go back and see what you already has seen already, when you can go around the cape instead? Back along the coast again, the trail alternates between walking next to the sea and through small forest paths. On some of them, spiders look as if they are walking on the air above you, tiny black crawling spots against the blue sky.

Spiders walking on air above me.


Ōki no hama is another wonderful sandy beach that is also a popular surf spot. Although, most of the surfers looks mostly immobile on their boards, in their wait for the next good point break. Next to the beach the trail goes through an ethereal forest, forming a natural tunnel around you. At the end of the beach I have to take off my shoes to cross the stream, before a short trip through trees returns me to the road.

Oki no hama beach.

The ethereal forest of Oki no hama.

In Ibiru I find my accommodation for the night, Minshuku Tabiji, I am the only guest. It is run by a woman who lives in the house across the street and seems delighted to have a visitor. The dinner she has prepared for me is delicious. Another day of just walking, but strangely relaxing in its own way. Looking forward to tomorrow though, as another temple will light up my way.

Dinner at Minshuku Tabiji in Ibiru.

<- Irino MatsubaraTosa Shimizu ->

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