Thursday, October 26, 2017

Ishizuchi Jinja - Iyo Mishima

Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage, day 36.
Temples: #64 (Maegamiji).
Distance: 40.6km (1045.0km), time spent: 10:21.
Weather: Clear blue sky.

I wake up to a sky bereft of clouds, there is not a single cloud in sight at all, only a clear blue sky. A part of me is strangely enough not happy with it, I feel rather angry that I did not get this weather when I climbed Ishizuchisan yesterday. It is just a temporary notion though, I have not forgotten that I really enjoyed the climb, clouds or not. The hotel breakfast is kind of tiny, so I have to upgrade it from a nearby combini. When walking long distances it is important to eat enough food, and I have a long distance ahead of me today. About 40km, the longest distance so far. Before I go though, I have to find a cash machine, but I only succeed in walking through a quiet town. At least, I got to see the paintings at the shutters of the small shops in the main arcade.

Arcade store shutter art in Saijō.

Having left the trail at Ishizuchi Jinja, meant yet another train ride. There is just a short walk from the still impressive toriis to the gate of the first and only temple of the day, Maegamiji. The Front God Temple is number 64 in the line and lies at the foot of Ishizuchisan. Maegamiji has long been associated with a Shinto god called Zaō Gongen, so the buildings of this temple are all built like a Shinto shrine. The hondo is wonderfully situated in a clearing in the forested hills around.

The huge red 1st Torii of Ishizuchi Jinja towards a clear blue sky.

A familiar face is suddenly appearing at the temple while I am looking at it. It is Naomi and I think we both are a little bit surprised to see each other again. I guess she has just been a day behind me, and with all my curiosity about she has caught up with me.

The 2nd Torii of Ishizuchi Jinja.

With the visit of Maegamiji behind me, I have nothing left but a long walk in front of me for the rest of the day. I cannot help looking in the direction of Ishizuchisan, and considering whether I should return to the mountain where Kōbō Daishi is said to have performed the Goma ritual and the Gomonjihō during his 21 days on the top. When I am nearing Saijō, this time by foot, another familiar face is walking next to the road, Osata-san. We walk together for a while, but as I have to stop at a 7/11 to withdraw the cash I tried to get earlier, he wants to continue walking. He expected that I would catch up with him, but I did not and I would actually not see him again this day.

The hondo of Maegamiji.

As I walk, the sight of the mountains towards the blue sky is the best part. Otherwise, I find today just to be another pleasant, but not too interesting walk. I pass by Hagyū-an, strangely enough not marked as an enclosed hut in the guidebook, but it is a zenkonyado that is run by an old lady who has done the pilgrimage in her earlier days. With the appearance of being in a garage, but it has places to sit down at and benches with tatami mats on for sleeping.

A Fudō Myōō statue in a small fountain at Maegamiji.

At almost half past twelve, being walking for about five hours, I find myself at Ikedaike Park. It is a great spot for lunch, and a combini just before the turnoff to the park made sure that I did not have to carry the food very far either. On the other side of the dam is a pavillion and a mowed lawn, maybe a better place to sit down at, but I still prefer to sit on this side where I can look up at the mountains from. There is a slight envy in the air of those that are climbing Ishizuchisan today.

A miniature shrine at the Kamogawa Bridge with a view of the mountains in the background.

I meet a woman who feels that she has to give me something as osettai. Not finding anything but her half-empty bag of Werther's Original to give me, she makes a lot of apologies. I try as good as I can to reassure her that it is more than sufficient, it is the thought that matters for me.

At Ikedaike Park.

A couple of kilometres before I get to another one of the few bekkaku temples that is situated directly on the trail, Enmeiji, I meet Tadao-san. We walk together from that point on, taking a break at Enmeiji. In the templegrounds there is the remains of a pine tree where Kūkai found a troubled person and prayed. The trunk is called Izari Matsu. Tadao-san shares some coffee from a wending machine with me, before we move on.

Passing by an amusing installation, not knowing entirely what it is meant to be.

If it were not for Tadao-san, the walk of today would have been forgettable. It has been rather boring, but walking together with another henro thankfully takes my mind away from it. We reach Iyo Mishima and the Cosmos henro hut as the sun has passed away on the ceiling above. It has been a long day for both of us, and we are both happy to arrive at our accommodations. He stays at the Hotel Live Max, while I got a room at Ryokan Tsuru-ya.

The remains of the Izari Matsu treetrunk at Enmeiji.

We agreed to meet up later to find a place to eat. So after the traditional bath at my ryokan and doing the laundry of my clothes, I walk across the street to the hotel Tadao-san is staying at. He has got a good advice on a place to eat, so we go in search of an izakaya that at first appear a little bit difficult to find. The place is called Hego. It has a lot more modern look than what I associate with and is used to when it comes to a Japanese pub. The food is quite delicious and we eat plenty of it. And again it is this Japanese generosity, Tadao-san insists on paying for the dinner. Sometimes I wonder how I can return the favour so to speak.

Dinner with Tadao-san at Hego in Iyo Mishima.

A stroke of luck it was to meet Tadao-san, it made this day. He was a great company. Tomorrow, I will depart for a destination longer away than his however. He will walk to Minshuku Okada at the foot of the climb up to Unpenji, which is the highest point on the pilgrimage, I have the highest point in mind.

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