Saturday, October 14, 2017

Iwamatsu - Uwajima

Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage, day 24.
Temples: None.
Distance: 15.5km (704.7km), time spent: 4:34.
Weather: Grey and overcast, rain later.

After having walked 23 days, I felt the time was ready for a rest day or zero day. It usually is a good idea to take time off from walking, or rather time off from carrying a backpack, when walking as many days as I will have to. However, I do not really like zero days actually, they are sort of disruptive to the kind of rhythm I have gotten accustomed to. In short, I get restless. So for now, my rest day will be a short walk to Uwajima, a fifteen kilometers away from Iwamatsu. Uwajima should be big enough to entertain me for the remainder of the day.

From Rinkoji temple in Iwamatsu.

The walk to the city however, was not particularly entertaining. Albeit the shrine located between the small nice streets of Iwamatsu is an interesting one, Rinkoji. Mostly walking in the bottom of the valley on a road. Even the forest path bypassing the 1710m long Matsuo Tunnel was not that inspiring, but an improvement to the roadwalking nevertheless. Wanya, the henro-hut the path passed by on the way, could serve as a good place to stay or camp at. After the forest path, the route returns to the route 56 and follows it for the rest of the way to Uwajima.

Henro hut Wanya.

Arriving at the outskirts of Uwajima, I become aware of a lot of shouting and sounds. Walking around are a lot of schoolkids carrying around large puppets looking like monsters with horned heads. These puppets are meant to be Ushioni, meaning ox demon. Besides the horned head, the Ushioni is a monster with palm or red fur all over and with a tail like a sword. In Uwajima there is a Ushioni festival, but that is usually held in July, so this must be some other occasion. Carrying the puppets around, the schoolkids accompanied by adults visits the houses in the streets. They are also carrying small portable shrines known as mikoshi around, Shinto followers believe that these serves as the vehicle to transport a deity in Japan while moving between a main shrine and a temporary shrine during a festival or when moving to a new shrine.

Children accompanied by adults carrying a large Ushioni puppet through the streets of Uwajima.

An Ushioni on the pavement in Uwajima.

There are no main temples for me on this day, but in the centre of Uwajima lies Ryūkōin, bangai temple #6. Like many of the main temples, you have to climb more than one stair to get to it, the reward is a good view of the city. And of course, a nice and cool temple, with a huge cemetary situated in the hillside next to it. Climbing further up, through a part of the cemetary, I get to a huge white Juichimen Kannon Bosatsu statue as the sky is getting darker. Glad to have escaped the rain so far, I head downhill again and walking through the city arriving at my hotel for the night. My room is not available until three hours from now.

Ryūkōin, bangai temple #6.

Although the sky had been threatening to rain all day, there had not been any significant rain so far, just some tiny drops from time to time. Still escaping the rain, I climb up to the castle in the middle of the city. Uwajima Castle was built 400 years ago and is still standing in its original form, as one of the few. You can clearly see the strategic advantage its position has, with views to all sides of Uwajima around it.

Looking over the big cemetary next to Ryūkōin towards the centre of Uwajima with the castle above.

If you are looking for how the castle looked inside authentically, you might be a little bit disappointed if you choose to pay the small entrance fee and enter the castle. That is if you expect to still see the old furniture and rooms. Inside the castle there is a small museum and even better views of Uwajima from the upper floors. Sitting outside the castle resting after my visit, there is a choir outside singing. On the way down from the castle I came in talk with a guy from Australia, coming into the topic of difficult names for the Japanese (my name is definitely hard), he tells me that his is an easy name from them. He has his name written all over Japan, Lawson.

Video from Uwajima Castle with a choir singing in front of it.

The Juichimen Kannon Bosatsu statue at the okunoin of Ryūkōin.

Finding a place for lunch, I locate a cool café in the main arcade, Tao. While I sit eating my pasta, I see a couple of few other henros passing by outside, one of them the young man that walked past Ozaki Lodge in the evening for so many days ago, I thought he was far ahead of me by now. I have not seen any one familiar though, feeling a little bit alone again.

Uwajima Castle.

Ancient Japanese warrior armors on display inside Uwajima Castle.

It is good then, though only for a brief moment, to meet Gil again when I am on way to my next sightseeing appointment. He has a Michi-no-eki in sight for the night, Mima or so. Meeting Gil brings back my thoughts about the spiderbite, just because it now feels kind of stupid, knowing that he got stung by one of those large orange wasps or bees I have often seen buzzing around. He showed me a picture of the swelling he got afterwards, it looked really bad, he had to go to a hospital as it was so painful that he almost could not walk.

Part of Tenshaen garden reflected on a stonetable with a mirror surface.

In 1866 a holiday home with a garden and a pond was built for Munetada Date, the seventh successive lord of the Date clan. The garden, called Tenshaen, now serves as a national scenic spot and is open for the public. This is my first meeting with a Japanese garden and walking on stepping stones set into the extreme well-trimmed grass past the ornamented natural scenery of the garden is really nice. Stones in the water forms a different kind of bridge over to another part of the garden. I wonder why there are so few here, but I reckon that it is due to the rain finally arriving when I am here. Making a multitude of ripples in the pond. I know I might be repeating myself in terms of vocabulary, but I do not know any better words to describe this than peaceful and serene.

Tenshaen garden in Uwajima.

Back at the hotel, Ishibashi, I can finally take of my wet and sweat clothes and get a shower. Before I head out for dinner, I pay another visit to the castle. As twilight settles around me, I want to capture the building illuminated by the lights. The clock ticks, passes 18 o'clock, no lights. Still I wait, until I have to go down before the gates closes. When down, the lights gets turned on. Oh well.

Uwajima in the twilight.

Going for a place to eat, I find Uwajima quiet and deserted. Darkness has descended and there are almost no people out. I had hoped to see some more familiar faces than Gil, but if they are here, there are no signs of them. Not knowing exactly where to go, I just stop by Tao again for a beer, it was a nice place. Then I find a great place further down from the hotel, serving yakiniku that I barbecue myself on the small grill in the front of me. I wanted meat, so I got meat, but not knowing exactly what as I do not understand the menu.

Yakiniku dinner in the evening.

Even with Ryūkōin, Uwajima Castle and Tenshaen, I am not altogether satisfied about this day. It might be my restlessness having an effect on me, I really need to work on that. And there are always days like this. Looking out of the window of my hotel room, I know what awaits me tomorrow. It is going to be a rainy day.

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