My sleep, if I really had been sleeping was interrupted at around 1 o'clock in the morning by what sounded like a very loud warning siren followed by a recorded message. Not really fully awake, all I could make out was that it was seeking people's co-operation regarding something or other. The only thought that came to mind was that everyone who had been sleeping soundly was now fully awake and fully co-operating as instructed. After the interruption I never really got back to sleep. I heard a few loud crashing sounds and what sounded like cats fighting. At one point I got up to look over the railing at the top of the stairs to see what I think was a white cat make a dash for it. After trying unsuccessfully to fall asleep again at 05:45 my alarm sounded so I got myself up and got myself ready to leave. After exiting the main gate, I turned, bowed and headed left towards the main road.
At the junction with the main road there was a sign clearly pointing in the direction towards Jurakuji (#7). Before heading towards Jurakuji (#7) I crossed over to the other side of the main road to photograph a statue of Kukai. The statue of Kukai stood in the temple car park and apart from wanting to look at the statue I also wanted to see how suitable a spot it would have been had I had to camp there last night. I had read about it on other ohenro blogs and with my quick reconnaissance mission over I started my 'Day 2' and headed for Jurakuji (#7). I quickly picked up the ohenro trail markers and after passing through a sleepy little village I was soon at Jurakuji (#7).
There was only one solo pilgrim going through his prayers rituals when I arrived. I set my pack down in the same spot I had the last time I was there. I sat down for a while to enjoy the early morning calm. The weather this morning was completely different from my start yesterday. The sky was a beautiful blue and it looked already that it was going to turn into a warm sunny day. After a while I got up and headed towards the main hall. I quietly went through my own prayer rituals trying hard to concentrate on reciting and reading the sutras more smoothly than I had yesterday. After repeating the same rituals at the daishi hall I walked over to the stamp office.
I remembered the lady in the stamp office being a little bit grumpy the last time I had got my stamp done. As I approached the stamp office she was heading out but on seeing me with my stamp book in hand she headed back inside again. She seemed busy getting the temple ready for the start of the day and maybe that explained why she looked a bit grumpy. She seemed to be doing all the chores alone so I greeted her in a friendly manner and handed her the stamp book. During my first pilgrimage I had become somewhat attached to my stamp book and wanted all the stamps to be done nicely. This of course didn't always happen and sometimes I had felt a little annoyed when the stamp was rushed and it didn't look as nice as the others. The irony looking back was that I lost all attachment to the stamp book after I completed the pilgrimage maybe because I realized it was only one part of the pilgrimage and by the end at least, not the most important part. In fact I had ended up giving that stamp book away as a gift, so this time I hoped I would not be so hung up on whether the temple staff did a good job or not, although the hope was that they would do a good job because I planned to keep hold of this particular stamp book a bit longer.
I deliberately avoided paying attention to her as she did the stamp. When she had finished she returned the stamp book to me along with the 2 temple slips. Last time I was receiving only a single temple slip but this time there was an additional red commemorative temple slip which was to mark the 1200th anniversary of the pilgrimage itself. I put the stamp book and the temple slips back into a clear protective sleeve and back into my ohenro back. I then took out the photographs and told her to choose one she liked. I told her I was doing the pilgrimage for the second time and that this time I wanted to give osettai to everyone. She took a quick look and immediately found one she liked even before she had finished looking through all of them. The nice part was that the tired look on her face vanished in an instant and I left the stamp office feeling happy with myself too. After spending a little time taking photographs I headed back out of the main gate. The architectural style and colour of the main gate I had read was of the distinguishing features of Jurakuji (#7) and in the early morning sunshine it wasn't too difficult to appreciate that fact.
Dinner yesterday had been coffee and crackers. This morning I had not yet had any breakfast and as I headed towards Kumataniji (#8) the hunger pangs were really starting to do battle. I had some snacks in my pack but I was hoping I could make it as far as Kumataniji (#8) before sitting down to eat them. The hunger pangs however were having none of it so about 2km short of Kumataniji (#8) I stopped in a small playground, sat down and had one of my snacks. The short break seemed to do the trick and with a little more energy in the tank I continued on my way feeling much better than I had been a little while earlier. Morning greetings from two schoolboys as they sped by on their bikes helped to lift the mood too.
Kumataniji (#8) was a favourite from my first trip because of a beautiful gate on the approach to the temple. I was not sure if the gate formed part of the temple itself but the route I followed this time from Jurakuji (#7) ensured that I passed through it before crossing to the other side of a road and on towards Kumataniji (#8) proper. The main temple buildings are located on the side of a hill and you need to walk up a lot of steps before you get to them. It had turned into quite a warm day and I didn't particularly fancy carrying my heavy pack up all those steps so I headed to the stamp office which was located right at the bottom in the car park and got their permission to leave my pack behind. The stamp office was quite large and there was plenty of space to leave my pack there without it getting in anyone's way. I thanked them and headed back outside.
A bus group had just arrived and were ahead of me and when I got to the prayer halls I just waited for them to all to finish before praying myself. In fact like the young guide and his group at Dainichiji (#4) I really enjoyed listening to the way the guide of this particular group and her much larger group did their chanting. As I was finishing at the daishi hall I was joined by my fellow ohenro-san Mr No-More-Excuses from yesterday. I was alone but he waited for me to finish before continuing with his own prayers. We both descended back down to the stamp office and got our books stamps. After I had got mine stamped I gave all my photographs to the man who had done my stamp and asked him to choose one he liked. He picked a photograph which showed the view of the sky from the summit of Mt. Fuji. I wasn't expecting anything in return but he repaid my gesture by giving me a tenugui. A tenugui is a thin cotton towel that typically comes in a variety of colors and prints, and can be put to many simple uses. The tenugui cloth I received at Ryozenji (#1) I was now using as a head cloth. The ones from the temples I had noticed were typically white and they had their own unique markings. The tenugui was much more than was expecting so I asked the man to choose another photograph before I left.
Back outside I got chatting to Mr No-More-Excuses and another very jolly 60 something year old who I will call Mr Jolly. Mr Jolly was from Kyushu and he told me his niece had forced him to do ohenro. Mr Jolly was one of those people you instantly liked. He was on day 2 of his journey but he as already suffering from a severe hangover he said. Many of the older ohenro-san definitely made the most of their stops at the minshuku and both my fellow ohenro-san this morning were planning to stay exclusively in minshuku or other paid lodging. Before we parted company I gave both Mr No-More-Excuses and Mr Jolly a photograph each. I had my name and website address printed on the front of the photographs and Mr Jolly said he would ask his niece to check my website. With that the pair of them continued on ahead of me and were soon out of sight.
The weather as I left Kumataniji (#8) was wonderfully bright and sunny and the walk to Horinji (#9) seemed to transport me back to the first pilgrimage. What did it was the view on the approach road leading towards Horinji (#9). From the road I had a wide panoramic view across open fields stretching all the way to a mountain range on the horizon. I knew of lots of wonderful sights along the way but this simple place set amongst agricultural fields was for me, one of my favourites. Just shy of Horinji (#9) I passed an elderly woman pushing one of those wheeled trolley seats and as I passed her she called out to me and offered me a handful of sweets. I thanked her and took out my photographs and asked her to choose one she liked. She sat down on her wheeled trolley seat and started leafing through the photographs. She ended up choosing one of a Mt. Fuji sky and before letting me go she gave me a thin beaded wrist bracelet. I thanked her and as I continued on towards Horinji (#9) I tied it to the bell hanging from my walking stick.
A bus group had just left Horinji (#9) so the whole place was nice and quiet when I entered through the main gate. I went through prayer routine and then headed to the stamp office. The last time I had been here a really friendly woman had done my stamp and I hoped very much she was still there but sadly she turned out not to be. In her place I found another woman who seemed to be suffering from a cold and probably struggling to be cheerful. After she finished doing the stamp I asked her to choose a photograph and she seemed to visibly cheer up. Before leaving Horinji (#9) I offered to help a young family take a family snap in front of the main hall and then continued on my way to Kirihataji (#10).
I was relying on memory and the trail markers as I headed to Kirihataji (#10) but after a while I noticed that I had not seen the trail markers and it got me wondering if I was going the right way or not. It was my first "Am I going the right way ?" moment and the onset of panic was only prevented when I recognised the crossing for the approach road leading to Kirihataji (#10). What had happened last time was that Takuya and I had detoured onto Route 12 after leaving Horinji (#9) in order to do a little food shopping at a local supermarket and then taken a slightly different route to get to Kirihataji (#10). It wasn't really a panic moment but it made me realize that I had not had to rely much on my guide book up to this point and it was actually quite nice not to have to worry whether I was going the right way or not. I had read comments by the "get lost and find yourself" school of thought but I was clearly not in that camp. Back on track again, Kirihataji (#10) was now only about 1km and 333 steps away.
I didn't want to carry my pack all the way up to Kirihataji (#10) and I hoped I could leave it outside the shop where I had left it the first time. The shop however turned out to be closed but the sign inviting ohenro-san to leave their packs outside was still there. A friendly old woman sitting nearby reassured me that it would be OK to leave my pack there. She said she lived next door and would keep an eye on it. So before setting of up the steep road I gave her the full album of photographs and told her to look through them and choose one she liked.
As I reached the steps leading to the top Mr Jolly was making his way down. We exchanged a quick few words about plans for the following day and figured we would probably meet again on the way to Shosanji (#12). After getting to the top I rested for a while before getting everything ready to pray at both prayer halls . After finishing my prayers I went up to another level to look out on an uninterrupted panoramic view. Somewhere down there was Horinji (#9) where I had come from and beyond the Yoshinogawa River in the distance was Kamo-no-yu where I would be heading to next. It was a beautiful day and it would have been easy to spend a lot longer just enjoying the view but I decided to head back down. Before heading to the bottom however I needed to get my book stamped.
In the stamp office there was a note asking pilgrims to press a buzzer if no one was around. I pressed the buzzer and waited. I knew from my first experience that an extremely old woman did the stamps at Kirihataji (#10) and that she might be a little slow to appear from the back. Last time after getting my book stamped I had asked her if I could take a photograph of her but she refused my request. I wasn't planning on asking her again but I wanted to give her a photograph. As I thought about this I suddenly realised that I had left the album of all my photographs with a different elderly woman outside the shop at the bottom. As luck would have it, when I retrieved my stamp book from my ohenro bag I discovered I had 2 photographs with me after all. One was of a maple leaf and the other was a photograph of a temple stamp I had photographed from my first stamp book. I knew which one she was going to be getting.
She emerged from the back and carefully seated herself behind the raised counter and slid open the glass door which allowed me to present her my stamp book. She had looked old and fragile when I had last seen her but she seemed ever older and even more fragile as I watched her do the stamp. Her movements were slow and deliberate and it was a pleasure to watch her put that stamp into my book. She returned my stamp book along with two temple slips to me and I gave her the 300 yen. With the formality of the stamp over I told her I was doing my second pilgrimage and that I wanted to give her a photograph. The most appropriate of the two I had was the one of the temple stamp and when she took it and looked at it a smile slowly spread across her face. She didn't speak a word and I wasn't sure what she was thinking but I hoped her smile was her way of showing that she was happy to receive it.
With my stamp done I took a few more photographs and then headed back down to collect my backpack. The old lady was still there and it seemed that she had waited for me to return. I also noticed she had left all the photographs next to my pack and when I asked if she had taken a favourite, she told me she hadn't. I returned all the photographs to her and after looking through them she picked out one she liked and asked if it was OK for her to have it. I told her it was and as I left I bowed and thanked her again for looking after my pack.
Just before I reached Route 12 I came up to a very new looking hut which I had not seen last time. It was a 2 storied construction and looked ideal for sleeping out. It was close to a few homes, looked out onto open fields and was just a short walk from Route 12 which had plenty of places to eat. If I had planned for a slower first 2 days then this would have been a great place to stop. I continued on towards Route 12 and was almost tempted by an udon restaurant but I resisted the temptation and continued on my way. My target for the end of today was to get to Kamo-no-yu which would provide a place to stay and use of a hot spa.
Not long after I neared another hut. It was set on the side of a field with residential homes behind. Unlike the last hut which was a proper ohenro hut, this one could have provided a place to stay but it was more than likely just a hut for a quick rest. A pilgrim had just left as I got to the hut and after taking a closer look I continued following him for the next 5km or so until I passed him just before the Kawashima Bridge across the Yoshino River. Just after the bridge is another small hut which is almost fully enclosed and another possible place for a stay. I just stopped briefly to rest and check my guide book to see how far I was from Kamo-no-yu. There was still time to get to Fujidera (#11) at a comfortable pace but it had been a long day already so I was looking forward to get the pack off my shoulders and having a good rest.
As I left the hut I was approached by someone who said he was a volunteer helper and although I wasn't really looking for any help he volunteered to take me all the way to Fujidera (#11). I tried my best to tell him that I was actually on my way to Kamo-no-yu and that I planned to pray at Fujidera (#11) tomorrow but he seemed to want none of it. In a funny kind of way it felt like he had just kidnapped me and was now frog-marching me to Fujidera (#11). When I asked him his name he refused to give it me which I thought was a little strange so I also decided not to share too much information with him. He was talking so much about ohenro that after a while I thought it would be unfair to tell him I had already done it once. So like a co-operative captive I walked or marched along side him and slowly managed to get some snippets of information out of him. Mr No Name told me he used to be a tax adviser but was now retired and living with his mother. He also told me that he walked 30km every day. I wasn't really sure what to make of him but we were following the trail markers so I wasn't unduly worried. My only concern was that his estimated time of arrival was wildly inaccurate and he just seemed to be subtracting chunks of time from a bigger chunk of time he had estimated as the original estimated arrival time. I was just tired and just wanted to get to the temple so I continued at the same relentless pace he was setting until we arrived at Fujidera (#11).
I still didn't really know too much about him but he seemed to know about ohenro and maybe he just needed to change his tack regarding how he volunteered his services. While he went through his own fairly quick prayer routine at each hall, I was thinking that maybe I should just get my stamp and come back tomorrow. He had promised to accompany me as far as Kamo-no-yu and I was beginning to feel a bit guilty about taking up so much of his time and the fact that he would be walking all the way back to where I had met him. I finished my prayers a little quicker than I would have normally and after that we both set out for the zenkonyado. He said it was about 15 – 20 minutes to Kamo-no-yu and this time his estimation turned out to be fairly spot on.
Along the way he told me an interesting story about the main gate at Anrakuji (#6). He said it was haunted by a small friendly child like ghost and that if anyone encountered this ghost it would bring them good luck. I didn't exactly remember meeting a ghost but there were some odd crashing noises outside in the early hours. I had also got up to peer over the railing and noticed what looked like a white cat make a dash for it. If I had seen a ghost I could only imagine it was the small elderly woman who was cleaning the temple grounds when I went to use the rest rooms. It had not even started to get light and I thought it a little odd that someone would have started their day so early. That and the fact that after greeting her I had not received a reply. My greeting was a little on the quiet side so I'm sure she was not the friendly little ghost I was being told about. It was however, quite an interesting little story. Mr No Name continued to share more stories and pointed out various useful places, a post office, shops, restaurants and such like.
When we arrived at Kamo-no-yu I headed inside and was greeted by a very friendly man who I took to be the owner. I asked if I could stay and he immediately said yes. Before taking me back out to show me where I would be staying he showed me which button to press on the ticket vending machine if I wanted to use hot spa later because there was a discounted ticket for walking pilgrims. He then showed me to the side of the main building and I instantly recognised the place from photographs others had posted online. There were two fairly simple fabrications, one a 3 mat tatami room for men and other a 2 mat tatami room for women. There was a very clean port-a-loo further around to the side, a washing machine, a dryer and a large table just outside.
After the owner left, Mr No Name drew a small map to help me find the shops and supermarkets nearby. It wasn't really necessary for him to go to so much trouble. It was true he hadn't listened to a word I had said about my own plans and he had seemed a little suspicious by refusing to tell me his name but he really had been extremely helpful. I wanted to give him a photograph but I couldn't give him one with references to my first pilgrimage. As luck would have it I had printed out a few extra prints of some standard plain photographs that were still on my SD card. I gave one of those to him and after thanking him many times I bade him goodbye. I felt a little guilty for the long walk he had to get back home again.
I had hardly eaten anything all day so I immediately left to find the shops and supermarket. The main road was just a short 10 minutes walk away and there was the usual assortment of fast food shops and small restaurants. Further up I spotted a Family Mart convenience store and the Marunaka supermarket opposite. I went straight to the supermarket and picked up a lunch box, extra fried chicken, something for the morning and a few extra supplies for the hike to Shosanji (#12). As I headed back to Kamo-no-yu I met a very young Japanese pilgrim Yuki who I had met briefly just outside the main gate of Anrakuji (#6) yesterday. He was staying with the same friends he had stayed with yesterday and was just on his way back from visiting Kamo-no-yu. Before we parted company, I gave him a photograph and wished him well for the journey to Shosanji (#12) the following day.
Back at Kamo-no-yu I finally sat myself down and enjoyed eating something substantial for the first time all day. I then started wondering if Das would make it to Kamo-no-yu and as I was sat updating my notes I saw her and the owner through the front of my hut. I went out to greet her and the owner asked me to quickly explain what he had explained to me. Das had made good progress even though she had left from Anrakuji (#6) later than me. There wasn't really much to explain, there was the loo around the side, the washing machine, the dryer and the shops close by. Das got into her small tatami room and I got myself ready to go and make use of the hot spa.
The spa was one of those nice friendly community bath houses. It seemed to be a local hangout for everyone and many of the elderly men seemed to know each other. The main bathing area was simple with one large hot bath. The best part was the outdoor hot bath. The water was much hotter and as I sat in the water and looked up at the sky I could clearly see a sliver of a moon in a dark cloudless sky. It felt great to be nice and clean again. The quick soak in the hot baths, especially the hotter outdoor one seemed to ease away the aches from a long day of walking.
When I returned to my hut, the women's hut was dark and I assumed Das had gone to sleep. Hoping the washing machine wouldn't disturb Das I got some washing going and returned to updating my notes again. A little while later Das turned up. She had not been in her room after all and had in fact been just up the road at a very friendly restaurant who she said had cooked up a really nice feast for her. We had only had the briefest of conversations until now so we chatted about our journey so far and talked about our plans for the hike to Shosanji (#12). I had booked myself into Sudachi-kan and discovered that Das haf also been booked into the same place by the owner of the place she had stayed at yesterday. We didn't talk long and after letting Das choose a couple of photographs she liked we agreed to set off together the following morning and then returned to our respective huts.
Mr Jolly and Mr No More Excuses were both staying very close to Fujidera (#11) and I was hoping I could see them again on the hike to Shosanji (#12). Today I had walked 24km and in total had now completed 11 of the 88 temples. However, in terms of distance I again began to realise that there was actually a very long way to go. The distance didn't worry me but my backpack like last time was starting to feel heavy. In fact it felt much heavier than I remembered during my first pilgrimage. The good news was that my feet were in good shape and I knew my body would start to get used to carrying the load I had burdened myself with. Another day was over and it had been the many pleasant encounters along the way that had been the most satisfying thing about it.