After the cold experience the previous night I had made sure I was dressed in extra layers before slipping into my sleeping bag. It ensured a more comfortable night than the night before and when I woke up a few hours later I had managed a few hours of very good sleep. It was still only 3 o'clock but as far as sleep was concerned, when I was camping out, a few hours was all I ever got and all I ever really seemed to need. The plan was to get up around 5 o'clock and get packed up as quickly as possible and then sit and wait for it to get a little lighter before pressing on towards Matsuyama City. I was looking forward to finding a convenience store so I could get myself a hot coffee and dorayaki. I had not had one for the best part of two days and I was beginning to suffer dorayaki withdrawal symptoms.
I was surprised that I didn't feel cold at all when I finally got up around 4:30 and started packing everything away. I went over to Furuiwayaso to see the opening times for the restaurant thinking I could possibly stop a little longer for some breakfast but the signboard noted that the restaurant was not going to open until 11 o'clock. As I returned back to the rest area I noticed that the condensation on the cars had actually frozen and it wasn't until I had waited a little longer that I started to feel the chill. It was a beautifully cold crisp morning and the sky was just beginning to brighten up as I set of just before 6 o'clock. I followed the road towards the Tonomido Tunnel.
The Tonomido Tunnel was another one of those slightly unsafe tunnels. It was 623m long and like the Totsuka Tunnel it too had no dedicated footpath along either side. I remembered it feeling a little unsafe the last time I had gone through but this time at least I knew what to expect. When I looked in the road side cabinets for the reflective bands I found instead a couple of strip lights but neither were working. Thankfully I had my own head light which I put it on and then headed into the tunnel walking on the side with oncoming traffic. When there was no traffic coming I scurried along as quickly as I could and when I saw traffic coming I would start nodding my head from side to side so they would be aware of my presence. On the whole traffic seemed to respond by either slowing down or moving a little bit over. Care still needed to be taken because there definitely seemed to be some drivers with the ability to see around blind corners and they were the ones who were failing to pay any heed to the signs warning drivers to be careful. The end part of the tunnel was the least safe because it curved away creating a blind spot. Maybe those handful of drivers who came tearing around that blind bend did so at the same time everyday and since they hadn't killed anyone yet, maybe they figured they wouldn't kill anyone today either. Anyway I had made it through without any problems although a few times traffic came around the final curve of the tunnel a little bit faster than I would have liked.
I had been going for nearly 90 minutes when I stopped at a lovely little rest hut just on the other side of the tunnel. I removed some of my extra layers and as I headed on, I stopped to read a sign which had an English translation next to the Japanese explanation for the nearby forest named Mariza Forest. In summary it recounted the story of an NPO called Newstart that had been set up by a Hideyuki and Mariza Miyagawa to help young Japanese people who had lost their purpose in life. It sent these young people to a plantation in Toscana province in central Italy. Mariza Miyagawa it said had suddenly passed away aged just 65 and because of her charitable efforts to help young people, Newstart was allowed, it said to use her name to create a memorial garden along the Shikoku pilgrimage trail. A commemorative event called "Slow Walk Shikoku 88" was started in 2003 and celebrated each year near this spot. I couldn't completely follow the text but it resonated with me in the sense that it supported the ideal of the many helping the one. This for me at least, was what I understood and felt to be the ohenro spirit.
Two hours after leaving Furuiwayaso I arrived at the one and only convenience store on the way into Matsuyama City. It was a Circle K and I got a few snacks and the hot coffee I had been looking forward to. I had eaten my emergency dorayaki before I left this morning and with only candy to keep me going the Circle K couldn't have come sooner. I spent about 20 minutes outside the Circle K and as I enjoyed my coffee I saw my fellow ohenro-san Mr Almost 70 from yesterday walk by on the other side oblivious to my attempts to get his attention as I waved at him. I was up and not too far behind him a few minutes later.
As I continued on I heard my name called out and looking across the street I spotted Beno and Susanne sitting in a bus shelter. I was surprised to see them because I had not seen them leave this morning but they had somehow leap-frogged me. I discovered that they had in fact left just 10 minutes after me and taken a mountain route which circumvented the Tonomido Tunnel altogether. I stopped for a very brief chat and then was on my way again. When I stopped a little later at the Myojin Rest Area I found Mr Almost 70 sitting inside the rest hut. He had complained about a sore knee yesterday so I asked how his knee. He said it was still a little sore but that he was managing OK. He asked where I had stopped and I explained my circumstances from last night and then showed him a photograph of the sign I had taken referring to the use of tents. Mr Almost 70 didn't give me an exact translation but he simply told me not to worry about it. Thing was I did worry and if I had known about the rule I would probably have pushed on a little further to the hut near the golf course.
We walked side by side for a little while and despite a sore leg he appeared to be doing really well. He seemed to think he was holding me back and suggested I should go ahead. My pace and his pace were identical but I picked up the pace and opened up a small gap. As I left Route 33 and headed onto the start of the mountain trail leading to the Misaka-toge Pass I recalled the story I had heard back at Kobushinosato Onsen. It was just a little further on from here that the man had come across the hunting dog belonging to the owner of the first house. As I passed the house, I noticed a sign which warned people to be careful of the dogs. I didn't hang about to find out if there were any dogs there or not and soon joined the mountain trail. As I neared the top of the Misaka-toge Pass a little further back I could see that Mr Almost 70, Beno and Susanne had closed the gap on each other. The view of Matsuyama City from the top of the pass was fantastic. The outskirts of Matsuyama City proper were still about 8km away but it was easy to see that it was easily one of the largest cities, if not the largest city in Shikoku.
Once over the pass the mountain trail descended quite rapidly and steeply. I was stronger going up than going down and it didn't take long before Beno and Susanne caught up and sped away. They had a plan to get as far as central Matsuyama which was a lot further than I was planning to go today. After leaving the forest trail the first stop I was looking forward to was Sakamotoya. Sakamotoya was a place where I had stopped for a quick rest and received some hot green tea and several mikan oranges during my last pilgrimage. The people who managed the place were elderly and I particularly remembered the sweet old lady. I was looking forward to seeing them but when I came upon the place, it was closed and no one seemed to be about. The old lady had been elderly just like the old lady back in Kiragawa Antique Street that I had hoped to meet again.
The path was now snaking through agricultural fields and I could see Beno and Susanne way in the distance. The sight of Beno's green pack and Susanne's red pack I thought would be the last I would probably see of them because they seemed to be pressing on at quite a tempo. A little further down a woman greeted me and for that I gave her a photograph. I had not had the chance to give any photographs to anyone today although a few times I had wanted to stop and just give one to a few random strangers. She apologised for not having anything to give me but I was not after anything and her friendly greeting was osettai enough. A little further down the trail the arrow indicated a left turn but left seemed to be impassable because of some reconstruction work going on. I spotted what seemed to be a temporary ohenro sign pointing straight ahead. To make sure the direction I was going would still get me to my desired location I checked with a local woman. Her manner was lovely and friendly and she told me to just follow the road ahead. She of course got a photograph too and would have got one just because of her friendly smile. I then just followed the arrows and arrived at Jouruji (#46) at just before 1 o'cock. With Yasakaji (#47) just a short 700m away I had a lot more time than I knew what to do with. Yasakaji (#47) had a tsuyado and that was where I was planning to stop for the night.
I ended up spending a whole hour at Jouruji (#46) looking all over the temple grounds because it seemed to be dotted with lots of interesting points of interest. Near the main entrance the usual main gate was a pair of pillars. A little further inside were hand prints with various Sanskrit like markings on them. There were also Buddha's foot prints which I had seen in a few temples already and in the center a thousand year old tree which, if trees could be described as looking wise and I think they could, looked extremely wise. The other point of interest I discovered was a small rock which was embedded inside a larger slab of rock. I would not have noticed the fragment of rock had it not been for Mr Almost 70. Mr Almost 70 explained that the fragment of rock was actually from India, possibly brought back by Kukai himself. With these new discoveries and photographing done it was time to head to the stamp office.
I greeted the lady in the stamp office and with no one else there I started chatting to her. I let her look through the photographs and she seemed to like 2 in particular so I let her have them both. With my stamp done, as I readied to leave she repaid my gesture by giving me a small good luck charm. With everything I needed to do at Jouruji (#46) complete I headed back out the main gate rather than the slightly shorter route to Yasakaiji (#47) through a side exit. Even from the main gate the next temple was just 1.1km away. If I was going to stay at Yasakaji (#47) I needed to at least have some provisions to see me through the evening and after checking my guide book I noted a couple of supermarkets about 1.5km away and decided to go there and get some food and then head back to Yasakaji (#47).
Along the way I came across a bangai temple dedicated to the founding of the pilgrimage which I thought would be nice place to stop at on my way to Sairinji (#48) tomorrow. On the way to the supermarket I passed 3 workmen measuring out road markings and one of them greeted me in a really nice friendly manner. I instantly thought about giving him a photograph but the timing was not right because they seemed to be in the middle of something so I figured I could give one on the way back. When I got to the supermarket I recognised it as the same one I had stopped at during my first pilgrimage. I remembered sitting outside on a bright sunny day just like today and eating a box lunch. The memory triggered a strange melancholic feeling because I could picture myself sitting there. I had experienced this kind of melancholic feeling a few times and Cafe Fukunaga was where I had felt it most strongly. With shelves of food before me however, the feeling seemed to evaporate in an instant and thoughts turned to what to buy. I resisted the urge to grab everything that took my fancy and ended up with some ready made foods, some less than healthy looking snacks and two bottles of tea. The woman at the checkout may not have been working at the supermarket the last time but regardless of whether she was or not, I gave her a photograph and an explanation for why she was receiving one. On the way back towards Yasakaji (#47), I passed the workmen again the same one nodded a greeting and this time I stopped, pulled out a photograph and gave it to him and just carried on. I was not sure what he made of it but I was happy for him to have a photograph for showing the friendly attitude that some local people seemed keen to show walking pilgrims.
I arrived at Yasakaji (#47) feeling hot and a little bit hungry so I sat down near the main hall and ate a snack. The temple was lovely and quiet just like Jouruji (#46) a little earlier. There were only a few pilgrims and today I had not really seen many bus pilgrims. Another thing that I had noticed over the last few days was that I found I could read the heart sutra much more smoothly without any unnecessary pauses. This seemed to be particularly true when the temples were quiet and I could concentrate on what I was doing. I had even entertained thoughts that I might be able to commit the heart sutra to memory, but given that poor memory of mine that seemed like a bit of tall order.
After praying at both halls I decided to take a closer look around before heading to the stamp office. Had it not been such a slow and relaxed sort of a day I may well have missed some of the things I found. Between the two halls I found a very small structure with two tunnel like passageways, one seemingly representing hell and the other heaven. As I passed through the passage representing hell there were drawings of hideous looking demons meting out a variety of cruelties on the unfortunate human like figures. It was clearly a hellish representation. I then passed through the adjacent passageway and the walls were lined with images and depictions of a more heavenly nature. It would have been nice to have got more information about this part of the temple but it seemed kind of self explanatory. After experiencing heaven and hell I noticed a carving of the 3 monkeys – see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil – on the side of the main hall. I also noticed an arrow indicating entry to somewhere at the back of the main hall. I followed the arrow and took a few steps down and found myself surrounded by hundreds of small Buddha like statues. I continued through and emerged out the other side. A few more photographs later I headed to the stamp office to get my stamp and ask about staying at the temple tsuyado.
One pilgrim was leaving the stamp office as I entered and on entering I greeted and was in turn greeted by the woman behind the counter. I gave her my stamp book and while she busied herself with that I got out my photographs. After she had handed back the stamp book I asked if I could stay in the tsuyado and she like the young monk at Kanjizaiji (#40) immediately reached for the book where they took the names and details of pilgrims who wanted to stay. As I entered my details I asked her to look through the photographs and choose one she liked. I had two sets of photographs, one set was all related to my previous pilgrimage and one was related to a variety of photographs. She had picked out two temple related photographs and was in the process of looking through the others when a pilgrim entered the stamp office. She handed back the photos and gave me the key to the tsuyado and said it was in the car park.
I headed in the direction of the car park and the first thing I noticed was a very large statue of the deity Fudo Myoo on the far side of a large clearing. There were a couple of vending machines, a toilet block, another smaller building and then one more which I assumed to be the tsuyado. When I got closer, on the front of the door was a wooden board with the Japanese for tsuyado. I turned the key, opened the door and inside I found a nice little tatami room with space to sleep three people. An adjacent door lead to another room which was part kitchen and part tatami room. It had space for maybe two more people. As far as tsuyado went, this one was reasonably well equipped because apart from plenty of bedding, it also included a fridge.
I wanted to thank the stamp lady again and let her choose another photograph from the other set which she had not had a chance to look at. I also wanted to ask about arrangements for returning the key the following day. I returned to the stamp office and after looking through all the photographs she picked a photograph I had taken from the summit of Mt. Fuji and told me I could return the key to the stamp office tomorrow from 7 o'clock onwards or just to leave it on the table outside if I was planning to leave sooner. With everything cleared up, I thanked her again and headed back to the tsuyado.
From the tsuyado I could see people going up to and praying in front of the large statue of Fudo Myoo so I decided to head back out and take a closer look. The statue was very similar in appearance to the one on the mountain trail to Iwayaji (#45). I didn't really know too much about it but I thought I would pray there before leaving tomorrow. After taking a few more photographs I headed back to the tsuyado and I was typing up my notes when I heard someone trying to unlock the front door. I got up, opened the door and was pleasantly surprised to see Kan again. I had imagined he would have left Furuiwayaso early and continued much further on but he had in fact gone first gone to Iwayaji (#45) and then proceeded on from there. He had a quick look around and I told him there was a supermarket about 1.5km away and after some initial reluctance he ended up going and returned with a nice stash of food.
Kan told me he needed to complete the pilgrimage by April 5th or he would run out of time. It was definitely possible for him to do it because when I looked at my schedule from the first pilgrimage I had managed to get through to Okuboji (#88) in about the number of days Kan had remaining. He was adamant that he wanted to walk the whole way and the most important thing was for him not to pick up any more injuries. We didn't talk much but it was nice to be sharing with him again and this was the third time that I had unexpectedly found myself in the same place with him. Kan turned in very early while I continued to update my notes for the day. It had been a relatively easy sort of day today. I couldn't quite put my finger on it but it had also been a slightly melancholic sort of day too. I wasn't sure what caused those sorts of feelings but it was a strangely happy sort of melancholic day. I had covered more than half the 88 temples and tomorrow I would be heading into Matsuyama City proper and on to one of my favourite temples, Ishiteiji (#51).
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