I experienced my usual sleep pattern. I'd been feeling very tired so I'd fallen asleep relatively quickly but when I woke up and looked at the time, it wasn't even midnight. It seemed to me that a few hours of good sleep was all I really needed because regardless of how little I slept, I always seem to feel perfectly fine as soon as I woke up. I felt fine and spent the next hour or so updating my notes. Kan remained fast asleep or at least I hoped he was asleep. He was planning to get through Matsuyama and then head on to Taizanji (#52) after a dip and a soak at the famous Dogo Onsen hot spa.
After I finished updating my notes I managed to get back to sleep again but as usual it was rarely back to sleep like the initial period of sleep. I was awake again when my alarm went of at 5 o'clock and any thoughts of a quick snooze were quickly banished when I thought about my plan for the day ahead. There were many things I wanted to do today and it was scheduled to start with a quick stop at Monjuin (#9) a bangai temple where Emon Saburo confessed his sins before embarking on his pilgrimage in search of Kukai. I wanted to visit Jonofuchi Park where Kukai is said to have struck the ground with his staff tapping into a wellspring of pristine water. I also needed to find a coin laundry to launder all my clothes. And finally before getting to Ishiteiji (#51) where I planned to stay in the tsuyado, I wanted to have a good long soak in an onsen. In between all these plans I needed to visit Sairinji (#48), Jodoji (#49) and Hantaji (#50).
Kan was also up and the pair of us soon had the place looking nice and tidy again. With everything packed and ready I headed outside to the Fudo Myoo and rather than the prayer as I had intended to do, I just took a photograph of the statue silhouetted against the early morning sky. I retrieved my pack from the tsuyado and headed to the main hall where I left prayers for having had a place to spend the night, for the journey up to Yasakaji (#47) and for the journey that still lay ahead. On the way out I left the key along with another photograph on the table outside the stamp office just as the woman had instructed. Kan was still in the tsuyado and had told me he would leave a little while later.
It was a bitterly cold morning as I criss-crossed through open fields heading towards Monjuin (#9), a bangai temple that was going to be my first port of call. As I crossed between two wide open fields, to my left was a stone Shinto gate at the head of a very long path leading all the to the shrine building. Out to my right, the first rays of the sun were just beginning to appear over the mountain range and as I continued past the stone gate, it occurred to me that it would have been nice to have stood by the shrine building and watched the sun appear over the mountain and see if first rays were directed through the stone gate. I didn't know if it had been done purposefully but the shrine definitely seemed to have been positioned so that this would be the case. It also made me wonder if all Japanese shrines were built facing east. Those thoughts however, were soon replaced by others when I arrived at Monjuin (#9) where I stopped to pray in front of the main hall. It was at this temple that Emon Subaro confessed his sins before setting out in search of Kukai. His repeated circuits of the island some say was the inspiration behind the start of what later became the Shikoku pilgrimage.
Just before I arrived at Sairinji (#48) I came across a Circle K and went in get a hot coffee. My usual coffee companion was a dorayaki but I found something similar to what I ate regularly during my first pilgrimage, a small cheesecake like snack packed with 500 calories. The shop staff were really polite and friendly and as was quite common now, I left a photograph before leaving to enjoy a quick break outside. When I was ready to move on I detoured slightly and headed for Jonofuchi Park. The park had a small pond with a statue of Kukai situated in the middle. I walked around to the pond to a foot bridge that provided access to the statue. It was a beautiful spot as was the park generally. I had been told it was possible to stay in the rest hut and looking at across at it, it was pretty big and had plenty of benches and low tables which would have made it a great place to stop. Plus the Circle K was literally a stones throw away. I spotted the park keeper walking in my direction so I asked him if it was OK for pilgrims to stop in the park and he pointed to the big hut and suggested it was no real problem. In warmer weather it would definitely be a wonderful spot to stop out.
Sairinji (#48) was just across the road from the park and when I got there the first person I met was Kan. He had already finished praying and was on his way to the stamp office. After he returned I offered to take a photograph of him using his own phone because I got the feeling I would probably not see him again. He was going to need to push a little if he hoped to complete the remaining temples on foot. After he left I went through my own prayer rituals and then headed for the stamp office. The stamp office was empty and after looking around for a bell or something or hoping someone would turn up I saw a message which said please press the button outside. I went back out and pressed the button and a little while later a woman turned up. It looked like I had disturbed her breakfast or something so I greeted her cheerfully and asked if she would mind if I videoed her doing the stamp. I wanted to capture the whole process on video. She initially said no but I told her I only wanted to video the stamps and the brush movements so she permitted me to do so but when I looked at it afterwards I just deleted it because I thought it would only add to my stamp office psychosis. Anyway, after she had finished doing my stamp I gave her all my photographs and she instantly seemed to like one I had taken at Kongofukuji (#38) and in return she gave me a small cute origami shaped ball which I added to the assortment of things I already had hanging from my walking stick. I thanked her and headed out of the temple and in search of my next stop, the coin laundry.
I had enough change of clothing for about 4 days and it had now been a few days since I had last had the chance to launder what I had been wearing. Not long after leaving Sairinji (#48) I spotted a nice new looking coin laundry. There was a lone woman customer sitting on one side so I went to the other side where I took out virtually all the clothes I had in my pack and then removed almost all the clothes I was wearing, being careful to avoid the indignity of being captured on the CCTV by wrapping one of my fleece jackets around my waist. I slipped into a pair of shorts, put the jacket on as it should be worn and my boots minus the socks. I asked the woman about washing powder and she told me it was fine just like that because the machine automatically dispensed washing powder. I gave her a photograph for her help, plugged in my laptop and then settled down to update my notes. A little under 90 minutes later I had a full set of clean dry clothes again and I was ready to head on to Jodoji (#49).
The stop at the coin laundry was a job well done and now that I was dressed in nice clean clothes again I must have had that extra spring in my step because people seemed to be reacting really positively to me. I heard a car beep it's horn behind me and then pull up in a side street ahead of me. The driver wound down his window and told me to wait. His wife then jumped out the passenger side and said she wanted to give me something. She gave me her osamefuda and a tiny hand made wooden jizo. The pair of them were not pilgrims but lived in local area. The husband carved the cute little jizo and the wife said she put the smiley faces on them. Before the wife could dash back to the car I got out the photographs and told her to choose one she liked. A lot of oohing and aahing later she found one she liked. Her husband who had gotten out of his car to see what was going on also received a photograph and when I was ready to leave, first the man and then the woman took my hand in both hands and shook it warmly and wished me all the best. I didn't feel like I had done anything special to receive this kind of treatment but I was certainly happier in the knowledge that they were happy.
I arrived at Jodoji (#49) in no time at all and set my pack down near the main hall and headed towards an empty bench to write out my osamefuda. On the adjoining bench was an elderly man with his pet Yorkshire terrier in his lap Even before I had sat down he was asking me where I was, followed by steady a stream of questions and stories. The man turned out to be retired and told me he had worked for a securities company and was also at pains to tell me he had studied in California. It took me quite a while before I was able to free myself and go and pray at the main hall. I wasn't in any rush but I always liked to quietly get the temple duties completed first before anything else. After finishing at the main hall and before I could head to the daishi hall he was back again and re-telling me some of the same stories he had been telling me not too long ago. They mostly revolved around advising me not to walk more than 25km a day and that he hated Ishiteiji (#51) because they were snobbish. I thanked him for the advice and simply remarked that I liked the story about Emon Saburo and Ishiteiji (#51). Before he took his leave he told me one very interesting story which if true, related to Hantaji (#50). He told me that most temple bells had made their way into the war effort and had been turned into metal objects of a very different kind but that the head monk at Hantaji (#50) had refused the order. As a result the original bell was still on display at Hantaji (#50) and dated back to the Edo period. I thanked him and made a mental note of looking out for it when I got there.
With everything done at Jodoji (#49) I left and was thinking about food when a sign for Higashi Dogo Soratomori interrupted those thoughts. I had already decided against going to Dogo Onsen simply because it was so crowded last time I had been there. Once inside Soratomori, I found myself in a massive marble clad lobby which suggested a fancy hotel rather than a hot spa. The cost was a little more than I would have paid at Dogo Onsen but quite reasonable at 1080 yen. All I really wanted was to wash and have that squeaky clean feeling before I arrived at Ishiteiji (#51) . The woman at the reception showed me where to put my boots and offered to keep my pack and walking stick behind the counter. She gave me a large bath towel, a smaller face towel for use around the hot baths and pointed me in the directions of the hot spa which was on the second floor.The first floor had a large restaurant area and as I passed by, the menu outside looked pretty good too. Thoughts were no longer on food though so after a shave and a shower I eased myself first into the large indoor bath.
I felt a tingling sensation around my lower back and realised the spot I had chosen was in fact the electricity related part of the bath. I had been literally shocked by this invention during my first pilgrimage when I stopped at an old style local bath house in Tokushima after completing the 88 temples. All I remembered was that there was a strong pulsating vibration in the water which felt more dangerous than therapeutic and I had promptly got myself out of the water fearing it was due to some faulty wiring. I had then watched other bathers happily enjoying the effect but even after trying it again it still hadn't felt that inviting. The one at Soratomori seemed much gentler though and I managed to remain seated while it tingled my spine for a few minutes. I then moved away to a deeper spot so that only my head was clear of the water. I had not really tried many hot spas but there was definitely something nice about Soratomori. Even the water seemed to feel different somehow. It felt kind of silky smooth compared to the ordinary old bath houses I had been to many times. Finished in the first bath I then headed outside to try a few more.
I tried the extra hot one which felt really good but I could only manage about 10 minutes before I moved to some marble slabs and all I had to do was lie down on them and let the water gently trickle down from head to toe. Then it was to some barrel shaped little tubs just big enough to accommodate a single person. When I had finished stewing in my own tub I moved to a very shallow open air hot bath and literally just lay back so that all I could see was the beautiful blue sky and fluffy white clouds floating overhead. I certainly would never have imagined that my second pilgrimage would be like this. When I had had enough of of this wonderful relaxation I decided to give the sauna a try.
There was only a handful of people in the sauna but a few minutes later it seemed to fill up with other bathers and then a member of staff came in and addressed the audience of almost 20 naked men about the merits of the sauna we were in. I understood little except for the word Finnish after which he slowly poured water onto a tall pile of heated rocks inside a wire cage. The effect was to super heat the air and also create a very nice fragrance. Then using what looked like a huge oversized fan he fanned each of us in turn. When it was my turn, I felt strong drafts of hot air all over me. After fanning everyone he asked who was up for a second round and several hands went up. I had been frazzled enough and along with one other bather I got up, nodded as way of saying thank you and headed out. I cooled myself with a cold shower and then headed to the changing room. I felt extremely relaxed and more importantly squeaky clean.
I spotted the young man who was lecturing about the sauna and fanning everyone earlier. He was dressed in t-shirt and trousers and I can only imagine how hot he must have felt standing fully clothed in that sauna. So, as I left the changing area I gave him a photograph and continued on out. Before heading back down I found a large relaxation room full of recliners. I decided to sit down for a while and connected to the free wifi to check my messages. When I was done I headed to reception to collect my pack and settle the bill. I told the woman who had helped me that it was my second time, meaning second time I was doing the pilgrimage. She initially thought I meant I was using the hot spa for a second time so I corrected her and told her I was doing the pilgrimage for a second time. She hesitated and then asked what I later thought was quite a pertinent question, a question which I had not been asked before but one which I had asked myself often. Why was I doing the pilgrimage for a second time ? To keep it short I told her it was because I was a fool. Going into the deeper philosophical reasons were beyond my Japanese ability and my simple answer was actually far closer to the truth than she probably understood. She had been kind, helpful and her question was definitely worthy of a photograph and before heading out I gave her one, but maybe should have given more.
After leaving the spa I was back on the ohenro trail and heading for Hantaji (#50). The trail passed through what I can only describe as the more up scale part of Matsuyama because the homes looked quite sumptuous. Maybe it was a way of showing poor pilgrims like me what worldly wealth could buy and what worldly wealth I could have bought had I been more worldly wise. Thankfully there was little time to ponder any such regrets because a little while later I arrived at Hantaji (#50) with it's high vantage point and commanding views over Matsuyama City. A few pilgrims came and went but I was largely alone and enjoyed the quiet peaceful surroundings of the temple grounds. With my prayer rituals done I headed to the stamp office, got my stamp, gave a photograph to the man who did the stamp and received a small gift in return. I had planned to check up on the story related to the temple bell but I was already well on the way to Ishiteiji (#51) by the time I remembered.
It was coming up to 3 o'clock when I arrived outside Ishiteiji (#51) and before heading in I thought I would deal with the hunger pangs that I felt just before I got to Soratomori several hours ago. I also wanted to print out a few more photographs and not too far from Ishiteiji (#51) I found a Circle K. The hungry pangs were treated to a 500 calorie waist expander and while I enjoyed that with my coffee, I set the photocopier going to print another 40 new photographs. When I was done I headed back to Ishiteiji (#51). Ishiteiji (#51) is not the most appealing of temples to look at, that at least that was the impression I got the first time and the impression I got this time too. This seemed to be due to the fact that Ishiteiji (#51) seemed a real eclectic mix of so many different styles that it didn't fit the model of less being more. The simple aesthetic might have been missing but it was the story relating to Emon Saburo that I found most interesting. The last time I had been at Ishiteiji (#51) I had quickly gone through the prayer rituals, got my stamp and headed on to the guest house. This time I had plenty of time to take a much closer look around.
After completing my temple duties I got my stamp and asked about the tsuyado. Like the other temples I had stayed at, the lady asked me to out write my name and details. I let her choose a couple of photographs and in return she gave me a small book about the temple written in Japanese. She then asked me to wait for her colleague to return and when her colleague returned she asked me to follow her to what turned out to be a very large old dilapidated building. She took me to a huge second floor room with about 10 hanging lights down both sides and showed me where the light switch was. When she flicked the switch only a single light came on above the space where pilgrims who stayed slept. It was a large old spooky looking building but other that perfectly fine. After making out a space for my bed I headed back out into the temple grounds for a closer look. There seemed to be brand new stone carvings from a place called Orissa in India. The stone work looked very much like Indian stone carvings and the place Orissa was of interest to me because it was where my Kriya Yoga guru originated from.
Beyond the huge number of seemingly random artefacts about the temple grounds I had seen people, mostly women, doing something at the side of the daishi hall and on closer inspection I found piles of small stones with names written on them. I was not sure why but I suspected it may have been for those who wanted children. The name of the temple after all was related to a child born clutching a small stone. Heading a little further behind the daishi hall I found an opening in the rock wall and a light further inside. A narrow tunnel led to an area with many small statues and another tunnel branching of to the left. Down that tunnel I could hear voices coming towards me so I waited to see who or what would emerge. A couple emerged and continued on in the direction I had entered. I continued down the tunnel they had come from and seemed to startle a couple of young women at a fork in tunnel to a much longer tunnel that seemed to go on and on. The young women were ahead of me and the three of us continued to the very end and finally emerged out the far side onto a quiet road. Initially there seemed to be nothing of any importance there but high on a hill overlooking the road was a large statue of Kukai. I took a few photographs of the statue from the road and then retraced my steps all the way back down to the start of the longer tunnel and emerged just to the left of the main hall. There was some significance to the presence of the tunnel but I didn't quite understand what it was but alone at night it was the kind of place that would probably give you nightmares.
As I was about to leave the temple and head towards central Matsuyama and the Dogo Onsen area I spotted musical ohenro-san walking towards me. He told me he had booked into Sen Guesthouse and suggested I should book there too if I had not already got something. I had seen some great reviews about Sen Guesthouse from fellow ohenro-san and back at the hot spa earlier I had read a friendly message from the owner Matthew asking me to stop by for a chat and a cup of tea. I had intended to do that the following day but meeting my musical ohenro-san again I thought about trying to book into Sen Guesthouse myself. I called and got through to Matthew's wife who sadly had to tell me that the place was actually fully booked. With the thought now in my head of staying in a guest house or at least somewhere else, I called Fujiya Guesthouse and found they had a space for me. I had stayed there before and the place was just down one of the shopping malls not too far from Dogo Onsen. With that done I told musical ohenro-san I would go with him to Sen Guesthouse and then to Fujiya Guesthouse. I returned to the stamp office to apologise to the woman for changing my mind about staying. She was perfectly fine about it and told me not to worry.
I gave musical ohenro-san the news and told him I would wait leave with him after he had finished his prayers. While I was waiting for him, I headed back out the main gate to have a look at the small shops that lined the approach leading to the main gate. During my first pilgrimage I had stopped to ask a man in a small stall outside a tea shop if he had seen any signs of my companion and although he couldn't help me with my query he had given me a several grilled mochi as osettai. On that occasion I had simply said thank you and my thoughts were more about what had happened to my walking companion. Today I wanted to give him a photograph but when I got to the stall no one was inside so I went into the tea shop and asked if the stall belonged to the shop. She told me it did and after finding out that the man who had given me the mochi was her husband I told her about my first pilgrimage and gave her a couple of photographs as a thank you. She in turn gave me a freshly grilled mochi. With everything done at Ishiteiji (#51), I and musical ohenro-san left for Sen Guesthouse. After introducing myself to Matthew I told him I would be back for my tea after checking into Fujiya Guesthouse.
I headed back in the direction of the shopping mall where I remembered Fujiya Guesthouse being and when I got closer I asked a local shop owner about it's exact whereabouts. They said they didn't know about the place but they went as far as looking up Fujiya Guesthouse and finding out where it was. I thanked them for going to the trouble of looking up and calling the guest house. My recollections being what they were were still good enough to recognize that I was no longer in the shopping mall and that the Fujiya Guesthouse I had stayed at, had definitely been in the shopping mall. As I stood at the end of the shopping mall looking towards the tram station, someone whose job it was to encourage people to take a ride in one of those hand drawn carriages got chatting to me about enjoying such a ride. A romantic little ride around the center of Matsuyama would have been nice but all I had for company was my rather oversized backpack. A short friendly conversation later I was on my way again and the man was in possession of a photograph, if not a commission he probably got for each customer he enticed into taking a ride in one of the carriages.
After calling the number again I finally found Fujiya Guesthouse and the only thing that was the same as before was the name and the telephone number. Fujiya Guesthouse had quite miraculously metamorphosed in a completely new place. The strangely odd thing was that the number I had dialled was the same as the number that had on my website listing but the person running this Fujiya Guesthouse was a very young man and not the sweet old friendly man I remembered from my first pilgrimage. It seemed stranger still that the younger man had zero recollection of an old man or the other place that Fujiya Guesthouse used to be in. Strange as it seemed I paid, left my pack in a dormitory room and headed back to Sen Guesthouse and on the way I stopped at the shop that had helped me to tell them I had found the place and gave them a photograph for their help.
Matthew and his wife were running a very nice friendly guesthouse and had I not planned on staying in the somewhat spooky surroundings of Ishiteiji (#51) I may well have been spending the whole evening in the company of Matthew, his wife and the many guests staying there. As it was, I at least enjoyed some friendly conversation and a couple of cups of nice green tea before musical ohenro-san and I headed out for dinner. He had been told that the Chinese restaurant just around the corner served particularly good Chinese food. The place didn't look at all Chinese but the food definitely was and it turned out be be very very tasty. Musical ohenro-san did what he was good at and presented the staff with the kind of art work he had been doing for everyone else. I did what I had been doing since the very start, I gave a couple of photographs. With dinner over, I said goodbye to musical ohenro-san and returned to Fujiya Guesthouse and got myself ready for some sleep .
It had been a really full day in every sense of the word. I had made a very early start and the day had finally come to an end late evening when I got back to the guest house again. I had begun my day by visiting Monjuin (#9) where Emon Saburo confessed his sins and began his search for Kukai. I had ended it at Ishiteiji (#51) where the legend connected to Emon Saburo lives on. These were the two significant highlights in a day full of many little highlights. It was true that I was doing the pilgrimage for a second time because I was a fool or at least that was my own interpretation of everything that had led me to do it again. I had also been thinking of it as somewhat self indulgent on my part from the very start but ohenro was slowly working it's magic in ways I didn't always appreciate. Lying down in that shallow outdoor bath at Soratomori and looking up at a beautiful blue sky did feel like an indulgence but it was an indulgence of a different kind which seemed to change the way I had felt about why I was doing this pilgrimage again. Life was not necessarily meant to be lived as an ascetic. Discipline seemed to be the key, asceticism and self denial maybe not. At least not for an accomplished fool.
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