The new Fujiya Guesthouse was very different from the one I had stayed in before. It was now in an old house in a narrow back street not too far from Matsuyama Tram Station. I was in a 4 bed dorm room and when I returned last night there was no one else present in the room but I could tell that two of the beds were taken. When I woke up a little later after the usual few hours of sleep it was still only 1 o'clock and the other two were fast asleep. Not having had any chance to update my notes yesterday I spent the next 2 hours quietly tapping away on my laptop. Sleep as usual didn't return and around 5 o'clock I got myself down from my bunk and carried my belongings out into the living room. I left a photograph along with my osamefuda on the table, and with the customary bow outside I made my way towards the shopping malls which were not very far away.
My first stop was Lawson where I got myself myself a coffee and dorayaki. It was just after 6 o'clock so almost all the shops were still closed and the malls were still largely deserted except for the early starters on their way to work. I sat down in the shop to think about the day ahead. Yesterday had been a day of highs and my only really thought was that it would be difficult to top what had happened yesterday.
As I sat drinking my coffee an old man came in and without buying anything sat at a table nearby. I got the feeling that maybe he was one of the many homeless I had seen walking about Matsuyama. Before leaving the shop I gave a photograph to one of the shop staff and also one to the old man. He said something but I didn't really understand what it was. As I walked away it occurred to me that maybe I should have bought him something to eat and drink. Ohenro wasn't turning me into a saint but I had been on the receiving end of osettai time and again so why didn't I buy him something was the thought that played in my mind as I walked away.
During my first pilgrimage, after leaving the shopping malls I had walked along a main road heading out of Matsuyma and on the way stopped at a bread shop for a little breakfast. I decided to stop there again, picking up a few breads which I ate as I walked along. About an hour later I stopped at another Lawson to have some more coffee and another snack. I rarely ate regular meals and mostly snacked as and when I wanted to or could. The snacks gave me energy and the breaks provided the little rest that I needed. I almost never felt particularly thirsty or hungry.
I passed under a temple gate on the approach road to Taizani (#52) and then a second. The final approach was a relatively steep 500m incline to the temple proper but before getting to the temple I decided to stop at the temple car park to use the rest rooms. An elderly couple were unloading crates of oranges as I headed towards the rest rooms and the woman called out to me and told me to help myself to the oranges. I thanked her and told her I would get some after I had returned from the rest room.
Before continuing on however, I went to get my photographs from my bag and thinking I was getting money out she replied she didn't want any money. I told her I was going to give her something else and told her to look through the photographs and take one she liked. She liked several so I told her she could take two. I continued on to the rest rooms, removed my pack and sat down on a bench just outside and when I looked up the old lady was coming towards me with 3 oranges in her hand. I told her 2 would be enough so she gave me what she said were the best of the 3 and then headed back again. With my little break over, I headed up the final steep stretch to the temple grounds.
Taizanji (#52) was very nice. The last time I had been there it had been pouring down with rain and I had had to seek shelter to avoid getting soaked. This morning it was chilly but bright and sunny. The last time the whole place had been largely deserted but today there were a few more people including a group of 4 local men who seemed to have adopted the rest area as their personal meeting spot. The general calm seemed to be interrupted only by the sound of their chatter and laughter.
After going through my pray rituals I looked around the temple grounds. There was a very nice statue of a young Kukai and a small wooden building housing a very old bell. Below it were paintings depicting scenes of heaven and hell, similar to ones I had seen at Yasakaji (#47). With everything done, I headed back out of the temple and down the steep little stretch to the stamp office. When I arrived the lady in the stamp office had just finished stamping someone's book and after giving her mine, I readied some photographs. When she had finished I told her to choose one she liked. She said see couldn't really see well without her spectacles but seemed happy enough with her choice. With everything done, I continued on down the hill and through the main gate and on towards Enmyoji (#53).
I remembered Enmyoji (#53) as being a very nice little temple and one I had liked very much. There was a main gate and further inside a beautifully shaped second gate. When I arrived, there was a small group praying together but they had moved over to the daishi hall when I started my prayers at the main hall. I prayed quietly at each of the halls and then headed to the stamp office. There was a younger woman and an older man and I greeted them both as I entered. Since the older man had requested my book I passed it to him, got out my photographs and passed those to the woman and told her to choose one she like. She seemed to enjoy looking through them and when she was done I passed them to the older man. There seemed to be two he particularly liked so he ended up with both. They both seemed really pleased and told me to help myself to some oranges in a box which may well have been left there by the elderly couple I had met in the car park back at Taizanji (#52). I took one and headed back outside and sat myself down.
As I sat, I was approached by a woman who gave me some seets and said they would be good for my throat. I gave her a photograph which seemed to please her a lot. She returned a little bit later and told me to follow her to the main hall. She lifted back the curtain and told me to look inside and pointed out a dragon like carving across the top of the altar which I would not have noticed had she not told me about it.
My plan today regarding where to sleep was to try and get to Asanami Daishido which was about 4km further on from Kazahayanosato Fuwari Michi-no-eki, the spot I had camped at during my first pilgrimage. I had plenty of time and I wanted to try and get to Asanami Daishido as close to 5 o'clock as possible.
After leaving Enmyoji (#53) I wanted something to eat and I wanted to get a few more supplies for when I did come to a stop. The first place I found was a Lawson so I stocked up on dorayaki and got a pot noodle. All convenience stores provide hot water so I filled the pot noodle with water and headed to a covered hut in the small park right next to the Lawson. I spent about 20 minutes before getting going again and it wasn't long before I joined the stretch of coastal road with a stunningly beautiful blue sea to my left.
I soon came up on a train carriage shaped café called Express Café. When I had passed by during my first pilgrimage it had been closed or possibly been out of business altogether. Today however it was open so I went inside and it immediately struck me as a really great place. It had spinning fans over head and the seating was just like in old train carriages. I had just eaten but I ended up ordering a pancake with ice cream and some sort of warm bread along with a pot of lemon tea. The waitress told me the drink would be osettai. I had not expected that so I told her to choose a photograph she liked but rather than delay her I told her to take the whole lot with her and return the rest when she had made her choice.
The view out of the window was a perfect blue sea and blue sky. I didn't really need to stop but I was really glad I did because the sight outside invoked the same kind of feelings I sometimes felt when I found myself alone surrounded by nature. The rest of my photographs along with what I had ordered soon arrived. Yesterday it was lying in a shallow outdoor hot bath looking up at a beautiful blue sky, today it was stuffing my face looking out on a stunningly beautiful blue sea. These were moments no amount of photography skill could capture but I had a feeling I would recall them again from the recesses of my forgetful memory. When I was ready to leave I looked at my bill and it said 410 yen which was half the price marked on the menu. I asked the woman if that was correct because I expected it to be more and she again repeated that the drink was osettai. It seemed a bit too generous so before leaving, I gave her another two photographs.
My plan now was to continuing walking all the way to the Kazahayanosato Fuwari Michi-no-eki but I ended up stopping at a small temple to take some photographs. I remembered walking past it during my first pilgrimage and taking a photograph of a gate house which was the first thing I recognised this time too. As I was photographing I was approached by a shaven headed man, possibly a monk, carrying a box of groceries. We engaged in a little friendly conversation then quite unexpectedly he took out and handed me a a big box of biscuits. I of course thanked him and immediately told him I had something for him too. He put down the box and after looking through the photographs, picked one he liked. I was then on my way again holding a big box of biscuits in my hand and wondering what I had done to deserve that.
The day had continued to warm up and the views looking out along the coast were just fantastic. As I neared the michi-no-eki I stopped for a quick break and to take a short video of the the coast. It was a wonderful moment to be sitting there enjoying this vast blue sea and it even occurred to me that if I was unable to get into Asanami Daishido I would return here and just sit out all night. I would have had the sound of the sea and a sky full of bright stars to keep me company. After dragging myself away I got myself going again and continued all the way knowing it was about 4km to Asanami Daishido.
I stopped to ask an old lady who I spotted outside her house if I was close to my destination and she'd told me that the daishido was just around the curve in the road. I thanked her and continued on round but could see nothing that resembled anything that looked like a temple building. I could see a small shrine, a coffee shop and a post office a little bit further up but no temple like building.
The front door of the coffee shop was open so I walked in and found 3 elderly men sitting at the counter glued to the TV watching a baseball game. An older woman was sat at a table near the door. I apologised for my intrusion and asked if they knew where Asanami Daishido was. One of the men told one of the other two to show me and he said it in a slightly teasing way. The volunteer got up from his position right next to the TV stepped outside the front door and pointed across the road. All I could see was a white building which didn't look like a temple building at all. I said, do you mean that white building and he said yes and then added that Asanami Daishido was the building behind it. I could just make out something up behind the white building. I thanked him and the people inside and made my way across to the white building opposite.
I went into the ground floor office of the white building which had a sign - Hamada Pump - outside and with no one around except for a buzzer, I rang the buzzer. A woman's voice greeted me on the speaker and I told her I was here to stay at Asanami Daishido. She said she would open it for me right away and I met her coming down some steps on the side of the white building as I headed to the steps leading up to the Daishido. She was incredibly friendly. She unlocked the door to the Daishido and as soon as she slid it open and I got my first look inside I thought it was a fantastic and told her so. I immediately starting opening my ohenro bag to retrieve my photographs and she backed away thinking I was going to give her money or something. I explained it was just a little osettai from me. She ended up selecting two photos, told me to make myself at home and then disappearing back into the white building again.
The first thing I did was put my pack inside and then head back to the cafe to say thank you to the people there. Their teasing way of pointing out where I could find Asanami Daishido was probably because they had probably been asked countless times before where it was. I wanted to give them all a photograph and one by one they selected one they liked. While the men distracted themselves looking through the photographs, the woman asked if I would like some coffee. I didn't really want any coffee so I asked for some water instead but she said one of the customers wanted to buy me a coffee as osettai. I agreed and said he could select two more photographs.
I ended up receiving a collection of 3 oranges, 2 bananas and a few more snacks. The coffee was made using some strange looking contraption you'd find in a science lab and served in a lovely china cup and saucer. The woman asked to look through my photographs again, repeating many times that really liked them. I simply told her to select a few more. They had helped me locate Asanami Daishido and now I had a small stash of food and snacks to keep me going too.
I returned to the Daishido and made a makeshift bed in front of the altar and burned a few sticks of incense and candles. The daishido was just a regular temple structure with one large room with a large altar. I really liked the atmosphere of the place. I decided to head back out and take a look around.
Apart from the coffee shop I had visited earlier, there seemed to be very little else except for a post office and a liquor shop. I headed towards the sea down one of the side streets and watched as the sky turned a beautiful reddish orange colour. The temperature also started to drop but I stayed there for a while to look out on the beautifully calm still sea. On the way back to the daishido I headed up the road to the liquor shop. I had vowed not to drink any alcohol during my pilgrimage so I was not going to buy any alcohol but I hoped to pick up a few snacks. The name of the alcohol shop was the same as one of the customers I'd met in the cafe earlier so I asked the man serving if they were related and he told me the elderly man was family. I gave him a photograph and ended up with 5 extra oranges as osettai. That made for 10 osettai oranges in one day.
Yesterday I had enjoyed a luxurious spa and a nice Chinese meal in Matsuyama but today I felt I was back to the ohenro that felt right for me. In real life, little treats helped to offset the daily rigours but as I had headed back out of Matsuyama the noise of the city had been replaced by more soothing and agreeable surroundings. After visiting Taizanji (#52) and Enmyoji (#53), then walking along at a leisurely pace by a beautifully blue sea, the customary feelings about ohenro had soon returned.
The osettai I had received and everything else about today helped me understand what I meant when I talked about the ohenro spirit. I hadn't been able to adequately put it into words before but the spirit of Kukai, it was a spirit that was guiding me, sometimes following me but above all protecting me. This ohenro spirit was alive in the actions and the support of the local people for walking pilgrims like me and everything good that the pilgrimage meant to me.
As I lay in my sleeping bag in front of the altar at Asanami Daishido, the overriding feeling was one of a deep sense of gratitude.