I slept really well and after waking up around 4 o'clock I continued for quite some time typing up my notes and thinking about yesterday. It really felt like the spirit of Kukai was alive because it was through the people that I met along the way that I really appreciated this feeling. Yesterday had started positively with the seaweed osettai and apart from the wet weather, the day had got better and better. After arriving at Ken and Keiko's house it had been total comfort and it felt the same this morning too. I had been typing my notes up for a couple of hours when I heard someone pottering about in the kitchen. I assumed it was Keiko getting breakfast ready so I got up and started to pack up. I returned the room to it's original state and lit some incense and placed it on the family altar. I could hear Ken talking to Keiko so I slid open the door between my room and the dining room and waited for them at the table.
Ken joined me and asked if I had slept well. I don't think I could have slept any better and if things weren't already great, Keiko served up a wonderful breakfast. It started with a bowl of yoghurt, fruits, honey, brown sugar and a sprinkling of chocolate powder. That for me would have been more than enough but there was much more to come. It was followed by a bowl of rice, some fish, fried vegetables and bacon. Both my hosts had gone out of their way to make me feel as comfortable as possible and I felt very much at home. Ken had set 8 o'clock as the time to leave and drive me back to Sankakuji (#65). After taking photographs of each other Ken drove me back to Sankakuji (#65), this time taking the old pilgrim road. In days gone past Ken told me it had been the main road heading towards Kobe. On the way Keiko also very kindly gave me a small box containing some locally produced cookies which she told me had a very long history. When we arrived at Sankukuji (#65) there was a quick opportunity to take a few more photographs including one of all 3 of us together. I then stood and watched them drive away. I was quite sure I would remember Ken and Keiko because it had all been so unexpected. It just went to confirm in my own mind that the journey between the temples was just as important as the temples themselves.
As I turned and looked up the steep steps leading to the main gate I recognized Faisal slowly and carefully making his way back down. I waited for him to get to the bottom before catching up with what he had been up too. It was good to see him and not long after Faisal, our fellow ohenro-san Mr Almost 70 also came down the steps. I had not seen him for several days and it was good to see him too. I wanted to share the cookies I had received with both of them. Keiko had said that the cookies were really nice but I never got to find out for myself because the box contained two and I gave one each to my fellow ohenro-san. I had received so much all ready that it seemed nice to pass on some of that kindness to others. When they both left I headed up to the main hall to pray and mainly express my gratitude for having stayed with Ken and Keiko. With prayers done I headed back down the steps and followed the arrows away to my right.
Unlike other early morning starts it was lovely and warm. The early part of the route was a beautiful tree lined stretch and with the sun streaming through the trees it just made for a great start to the day. Along the way I came upon a delightful scene of two young girls playing together outside. The playful scene and their laughter reminded me of the animated movie My Neightbour Totoro. In that movie two young sisters, Satsuki and her younger sister Mei live in a very rural place and the story is all about their friendship with the friendly spirits living in the woods. The younger of the two girls reminded me of Mei from the movie and as I walked past both girls neither of them even noticed that I was there. After continuing a little further on I stopped and looked back again. All I could see were terraced fields, a handful of homes, a big blue sky and these two sisters playing together. I wished I had stopped and given them some candy or greeted them but maybe it was enough to just observe their happy play.
I stopped briefly at Hanada Rest Hut to remove my extra layers and further on I stopped again at an interesting zenkonyado which was a covered space right next to someone's home. It comprised a single tatami mat with net curtains that could be drawn round to keep out bugs and provide a little privacy. There was also a refrigerator, table and chairs. Best of all was that it was in a nice quiet little place. After passing through these small residential communities and just before I joined Route 192 I stopped briefly at Jofukuji (#14) another bangai temple. It was a very interesting little temple but I only stopped to look around and take a few photographs before heading on.
The gradient gently picked up as I headed along Route 192 which led to another quick break at the ohenro hut. Inside I found a middle aged ohenro-san having a smoke. We didn't talk so much but I gave him a photograph and then pinned another to the inside of the hut. I got going again and a little further on I passed through the Sakaime Tunnel with the hope of stopping at an udon restaurant just on the other side. I had stopped at the restaurant during my first pilgrimage and I was looking forward to a proper break and for something to eat. When I arrived I found the the few shops there all closed. It wasn't really such bad news because it just meant I would head on up to Unpenji (#66) a little earlier than I had anticipated. Thanks to Ken and Keiko looking after me, the extra snacks I had bought yesterday in anticipation of camping out had not really been touched at all. I got a drink from a vending machine and had some of the snacks before heading up.
I veered away from Route 192 and headed up towards the start of the mountain trail. A short sharp climb and I found myself at the start of the trail. I stopped to enjoy the view for a moment and then slowly made my way up. It had turned into quite a warm day and once I got going I just kept up a slow steady pace and after what seemed like a long one hour I was clear of the mountain trail. I now had only had a relatively short 2.5km of an asphalt track leading to the temple. A few hundred meters back along the asphalt track I could make out the tell tale shape of another pilgrim but I couldn't make out if it was someone I knew or not. I zoomed in on my camera and whoever it was, was actually walking backwards so rather than wait to see who it was, I continued on towards Unpenji (#66). About 500m from the temple I was surprised to see Mr Almost 70 coming towards me. I was surprised because the descending route I took last time was the other way into Kagawa, and he seemed to be heading the wrong way. I asked him where he was staying and he mentioned a minshuku which if my memory served me right was definitely the other way. He also had an inkling himself that he may have been going the wrong way and after double checking in my guide book we returned to the temple together and I showed him the trail markers towards Kagawa. It was a good job I had bumped into him or may well have gone much further the wrong way.
I spotted the pilgrim I had seen earlier walking backwards and now close up I realized it was a young woman. We didn't say anything but washed our hands and mouth, bowed at the gate and headed in towards what we both thought was the main hall but in fact turned out to be the daishi hall instead. That got us chatting and she turned out to be from just outside Tokyo from the same city I had been living in until a few years ago. I gave her a photograph and left her at the daishi hall while I headed for the main hall. When I got to the main hall I found Olaf and Philipp sitting outside the stamp office. They had ended up making it to Sankakuji (#65) and sleeping in the hut on the temple grounds. Their plan had been to make it as far as Shikoku Chuo City and find a hotel but maybe like me they too had decided to push on after the weather cleared up. I told them about the tsuyado at Unpenji (#66) but it was only 3 o'clock and they seemed intent on walking down and getting closer to Daikōji (#67).
After finishing my prayers at the main hall I decided to get my stamp and confirm my stay in the tsuyado. With my stamp done and a photograph given I headed back to conclude my prayers at the the daishi hall. I went through my usual prayer routine and again expressed my gratitude for the kindness that I had received yesterday and the kindness that I had received ever since the start of the pilgrimage. For some reason my mood seemed to shift as I stood at the daishi hall. It wasn't really just yesterday with Ken and Keiko, or the kindness I had experienced since the start of this pilgrimage, but there had always been a steady stream of kindness that I had been recipient of throughout my whole life. Without recalling any specific incident in particular I felt that I I had not always really appreciated the many blessings that had come my way. I didn't know why I sometimes started to think like this but at certain temples this kind of feeling would seem creep into my thoughts.
With prayers done I headed to the Ropeway Station. The Ropeway Station had a visitor shop that sold souveniors including the typical kinds of boxed snacks that Japanese visitors bought as gifts to give to family, friends and co-workers. I bought a box of biscuit like snacks and headed back to the tsuyado. On the way I met the young woman again and she seemed to be heading for the trail leading down so I waited for her and when she got closer I gave her one of the biscuits for her journey down. There was still plenty of daylight left and I too could have made it down in a couple of hours but Unpenji (#66) was another of those temples that I really liked. It was situated at 900m and that made it the highest of all the 88 temples. The present temple buildings were all very modern but the place had a feel about it which I really liked. Plus, tomorrow I would be descending into my home prefecture and I just wanted to take my time.
When I got back to the tsuyado I discovered I had been joined by the same young man who I had shared the tsuyado with at Toyogahashi (#8). We chatted only briefly and the like the last time I met him, he said he was planning to make a very early 4 o'clock start the next morning. With no electricity or lights in the tsuyado I burned some of my candles for a little while and thought about the day. It had been a relatively short day but because of the warm weather it had been a little physically challenging. The highlight for me was definitely the early part of the morning and the happy carefree sight of the two young girls playing together. I sometimes thought about how the children fared in these remote areas where few people now lived but when I saw how happy and cheerful they were, maybe they had everything they needed. My mood seemed a little melancholy again at times and that was because I had now covered 75% of all the temples and in terms of distance it was just another 200km or so back to the start. Feeling too tired to type I decided to turn in early too. Tomorrow I would be back in Kagawa, a special place that had been my home for 2 years during my first spell in Japan almost 25 years earlier.
© 2011, 2015 Walking my Life. All Rights Reserved.