After turning out the light last night I fell asleep very quickly but as had often been the case, I was awake again after a few hours. It was still not midnight and in the end I ended up getting very little sleep and what little sleep I did get was interrupted by the cold and the sound of strange noises. The cold was the main problem but it was my own fault for not putting on enough layers and also for turning down the offer of a blanket from Henri and Nicolette. During the night I pulled on an extra fleece top which helped against the cold but there was little sleep and at 6 o'clock the next morning I got myself up started packing up.
I didn't really have a long day ahead but I did want to do my laundry before I got to Ryozenji (#1). Ryozenji (#1) would see me complete the loop around Shikoku and I wanted to spend as much time there as possible before heading into Tokushima City. In Tokushima I wanted to use the osettai bath house and then head to the ferry terminal to take an early morning ferry to Wakayama. My journey around Shikoku was almost over and I didn't know why but I had a feeling it was going to be a good final day. As I was packing up Henrie and Nicolette both stirred. Henrie it seemed had slept well and remained relatively warm tucked up against the wall and protected on the other side by Nicolette. Nicolette however had suffered from the cold and said she had not slept at all. When I got up I noticed that she had constructed a barrier of her own using both their packs to try and fend of cold drafts on her side. With my packing done I wished Henrie and Nicolette a safe enjoyable journey and then headed down the stairs and on to the main hall.
I wanted to pray at the main hall to express my gratitude for having had a place to stay overnight before I headed on. I lit a candle and some incense and then prayed inside the main hall. After praying I gave the two staff a photograph each. One of them remembered that I had given a photograph the last time I had been at Anrakuji (#6). In fact, the last time was six and a half weeks ago but as I thought about it, it felt like it was just yesterday that I had been there. I thanked the staff again as I headed out and back in the direction of the main gate. I greeted Henrie once more but with everything done I exited through the main gate, bowed and continued on my way.
I decided to take a more direct route to get back to Ryozenji (#1) rather than follow the actual ohenro trail. This meant taking a slight detour and joining up with Route 12 which would take me all the way to Ryozenji (#1). There would be no need for any more map reading and all I had to do was walk. Along the way there were a couple of coin laundries and also plenty of convenience stores if I wanted to take a rest break. The first place I came up on was a coin laundry, it was a bit on the expensive side with the washing machine costing ¥700 but today I had didn't want to worry about such things so in I went and put all my clothes into a washing machine. While the clothes were spinning away I got out my laptop and started updating my notes again. I had updated most of my notes whilst I was at Goshou no Sato yesterday but there always seemed to be more to write about.
I was still waiting for my clothes to dry when a woman came in and put her clothes in one of the dryers and then waited in her car outside. Another woman came in and did the same and then disappeared somewhere. When my dryer stopped turning I retrieved my clothes. My white jacket and head cloth were not nice and clean for the final stretch back to Ryozenji (#1). As I was readying to leave the coin laundry the woman who had been waiting in her car returned to retrieve her own clothes. Before she drove away she returned to give me a small bag of chocolate eclairs. I had greeted her earlier but I certainly didn't think she would give me some osettai. I had 4 photographs left so I took them out and asked her to choose one she liked. She picked one and after more thanks from me she returned to her car and drove away. With everything almost packed away the other woman came in to check on her clothes, followed by another woman who had her own load which needed a dryer. They both greeted me and before I headed out I gave each one of them one photograph each of the 3 I had left. They both seemed very surprised and from the quick exchange between them, they seemed to be a little amused that the osettai had been in reverse. I told them that this time it was my osettai pilgrimage and I was happy that I could give them something. With that I left and continued along Route 12 looking forward to coming across a convenience store so I could get something to eat.
The éclairs I got from the first lady turned out to be great and I would probably have finished them all had it not been for the fact that I soon came upon a 7 Eleven. Before I entered the 7 Eleven I noticed a couple of young pilgrims, a man and woman, sitting outside with large packs and they looked like they might be the type to be camping out or staying in free and cheap places. I went over and greeted them and discovered they had just started this very morning and were planning to camp out. I showed them a list of places I had received and suggested they could photocopy it if they liked. My list seemed to be a little different from a list they had so they followed me into the shop and made two copies. I had a single photograph left which included my own website address where I had a list I had used back in 2011 and I gave this to the young woman. The details were no longer of use to me but I hoped they would also benefit as they set out on their way around Shikoku.
After saying goodbye to the young couple, I got my usual morning fix, printed out a further 30 photographs and got on the free wifi to check my messages. I was pleasantly surprised to find a message from Inoue-san, a fellow pilgrim who I had last seen shortly after Iwamotoji (#37) at the hot spa near the ohenro hut with a statue of Kukai. I had met Inoue-san numerous times but on the last occasion it was under less happy circumstances. He had hurt his leg and had had to visit the hospital and I recalled him being quite upset because he felt he would either have to drive the rest of the way or even abandon the pilgrimage altogether. I had encouraged him not to give up and given him one of the two brocaded osamefuda I had received at Iwamotoji (#37). Anyway, in his message he basically shared the good news that he had reached Ōkuboji (#88) and also expressed his thanks for the words of encouragement and the osamefudaI had given him. I used his message to post a final update to the Ohenro Facebook Group. For me it seemed to convey the feeling I had often felt for the pilgrimage as a whole, being helped and helping others.
With a fresh batch of photographs and feeling re-energized after my morning fix I headed on. My next planned stop was the first convenience store I had stopped at after leaving Ryozenji (#1) and I really hoped the young man who had served me was still there so I could give him another photograph. Before I got to the convenience store I passed by Gokurakuji (#2) so I decided to pay a visit to the stamp office and give the ladies some more photographs. The ladies were not the ones I had met when I had stopped there on the first day of my pilgrimage but I wanted to give out more photographs so one of them got a single photograph and the other wanted two so she got two. I then continued the short distance to 7 Eleven and found that the young man who had been the very first recipient of a photograph after I set out from Ryozenji (#1) was not one of the four staff present in the store.
It was shame he was not there so I got myself another coffee and dorayaki and as I was waiting to pay, two young girls and their mother came into the shop. The girls were dressed in their school uniforms, the younger one must have been about 6 and the older one maybe about 11. The younger one came and stood by the check out and seemed to be curious about seeing someone out of the normal. More than that, she was just like the little girl who had forced her mother to queue up behind me at the supermarket the day I stayed at Utangura. The little girl was super cute and I thought about giving her my dorayaki but decided to buy some Pocky instead and after paying for it, I went over to her mother and asked if it was OK to give the Pocky to her young daughter. She didn't mind and the little girl happily accepted it and I sat down to enjoy another coffee and dorayaki.
As I sat there, the little girl's older sister walked over and gave me a doughnut and for that I gave her a photograph. When the mother and the two girls were ready to leave they came over to say thank you again. I got chatting to the mother and showed her the other photographs and she ended up selecting one more. The mother then suggested taking a photograph with the two girls and dashed out to her car to get her camera phone. I followed her out with the two girls and asked if it was OK to photograph her daughters and she told me to go ahead. I snapped some of the two girls and then their mother snapped a few of the me and the girl together. It was a really lovely encounter and I think it happened simply because I was in such a happy relaxed mood and looking forward to getting to Ryozenji (#1). In fact, every time I had was in such a mood, good things always seemed to happen.
After leaving the 7 Eleven I was almost at Ryozenji (#1) when I spotted an overseas pilgrim coming towards me. He was tapping his stick on the bridge as he came towards me. I greeted him, and then apologised for telling him about the custom of not tapping the walking stick as you crossed over a bridge. He told me he was from Australia and that he didn't mind that I had told him about the custom. He added that he had done some Buddhist related things in Burma and was looking forward to the pilgrimage. After my little happy encounter back at the convenience store and the fact that I was almost back at Ryozenji (#1) I probably came across as a little over enthusiastic because I was busy sharing stories and telling him about things he probably already knew about. Realizing I was probably keeping him, I put an end to my chatter and wished him well and then continued on.
After arriving at the gate of Ryozenji (#1) I stopped and bowed, I washed my hands and mouth and then set my pack down in the small rest area to the side of the main hall. I decided to go through the full prayer rituals at each hall before going into the stamp office and getting a final stamp. I was also looking forward very much to greeting the woman who had been so kind to me the day I had arrived at Ryozenji (#1). I prayed for a long time at each hall and mostly it was to express my thanks and gratitude for a safe journey around Shikoku and to reflect on some of the things that had been my priority during the pilgrimage. As I finished at the daishi hall and headed down the steps I spotted an overseas couple standing not too far in front of me. When I got closer I greeted them like I had almost every single person I had come across since the very start of the pilgrimage.
The two were Mairead and Orlando, a married couple from London and my casual greeting led to a conversation about the pilgrimage. I learned that Orlando was interested in doing the pilgrimage and like me, when I first became interested, he also didn't seem to know how to go about doing it. Probably in the same way I had been with the Australian pilgrim a little earlier, I was probably like some sort of ohenro evangelist but my words seemed to falling on receptive ears. My advice to him was that he shouldn't worry too much about whether he would do everything correctly or not but just to do it with the best of intentions. In my own opinion, if you tried your best, however many mistakes you made, those small mistakes were not going to deny you any benefit from doing the pilgrimage. I gave them a photograph each and suggested they buy the guide book before they left. I wished them well and headed for the main shop and stamp office.
The lady who had been so helpful and kind to me was there and I asked her if she remembered me. She said she did and she tried to find the photographs I had given her last time but they seemed to have disappeared. I said I had a new batch of photographs and she could choose as many as she liked. She ended up with about 4 or 5. The last time I had returned to Ryozenji (#1) I had not got another stamp but this time I decided to get myself another stamp and the man entered the date along with a new stamp on what I assumed was the page reserved for such a stamp. After the man had done the stamp he also gave me another juzu identical to the one I had received when I arrived the day before I started my pilgrimage. I then sat and enjoyed some green tea and a small snack which had been set aside for me.
I looked through the book of those starting their journeys and I found my own name and as I was looking through again the lady asked me to add a completion date in red pen next to my name. The date was 9th April 2015. I had set out on 22nd February and it had taken me 47 days to return to Ryozenji (#1). That was 9 days longer than I had taken the first time. Two of those days were rest days due to poor weather and a sore leg so all in all I had really added an extra 7 days of walking. Those 7 days had definitely made a huge difference because the overall distances I had covered each day had been much lower as a result. As I sat drinking my tea, Mairead entered the shop and said she had decided to buy the guide book for Orlando. I had been encouraging them to get the book and read it on the way home to England because I felt it would motivate Orlando to really think more seriously about doing it. As Mairead was telling me about getting the guide book I decided to give Orlando the juzu I had just received when I got my stamp done. Together maybe they would push him to do ohenro in the near future. With that I again said goodbye to them for a second time.
I went back outside to take some photographs and to take a final look around. Strangely I felt no attachment or any emotion about the fact that I would soon be leaving Ryozenji (#1) and also leaving Shikoku. I really felt that I had done everything that I had hoped to do in Shikoku and in fact much much more. After finishing taking photographs I returned to the main hall and from the door way called out to the lady who had treated me so warmly on that first day. She came over to the door, shook my hand and wished me well. With that I headed to the main gate, turned bowed and headed in the direction of Bando Station. When I arrived at Bando Station I discovered that I had just missed the train by about 5 minutes and the next one was not due for almost another hour. I decided to head to the restaurant on the corner near the station. I had stopped there just after arriving at Bando Station and it seemed like the perfect place to get something to eat. I ordered some okonomiyaki which the lady prepared on the hot plate on my table. She thought the next train bound for Tokushima was 30 minutes earlier than it really was and had got everything ready very quickly. When I had finished I paid and headed to the station. The train soon arrived and I was on my way to Tokushima.
At Tokushima Station I headed first to the information center just outside the station and they told me to go to the 6th floor of the station building. On the 6th floor I found a tourist information office and asked about the bus timetable for bus to the ferry port and if they still had the special ¥2000 ticket which covered the cost of getting to Koyasan on the ferry, train and cable car. I was provided with all the information I wanted and in return I asked the lady to choose a photograph. She liked more than one and in the process of choosing called over one of her colleagues who I told could also choose some photographs. I had set aside some photographs which I wanted to post to my former student's parents so I told the two women that I would print out a few more in the basement Fuji Film shop and return in a while. I ended up printing out a further 20 photographs and then returned to let the women select some more photographs. They both seemed really happy with their selections.
With information about bus times to get to the ferry port I decided to head to the osettai bath house. I wasn't sure if it was still osettai but it turned out be so. When I entered the changing room there were 3 men covered in tattoos. Those with tattoos are usually prohibited from using the hot baths but these three were not the kind of customers you could really ask to leave. One of them clearly was the boss because he was was literally being helped to dress by one of the others. One of the three actually made some conversation with me which was nice but just about the usual things about where I was from and was I doing ohenro. When I was ready, I had a quick soak in all the baths and was back in the changing room getting dressed. I had almost finished dressing when an elderly man started asked me some questions. I was able to answer his questions quite easily but his poor hearing seemed to make communication difficult.
I thought the easiest thing to do would be to give him a photograph and then head out but that led him to start talking about something related to Shingon Buddhism. I got the feeling he was complaining about Shingon Buddhism because I understood enough when he told me he hated the photograph of the marching monks I had taken at Koyasan. I continued to listen politely but I had mixed feelings about what he was really saying to me. He asked if I had a large piece of paper so he could write something out or at least that is what I think he said. I didn't have a large pieces of blank paper so I just told him to jot it all down in my notebook which I always used for logging bits of information during the day. Still in a state of undress he sat his considerable bulk down and spent at least 10 minutes writing out something which I figured I would verify later with a Japanese reader. After he had finished his writing he took about 5 of my photographs and with that I left. It had turned into an entertaining sort of an osettai bathing experience. I left and returned to Tokushima Station again and finally around 8 o'clock after having already drunk 2 coffees I decided to head to the ferry port and just wait there for the morning ferry. The bus left Tokushima bus station at 8:45 and I was at the ferry port about 25 minutes later. I had been feeling very tired and sleepy and all I had to do now was hang on for a few hours and then sleep a couple of hours on the ferry as it made it's way across to Wakayama. That at least was the plan.
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