I had fallen asleep very quickly yesterday evening and slept pretty well but when I woke up and looked at the time, it was still only 2:30. Whatever sleep had been getting since setting out, it always seemed to be enough. I wasn't sure why I was not sleeping more but it could have been due to the fact that it was still quite cold, especially in the early morning. Failing to get back to sleep again, I got myself up at 6 o'clock and started to get myself ready. I pinned my osamefuda and a photograph to the wall and headed downstairs. Das had still looked like she was sleeping and but I managed to thank Inoue-san before heading away. There was a distinct chill in the air but the sky was nice and blue and it looked like it would probably be a much drier day than yesterday. My first stop was the 7 Eleven for my usual coffee break.
I didn't stay long at the 7 Eleven and was soon on my way and planning to take the city route via Awa Odori Kaikan, possibly visiting the hot spa and then continuing on through Ozanji (#18) and Tatsueiji (#19). I briefly checked the route my guide book and the first part was simply a matter of following Route 192 which went all the way to JR Tokushima Station and on to Route 55. It should have been easy but I had started following a couple of other ohenro-san who were walking a little way ahead. After crossing the Akuigawa River they turned left and I had followed. After a little while I checked my guide book again and although my surroundings corresponded with what was in the guide book, I just didn't have any recollection of any of what I was seeing. I put it down to the fact that maybe I had just forgotten like I had forgotten so many other parts of the trail.
It was a couple of hours later that I finally realised what had happened. I was not actually on the city route but on the Jizo-goe route which went absolutely nowhere near the relatively flat city route I had been expecting or for that matter towards the city center. What I had found were some rather slippery trails and shortly before joining one such slippery trail an elderly man on a bicycle had stopped beside and explained that the trail was likely to be slippery after the rains and that I should take care. I had thanked him for his concern but I really had no idea what slippery trail he was referring to. However, once I was on the trail I understood very quickly what he meant but thankfully I made it through without any major mishaps. The good thing about having taken the Jizo-goe route was that I had completely skirted away from the center of Tokushima and that had actually been a good thing. The Jizo-goe route had been altogether calmer and it had quickly got me back into the same rhythm I had been in before the rest day yesterday. With the slippery mountain trails behind me I closed in on the two ohenro-san who I had inadvertently followed to end up on the Jizo-goe route and after a brief friendly exchange I continued on a little ahead of them. I stopped briefly at a Family Mart for a coffee break and then joined up with my old familiar friend Route 55. I knew that that Route 55 was now going to be a fairly regular companion for the next week or so all the way into Kochi City.
The weather had remained sunny but at times it felt quite chilly especially as I walked along the relatively exposed and sometimes blustery Route 55. Thanks to accidentally taking the wrong route my time on Route 55 turned out to be relatively short. After crossing over the long Katsuura Bridge I took a quick rest in a very nice road side hut, stopped for another break at a 7 Eleven a little way ahead and then turned of Route 55 and headed towards Ozanji (#18). I definitely remembered Ozanji (#18), not only because it was a really pretty temple but also because of the story about how Kukai had performed a special esoteric ritual for 17 days so that his mother could enter the temple grounds. The story was that the temple had originally been off limits to women and while Kukai was training there, his mother had been refused entry to the temple when she came to visit him. As a result of this, Kukai performed the esoteric ritual and the restriction on his mother and women generally was lifted.
After arriving at Ozanji (#18) I washed my hands and mouth and found a bench to prepare what I needed for the prayer rituals. I greeted a Japanese pilgrim and then got chatting to a young man from Spain. His name was Nico and he said he was just doing the temples in Tokushima and then heading for South Korea as part of his round the world trip. He didn't know anything about the free places and had been sleeping out for almost a week. I told him about the zenkonyado I was planning to stop at and also about the ohenro hut at a michi-no-eki a little further on. After finishing chatting to Nico I resumed normal service and took my time going through the usual rituals at each of the prayer halls.
Onzanji (#18) is a great place to take photographs and with the weather being really nice and sunny I ended up taking a a lot photographs before finally heading to the stamp office. After the the lady had finished doing my stamp I asked her to choose a photograph and explained why I was doing it. After choosing one she mentioned it to her colleague who also came over to have a look what was going on. I asked her to choose one too and she ended up choosing exactly the same one as the as the first woman. As she was choosing someone came into to get their booked stamped so I let her choose a photograph too. As I was packing up and readying to leave, one of the women in the stamp office gave me a brocaded osamefuda. A brocaded oasmefuda is used by those who have completed the pilgrimage more than 100 times and it is considered a good luck charm. I had not received one during my first pilgrimage so I was really delighted to haver received one. I had received a gold one at Shosanji (#12) and together they formed a pair of the two most valued osamefuda. I asked the lady to choose another photograph.
Back outside I took a few more photographs and as I was doing this I noticed the Japanese pilgrim I had greeted just a little earlier when I was talking to Nico. I hadn't realised then but he was in fact one of the two pilgrims I had followed onto the Jizo-goe route and had already exchanged a few words with. I had sensed an odd reaction from him when I had greeted him a little earlier and it was probably because he couldn't understand why I was greeting him again like it was for the first time. To put matters right, rather than apologise or try to explain, I just gave him one of my favourite photographs. This created an altogether nicer reaction from him.
I collected my pack and left for Tatsueji (#19) which was just a short 4km away. Just after leaving Onzanji (#18) I bumped into Das on her way to Onzanji (#18). She had taken the Jizo-goe route and her plan seemed to be to get as far as the ohenro hut at the michi-no-eki about 6km on from where I planned to stopped. I had also told her about the zenkonyado place after Tatsueiji (#19) so she had a couple of options. We said our goodbyes and I pressed on. Along the way I picked up some snacks from a small local shop knowing there were few places to buy anything after Tatsueji (#19). I also stopped for a quick break in a port-a-cabin. It seemed to be a relaxation space for a construction crew working close by but they had a large sign outside in Japanese and English welcoming walking pilgrims to come inside to take a rest. I decided to stop and inside I found a very nice clean comfortable space to sit down and take a quick break. There was a water dispenser, tea and some snacks. I wrote out my osamefuda and placed it together with one of my photographs on the table. Before heading away I turned and bowed, this was something else I seemed to be now doing almost instinctively at every such place.
Just short of Tatsueji (#19) I spotted a brand new ohenro hut set back from the road. It had a steeply raked roof and the overall shape reminded me of a pair of hands coming together in prayer. It was open on the front with relatively wide benches running along the sides and back. Set into the back wall was what looked like a fitted cabinet and being a little curious I looked inside and discovered it was a small altar. I wasn't sure it was a place for staying but there had definitely been a need for something like it near to Tatsueji (#19).
I arrived at Tatsueji (#19) and made the mistake of entering through a side gate so I walked back out the front gate, turned bowed and came back in again. There were a lot more people milling around than I had expected and most seemed to be just regular visitors rather than bus pilgrims. People always seemed to be interested when they saw a non Japanese pilgrim and would generally become even more interested when I told them I was doing the pilgrimage for the second time. I waited for the prayer halls to empty a little before I went through my prayer rituals. When I went to the stamp office it was empty but a little while later a man turned up. I had barely handed him my book that I was getting it back. He was either the fastest stamper around or he had something more pressing to return. So, not wanting to take up too much of his time I gave him a photograph I thought he might like. It was definitely one I liked. I then spent a little more time photographing the temple and left just as it was coming up to 4 o'clock.
I still had 4km to go and so I double and triple checked my guide book and asked 2 people to confirm that I was on the correct road heading for the zenkonyado. The second person I asked was an elderly woman and I just asked her if the school which was marked in the guide book was along the road I was on. She was able to confirm that it was so I got out my photographs and gave her one I thought she might like, thanked her, bowed and continued on my way. The school further ahead was a Junior High School and students were heading home for the day. They seemed entertained at a sight they probably didn't see very often and with encouraging nudges, one or two braved a greeting in English, while the rest burst into the usual giggles.
When I arrived at the zenkonyado, I tried the door which was open and inside I found someone sat at desk. It occurred to me that maybe it was a company facility but the person at the desk was a Japanese pilgrim I had seen at Onzanji (#18) and he told me to come inside. There was a notice which basically read - please use this facility freely. I confirmed with him that it was OK and he said it was no problem. He was busy typing away something on his laptop and seeing that he had an Internet connection I showed him my website from my first pilgrimage and told him I was doing it for the second time. For a regular pilgrim that might have been interesting but he was soon going to become a fully certified sendatsu and that I discovered meant a fully certified ohenro guide. Toyoshima-san was his name and he was busy updating his website with information about the trail.
When he had finished doing what he was doing he asked me if I had prayed at the temple. I wasn't sure what he meant so he explained that the only condition for staying in the zenkonyado or possibly tsuyado as he continued his explanation, was a request from the owners to pray at the temple and leave your osamefuda. There was a temple mark in my guide book but I hadn't seen one anywhere near where we were. He told me to follow him and the two of us headed towards the rest room which were just to the left and the continued a little further round and up a small gradient to the temple. If he hadn't shown me where it was I would never have spotted it even though it was basically right there. In fact if it had not been for him I wouldn't even had known that pilgrims who stayed there were asked to pray. After praying in front of the prayer hall I slid my osamefuda inside through a small opening and we both returned to the tsuyado.
The friendly sendatsu turned out to be from Kagawa prefecture and after giving him a photograph he presented me with his osamefuda. It had a cute illustration of Kukai and other details including that he had completed the pilgrimage 30 times. Of those, three he told me had been on foot. I initially thought it was a customized personal osamefuda but a little later I discovered that it was in fact a silver osamefuda. He had glued a his personalized details onto sliver osamefuda. I was now in possession of a complete set of 3 – silver, gold and brocade. The full set was - white, red, green, silver, gold and brocade.
I had been at the tsuyado now for well over an hour and was starting to wonder what had happened to Das. The weather today, although sunny had been very chilly and late afternoon as the wind had picked up it had started to get much colder. She had not sounded particularly keen on the idea of sleeping out. I was wondering whether she would turn up or not when I heard the characteristic sound of a bell that most pilgrims have on their sticks. Stepping outside I noticed that she had not spotted the place at all and was heading straight on down the road. I called out to her and she made her way back and joined Toyoshima-san and myself to make it 3 pilgrims. After catching up with each other's stories we started to make arrangements for sleeping. The place was easily big enough for the 3 of us and there was plenty of bedding to go round. It had been a long day and apart from not realizing I was on the Jiizo-goe trail everything had gone very smoothly. The strange thing was that, even when things didn't go smoothly everything always worked out fine. Today I had prayed a little more earnestly for the things I wanted to see more in the person I wanted to be, and those were simple things like faith and courage. It only takes a little bit of faith and courage in yourself to change the whole course of your life. Although, having said that, it also only takes a little rash foolishness to achieve similar, often less desirable outcomes.
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