Koyasan Koyo Fall Leaves Maples

Henro Afterward: Mount Koya Oct. 15

There is an old saying that upon entering the sea of Buddhist truth, even the smallest fish is instantly transformed into a great dragon. Monastic disciples upon entering the Dragon Gate at Eiheiji, one of the two Soto Zen headquarters in Japan, are transformed into dragons, and when he finishes training and re-enters the world, he goes back to being a fish. – Kaoru Nonomura (Eat Sleep Sit p. 27) It’s October 15, and I’ve left the swimming world of fish for a day to wrap up my Shikoku pilgrimage at Koya-san (Mount Koya), the headquarters of the Shingon sect of…

Henro Afterword

If you’ve gotten this far, I thank you for reading my posts, whether one or all. Since I limited myself to 2000 words for most posts, there are many thoughts left unsaid, significances left unelaborated. I will address some of them below.  I am writing this in the land of pilgrimages. Every year in India, some 100 million people make a pilgrimage, whether Hindu, Jain, Muslim, or even Christian. Every year, for 40 days, an estimated 50 million men (women menstruating between the ages of 12-50 are unclean and cannot participate) take off their shoes to trek through the Periyar Tiger Reserve…

Henro Day 40: July 30

  Tokushima Otsuru Ryokan (徳島市大鶴旅館) → Ono Noen 小野農園 Temples: 10 Kirihata-ji (切幡寺) Weather: Sunny Travel Method: Cycling Distance: 24km Everything disappears quickly, food included. It takes 30 minutes to eat and pack up the pile of things that I’d left at Otsuru Ryokan two days ago. The ‘pile’ had overwhelmed me last night when I returned fits in my 25-litre bag with room to spare. The last thing I do is loop my tent to the front, which takes a few tries. It only takes two days to unlearn things you never cared for. At 6:34, I head downstairs to say goodbye to the…

Henro Day 39: July 29

Kamojima Town Kamo-no-Yu Onsen Henro Hut (鴨島町鴨の湯遍路小屋) → Tokushima Otsuru Ryokan (徳島市大鶴旅館) Temples: 12 Shōsan-ji (焼山寺), 13 Dainichi-ji (大日寺), 14 Jōraku-ji (常楽寺), 15 Awa Kokubun-ji (阿波国分寺), 16 Kannon-ji (観音寺), 17 Ido-ji (井戸寺) Weather: Sunny & Cloudy Travel Method: Walking (+ Car + Train return to Tokushima) Distance: 25.7km (+ 25.9km) 1305. 225. 15.7. 14:19. 25.7. Sigh. Breathe. Smile. Sit. Close eyes. Those are the last numbers of my pilgrimage. It is a 1305 metre elevation gain, 225 minutes of moving time, over 15.7km, at a pace of 14:19mins/km from my henro hut to Shōsan-ji. My total walk on my last day is 25.7km when I add Temples 13 to 17, my…

Henro Day 37: July 27

Furu-Takamatsu (古高松) → Zoda Station (造田駅) → Tokushima Otsuru Ryokan (徳島市大鶴旅館) Temples: 87 (Nagao-ji 長尾寺), 88 (Ōkubo-ji 大窪寺) Weather: Sunny → Cloudy → Rain → Cloudy Travel Method: Train + Walking + Bus to Tokushima Distance: 17.6 (+ 5.2 km) 5:57. I see the pricing board in the train above the exit where the conductor takes the fare. Ehime and Kochi don’t have it. It’s on Tokushima trains. Wait, this train is going to Tokushima. So am I, except I’ll get off early and walk some 50 km. Significance is a function of self-inflicted hardship, indeed. I’ve been at this for over a month,…

Henro Day 36: July 26

Furu-Takamatsu (古高松) → Shido 志度 →Furu-Takamatsu (古高松) Temples: 84 (Yashima-ji 屋島寺), 85 (Yakuri-ji 八栗寺), 86 (Shido-ji 志度寺) Weather: Sunny Travel Method: Walking + Train Distance: 12.6 km (+ 3.1 km) Sleep, glorious sleep. Last night at around 8pm, I passed out from exhaustion and aches when there was still an evening glow. When I drifted awake at 4am, I still had creaky knees and sore muscles. By 7am, I roll out of my futon with taught legs. But by the time I head out, the cold shower has purged the memory of yesterday’s injuries from my limbs. I practically skip from my…

Henro Day 35: July 25

Goshikidai Plateau Henro Hut (五色台遍路小屋) → Furu-Takamatsu (古高松) Temples: 83 (Ichinomiya-ji 一宮寺) Weather: Sunny Travel Method: Walking Distance: 22.7 km At 5:30, Kouhei is already done packing his tent and sitting on the bench. Why does he have to be so Japanese (early) ?! No matter. I roll out of Aurelie’s tent inhale the morning dew on the grass. Despite an initially sleepless night, it was one of the best sleeps I’ve had.     Aurelie was right – the grass was more comfortable than the bench I originally chose. It was a valiant effort to set up a lopsided tent,…