Shinto Torii Gate Yudono-san Dewa Sanzan Yamagata

Dewa Sanzan 3/3: Yudono-san

I follow the trekkers down a precipitous slope. It has busy traffic, but the mountain can accommodate us all. The sheer path is made entirely of loose rocks on dry dirt. I’m wary. I rolled my left ankle, yet again, on my way up Gassan. Rocks and dirt, the most harmonious path with nature is also the most dangerous for bad feet. I shouldn’t be doing this. There’s already pain in my ankle. I use my staves as feet down to avoid the pain in my knees. I inch. Everyone, the numerous elderly included, pass me. I smile and greet…

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 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,…

Henro Day 31: July 21

Shikokuchuo City (四国中央市) –> Kanonji City(観音寺市) Temples: 68 Jinne-in (神恵院), 69 Kannon-ji (観音寺), 70 Motoyama-ji (本山寺) Weather: Cloudy + Drizzles Travel Method: Walking (+Car, Cable Car, Train) Distance: 19.2 (+40km) Two big, heavy, onigiri courtesy of the hotel! I stow them in my backpack and finish the rest of my cheese and bread breakfast in the lobby. The guest laundry is waving outside on the veranda. I message friends using the hotel WiFi. An hour drips by. The more I sit, harder it is to dislodge myself. I’d originally planned to detour 2 kilometres for an onsen en route, but I probably won’t have time anymore….

Henro Day 29: July 19

Imabari City (今治市) → Ishizuchiyama (石鎚山) → Iyo-Doi (伊予土居) Temples: None Weather: Sunny with Showers Travel Method:  Walking (Train from Imabari to last point at Temple 64) Distance: 29 I really wish I had enough sleep. But, I also wouldn’t trade the apple crumble we made for another two hours. 6:30am breakfast is so late for a henro and too early for a nomad who wants to nest temporarily. It’s Akiko’s 365-Day Breakfast Special, in her own words. Special every day, methinks.  Just as I’m finishing up, Tsuneto comes with a severe face. ‘Aa-chan, you’ll be late for your train!’ Aa-chan is…

Henro Day 28: July 18

Iyo-Miyoshi (伊予三芳) → Imabari City (今治市) Temples: 60 Yokomine-ji (横峰寺) Weather: Sunny Travel Method:  Walking (Train Return to Imabari) Distance: 26.8km (+15.8km) 5:00am wake up. In about 10 minutes, my messy spread has disappeared into my backpack. It makes me wonder why I even have those things – even a backpack feels like an excess now.  Small moments like these get me. They make me pause, feeling like I’ve shed another shell, but don’t have clear enough vision to see what the old one was like. Things are changing so fast. The thought just leaps out of nowhere. But never mind, it’s 5:30am and…

Henro Day 25: July 15

Iyo-wake (伊予和気) → Imabari City (今治市) Temples: 52 Taisan-ji (太山寺), 53 Enmyō-ji (圓明寺), 54 Enmei-ji (延命寺), 55 Nankōbō (南光坊), 56 Taisan-ji (泰山寺)  Weather: Sunny Travel Method:  Walking + Train + Walking Distance: 23.6km (+33km)  Night is longest just before dawn. I grab another shirt to complete the makeshift blanket.  At 5:30, as a yellow glow appears on the horizon, I get up for the last time. Unable to find a suitable nojuku spot, I ended up at a Family Mart close to Temple 53. I spent the remainder of the night flipping between magazines indoors, and napping outside with the mosquitos.  Even though it’s not open yet, I go to Temple 53 to do my prayers. I…

Henro Day 10: June 30

Kagami 香我美 → Nankoku City 南国市 → Kochi City 高知市 Temples: 28 (Dainichi-ji 大日寺), 29 (Tosa Kokubun-ji 土佐国分寺), 30 (Zenrakuji 善楽寺) Weather: Sunny → Cloudy → Rain Travel Method:  Walking Distance: 26.9km The birds begin chirping just before night melts into navy blue. It’s not even 5:00. I peek over at the henro on the other side of the hut. He hasn’t stirred. Feeling justified, I pull up my covers again. Next thing I know, there’s shuffling. I peak out of my covers and see the other henro squatting to rummage through his backpack. I slowly push myself upright and…

In conversation with: Kay Strasser

It was still a numbingly hot afternoon by the time we wandered out around 2pm to find food around Kandawgyi Lake. Right inside the entrance gate of a posh German institute is a roadside food stall, run by a family that is / used to be guards for the mansion. Kay, German-Burmese by heritage, had just returned a few days prior from a trip to the conflict-ridden, hilly, and isolated northern Chin state, where he had gone to discover local education innovators. Apart from riding broken and muddy paths (no roads), and sleeping in huts, he tells the stories of…