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…

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…

Dewa Sanzan 2/3: Gassan

This is part of a 5-part series on the Dewa Sanzan which includes diary entries and travel information. The bus ride winds down the hill from Haguro-san and picks up visitors staying at a mountain lodge. From there, it traverses wild grassland sprinkled with haphazard shrubs before climbing Gassan. Gassan, just shy of 2000 metres, is a long ride away. We enter deep forests and loop around winding roads for a while. The glimpses of the hills sliding down are spectacular. The morning clouds cast shadows that illuminate the surrounding green ridges. Even the treeline changes. It begins with a dense mix…

Yamagata Haguro-san Dewa Sanzan

Dewa Sanzan 1/3: Haguro-san

This is part of a 5-part series on the Dewa Sanzan which includes 3 diary entries and travel information. August 7, 2015. It’s been a week since I finished the Ohenro, but I’m already back. I rise when the sky is still ashen, at 5am. Here, in the northern prefecture of Yamagata, the morning air is crisp, almost chilly. Today, I’ll see the Dewa Sanzan. They are one of the holiest centres of Shugendo, right up there with Mount Koya for Shingon Buddhism. In the darkness of the ryokan, I pack my half-empty bag and snack on a biscuit for breakfast….

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 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 34: July 24

Utazu (瀬戸大橋四国健康村) →Goshikidai Plateau Henro Hut (五色台遍路小屋) Temples: 78 Gōshō-ji (郷照寺), 79 Tennō-ji (天皇寺), 80 Sanuki Kokubun-ji (讃岐国分寺), 81 Shiromine-ji (白峯寺), 82 Negoro-ji (根香寺) Weather: Sunny Travel Method: Walking Distance: 29km All the other capsules remain silent as crawl out of my cozy unit-bed. The room is a contained, detached darkness lit by a glow of mini LEDs on the floor. I push open the door and exit into the lit world with carpets and pastel beige colours. I pop downstairs to the onsen for a morning soak, pack my bag, and I’m out in the lobby to meet Aurelie, Kouhei, and Edvaldo. In total, we’ve spent barely…