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 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…