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 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 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,…

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…

Henro Day 33: July 23

Fureai Park-mino (ふれあいパークみの) → Utazu (瀬戸大橋四国健康村) Temples: 72 (Mandara-ji 曼荼羅寺), 73 (Shusshakaji 出釈迦寺), 74 Kōyama-ji (甲山寺), 75 (Zentsū-ji 善通寺), 76 (Konzō-ji 金倉寺), 77 (Dōryū-ji 道隆寺) Weather: Sunny with Clouds Travel Method: Walking Distance: 24.8 km Last night averaged out alright. After being turned away by Iyadani-ji, I relaxed in the onsen down the hill, snacked on o-settai cookies, napped on a lounge chair until midnight, and found a covered bench beside the onsen entrance, sheltered from the rain, as my final sleeping spot. What more could I ask for? It’s another night in the memory bank. Time passed, not quickly, not slowly, not relaxed enough…

Henro Day 32: July 22

Kanonji City (観音寺市) → Fureai Park-mino (ふれあいパークみの) Temples: 66 Unpen-ji (雲辺寺), 67 Daikō-ji (大興寺), 71 Iyadani-ji (弥谷寺) Weather: Cloudy + Drizzles Travel Method: Walking (+Car, Cable Car, Train) Distance: 19.2 (+40km) It’s 8:10am and I drop my bags on Jizo‘s lap. This is the same Jizo statue I’d always give a nod to even when I was reduced to mechanical reflex by heat and exhaustion. Why were there so many benches at the base of the trail and none up here when you really need it? Despite getting a ride to the trailhead of Unpen-ji, by the time I got out my mosquito incense just 15 minutes after…