- Friday November 1, 2013
- Weather: Sunny, 20⁰C
- Temples: 44 & 45 (Daihoji, Iwayaji), 38km
- Accommodation: ‘Tsuyado’ free accommodation at Temple 47
I slept in until 7am and it felt like a special treat! I packed just a small day pack for the 20km return trip to Temple 44 and 45 and left my big pack at the ryokan. Just as I was in the foyer about to leave, a lady that I had met at the sushi bar the night before came in and gave me a bag of food (mandarins, juice, chocolate & sweets) to take with me – it was very kind and I was actually quite surprised she remembered me after all the sake and beer that had been consumed!
She walked with me for about 10 minutes and when we passed her house, she called out to her husband and we had more photos taken together – him in his pj’s this time!
Temple 44 was very atmospheric in the mountains with the morning mist still hanging on in. A group of Henro arrived by bus and it was lovely to listen to them all chant the heart sutra in unison. This is my halfway Temple, 44 to go!
From Temple 44 the path took me up and over 2 hills and is my favourite path so far… The views of the surrounding mountains and autumn foliage was simply stunning.
And Temple 45 is my favourite so far too. The main hall was in a cave lit by lanterns and I wasn’t scared at all (being claustrophobic) but really enjoyed the peaceful ambiance and smell of lovely incense. I met 2 retired couples from Holland there and it was their second time to come to Japan and walk the pilgrimage!
It was after midday when I started walking back and the sun was shining through all the cracks in the leaves of the trees. I came across my first snake of the day about 15 minutes after leaving Temple 45. It was a long black one (not poisonous) and slithered away quickly but still gave me a fright. About an hour later I almost stepped within 2 inches of another one and got another very big fright. This snake was long and beige (not poisonous, I think) and didn’t want to move off the path which meant I couldn’t pass it. I took pictures with my phone and camera, took a video, and spent a few minutes asking it kindly to slither away so I could continue on my way, but it didn’t budge! Eventually a cute Japanese pilgrim called Masa came from the other direction and after he’d also taken pictures and a video of it, used his staff to make it move away… My hero!
The next person I passed was a young Henro called Koji who had walked all the way from Tokyo and said he had been walking for 6 months!
I got back to the ryokan, picked up my backpack and started to worry about the time because it was now 3pm and I had 18km to walk to get to Temple 47 where I was planning to stay the night in their free accommodation. I rang the temple and explained to the lady who answered where I was and that I was on my way but I wouldn’t be there by 5pm when the temple closes. She agreed to leave the room unlocked for me and then I started walking faster than I’ve ever walked trying to beat the sunset…
I had been walking along a busy highway for about an hour and with 2km to go before the Henro forest trail split off, a Japanese couple pulled up in their car beside me and the lady said it wasn’t safe to be walking alone at this time (it wasn’t dark yet and felt fine) and then said the magic ‘osettai’ word and pushed me in the back of their car… As we drove along the 2km to the Henro trail I wondered if they were going to murder me themselves?! We chatted quickly then they dropped me off at the beginning of the forest trail for the last 9km as it began to get darker and darker – not my smartest move!
I was cursing myself for not having changed my headlamp batteries, I’d been meaning to for days but had never gotten around to it. I walked in the dark with a very dim headlamp for as long as I could then I had to use my owl (blue and hooting) light to shine inside my backpack to find my spare batteries… What a difference it made when I could see the path and see the living, crawling, poisonous centipedes!
At about 5:50pm the temple lady rang me to make sure I was ok. I told her I thought I was about 2-3km away and was fine and she said she was leaving the temple now to go home but the accommodation hut door was unlocked and told me where to find it.
Note to self: it gets dark at 5pm and by 5:30pm a headlamp is required and by 6pm one should be tucked up in bed!
It was wonderful to finally arrive at about 6:30pm and see the lovely hut with tatami, futons, a small kitchen, small temple, electricity and toilets next door. I ate the two rice balls for dinner that I’d carried for 18km and snuggled into my sleeping bag for an early night, exhausted.