Day 28, Temples 46 – 51, 20km – Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage

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I slept really well in the temple tsuyado but woke up still very tired and wanting to stay in bed all day! I packed up, left my bag in the accommodation and walked the 1km back to Temple 46 (it was closed last night when I walked past). The old man at the temple who drew my ‘stamp’ (which is really calligraphy) in my ‘stamp book’ seemed happy to see a foreigner at the temple at 7am when it opened! He shook my hand, asked where I was from and gave me the stamp as ‘osettai’ – rather than the ¥300 that each stamp usually costs. Very sweet of him.

I noticed there was a souvenir shop opposite the temple so I bought a local cake to give to the lady at Temple 47 to thank her for leaving the door unlocked for me last night. I also bought a new bell for my bag because I had given mine to the lady who drove me and Dave through the typhoon about a week ago and had looked for a replacement at each temple since without luck… The bell works to help scare away animals like wild boars in the forests so I was eager to find a new one!!

I walked back to Temple 47, picked up my bag, went through the temple ritual, got my stamp, met the kind lady who left the door open and then started on my way to Matsuyama via temple 48, 49, 50 & 51. I walked like a zombie and couldn’t seem to wake up or energize my body. I walked into one of the 20 unofficial or ‘Bangai’ temples and the lady there gave me a box of chocolates and a hot canned coffee from the vending machine – I obviously looked as tired as I felt!

Each temple was unique but I’m sorry to say the day is a bit of a blur. The last Temple, 51, called Ishiteji in Matsuyama, was the most commercial that I’d visited so far, but fair enough when it’s in a big touristy city like Matsuyama. I’ve been to this city and temple quite a few times before on tours and I love it. The most famous sight is Dogo Onsen, the oldest bathhouse in Japan and on which the movie Spirited Away was based. Matsuyama also has a castle, famous poets and local foods.

I checked into my accommodation that had been recommended to me by Mizusawa San at dinner a few nights ago in Uwajima. It was a guesthouse like a hostel, in a terrific location in the arcade near Dogo Onsen and only ¥2,000 yen; bargain! I booked 2 nights because my body was about to give up and was begging for a whole day in bed!

The owner, Kanei San, was very kind and helpful when I checked in. I put my clothes in the washing machine and he told me he would hang them up (no dryer) as long as I didn’t mind him doing so, and told me to go to Dogo Onsen and relax! Of course I didn’t mind him hanging up my hiking clothes, nothing frilly there!!

I went for a long soak in the beautiful, 500 year old bathhouse then had a 1hr full body massage before taking the tram to the Okaido arcade; a very long arcade full of restaurants and shops. I went to the first restaurant I came across and had a big Indian curry for dinner!

When I came back to the guesthouse there were 2 other Japanese girls staying in the same room that were also walking solo, but staying in paid accommodation each night. It was Akiko’s second time to walk. She quit her job and took the year off (sounds familiar) and walked the first time in Spring this year. She was staying in paid accommodation so her family wouldn’t worry about her and told me it cost her ¥70,000 the first time – that’s $7,000! I’m trying to do this on a budget which is a little trickier without a tent, but there’s plenty of free/cheap accommodation if you’re willing to walk the distances and it just means I need to plan ahead a little better.

It was great to meet the 2 girls and we stayed up late sharing pictures and stories of our experience. I hope to catch up with them again further down the path.

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