Day 36, Temples 65-66, 27km – Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage

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  • Sunday 10 November, 2013
  • Weather: Rain in the morning, sunny afternoon, 21 degrees 
  • Temples: 65 & 66 (Sankakuji, Unpenji), 27km
  • Accommodation: Temple 66 (Unpenji), Tsuyado, free

The kind lady at the ryokan I stayed at woke me early and said she had made me breakfast as ‘osettai.’ I ate a huge breakfast of rice, miso soup, pickles, ham, potato salad and melon with 4 other elderly female Henros. As I was finishing breakfast the lady handed me a newspaper wrapped package and said it was rice balls for lunch, also as ‘ossetai!’

My first stop after leaving the ryokan was always going to be the convenience store nearby because it was the last one I would pass all day and I was planning on staying at Temple 66, 900m up on a hill. I needed to take lunch, dinner and the next morning’s breakfast with me and that’s a lot of food to carry considering my appetite lately!! I still had mandarins left over from yesterday and the rice balls I was given would be a great dinner so I just needed a few more snacks for lunch and some hotcakes for breakfast.

I bumped into a foreigner called John from New York (he gave me nuts as osettai and I bought him a canned coffee as osettai) then I ran into Akiko who I had met in Matsuyama and we had a few more photos taken together.

Temple 65 was absolutely beautiful. It was set into the mountains, up a million steps (like they all are!), it had a winter cherry blossom tree blooming and maple trees with their leaves turning red and yellow… It was autumn at its best and a picture postcard temple.

I didn’t have a very long walk today but it was supposed to be a hard walk with the last few km taking me 900m up a hill to temple 66 along a ‘Henro Korogashi’ (fall down) path. The path would have been difficult even without the morning’s rainfall!

Just before the mountain path up to the temple I passed a man in a field who called out to me to stop and he came running towards me with 2 persimmons and said good luck going up the mountain!

The lady at the ryokan this morning had also given me a vitamin drink (as well as breakfast and lunch) and it was on this last path that I started to drink it. I had no idea what was in it but it definitely gave me wings and I seemed to fly up the hill!

I arrived at the top and the first view I had was of the beautiful autumn colours of the maple trees – the term in Japanese is ‘kouyou’ and I had expected to see the kouyou all throughout my walk in November but it’s late this year because of the warm weather. The temple was incredibly busy, especially considering I hadn’t seen anyone else on the mountain path… Then I realised there was a ropeway up the mountain, and being a Sunday, everyone had come to see the kouyou. I did my thing, looked around, took some photos, got my book stamped and asked the temple lady where the ‘Tsuyado’ free accommodation was. She gave me directions and warned me it was going to be a cold night… I was already getting cold in my shorts and tshirt, my sweat was turning to ice with the cold wind on top of the mountain! I found the room, a tatami floor big enough for probably 6 people, a couple of blankets and lots of light switches and power sockets… But no electricity! It was only 4pm.

I washed in the bathroom, put on all my warm layers and wandered around the temple some more. I came across some statues that even in daylight look creepy, and all I could think was that I would be staying on this mountain by myself tonight… in this very old temple with these very creepy statues nearby…

I asked the temple lady for some hot water for my miso soup then decided there was nothing else to do but get in my sleeping bag and start eating the rice ball dinner that the lady from the ryokan had given me in the morning. They were huge, delicious and very filling.

I planned out the next couple of days and continued reading my book, snuggled up in my sleeping bag.

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