- Tuesday 19 November, 2013
- Weather: Freezing, 3⁰C
- Temples: Koyasan, 31km
- Accommodation: Muryokoin Temple, Koyasan, ¥5,000 including ‘Shojin Ryori’ Buddhist Vegetarian dinner & breakfast
- Total distance walked: 1,362km
My day started at 2am with a taxi booked for 2:15am to take me to the Tokushima Ferry terminal. I took the 3am ferry to Wakayama (on the mainland), arrived at 5:10am, had reserved a taxi to meet me at the terminal (no busses or trains running yet), the taxi took me to Wakayama station where I took two trains to arrive at Kudoyama station at 7:33am. From here it was a 24km hike to the summit of Koyasan, the mountain top headquarters of the Shingon school of Buddhism that Kobo Daishi founded in 819.
The path is called the ‘Choishi Michi’ and is a Unesco World Heritage path because of the stone markers – some 1200 years old. I was told the walk would take 7 hours and that was why I decided to take the first ferry from Tokushima, I really didn’t want to be walking along a bear path in the dark!! I passed so many bear warning signs that every noise I heard (birds, wind, planes, me standing on a stick…) made me jump with fright! … But alas, no bears! It was absolutely freezing and I wasn’t surprised to see snow along the path. I was wearing my beanie for the first time; it was the only remaining item in my bag to be unused.
The path really did look 1200 years old in parts, and was quite the Henro Korogashi (fall down) path, but it was absolutely beautiful and serene and peaceful. After about 3 hours of walking I caught up with a Japanese man called Noritake San and we walked together chatting and laughing and telling our Shikoku stories. He was such a jolly man and had me laughing for the next 3 hours!
We arrived at Koyasan where the electronic temperature sign said 3.2⁰C at 2pm! We walked the 3km to Okunoin – the inner temple where Kobo Daishi is said to be in eternal meditation – via the largest and oldest cemetery in Japan – and chanted the Heart Sutra one last time, thanked Kobo Daishi for protecting and providing for us throughout the pilgrimage, then received our final stamp. I couldn’t stop the tears from falling but it had been such a challenging walk and I really couldn’t believe I’d made it to the end… The question of what next terrified me even more…
As we were walking to the temple where we were both staying the night, we decided we should celebrate our ‘completion’ over a drink or two, so we popped into the first restaurant and had a hot sake first to warm up, then a beer to say ‘well done.’
We arrived at the temple and dinner was served shortly after in our rooms. My room was stunning with gold painted sliding doors with cranes and ducks and mountain scenes… Dinner was a delicious Buddhist vegetarian meal of sesame tofu, soup, rice, pickles, tempura and sweet red beans.
45 days. 1,362 kilometres. A million memories and acts of kindness received. Thank you Kobo Daishi and the people of Shikoku.