I returned to Canada on April 28, spent a few days resting and visiting family and friends, then returned to home, work, and real life. It took me roughly a month to completely catch up and pick up the threads of my life again, but now I can really say that I'm back. Tadaima.
It was an early morning for everyone at the temple for the morning ceremony at 6am sharp. Guests are invited to attend, although I don’t think it’s mandatory. Still, it was something I did not want to miss, so I got up at 5:30am after a very restful sleep.
I had debated with myself for days about how I would get to Mount Koya, the final stop in my pilgrimage, as well as my trip as a whole. Most people take the trains and cable car, but a traditional pilgrim trail still exists, called the Choishi Michi.
On April 24, I bid Kyoto goodbye and moved on to Osaka. I mostly wandered around Kyoto for a bit and took the train to Osaka in the late afternoon.
As expected, Osaka felt utterly overwhelming. Kyoto had felt big and busy compared to quieter Shikoku, but Kyoto had nothing on Osaka, which is known for being a large, modern city that is a little crazy and a bit different.
For anyone who might be reading and wondering what I’ve been up to in Kyoto, the answer is simple: not much! So, despite combining the two days into one post, this will be kept short.
After talking to Lawrence, I decided that I really should try to rest my knees, and I have been trying my best to not push them hard. I have mostly been wandering through streets and shops, browsing and shopping and picking up food and drinks along the way. I haven’t even done much sightseeing because it is tourist high season in Kyoto right now, and the crowds are massive and I can’t be bothered with the packed buses that make up the bulk of Kyoto’s public transportation system. I stick to anywhere I can get to by subway or bus or on foot.
One of the reasons why I chose to stay in Kyoto again after the pilgrimage was because I realized that I would be able to visit the Toji flea market that occurs every 21st of the month. I love the flea markets of Kyoto. They’re so lively…and a perfect place to cheaply feed my kimono collecting obsession.
As well, Toji is one of the three important sites related to Kobo Daishi (and the flea market there is known as "Kobo-san"). The other two are Mt. Koya (where I had Temple lodgings reserved for my final night in Japan) and Zentsuji, Temple 75 on the pilgrimage circuit, which I had visited already. Since I was going to Toji anyway, I figured I might as well get a stamp from there. The pilgrimage stamp books contain three extra pages for any other temples one might visit, and I got the idea from another henro’s blog to use one of those pages for Toji.
Habits are hard to break, I guess. Despite going to bed late and struggling to get to sleep last night, I still woke up at 6:30am. I stayed in bed for a while, enjoying the luxury of not having much to do.
Finally, after catching up on messages, eating a snack, and dozing a bit, I got ready, packed, and checked out a little before 10am. I immediately went to the train station and bought a ticket to Bando Station. I recalled my first day of the pilgrimage, where I missed the train by five or ten minutes and had to wait over an hour for the next one. Now I knew to take a picture of the train schedule ahead of time.
As the ryokan a little past Temple 88 was fully booked, the minshuku near Temple 88 was too close (in other words, I would arrive far too early), and the nearest lodging was quite far from Temple 88, I figured I might as well get myself back to Tokushima via bus and train.
So, since I didn’t have far to go, I took my time again getting up and ready for the day. When I did and checked out, it was already about 7:40am. I gave an osamefuda to the very friendly and helpful owner, Takeshi, and even got to say goodbye to Kotaro, his ridiculously adorable son, who was showing off some toys to some other guests, but spared a second to wave goodbye and give me a high-five. I needed no better encouragement than that!
I “slept in” til about 7am or so before getting ready and going down to the common area to eat breakfast.
I got to chat with the German henro a little more, as well as meet the owner’s 2-year-old son, Kotaro. He showed us some of his books and his half-eaten bowl of breakfast and was just a super cute bundle of energy. Eventually, though, I finished my meal and had to go. I had temples to visit.
My original plan was to take today to visit as many temples around Takamatsu as I could, then use the next day to sightsee or rest. However, the weather forecast called for heavy rain all day, so I made the decision to take today off and then see temples the day after, which was supposed to have better weather.
I let myself sleep until about 6am. A couple of my other roommates were up and getting ready, making it difficult to snooze, but in the end, it was for the best, anyway. Maybe it was Kobo Daishi’s way of getting me up and moving.
I quickly got ready and packed up my things. The cyclist henro was trying to find something for his bike and I did my best to help him search, but I had a train to catch. He looked genuinely worried about losing it and I felt bad, but he waved me off and insisted I get going.
I slept on and off throughout the night, which was a bit frustrating, but by morning, I was in such a deep sleep that I hadn’t even stirred when my roommate got up and left early in the morning. She had either been very quiet or I had been that tired.
I woke up around 8:30am and took my time getting ready. I wasn’t even out the door until almost 9:30am, although the train would not arrive until 9:54am.
I slept really, really well. Part of the reason was because of my very comfortable bed. The other reason was because I was simply that tired. The last 3 days, I clocked 30-34km per day and climbed up a 900m mountain on one of those days. Despite the fact that I slept well, I still felt an all-encompassing exhaustion in my body and mind. Alana felt the same and the two of us were slow getting ready.
It was a slow morning and I was sluggish waking up. The last three days or so had been long and hard, and my body just wanted to sleep and sleep and sleep.
But I had a hostel reservation to keep, so I had to make it as far as Zentsuji City. The plan was to base myself there for a few nights to see temples in the area, sightsee a bit, and rest.
Unpenji, along with Yokomineji, had been on my mind ever since I left Kochi Prefecture. They were two of the highest points in the pilgrimage and I dreaded them. After getting past Yokomineji, Unpenji was next, standing at an imposing 900+ meters.
I got up early again because I was so far from the main henro route. I was actually a little disoriented when I woke up. I had dreamed that I was back home and waking up in Japan, I was a bit confused for a few seconds. I had a moment of homesickness before henro business took over.
My name is Marianne and this is my journal about that time I decided to complete the 88 Temple Shikoku Pilgrimage. It was both the most difficult thing I've ever done and the most amazing thing I've ever done. It was truly an experience of a lifetime.