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.
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.
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.
I woke up extra early – 4:45am to be exact. While I knew it wouldn’t take me all day to get to Yokomineji and back, the problem, once again, was rain. The weather forecast predicted the rain to start up again around 10am and I hoped to at least be at the temple or almost at it by then.
I woke up on and off throughout the night, so when it was time to get up, it was a bit of a struggle. I wanted nothing more than to lie down and sleep until the afternoon. However, breakfast was at 6:30 and I had a long day to look forward to.
Breakfast was another feast and I could only eat about half of it. My appetite is never the greatest in the early morning. Hideki was there, too, and we exchanged osamefuda with our mailing addresses on them. He had asked for mine so he could send me pictures he took after the pilgrimage. After breakfast, the owner took us to the meeting hall connected to the inn, where he had pictures posted of some sort of summer festival (in May, I think?) where participants go down the river on connected rafts. After a little while, though, his wife must have told him to let us go, because then we settled our bills and were out around 7:20am – a little late, but we had more than enough time to make it to Temple 44 before it closed at 5pm.
I woke up early in the morning with a raging migraine. To make matters worse, the walls in my hotel were paper thin and the person in the room next to me had their alarm go off at 6am sharp and they didn’t turn it off, and when they did, they kept hitting snooze for an hour. To say I was unimpressed would be an understatement.
I slept heavily but woke up a few times throughout the night. I think I was just a bit anxious about the day to come. The Shikoku Pilgrimage has sections called “henro korogashi”, which translates roughly to “pilgrim falls down.” These sections are the parts of the trail that are difficult, such as steep inclines/mountains, that often cause or tempt henro to give up. Today’s journey would take me through not one but two “henro korogashi.” I did not know if I was physically ready for the challenge. Today would test both my physical fitness (especially my knees, which were still not 100%) and my resolve.
I didn’t sleep particularly well, waking up a few times throughout the night and finally giving up around 4:30am. I hung around the hotel room for a few hours, finalizing my packing and getting ready for the day. I wasn’t in a rush, as the bus from Yoriinaka to Shosan-Ji bus stop wouldn’t get there til 1pm.
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.