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.
I took the train to Yajuro Station, the closest one to Temple 85, Yakuriji. As I sat on the train, I realized I forgot my camera in my jacket pocket, and my jacket was hanging on the wall next to my bed in the guesthouse. I figured cell phone pictures would have to do for today. I made the decision to leave Temple 87 for tomorrow due to having forgotten my camera. I would have to swing by there tomorrow anyway to get to Temple 88.
Anyway, Yakuriji also sits on a little mountain but it features a little cable car that ferries people back and forth along the last kilometer or so, the steepest section. Of course, you can walk all the way to the temple if you want.
I did not want to. It still required a gentle uphill walk to get to the cable car station and my left knee was already starting to protest.
I paid for a one-way fare, half price because I held a foreign passport. I considered buying a return ticket, but the henro route to the next temple was on the other side of the mountain. If I took the cable car back down, I still had a downhill walk and I would have to circle around the base of the mountain. So, a one-way trip it was.
When I boarded the cable car, I instantly became glad I took it, seeing how steep it was. The music they played was probably supposed to be cheery and relaxing, but it sounded like it was being played from one of those old record players with a tinny sort of sound quality. It was weird and a bit creepy.
I quite liked Yakuriji’s grounds, which were small but spread out. As a result, it didn’t feel crowded, even with other henro or tourists around. I made my usual rounds and then headed down the mountain.
It was slow going and my left knee did not enjoy it one bit. The road was steep (21% grade for a good portion of it) and I had to stop twice due to shooting pains in my knee. I also realized that I hadn’t packed the ibuprofen I had bought yesterday. Oops. I would have to go without until I got back to the guesthouse.
When I returned to flat ground, I was intensely relieved. I knew the next temple was not a mountain temple and that it was flat terrain all the way there.
Since it was only around 11am and I had only one more temple to visit, I walked slowly. There was no point in rushing and pushing my left knee harder than I needed to. I needed to save it for tomorrow, which would be much more difficult.
I stopped at a Gusto restaurant near Temple 86 for lunch. I was strangely hungry and ordered a large meal of pizza and fries. I nearly finished it!
I then made my way over to Trmple 86, Shidoji. Even though the paths were a bit overgrown, I liked it for some reason. An elderly lady who looked to be taking a break from sweeping the grounds ran up to me and offered me a little paper packet as osettai. I didn’t open it, feeling it would be rude to open it in front of her (although I would later find it held two pieces of candy), but I did write out an osamefuda for her. Like a lot of other people, she asked where I was from and looked at my osamefuda curiously.
I did my usual rounds but the candle holders weren’t enclosed, so the wind kept blowing out any lit candles. Normally, candles burn until all the wax melts off, allowing someone else to place their own candle there. Most candles are very small and don’t take long to melt away. However, I had to laugh a little when the candle holder at the Daishi Hall was full of still-intact candles whose flames were blown out by wind.
As I prayed for a safe journey tomorrow, I could overhear the same elderly lady handing out osettai packets to other henro passing through. Again, I was amazed at how dedicated some locals were to supporting henro in any way they could.
Before I left to get my book stamped, another elderly lady stopped me and asked me all the usual questions, then showed me the osamefuda I had given to the other lady. I guessed they were friends and worked together to give osettai to henro. As with a lot of people who stopped to chat, they seemed curious about me, being a henro from Canada.
After answering her questions to the best of my ability, she wished me well. I went to get my book stamped.
Again, upon hearing my accented Japanese, the lady at the stamp office asked where I was from. Again, she was surprised I was from Canada and gave me a little henro pin as osettai. I took it gratefully and gave her two pieces of candy, one for her and one for the man also working at the stamp office.
With that done, I headed to the train station and took the train back to central Takamatsu, and once more, indulged in a drink from Starbucks.
I had been chatting with my henro friend, Alana. She said it probably took her between 4 and 5 hours to get from Temple 87 to 88. Basically, it was too short a distance to stop at the minshuku near Temple 88, but the ryokan just past Temple 88 was fully booked and the next lodging or train station was an additional ~20km. I decided to take the bus back to Shido Station from Temple 88 and take the train all the way to Tokushima, and promptly booked a hotel near Tokushima Station.
I then made hostel bookings for Kyoto and Osaka to fill the rest of the time I had left in Japan (or rather, most of it; my final night would be at Mt. Koya, to thank Kobo Daishi for a successful pilgrimage). April is tourist high season, so it was slim pickings on such short notice; I wanted to reserve beds ASAP.
With those things done and out of the way, I returned to the guesthouse to do some laundry, have dinner at the nearby unagi restaurant, and settle in for the night.
Post-Pilgrimage Thoughts: This was my last day in Takamatsu, and with that came the realization that I was almost done my pilgrimage. Of course, I had known that for a while on a logical level, but on an emotional one...that was entirely different. I think I took so long in Takamatsu because I honestly didn't want it to end, so the faster I went, the faster my journey would come to a close. If I procrastinated, it would just keep going. But I knew I'd have to get it done one way or another and I couldn't linger in Takamatsu forever.
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.