OKUBOJI 大窪寺 88

The morning started like all the other mornings. I packed up all my gear, made sure all things were with me. Said goodbye to my room and thanked it for its shelter. Checked out and thanked hotel staff. It was early and the streets that were busy last night were empty and somber.

Some people came out and in from buildings carrying some boxes preparing for the day and their business. My roller luggage which I was happy to have, but disrupted the silence with its wheels scrapping against the grooved pavement. I would be returning to Shido station where I caught a train yesterday. It was a nice place with a seating area and small sweets shop close by. The bus that went to temple 88 picked up there. My plan was to ride the bus up to the half way mark and then walk the rest of the way. When I got to the station the station office looked as if it was closed. I planned to keep my luggage there until I returned, so this took my by surprise. A quick couple knocks on the door though revealed it was fully staffed and getting ready for the day. For a small fee they stored my luggage and I was on my way for the day. The bus was on time, as usual, but there were some other buses that were very close to the same time as this one, so it was a bit stressful. Getting on the wrong bus would put me in the opposite direction.

The bus picked up a few people here and there and then it reached the end of the city and it stopped for a minute to pick up some henro. It was the Taiwanese henro from yesterday. They had their bags on these trolleys and were super excited. I sort of got smashed into a window for most of the ride. When we got to the stop that I was going to get off at, I decided that I would rather continue with the rest of the henro on the bus. I was prepared to climb the rest of the mountain, but I was enjoying the company. I tried to reason with my self, as I felt a bit guilty at first that I was not going to walk the last temple, but after a bit of time I realized a couple of things.

Regretting gets me no where (I didn’t regret it anyway, but thought about the future), all these people could of went to this temple at any time and at any day, but here we all were, and last that I was confident and completely okay with my decisions. What ever decisions I made, I knew I would be okay and had confidence that I could make the best of it. So I rode the bus up to temple 88.

Like all mountain roads it winded here and there and the windows started to fog up from the amount of people on the inside and the cool mountain air outside. Soon a street appeared with buildings on both sides. The bus pulled off and let us off.

Autumn colors hung on the trees surrounding us and a small town built on the street had people coming out to see us. There was a couple places to eat, some shops for souvenirs and henro gear and a large sitting area. In between the buildings were some stone stairs that led up to the temple.

Ever since I started the journey I wondered what the temple would look like. It was in the mountains and it was the last temple in the pilgrimage. As I climbed up the stairs more henro appeared at the top near the main temple. It stood up against the mountains and grey sky. Smoke rose to the left of the stairs that led up to it and past that the temple office was a small ornate building with people crowding to get their book stamped. Everyone was in high spirits. I prayed and thanked Kukai for the journey and keeping me safe along the way. I also prayed for the rest of the henro that would make the journey. And a bunch of other things I prayed for as well.

Before I got my book signed I was sitting down taking in the scene and a man was next to me. We had our stuff set in near the same location. He had just started his journey, but was doing it in the opposite direction. So going from temple 1 to temple 88 and reverse order. His name was Mitchell and he spoke excellent English. We talked for a few minutes about the trip and we took a picture together. I wished him safe travels on the rest of his journey and went to get my book signed. I wanted to film them signing my book as I had not done that yet, but they did not allow filming, so I missed the opportunity. When they finished I flipped through all the pages astonished that I had actually been to all the places signed in the book.

88 temples visited.

This temple I once thought was so far away and now I was standing in it. Time had flown by. I took a stroll through the temple. From the main temple there is a path that wraps around the mountain side and leads you to the main gate and the daishido. There is also a place where you can pay and get your staff placed. It is a large glass container with tons of staffs stuffed inside. As I returned to the street to head back to the bus I noticed the group of Taiwanese henro taking pictures. I motioned that I could take their picture for them since one was always being left out. After I wanted to take a picture with my phone of them, but they thought I wanted a picture with them so I got one with three of them haha we soon crowded back on the bus and headed back down the mountain. I retrieved my luggage and took a look at the train schedule.

There was still one place to visit before the journey ended and another one started.

Main temple

Temple 88









Main gate




The street below the temple filled with shops and some places to eat



To complete the circle one must return to the place it all started. Not to return to nostalgia or remember what it was like, but to experience the beginning as the end. To see the beginning with the knowledge and understanding of the end. Maybe life is like this?

The next train that would take me back to temple one was about an hour and half away. My new friends had moved to the small sweets shop outside for something to eat so I decided to follow them in and check it out.

The building looked like a green house, large tall pointed ceiling made out of glass that followed all the way to the ground. Sweets wrapped in decorated boxes were displayed all over with some chairs and tables strung about. A small counter with a few girls out looking the shop stood in the back. I ordered a hot chocolate and some pancakes. Pancakes in japan are more of a dessert then a breakfast. Most come with ice cream and plenty of whipped cream. For some reason the Taiwanese group was in a big hurry. I knew they were heading the same way I was, but was not sure if they had something planned in between. They payed for their drinks said goodbye and ran off to the train station. I looked at my phone and the schedule. I figured I would see them again today if my train knowledge was correct.

For a moment I sat alone taking in the silence of the building and that this was truly the last temple. I went through all the memories I had collected through the last month. It did not turn out like I thought it would before I started, but if I learned anything, nothing ever really does. Hindsight is always 20/20 to a degree. Life can be un-expecting, plans change and the anticipation is often the most enjoyable part. No one really enjoys hiking up a mountain, stressing themselves, being lost in a forest or worrying about where they might find shelter in the rain.

An adventure though? with new places and exciting trails? from the nice comfort of where you might be it seems like the trick, the one thing missing, but as I quickly found out. The hero of a story is only the hero to everyone else. To themselves the “heroic” journey is just life. My journey wasn’t anything heroic. I was not saving a princess, or defeating any evil, well maybe trying to defeat my own, but it was more of a journey to expand my horizon. To see what else lay out there, reset a bit and gain some perspective. And maybe figure out what to do with my life. Which at the end, the answer is still unanswered. No lighting bolt, no divine dreams. Just life. The opportunities that existed before, exist now. It has not changed. What I gathered is that action is required, and that most things in life are not that hard. You start and figure it out. As I sat I still had a hard time believing the things I did. Honestly I must of been crazy, but here I was at the end.

Enough reflection over some pancakes. I finished my hot chocolate, which was very bitter, and caught my train. I threw on my headphones and enjoyed the ride until my transfer station. I took the limited express train and transfered to the local train to reach Bando station. When I transfered and the train doors opened I smiled.

The Taiwanese group was on the train and they lit up when they saw me. They had rushed to grab the local train which takes you all the way to Bando, but stops at all the stations in between. I greeted them again and sat across. This time walking to temple 1, I knew sort of where I was going. The group and I followed the green line that was set up and things looked familiar. When we reached the temple however it looked different to me.

Last time I had visited it was covered in fog, the sky was grey and there was no one around. Now it was bright, some people where here and there and I could see the rest of the temple. We crossed the street and set our stuff next to the main gate. I gathered my candle, incense and henro bag for one more offering and prayer for the temples. The main temple was near the back. Inside of it a hundred lanterns hung from the ceiling giving off small yellow light. I read the heart sutra and Kukai’s name three times, bowed and went to get my book signed. When I handed the monk my book to be signed he flipped through it and gave a “Sugoi” (amazing) he turned to a blank page near the end and stamped, signed it and dated it. He congratulated me for handed the book back to me.

The lady that had greeted me in the beginning asked if I would like some tea. I could never refuse tea so I obliged. A cup of green tea and a small sweet was perfect. I sat in the shop out looking all the gear that others would come to buy in preperation for their journey and watched other people get their books signed and stamped. I had drained all my emotion the last couple of days, but as I walked back out to the temple grounds and walked around, the feeling was not of loss, but gratitude that I was able to be apart.

I had completed the circle and experienced something that was deeply rooted in me now. We had an hour or so before the next train, so we hung around the temple. I took some pictures, helped close a shutter on a building, meditated and relaxed. It turned out that we were all staying in Tokushima that night so we had one more train ride together. As the time got closer we gathered our things and hurried back to the train station along the green line. I felt a bit odd as I had my roller luggage and I decided to just carry it. I felt like a pirate carrying a treasure chest, heaving it down the street in my arms. By the station where the green line starts there is a sign that says good luck on the journey, on the way back, the same sign on the back side congratulated us on finishing. It was a cool touch. It was a short train ride to Tokushima, we got off I said my final goodbyes to the group and thanked them for everything.



The main temple





I walked to my hotel which was a bit far away. I set all my stuff aside and sat for a moment to catch myself. I flipped through the henro book looking at all the ink and red stamps. I smiled, set it aside and went out to grab lunch. Life continues.

Thank you to everyone for reading about my journey and supporting me. Without it this would much harder. I pray for the safety of all current and future pilgrims and thank Shikoku for being so kind and hosting me. I will never forget this journey. I will one day make it again. I know I shall return. Until them. Thank you, safe travels and Cheers!


The morning started with the idea of finishing the whole thing today. I wanted to get to temple 88 as the last temple, but I knew it would be close. I started by taking the train south of Kawaramachi to Ichinomiya station. A couple minutes walk next to a small river gave way to small fields and the temple. Through the main gates to the right is a stone lotus with one petal unfurrowed revealing a beautiful stone tablet with some writing on it. Past that the main temple stands with a shrine of to its left. The shrine has a tunnel of tori leading into a small shrine beyond them. There was only one other pilgrim there with me so it was quiet and serene. The sun was shining and wind blowing just slightly. I prayed for safe travels of all the other pilgrims, got my book stamped, and started on my way. I knew the next two temples were up in the mountain, so I wanted to start as soon as possible.

Main gate


The main temple




Like the day before I stared at the mountain as I approached. Today however, the temples were not on the same mountain. Temple 84 was on one, and temple 85 was on the mountain next to it, so I would have to go down and go up the other one. Luckily the 85 had a trolly car that goes up half of it.

I felt pretty good starting to head up this mountain. The path was nicely paved and other people were out jogging and having a good time. It was early in the day, so I thought I had plenty of time and was right on schedule. I kept seeing people coming down the mountain, groups of of people here and there. I nodded to them and said good morning. Soon I came to the elevation. It was okay at first, then I quickly found myself standing up, looking forward and seeing the ground as it kept getting steeper. I made slow progress and wondered how any of those people I saw just casually walked up this.

Soon the tree line broke and I looked out upon the city. I did not feel as if I was so high, but the small buildings and landscape that opened up confirmed it. I kept going and eventually came to some steps with a temple gate. I stepped up and there infront of me the temple opened up. Trees had surrounded me coming up the mountain, but through the gate white stone paths led me around in a wide open space. A large interesting building with a long roof sat to my left as I walked through and the temple office. I noticed a large group of henro coming from the other way to the main temple.

I moved a little quicker to be able to light my candle and incense before there was a line to do so. When a large group turns up the tour guide has all their books in a large bag which they bring to the temple office for them to stamp and sign all at once. I had to wait a bit to get my book signed, but it was alright. I got to see the monks stamp a bunch of books which is always a treat. The skill and mastery of the signing is incredible. I ended up leaving the way the group came in. A large red gate stood next to a large fountain. I figured this was the main gate, as the one I came through earlier was pretty small.

The path took me away from the parking lot and to the side of the mountain that looked to where I needed to head next. A river ran through the buildings and out to the sea, across another mountain a bit smaller then the one I was one sat waiting for me. As I walked towards the path to go down I passed an empty building. The windows were broken and items from the past lay scattered and collecting time. It was a large building and I wondered how it was able to just go on, with nothing happening to it. Empty buildings always creepy me out, but I thought that if I needed a place to stay, well I had found it for a bit.

Most of the paths down from mountains are bit a dangerous, but I had yet to come across one that had a sign that warned of the danger. As I started the decent a sign came into view that congratulated me for getting this far and reminding me that only a few temples were left. Then under that it gave clear warning that the path ahead was steep, a bit dangerous and that wild boar had loosened up the ground to up the danger. I thanked the sign for its warning, but wondered how bad it could really be. Turned out to be the steepest, most dangerous the journey had presented. I practically had to jump down some of the steps and walk backwards to prevent my self from flying straight into the trees. At one point a rope appeared on the side of the trail that you could grab and assist you on your way down, which I clenched with my life at one point. Even when getting out of the trees and on to the road the decent did not end. At first I was slamming my toes into my shoes each step until I decided I would just walk backwards most of the time. Luckily no cars were driving around. I reached the river and crossed large bridge and started my way to temple 85.

The main temple with a tour group that had just arrived starting their prayers

Temple 84

Not sure what this building was ,but it had cool architecture


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The main gate that was on the other side of the temple.

Cool fountain next to the main gate



The cable car was half way up the mountain so I heaved my self up steep pavement, sweating and panting the whole way. Then as I struggled up a tour bus sped past me. I knew it was the group that I had seen at the last temple. When I saw that bus, I gritted my teeth a bit and stepped faster. I wanted to make that cable car with that group. I was not sure when the next one would be. When I reached the plateau where the parking lot was I looked at the time. There was no way I was going to be able to go to temple 88 today.

I took a deep breath.

It think it was better this way. No need to rush. I waded through the other henro to get my ticket for the lift and we all packed inside to go up. The tour group made it to this temple as I got there as well. The car came to a stop and we filed out. Following a path past some buildings and through the forest we came upon the large main temple that sat below the peaks of rocky cliffs. A long strip of land was cleared and a stone path led from the main temple past the daishido and temple office. I prayed before the group and sat back while the temple office started signing their books. Someone started to hit a block of wood acting as a metronome and they started chanting. I sat back on a bench listening to them and taking in the scene. I had come across a couple of groups chanting at the same time, but it was far and few between. I looked around as the group finished and we all got back on the trolley. At the bottom I said good bye and the returned to their bus where I waved one final goodbye to them as they passed.

Temple 85

The temple office






SHIDOJI 志度寺 86

Next I took the train to the Shido station and continued into the close neighborhoods till I reached a forest that seemed to come from no where. Stepping through the main gate a forest of dense trees hid the rest of the world. A stone path way led me down and around. Little shrines were hidden to the sides as I preceded to follow. It seemed that this temple was under repair. There was some heavy equipment strayed about and the water basin was not working at the time that I was there. Through the trees the main temple appeared near the back. It was large like the other temples, but had no stairs leading up to the shrine inside. There was a few henro here with me, but as they left around trees it felt as if I was alone. I prayed this time, but it was hard. My eyes teared up and my thoughts crowded with all the memories that I had in the last month. I remembered looking at the map and thinking how I would ever visit all the temples. I had only done seven and had so many more to go. It looked daunting, but here I was, two more temples to go.

I found a bench and sat for several minutes. Just being. The trees rustled, an air plane passed over head, and there I was.

I packed up my stuff and started off to 87. The final temple of the day, but not of the journey.

Main temple in the trees



Path way to the temples

Temple 86




NAGAOJI  長尾寺 87

I went to the nearest train station and made my way down the streets to temple 87. I strolled the steets taking in the houses and feeling a heavy heart as my journey was coming to an end. Tomorrow would be the final day.

Temple 87 was underwhelming when I arrived. When I went through the main gate I did not know if I was in the right place because inside were cars parked in a large dirt parking lot. Usually there is a parking lot on the outside of the temple, this was the first time I had seen cars inside next to the main temple. I prayed and gave my offerings, then got my book stamped. I sat down to take in the final temple of the day. There were some Taiwanese guys (did not find out they were Taiwanese till later) having a great time taking pictures. It made me appreciate the temple alot more. Even how simple it was, pretty much a dirt square with the office and temples surrounding it, they reminded me that it was something special. I did not stay to long at this temple. I needed to plan out the next day and I was ready for it. The feelings had been running through me all day and at this moment they were exhausted.

The night was filled with alot of walking down the streets looking for somewhere to eat and exploring the city. I ended up heading down a long mall. Christmas lights and trees hung from the ceilings and people swarmed in every which way. I noticed that there was a Muji store, so I went to go check it out. I wanted to get my clothes and some items out of my backpack so I planned on buying a small roller luggage. Turned out the Muji store was right across from a starbucks. So I bought my luggage and went across the path and got some coffee. I finished out the night sipping my coffee and writing some of the posts you have read on this blog.

I was prepared for the next day.

After having a great time the night before and getting some much needed rest it was time to go down the final stretch. Today I would be visiting temple 76 through 82. The first temple I would be visiting with the Lin’s.

KONZŌJI 金倉寺 76

We traveled south on the train back to where I was yesterday. I was trying to make it to this temple as the rest of the temples are to the east, but time ran a bit short. The temple was only a short walk from the train station through some streets. This temple was decently large, a walk way extended towards the main temple and then turned to go towards the main gate which was a bit far from everything else. Large trees sat in the yard to give some nice shade and the main temple had really wide steps.

I sat my bag down and explained process that I went through at each temple. When we went to get my book stamped the Lin’s spoke with the monk about the heart sutra and I showed him my English translation, which is always met with excitement. We took some pictures and sadly it was time to say goodbye. They were staying south of the temple and I was heading back north.

As I heaved my gear back on and started to make my way out of the temple waving back at the Lin’s, a twinge of pain hit me. It was the pain that had caught me in my first week of travels. That lonely sense that you are on your own. That familiar company is no longer there and as you leave them behind you have a quest to fulfill.

The best I can describe it is having a good conversation with someone, looking away and turning back, and having them be gone. Just silence and you. You realize they aren’t coming back and you need to leave. It is the “Let’s just stay here one more minute” feeling, but instead it is a memory. Nostalgia. Even if the moment was a couple minutes or even seconds ago.

I headed back towards the train station and made my way north east.

DORYUJI 道隆寺 77

Down the road at a three way cross in the street the temple sat. Doryuji is compact. As you walk through the main gate there is a stone path with statues on the left that guide you to the other side of the temple. On the right is the daishido and straight in front is the main temple. It was early in the morning so there were not that many people out. It was a quick stop and I was on my way.


I continued east and got off at Utazu station. It seemed to be in the middle of the city. The station was large and the outside was well landscaped. I made my way through some busy streets, but soon came to the bend in the road that I needed to take. To the right a hill was started to rise and block the sun and in front of me a cobble stone path curved into some houses.

I followed the stone work passing by local artist shops, stone work workshops and some bread shops. Soon to the right a steep slope led me to the main temple gate. The whole temple was elevated above the neighborhood that I had just came from. As soon as I reached the top of the slope and stairs I set my stuff down on a bench next to the temple office. As I prayed there was young couple walking around and checking everything out. The guy was well dressed and gave me a smile when he saw me. I say this because there was some steps leading down next to the main temple. I was not sure if I should go down, but this other guy did, and so I decided that I would to. He ended up coming back up as soon as he got down there, but I continued.

Down in the darkness statues covered the walls. Incense hung in the air and small lanterns barely lit the way. It was a tunnel of statues that went around back to the entrance. I am not sure if it was the lack of light, maybe oxygen from the incense or something else. But I felt very emotional. As I walked around it was silent and the air was warm. Some offerings sat in front of some of the statues. Everything was so still. It is something that I experienced in temple 61 and temple 72. I would later experience this in a large temple in Tokyo by the sky tree. I emerged from the stairs. The light blinded me and the city noises brought me back. I felt as if I had just meditated. Calm, still, and at peace with everything.

Even though I was in a hurry, I was no longer in a rush. I got my book signed and bid the temple farewell.

TENNOJI 天皇寺 79

This temple I have do not have much to say about it. The walk was past some houses being built and when I got to the temple I had no idea where it was. This temple is split into two separate spaces. One where the temple office is and the other where the main temple is. The path was confusing and the main temple gate was small which made me think I was in the wrong place. It temple was at the end of the street and had a long entrance to the main temple which was back in the trees. It seemed that everything was so far from each other in the temple. I confusingly made my way through the whole thing hoping I was in the right place and got my book signed. It was a quick stop. As I looked towards my next destination I could see the mountains I would going up for the last three temples.


I actually went to my hotel and dropped off my stuff before making my way back to this temple. I knew that It was going to be a climb and decided to make it with out my pack. As I arrived to this temple I just kept staring at the mountain.

I had around four hours.

I was fine.

Temple 80 is at the base of the mountain. It is still up a steep road, but base of the mountain. I enjoyed this temple a lot. It had a large yard as you entered before you even go to the temple. I think there was a foreign tour bus there because a bunch of foreigners were just chilling in this yard as I passed. The main temple is straight through the main gate and a bit behind the temple office. The office building was large and had a huge shop for all your henro gear. It was dark and musty inside, but it felt as if it should be. When I was getting my book signed I saw a sign on the wall.

It said path to 81 to 82, hike time three hours. I laughed it off for a second. Then realized I had made a mistake. This was going to be harder than I thought and I only have three hours left. I grabbed a sports drink from a vending machine and started to ascend.


The path up the mountains goes up the middle and then splits. To the left is temple 81, Shiromineji and to the right is temple 82, Negoroji. The whole path was well maintained and I saw a few people hiking around as I started getting up there. You don’t realize how high you are until one of the tree lines break and you can see out from the side down into the valley. The climb was a bit rough, but nothing that bad. It did get steep here and there. As I reached the top the path turned to the road which goes around the top of the mountain. I followed the road to a side path that led me to the split to each temple. As I looked at my map I had a lot of ground to cover and not much time. So I started moving quick.

The path started to become nature like. No longer there was a path , but roots, rocks and downed trees. They guided me through, but as I kept going down the temple was still not in sight. The path got steeper in decline and I was starting to panic. It was getting dark and I had to double back and go the same distance in the complete other direction. I slid down this path as fast I could. Finally I reached the temple.

Clouded in shadow already as it was heavily wooded. The temples had a stone bridge that led you inside. The path inside winded and up a couple flights of stairs where the main temple was. I sprinted up the stairs and prayed. As I jumped back down a guy said hello to me and ask me a few questions. He was so nice, I mean this guy said hello and good bye to me several times with the biggest smile on his face. When I ran out of the temple down the path I noticed a lack of an item.

My staff.

I left it back at the temple. I ran back and looked for it. I thought it must be by the main temple. So I sprinted up the steps, but it wasn’t there so I went back down and there it was next to the temple office. I grabbed it and waved goodbye to the guy who was talking to me earlier. As I went down the path into the temple I dreaded coming back up it. But to my amazement. I focused on each breath and ran up the path. It did not take nearly as much time as I thought. I kept up my pace and breath as I made my way back to the split in the path. Two other henro were coming to the fork as well. I gave them words of encouragement and hoped they made it to where they wanted in time. The path was up and down, rocky and bit intense at times. I had to get there.


As I made my way through the forest a thought came to me. My journey was almost over. I was no longer going to be walking or traveling as a henro to a temple each day. No longer would I be apart of this culture. The spiritual nature of the whole journey. The kindness from random strangers. The meeting of others on the same journey as me. The objective that I had been chasing for the last month would be over.

It was emotional.

I teared up from the emotions I had felt when I started and how different I was now. It was merely motions in the beginning. A sort of selfish journey if you will. But as I visited each temple searching for the moment that would change me, I realized there was no such moment coming. It became more then just finishing the temples. It wasn’t really about me anymore. Yeah I wanted to say I did it, but it was no longer important to me. Being a part of the whole pilgrimage is what I wanted and was. To be a part of something bigger than myself was what this trip became. I had to regain focus though as I still had another half hour hike in front of me. I decided to reflect later and trudged on.

The last few minutes of the hike were hard. I was along side the road with it getting dark. My feet were hurting from walking on the pavement and the road just kept winding and winding with out me seeing the entrance to the temple. When I reached the road it sloped steeply up where cars could park off to the side. I shuffled up the slope and came to a large temple gate among the trees. I heaved my self up the stairs to the temple office and got my book stamped. I then slowly made my way up to the main temple which was up some more steps through the dark trees. The main temple was large and had a garden in the middle of it. You walked into a tunnel that went around to the main temple and then back out where you came in. It was sort of like the underground area at the temple before, but this was a building outside. I thanked Kobo Daishi for the journey so far while praying and gave a couple more yen to the offering box.

I returned to a bench near the temple office and sat for a moment to let my feet rest. By now I knew it would be completely dark in around twenty minutes. I looked at the path down the mountain. It would take another two hours hiking, so I decided I would take a cab to the train station. I gathered my self and headed to the main gate to wait. As I sat there I noticed something in the woods. At first I was frightened by the sight. A bit off in the woods was a large statue of an Ox demon (Ushioni). It was large and blended into the trees if you were not looking for it. I did not even notice it on my way up. I imagined back in the day someone seeing that and completely freaking out. An urban legend would spawn about the creature in the woods and then the tales would start for generations.

The cab ride, like all cab rides was a gift, but this one was extra special. Outside in the clear sky a blood moon like nothing I had ever seen glowed in the dark sky. I stared at it as much as I could as we winded down the side of the mountain. It was a sight. And as I stared into the moon and thought about everything I realized that we are all on a pilgrimage.

A pilgrimage of life.

Part 1 of the day

For part 2 the picture look like it is bright outside, but that’s some camera magic going on.

Part 2 of the day

It was the second mountain temple day. Temple 66, Umpenji sits on a mountain on the north coast line towards the east side. I had been past this mountain the last couple days. I started early in the morning taking the train to the nearest station and going to the Umpenji ropeway. I had used one of these for temple 25.

If you are walking from temple 65 to 66 , you actually head to it from the south. Since I was heading from the north, the ropeway was my option. When I arrived to the main building where the ropeway was there was a crowd of tourists crowded in the ticket office. I had run into a henro tour group on my trip so far, but this was a Chinese tour group. A young man held a flag and directed the group and talked to the ticket officer. I waded through and grabbed my ticket and a few moments later we were stuffed into ropeway car.

I am not afraid of heights, but hanging from a cable and be suspended above a forests and mountain is sort of terrifying. I imagine plummeting down into the trees and wonder would they break our fall? Would the car survive? I don’t know, these thoughts I let them pass, but they always creep up in different situations. We reached the top and filed out. The air was crisp and cold. Mist hung all around. I went passed the crowd and made my way to the left down a long hill. As you walk down there are life size stone statues. Incredible detail.




This one is my favorite.



As I approached the base of the path I looked to my left where there was a pagoda and all these things around it. I took a look and then had to look again. Hundreds of stone statues sat. They went around the pagoda and then off to its side were more lined up.






Around the corner up some steps was the main temple. The trees here were glowing orange and red.





The temple office


The colors combined with the statues and the zen nature of the temple made it a special experience.

On the way in and out there is a statue of Kobo Daishi


But what is that out in the distance? The picture makes it look small, but this statue was huge.


DAIKŌJI 大興寺 67

I spent as much time as I could at the temple before the ropeway had to go back down. I savored each moment that I could. As I got to the end of the ropeway I was debating how I should get to the next temple. There was two ways I could go, one went through the woods and mountain area and the other one went through the farmlands.

I chose the city route and started to descend through the mountain forest and back into the suburbs. As I trekked along I actually started to jog a bit down the mountain. It ended up feeling really good. I am sure if anyone was around they would think I was a mad man. Henro bag had on my back, bell form my staff jingling at a fast pace as I stomped on by, but luckily there was not a soul on the trail. It was a little spooky for a moment as I past a pet center and the wind started picking up and all the dogs started howling.

While I wanted to save some time, I did run a bit from this as well. As I came out of the mountain trees and into the farm land rolling hills of fields and small houses dabbed each way I turned. I walked among the nothingness as I would put it. Large swaths of fields with nothing obstructing your view besides the houses and hills. I wondered where everyone might be. No cars passed me, no one sat working anywhere. It was empty. There was no where nearby that they could be. It was pretty though. The fields were a light yellowish color in sun and far out grey darkish clouds built a backdrop against the golden hills as I walked among them. Soon the trees started to fill my view and I knew the temple was near. Separated by a small street temple 76, Daikoji sat waiting at the top of some stairs.

The main temple bell


The main temple has a large roof.





The temples from this point on were fairly close to each other. One led to the next until temple 75. The train took me to the south of where 71 was.

I followed the main road till it split and led me into the mountains. The first set of slope was simple. A long path through some woods that let you evade the road. Then after that a trail that let up steep into the side of the mountains followed by some stairs. There was a half way point as you ascend. It was the only picture I took with my camera and I could not capture it. The sun was off shining through the trees on to this large statue. It had this glow and calmness to it when I stepped up to see it from the stairs. It shocked me how profound it looked.

To the right of the statue is another set of stairs that I went up. I reached a building that seemed to be part of the cliffside. I was a bit confused as I looked around to see where I might go next, but the only place was inside. A sign told me to take my shoes off which I did and set them next to others. I walked up a couple of wooden steps and entered into a large wooden building. It was dark inside and smelled of incense. The floor was smooth and cool to my feet. A group was around the corner praying as I closed the door.

As you enter, the ceiling was low and the building was indeed built into a cliff side. The temple office is right off to the left when you enter. You go straight and then to your right is the Daishido. Past that is the main temple. In the cliffside in this building there is a cave with Kobo Daishi inside with some other statues. The whole place felt incredibly sacred. I prayed and gave my offering. I did not want to bust out my huge camera and take any pictures of the inside as I felt a little weird about it. There was also a whole other group of people that were praying, so I did not want to disturb them.But I did get some quick snaps with my phone.

Checkout the pictures

As I was putting on my boots the group came out and the members greeted me and I met an old women (80 years old!) who had done the pilgrimage as a girl and was part of the tour group going to all the temples again. She spoke English very well and their tour director, a young guy who was extremely nice, asked me a few questions before descending the stairs with the old women. If I could. I would go back to that temple anytime. It was one of the most unique temples on the trip and felt intensely spiritual on the inside.



I made my way through the wooden paths to the east where the rest of the temples were. In the suburbs I went and approached the temple from the north side. I remembered my henro friend with the wicked pace from earlier in my trip and was set to that gear. Temple 72, Mandaraji has a long entrance with a paved walk way for part of it. Then the back of the temple is a cluster of buildings spanning out to the right. The main temple stands right before you in the middle. Form this point on, I some how kept pace with the tour bus that I head met at temple 71. I past the tour guide and old women each temple. I didn’t stay long as the sun started to set, I didn’t have much daylight left which was my timing on when the temples closed. So I set off towards temple 73 which was just down the road.


Up a slope and with an incredible backdrop of forest mountains and a clear blue sky there was temple 73, Shusshakaji. From the road you ascend some stairs on the side of the temple that move up into the main area. A man heading out handed me some mikan (like oranges) and told me to be careful the rest of the way. The main temple sat at the top of the stairs with some blue benches in front of it. Usually the benches are off to the side, but for this temple they were right in the middle. I sat and decided to eat a little snack before heading out. A women sat next to me and started to ask my some questions. She recommended a dish called honetsuki Dori, which is chicken on a bone. You can get a large one or small one. She showed me a picture and was very adamant for me to try. We exchanged gifts which was chocolate and I set out.


The next two temples were more in the city. Gone the mountains and trees, hello to the large buildings and neighborhoods. Temple 74, Koyamaji, was around an hour and half walk away from 73. Some neighborhood roads and then the main road (A road with traffic lights and more than one lane) followed by trailing a river to the temple. Off on the side of the road was the temple. Down the road I could see a factory of some sort. Inside a stone path trailed the ground of small grayish rocks. Directly to the right was the temple office and just beyond it was the main temple. I had just about an hour to get to the next temple so I prayed, got my book stamped and got on my way.


I began my walk which passed by a large frozen food manufacturing facility, a high school, and the Shikoku Medical Center, which was very large taking several blocks to pass. I caught up to another henro on the way over who was hustling his way to the temple 75 as well. I gave him a quick word of encouragement as I passed him. As I reached temple 75 I entered in one area and looked around for the temple office. I had around five minutes before they closed and I started to panic. I then went back out to the street which I had come in by and noticed that across was more of the temple. It spanned two blocks! As I searched I saw the tour director from the bus and he directed me and telling me the Japanese name for the office, which was Noukyosho. I got my book stamped and I threw my stuff down to breathe. Then I prayed and gave my offering.


The main gate


Side gate between the road


Inside the temple grounds


The main temple


The day for temple visiting was over. I walked through the temple grounds taking a deep breath. I had made it in time and I guess ran as fast as a tour bus haha.

The night was not over yet as the best part was about to come. The Lin’s were in Japan and were coming out to see me that night and the next morning. I met them at the station in Marugame and we ended up having Honetsuki dori!

What an interesting conclusion to the day. It was great relaxing and eating with them. The food was delicious, the company was great and the journey was coming along. I remember sitting there in a room looking at all the temples and trying to wrap myself around how I was ever going to get them all done. Now I had less than twenty to go.

My initial plan was to get both mountains done in one day. Temple 60, Yokomineji, and temple 66, Umpenji, are both at the top of very large mountains. The first temple for the day was Yokomineji back down the coast line. I took the train back to where I was yesterday and I was off to start.


I grabbed a bus from the Iyo-Saijo station to take me part of the way. Through the mountains it winded. The roads were nice and wide on this part and the travel was pretty nice. We ended up picking up another henro on the way. An old man with a light brown bowl type of hat. His staff was interesting because instead of having the sleeve, it had orange rope wrapped around the top. I thought it looked kind of neat and might be better for gripping. I am sure there are better ways to prepare the henro staff for use, but the initial one you get is a sleeve at the top with a piece of cardboard wrapped around in the inside to give some cushion. At one point I thought of getting some tennis grip or something and wrapping it at the top of my staff, but in the end I kept my staff the way it was. Soon the bus came to a stop at a cross roads and the bus driver informed us that this was the stop to get to the temple. We got off the bus and headed up a slope which had a building and some buses waiting. Initially I was going to climb the way, but it turned out the bus would take us all the way to the top and back down. From where I was there was really no path since I came up a different side of the mountain. The only path to the temple was the road. Might as well use the wheels of fate.

I am glad that I took those wheels. If I had not, I am pretty sure a car or bus would have slammed me right off the mountain or just flattened me. The roads winded and were one car narrow. I said this before, but the bus drivers in the mountains or seaside are incredible. I once saw a video of a bus driver going down a hill and he is flailing the steering wheel and back and forth full turn and some how just gliding down this steep mountain. It sort of felt like that. A couple of times we got stuck with cars or another bus trying to get down. If I ever re did the trip, I would probably do it on motorbike or something small. So that I could get through everything with out worrying about chipping half my car off trying to avoid sliding down a mountain. The parking lot was near the peak. A picturesque view and a little hut that served ice cream

View from the parking lot



From the parking lot you followed a hill down into the trees and then entered the temple by this large building.

Temple 60

The Temple itself was smaller then I thought it would be. So far the mountain temples had been pretty large. The driver said we had around 40 minutes to visit the temple. I wasn’t to worried about it, but the other henro that came with me was rushing a bit. As the temple wasn’t that large I prayed, got my book stamped and took a look around. I watched some families come and go, old folks pray and get their book signed. It was chilly, but the sun provided a nice heat for comfort. After just sitting for a moment I went back up to the parking lot where the shop was and took in the view. I looked at my time and realized that getting to temple 66 today was not a possibility, but I could visit 65 on my way back. I traveled back down the mountain and started to head towards temple 65, Sankakuji.

Temple bell


Main temple


Fall colors


The side of the mountain with the main temple



I took the train to the nearest station and started to walk south from there. The temple was in the mountains past a neighborhood and farms. The temple was deep in the forest. A parking lot sat low while steps lead to the top of a hill where the temple sat.

Back of the main gate



Colors starting to come out


The temple was two sided. Off to the right side was the main temple beyond a tree with a sweeping limb that was held by wooden crutches. The other side to the left was the daishido and temple office. The colors were starting to appear for fall and the sweeping tree had great color upon it.



Water basin



The main temple. The wood wok is amazing. (Need to take out the glare for this picture)


I walked back to the station which took a bit of time and the sun was heading towards the horizon. Tomorrow I would visit temple 66 on the other mountain. The day was a bit shorter than I wanted, but over all. It was nice.

Down the north coastline we go. From west to the east. For today I would be heading a little out of order. I would be skipping 60 and heading straight to 61 and head over across to 64, then skipping 65,66 and going to 68,69 and 70.

Temple 60 and 66 are high in the mountains, 65 is in the town below 66, so it would make sense to go them at the same time. I got up early and took the train down to Iyo-komatsu.

HŌJUJI 宝寿寺 62

Right off the train is the actual temple 62, Hojuji. The odd thing is that this temple is not part of the temple association anymore, or it never was. What this means is that you pay a bit more money for the stamp. They have an auxiliary temple for 62 set up by temple 61, but I wasn’t sure how it all worked out , so I just go my stamp at the temple which consisted a small main temple located right next to the train tracks. It was small and had an odd vibe to it. When I made my way to 61 down the street, there was a small shrine and office set up that the temple association was managing. The spirit lived well at that one, but it still felt a little strange.

KOUONJI 香園寺 61

I was walking towards this temple and checking my map to see where it was. Paths sloped around different corners and stairs went in different directions as I got closer.

I noticed the entrance to this temple far away and throught it was some sort of park, so I took the slope to the right and walked right past it. I walked around a corner that started to go around a hill and knew that I had made a mistake, so I doubled back and followed the path into the what I thought was the park.

Now I remember hearing and seeing pictures of this temple in the guide book. In my mind I thought “Well that is lame , this temple looks like an office building or something” As I moved past the park like entrance the building revealed itself. A massive building with large pillars built into the sides. It looked like something straight out of Bladerunner. The architecture, the texture, the designs all seem other worldly. It astounded me. The sheer size of the building took me aback. The bottom level on the outside has some open rooms where the main temple is, the temple office is a small office on the side. While I stared at the building and took it in with my eyes and camera.

I then noticed people going up some stairs on the right side of the temple, so I followed them. Upstairs I had to take my shoes off and entered in the main hall. A giant golden Buddha sat inside a dark dimly lit room with high ceilings. In the middle chairs sat around the main shrine. Long thin slits of light came through the windows in the back of the room. Incense hung in the thick warm air. People quietly shuffled around prayed and sat down. For a building to look the way it did and contain what I saw I never would have imagined.

The feeling was warmth and comfort. I sat admiring the inside and taking the room in. It was still. Time hung and if the light outside did not change as the day went by, you wouldn’t know that time existed inside. I took only a few pictures, as I felt every unnecessary movement unbalanced the harmony in the room. I meditated and then went back outside. The sun blinded and all I could do was smile. What I thought would be lame, turned out to be one of the best experiences I had. I sat outside the temple for a bit of time taking it all in, but I knew that I had to leave. So I heaved my stuff back on and continued to the next temple. I skipped as I had already been there and continued down the street to 63.

Temple 61

The temple office




The inside of the temple




The four temples I was visiting were all in a row, but the distance was quite far, in my mind it looked like it would take a hour at most to get and visit all the temples, but we all know how that works out.

I walked down a Main Street moved one road over and may path turned into a smaller street that was made for one car at a time. The street had green areas on the side where people couple pull over and let others though and where you could walk. I then had to go over to the main road and cross to get to the temple. A creek surrounded the outside of the temple and you had to go to the side to get in. A young guy dressed in all white hero gear with his friend walked in at the same time as me. Even I was suprised to see another young person doing the trip haha. Even while this temple was by the main road, it was quiet and nice inside. You walked through the main gate to then to the left to the main temple. Trees surrounded the grounds, so it cut any noise out and provided a tranquil place to pray. By this time I was still trying to figure out what I was going to do for the day, but I had one temple in the line to visit so I set forth. The young hero and his friend left the same time as me, but we went different ways. For the trip I relied on the hero makings (which should be the fastest way to get there) and google maps to get to the temples. Sometimes the paths are not marked the best and get confusing, so google maps always had my back.


The last temple in the line was further away from the others. Down the main road and then heading south into the neighbor hoods. Soon the buildings cut away and temples started to appear to my right side. I was really tired at this point as I had all my gear on me and I did not know how to get into this temple. There was an entrance that has a parking lot, but the path goes through a forest to get to the temple, or the street goes to the other side the temple. There were some markings, but I saw other people being confused so I went around to these of the temple following the street.

Temple 64, Maegamiji , is really neat. You move infront of the temple office building where the bell is and then following into the forest a bit there is a small river that you cross and stairs to ascend. At the top of the stairs is this space. The main temple creates a block U facing towards the stairs and no tree stands where the temple Is. The ground where the temple stands is bear and forest and mountains stand behind the temple. The moment I reached the top of the stairs and looked upon this temple, I knew there was no way to capture the feeling. It was a like a secret garden that you stumble upon. I prayed and took in the peacefulness that surround the whole places.


JINNE-IN 神恵院 68 and KANNONJI 観音寺 69

I took the train up to Kan-Onji to visit 68 and 69 which I heard are in the same place. The city was pretty nice as I got off the train and made my way to the temples. I ended up going through a park to get to the temples, which as I past, I thought of living close and using this park all the time and having temples just around the corner. Places that people are trying to get to every year, it must be interesting watching the henro pass by. They were not kidding when they said the temples were right next to each other. On the left was Jinne-in and the right Kannonji. Temple 68 was in a concrete enclosure. A gaint concrete block with an entrance sat there off to the side of a walk way. You ascend some stairs and the main temple is at the top in this concrete house. It was actually pretty neat. I thought it was super strange, but I actually enjoyed it. Then temple 69 was just a walk away with its traditional temple form. I rested for a bit and then decided I would try and head to temple 70 before the day ended. I would have to head that way anyway, because the train station was over east. So I set my course and off I went.


The last temple of the day was pretty far away. I crossed rivers and walked along fields to get there. At one point I was walking along this field and a car stopped in front of me. This women ran out carrying a bottle of tea and some snacks. She asked if the tea was to heavy for me, but I assured her it was ok. I thanked her a bunch and she ran back to her car and sped off.

I will tell you that, in all honesty I feel deeply honored that people help those that are on the journey. It inspires me to help other people that are on their own journey, their own quest. I always feel that just thanking the person for the gift , or giving them a name slip is inadequate, but it is not about that. If you give some one something with the intention of getting something back, you are doing it for the wrong reason. If I worry that I am not giving them thanks enough, I am taking away from their gift. I am always truly grateful though to those that aided me during my time. This random lady ran from her car to aid me and there is no way for me to express truly how grateful I was, but I always try my best.

By the end, the sun was going down and my legs and feet were pretty sore. I focused on my breathe and took it one step at a time. I could see the pagoda from the temple from a far and knew I was close. Through some small paths and trees temple 70 Motoyamaji stood. The large pagoda stood off to the side of the main temple and always kept its gaze on me as I moved through out the temple. The sun was setting and created a nice backdrop for the evening. I finished the tea and ate the small biscuit that she had gave me in the temple yard. I thanked her again as I finished and watched family stroll through the temple yard. A little boy ran around the gravel and his family talked nearby.

From the temple I made my way to Motoyama station and headed to Marugame where I was staying for the night. I had a long, but great day. I ended up having kimchi ramen for dinner again, but it was a good meal to finish off the day.

While the temple count was only about half, I knew the journey was coming to a close. The temples after this were pretty close together compared to the rest that I had been on. The next town with a large amount of temples was Imbari. Famous for ship building it sits on the north west of Shikoku. For the most part I stuck to the temples in order, but because of where I was staying and where the town and temples were I had to visit some temples out of order. This started with Temple 55, Nankobo.

NANKŌBŌ 南光坊 55

Near the coast and downtown area of Imbari, Temple 55 Nankobo sits among the streets and shops. It was only a couple minute walk from my hotel and seemed to be sitting on one of the main streets in town. One level, everything at arms length. I was a little nervous that the monks at the temple office would scold me or sign the wrong page. But it all worked out. I didn’t spend to much time here. I knew that I had a lot of ground to cover and the temple was compact.

ENMEIJI 延命寺 54

I then made my way to Temple 54, Enmeiji. This is back toward the north side of town. The reason I did this is because the rest of the temples are in a line going south into the mountains. 55 is sorta jetted out towards the coast. Temple 54 had a long paved entrance that led to the main temple. Trees frame the main temple and up some stairs to the left is the Daishido hall.


Half way in between 57 and 54/55 through some neighborhoods and following a hill of trees you will come across temple 56, Taisanji. At first there is an entrance to another temple that I thought was it, but as soon as I did not notice the typical temple buildings I realized I was in the wrong spot. This happened quite a bit. I found the temple raised off the ground surrounded by large stone blocks. I tried to go around and ended walking all the way to the other side to have to double back and head the other way to get up into the entrance. The temple was raised onto its own platforms and had roof tops covering its views from all around it.


This temple had joined the modern era a bit. As you walk up a slope to go past the parking lot you are greeted by a large block of a building with square cut out windows all over it. It looked like a modern design of a small hotel or something. The sign for Eifukuji was very well made and designed well by my standards. Next to this modern building is the temple all compacted into a little corner. Since this temple is sorta of in the mountain it was very peaceful.

SENYŪJI 仙遊寺 58

The mountain temple for the day. I moved through the quiet streets and entered into the farm area. It was filled with small hills and so far the journey had been flat, but I knew the elevation would be coming.

The hernro mark told me to go right, but after that there was a fork in the road. The right let me up a road and into the forest and the left took me up a grassy hill with some make shift stairs. I thought maybe the left might be the possible way. It was a fine stroll. The grass was yellowish and a long. The wind batted them back and forth as I moved up the hill. Trees started to form over the hill top and in my mind I imagined descending into a beautiful valley.

I crossed the top and there was a man make lake. Deep and cavernous.

No landscape, just the wrong path for my journey. I did get the climb up though, which provided me with some imaginary scenery when I hit the top and the lovely grass. But I flew down the hill, as it was steep and the stairs really worked well one way, but not the other. I then took the road. The whole way was paved and it was pretty nice. The road did start to slope a lot and bended back and forth to get up the mountain. I passed an old man on my way up. It did not matter how fast you go , as long as you get there. I also think that going at a slow steady pace keeps you alive during the hike. Instead of burning out, you just take it one step at a time.

The path leading up to this temple was a couple of things. Like an obstacle course, dangerous, pretty and steep. Paved ways and paths are great and I am glad for them. This path I was still glad for, but it gave me a good work out. Imagine going up tall stairs and up paths that slant, sometimes severely, toward the edge of where you would just drop off and fall down the mountain. Sometimes there is a railing in the middle of the path to signal one way for people to go up and down, but even the railing is a bit slanted. It was hard. Thankfully all my gear was at the hotel. When I reached the top there was a quote from Kobo Daishi at the main temple that said something along the lines as difficult paths are to be experienced by those that are enlightened.


Last temple of the day was back in town. Down through the fields and low lands the temple was elevated just a bit off the main ground around it. When I arrived there was a group of henro coming along the road and up into the temple the same time I was. The elevation of the temple gave a nice view to the houses around and the mountains in the distance. Imbari has small city center and around it is mostly long drawn out hills with houses scattered around. Seeing the temples today actually showed me almost all of Imbari besides the coast line near the south of town. Pretty cool.

I was done with the temple for today so I walked up north to the train station where I caught the train and headed back to town. I must of gotten in town right when school was getting done, because there were a ton of middle schoolers lined up and heading off somewhere. Not sure, but little kids like to say “Hello” in english, then after that they kind of just laugh or stare haha. I have had several times where kids will say hello to me then run off as I say hello back. At night I did some planning for the next couple of temples. I would be traveling up the coast line and to the east side of the island. I would be staying in Marugame for a couple of nights to complete the temples left side of north. Temple 60 and 66 were in the mountains and I planned to take a day for both of them by themselves.

This day I actually forgot to post on Instagram about. I will do that soon. When I looked back I couldn’t find the photos from this day and I panicked a bit. I remember the day, but I thought I had taken some photos of the experience.

One thing this trip has been a learning experience for is taking pictures of experiences. Which I am still not the greatest at. Weird since we live in a world where pictures are being taken of everything and everywhere then posted all seconds of the day. Also strange, that I really enjoy taking photos. I got into photography a while back and I love capturing the moments in video and photos, but at the same time I get to place and I just want to be be there, experience it in the moment and not be so worried about getting the perfect shot or what I should say with the post. I get scared when I try to remember things and I have a hard time recalling all the detail. Even looking at a picture doesn’t bring everything back.

There are some moment I have noticed that capturing the feeling or the actual image is impossible. I recently went to see Mt. Fuji from Hakone and none of my pictures could even get close to the feeling, weight and sheer epicness of what Mt. Fuji is in real life. I would imagine why it is always subject of art work as people are trying to capture and communicate something that really cannot be communicated fully through any medium besides reality.

Well the whole thing is learning experience.

During my stay in Matsuyama I visited the Dogo Onsen, which is one of Japans oldest hot springs and also partially inspiration behind the bath house in Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.

Unfortunately, like a handful of places I tried or did visit during my trip, it is partially under construction. The upstairs which is the bigger private bath and the emperors bath is being redone, but the public bath was still open so I opted for that. The bath itself was not to impressive (best onsen I have been to was after temple 12 in the mountains in Kamiyama) The bath was small with only one pool of water with showers on the outside ring. It could only fit a handle full of people . The water was nice though. I would like to see the private baths as I have heard they are much larger and nicer. In the future then.

The cool thing about Dogo Onsen is the street that it is on. Around it there is cobble stone that wraps around it and no cars are allowed to drive on it. This makes a pleasant experience where you can walk around and enjoy the area, which has restaurants and shops. I went during the day and went back at night to enter the hot spring.

During the day as I went down from the last temple I visited the Dogo Onsen park right next to it. I decided before seeing the onsen to have lunch in the park. Check out the pictures below.





There was supposed to be a castle at the top of the hill in the middle of the park, but it must of been where it used to sit, as the only thing that was up there was a tall observation tower. Over there you can see Matsuyama castle, which has a large park surrounding it.


Dogo Onsen. The front part is uncovered, but the back has scaffolding and they are hard at work to get it ready for the Olympics.




Place I ended going during the night after my bath.


Hotel right behind the Dogo Onsen.




Totoro Store


They have a clock that has figures that come out and perform at different times.



A really neat area. It was not as packed as I thought it would be at night though. I would like to return to see the other baths when they get done.

Today I had to back track to where I was the day before to head over to temple 48, Sainiji. I visited this temple at night when I walked back becuase it was on my way. I thought maybe if they were open…..no it was pretty dark and I felt the spirits creeping up on me. In the day time it was much better. The temple is next to a busy street and is compact with everything very close together. When ever I reach a temple, especially one that is on a busy road or in some place that is in the middle of town I always wonder what it looked like back in the day. When all the houses and road ways weren’t cutting through the land. Did a large dirt road run past this temple to? Maybe it was still in between all the houses and roads that is now, just old timey and less traffic.


Japanese grave stone


Temnple office



Cool garden which the statue is in


Temple 49, Jodoji

The next temples were at the edge of town to the north. They slope up the forest and end near Dogo Onsen park. So I retraced my steps from the day before back up north to the next temple, this time passing the train station that I used last night. Off one of the main roads and through a neighborhood some stairs appear with the main gate. You could easily drive, or walk past this place with out ever knowing that it was one of the 88 temples. A single path leads from the main gate to the main temple. The yard is pretty small, but with no obstructions it is full of space.


Main temple





Temple 50, Hantaji

As I leave temple 50 I end up walking behind a couple on the way to the next temple. The path winds behind houses and in between a graveyard. Someone had drawn a red henro figure on the walls and ground to signal which way to travel. It was helpful as a lot of the roads branch off into several directions. As I walked behind the couple I felt sort of like a ghost. They were dressed casual and I was in my full henro attire. My shadow with its round head and staff bobbing up and down as it followed them through the streets.

Up a steep hill and around a bend in the road that sat next to pond of some sort sat Temple 50, Jodoji. I did not expect any type of view but there was a nice one that overlooked the area I just came from. This temple had a long path that led from the main gate to main temple. I really like the space these type of layouts create. It gives the whole temple this airy vibe to it, as if there is all this space and your never in the way.


Pond of some sort



Ornate roof top


Temple 51, Ishiteji

Leaving the hill and walking back into the city the streets led me to a T in the road. Across from me separated by a busy street was a large gate and a statue of a lady riding a dragon branching out into the air. I had reached temple 51, Ishiteji. The main gate leads down a roofed pathway to the temple. Some shops selling henro gear,candy and some snacks line the inside and call for you to buy something. There were many of things going on at this temple. In the middle of the temple floor a boat made out of wood with different color of paper all over it, huge lanterns, giant idol statues and a pagoda with paintings at the bottom of it. There were a lot of people at this temple. Most temples are either empty or have a few people here and there. There are a few temples that seem to attract crowds. I performed the rituals and then wandered a bit before getting my book signed. I liked this temple because it felt as if a festival was happening. People roamed around and there were so many things to see. The layout of the temple with its closed spaces and paths gave a nice flow of traffic.

On my way to this temple I also ran into my travel companion from yesterday. I got a picture with him on my Instagram His name is Kawamoto. He is only doing up to Temple 60 this time and will hopefully (he says) finish the whole route in the future. I saw him again at temple 51 and I said my final goodbye to him.

Main gate


The main gate and tunnel When you come in





Main temple behind the idol


Main yard




Temple office and large lanterns infront a large incense burner




Lady riding a dragon


Temple 52, Taisanji and Temple 53, Enmyoji

The last two temples of the day were cutting it close. On the other side of town in the north west there is a large hill that has temple 52 on it. I approached the temple from a road and to my surprise the road just kept going up and up and up. I passed by the temple office which is at the base of the hill with out realizing it. The road almost became a 70% incline and i wondered who in their right mind would build a road like this. There was a lady that I passed on the way up and when I reached the incline I gave a quick prayer for her. At top of the hill some stairs led you into the temple. It was empty and chilly. When I went to look for the temple office I tried a bunch of doors, but there was no one up there. I panicked a bit as the sun was going down and I did not want to climb the hill again if I missed it. Luckily some folks were a bit down the hill and I ask them where it was. Near the base of the drive was the temple office in its own section. I raced as carefully as I could down to it.

The last temple of the day Enmyoji was pretty close. Down slightly in a neighborhood sat the temple. It was a nice sized temple nestled by some houses. Stone paths led you from each building surrounded by dirt. By this time the sun was setting and I had completed all the temples for the day.

It was an early morning. I was taking the 5 am train to Matsuyama and then heading into the mountains south of the town to start the day.

It was dark and cold, but even still a guy walking during the morning hours greeted me and asked me about my trip (with pretty good English). The train ride was long, but I was on an express train which has seating for everyone. The first two temples I was visiting today were 44, Daihoji and 45, Iwayaji. Both are in the mountains to the south of town. I knew that it was going to take a bit of time to get there, which is why I took the early train out.

I would say Matsuyama is what I expected from a big city in Japan. People were out all over the place, there were shops and malls everywhere and it felt alive. I dropped my stuff at the hotel and made my way to the bus station where I took the bus into the mountains. Through the twists and turns around the mountain road another two henro got on the bus. As we got off the bus I said goodbye to the other henro and quested on to temple 44. Through a quiet neighborhood and into the tall dark woods, temple 44 appeared in the darkness. It was a huge contrast just a couple minutes away. This forest had tall large trunked trees that sprouted out everywhere. A small path led me up a hill and into the temple. The feeling was as if I had stepped into a fairy tale, the ground seemed perfectly made with tree roots building steps for the wandering traveler, the trees lined the paths as if they were marking the way to go. It was cool in the shade compared to the sun which was bearing down just beyond the trees. I knew that I had a long journey ahead of me that day, so I got my book signed and started off to the next temple.

These two temples are the only ones that are in the mountains in this area. You visit 44 and 45 and then head into town for the other temples.

Temple 45, Iwayaji is to the east of 44. You take the mountain paths and some follow roads. There are some paths that I have taken which have just been some stairs followed by rocks made to be stairs and worn paths. Part of the path from 44 to 45 was made up concrete slabs that looked like they had been there for a very long time. They dipped and rounded through the mountains and even when there was a river had platforms to jump across. The sun was shining and up on the mountains the trees were starting to turn already. The path was the most scenic I had been on so far.

I should of looked at the map before I headed out as I was caught off guard by some of the hills I had to climb. I was already on top of a mountain, what hills could exist? As I got near temple 45 there are two paths you can go. A longer path that takes the side of the road to the temple or through the mountains. I was actually going to take the road, but as soon as I came to fork in the road, this old guy came down the mountain path totally okay, good shape, smiling and told me to be careful and that the temple was that way which he came from. So I ended up taking the mountain path. I really do not understand how some of these older folks do it. Some of the climb was through just pure jagged rock and it just kept going. Once you got up one ramp another went up , it was like the original mario game, but with no ladders in between and it went on for ever.

Then once I reach the top, it was time to come down. The decline was steep and intense. The trees had littered the ground with pines cones so while I tried my best to get footing, most of the time it felt like I was skating on top of them. When it looked like I had gotten to the bottom, it kept going, but now with long tall rock steps. Finally the trees opened a bit and the gate appeared next to a cliff side. This temple is famous because the priests built their home in the side of the cliff. When you get a look at the main temple the cliffside is the backdrop which makes it truly memorable.

To get back to where I needed to go, there was a bus that picked up down below at a bus stop. It was the only bus for another three hours so I needed to make it. I thought the stop was close to the temple, but I was wrong. I had five minutes to get down to the bus stop and from the temple there is another descent down steps that wind around and around.

I respectfully jogged down those steps. There were these flags that lined both sides of the path all the way down that encouraged me to keep going and I could make it. I hit the parking lot at the base and saw the bus stop across a bridge. A small hut marked where the waiting spot was. As I approached to lay my stuff down I noticed two people inside the small hut.

It was the two henro that I had taken the bus with earlier. One was an older gentleman that smoked and kept the ash in a small cylinder on his belt. He could speak a little bit of english, but I could understand some of his Japanese to carry on a conversation. The other guy was a middle age man who had good spirits to him. They had been waiting there a bit so I know I didn’t miss the bus. It turned out that I did not need to rush down from the temple, because the bus was around forty minutes late. It was alright though, the none expected situations is what makes the adventure an adventure. We rode the bus to the station in town to catch another bus. The old henro was done for the day, but the other henro and I would continue on. When we got dropped off at the bus stop to continue to the next temple the old henro waved all the way till we couldn’t see the bus anymore. Even if I just met him, it was sad to part so soon. My new companion and I made our way down a path that was lined with solar panels and a clear view of the city. It was a beautiful site and one that you could only enjoy if you knew where to stop.

Temple 47 - Yasakaji

The path we took roped us around these large bends in the mountain that had what looked like kids drawings on these boards. Each one had a message about stopping pollution with a picture go along with it. A lot of earths smiling or frowning.

Soon we passed a few lakes and entered into a neighborhood that held the next two temples. Temple 46, Joruriji, while it is in the neighborhood it feels as if it isn’t. With trees that section if off from the rest of the world and the mountains framing the background, when inside it feels like you are somewhere else.

My new companion told me it was his last temple for the day and good luck on my trip. I did not get his name, but I wished him the best of luck and to be careful. I left down the street bowing and giving thanks to the company I had for the day.

The next temple, Yasakaji was just down the street about fifteen minutes. As I approached I noticed something white sitting at the main gate. As I got closed I noticed it was a cat. It sat on a bench just beyond the main gate on the left side. When I bowed and moved through it payed no attention to me and kept staring out at the street. It turned out there were a lot of cats at this temple. They just chilled everywhere not caring who was passing by. The main temple was up a set of stairs and a old women and her son where at the temple as well. She started a conversation with me, asking the usual things and explaining on how surprised she was that I was so young and doing the pilgrimage.

I will tell you that she inspired me a bit. She was in a wheel chair, but had a lot of life to her and even with her age and condition she still made her way out here to pray and give thanks. I prayed, said goodbye to her and her son and went to get my book stamped near that main gate. When I opened the door to go into the temple office I was greeted by more cats. One was snacking on some cat food in a bowl off to the right and another literally sat next to the window where you got your book signed and stamped. This cat didn’t care, it sat their looking around and closing its eyes for a quick nap then peering around again. Pretty amazing to see animals that are so used to humans.

After that I walked into town which was not my greatest idea. The sun dropped quickly and a lot of Japan I noticed does not have the best street lighting so some of the path was dangerous for the me and the cars on the road, but through the semi dark I reached the train station and went back towards my hotel for the night. I ended with some kimichi ramen for dinner and called it a night.

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