Gotta Go Fast! But keep it slow, you know?

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.

It Doesn't Look That Bad 60 Yokomineji and 65 Sankakuji
Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now