It Doesn't Look That Bad

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

Close, but not yet Gotta Go Fast! But keep it slow, you know?
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