Close, but not yet


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.

Beginning the Cycle It Doesn't Look That Bad
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