Tokushima Temple Walk Day 7: カイル帰り
Read Day 6 here
Originally written: January 2, 2014
Temples traveled to: 22 and 23
I’m actually writing this waiting for my train back to Temple 1, since I missed the earlier one by six minutes.
It’s over! It’s all over. It’s even weird to think that I beat the first dojo in 7 days, with the original plan being 9. It feels so long ago that I actually started this thing. Honestly, I know it went by as fast, but so much has happened that it feels like I’ve been in Tokushima for quite some time.
I started today very early, waking up at 6 a.m., because I wanted to get some sweet, golden-hour shots at Temple 21. However, the lift didn’t even open until 8, even though I was ready by to go 7. I spent the rest of the morning talking with the staff of Sowaka, who were really nice and provided a nice conversation so early in the morning. I was also introduced to the mascot french bulldog, Hanako, who was ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE. As the lift opened, I said my goodbyes, while Hanako accompanied me to the lift building, turning back as I walked in.
After getting my final photos at 21, I started for 22, which was a minimal 4 hours walk, according to the staff at Sowaka. Shortly after I got off the down curve of the mountain, I was stopped by another car and another woman running towards me with food. While this was my last encounter with osettai, during the trip it was fun trying to determine if cars were stopping for me or not.
It was shortly after receiving the gift that I received another, but in the form of a stabbing, burning pain in my right foot. Seriously, this was way worse than anything else I had felt so far, including sore calves, aching shoulders and blisters. Going through a winding, wooden path didn’t make the situation any better, as stepping on protruding branches and rocks made the pain even worse.
Getting out of the forest, I stopped at a large man-made hut on someone’s farm (advertised as pilgrim-friendly) to finally check my foot. It looked like multiple layers of skin had broke, getting to some of the most sensitive parts, although band aids and tape to covered the area. Even after adding fresh bandages, I could still feel the harsh pain. All I could really do was shift my weight to the other side of my foot as I walked. Luckily Temple 22 wasn’t too far away from the hut, so I was able to make it.
Temple 22 was a pretty casual place with nothing particularly notable, besides a well Kobo Daishi is said to have dug out which is said supposed to cure diseases. I was stopped by one pilgrim who gave me a neat little wooden cube decorated with little painted pilgrims and Buddhas. He also gave me a red name card (signifying 20 round trips on the trail), which was the first one I had actually seen. I read the travelogue of a group of JETs who gave friendship bracelets along with their name cards, in the same spirit as the wooden cube. I always thought giving something a little extra was a pretty cool, and I might try to make something like that for my next prefecture travels.
It was right around 12:30 when I finally left Temple 22, so I walked to a nearby Lawson to get some lunch and figure out how to get to 23. It’s another particularly long walk, around five to six hours, and my foot had not gotten any better. Even then, I also didn’t have a place to stay tonight and still hadn’t figured out where would be feasible. I kept debating with myself, until I checked a nearby train schedule and saw I had five minutes to catch one that would go straight to 23. Otherwise I’d have to wait two hours for the next arrival. So I made the decision.
I ran for the train.
*Cue the collective tomato throwing and boos in my direction*
I know, I know! I…cheated. I took the easy way out and spent 30 minutes on a train instead of the 5 or so hours it would take to walk. But I had my reasons! I could go on and on about why I decided to take the train, but in the end it won’t matter. I still made that decision. I know now people will have the full right to say that I didn’t “fully experience” walking the trail, but…I still experienced it. I still traveled. But I’m going to get into the specifics of that later.
When I arrived at Temple 23, it was actually way more bustling than I expected. Apart from the New Year’s celebrations, there were food and game stands all around the temple’s entrance gate, taking full advantage of the visitor increase. I slowly climbed the lengthy staircase with dozens of other people, as they dropped one and five yen coins on the steps. The amount of steps correlate with the “bad luck years” of Buddhism and it’s said making a donation on every step helps prevent any misfortunes. I can only imagine how much the temple makes around this time of year, but if the volunteers on the stairs literally raking in the money was any indication, I can only assume it’s a healthy amount.
Roaming around the temple grounds was not as comfortable to my liking, but I guess I was so unaccustomed to insane crowd size. Basically, there was a line one had to follow from the main hall to the other various halls and statues, in which people made donations at every one. Although I skipped a few donations due to lack of funds, I still did the respective bell rings and prayers.
What I was able to see of Temple 23 was really cool, even though I had to wrestle with crowds and my huge backpack. I had the chance to actually enter the temple’s famous pagoda and see some statues and paintings not normally shown to the public. I’m not sure if it was because of the holiday, the 1200 year anniversary or if the building is always open for a tour, but it was still really interesting to finally go into one.
Finally getting my final stamp, taking some final pictures, and walking down with the heaps of people also making their way home, I was officially done with the Tokushima temples. It’s even weird to think that the first stage is done, ending on such a different, bombastic note than how it started, but it had to end eventually. I’m sore, but in a good way. And I’m tired, but in a good way. Funny enough, I kind of just want to stand up and start the walk towards Temple 24, but it’s a 84 km trip and would take several days that I don’t have. But the pilgrimage is far from over. Really, it’s just begun. To write this as a final “ending” just wouldn’t be true. There’s more to come, it’s just a matter of when.
Riding the train back to Temple 1 took about four or five hours, but mainly because I had a significant layover at Tokushima station. When I did finally get back to the station by Temple 1, I was happy to see that my car was still parked and safe at the Lawson right next door. I made sure to go and thank the staff again and gave them one of my name cards. I then drove home, dropped all of my baggage on my bedroom floor and I plopped in my bed. ただいま。
I’m going to have one final post in this series for the Tokushima Temples, sort of a post-mortem to it all. I hope you don’t mind at least one last rambling about it.