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Aki Meguri Shikoku Logbook:

November 14th, 2001 (Wednesday):
Back to Temple 1

Note: In the original Aki Meguri pages, the Shikoku stage had no journal entries.  Rather, my thoughts and feelings were incorporated into the "Logbook," so you won't find separate journal entries here, as in the Old Tokaido and Yamato stages.

 
I reached Temple Number 1 on the 14th--twice.

The first time I reached it was on Sunday, October 14th.  Through no design, but by sheer coincidence, I reached it again on Wednesday November 14th--one month to the day.

As I mentioned yesterday, I couldn't stay on Koyasan tonight, but I called Temple Number 2 this morning and they said "no problem."  (Really no problem, as I'll explain later.)  So I left my hotel, did my laundry (probably for the last time "on the road"), and took a slow train to Bando station, near Number 1.  I walked the short distance from the station to the temple, did some shopping, and went into the stamp office to have my book signed for a second time.

When they saw that I was finished, a lady brought out some tea and cookies.  (The same thing happened when I finished the Chichibu 34 pilgrimage last July.)  Then I said my prayers--for the last time on Shikoku--and got ready to set out for Number 2, exactly as I did on October 14th.

The day was not the same, however.  October 14th was bright and sunny, even nearly hot.  Today was overcast, with occasional drizzle, and cold.  I actually saw my breath as I said my prayers in front of the Daishido.

In the gateway to Number 1, I witnessed a little ceremony.  Three walking henro had arrived--at the end of their pilgrimage, like me.  In the gateway they stopped, counted to three, then all stepped through the gate together.  Afterwards, they hugged, shook hands, and generally shared their happiness with each other.  From the gear they were carrying, I surmised not only that they were 100% walkers, but that they had probably slept out a good deal.

As I approached Number 2, something strange happened.  It was almost like a voice spoke in my ear, saying, "Eighty-six more to go!"

I did feel like I was beginning the circuit again.  This, plus seeing the camaraderie of the three walkers at Number 1, made me think that doing it again--all on foot, with a light pack, and a companion or two--wouldn't be so bad after all.

If I do it again, I either need to have the ability to read Japanese (to appreciate the legends better), or do it with someone who else can read Japanese, and doesn't mind translating a lot.  While I feel absolutely satisfied with the experience I've had, I know it would be richer with improved reading skills next time.  (Of course there's lots of room for improvement in speaking and listening, too, but this was seldom a barrier.)

So here I am at Number 2.  After a truly luxurious bath (my first big sento-style bath since Temple 37 back on October 27th--all the rest have been showers or small, private tubs), I made arrangements to stay with a friend in Mie prefecture on Friday night.  As I hung up the phone, my old friend the priest--who signed my hat the night of October 13th--called me to dinner.

Just me.  From what I can see, I am the only guest tonight--at least the only one who ate dinner here.  So when they told me this morning that they had room, they meant it!

What a peculiar feeling--finishing the circle, and dining alone.  I'm used to being alone, but it makes me that much more grateful that I was able to celebrate with Kazuyoshi and Michiko last night.

So tomorrow morning there's a ceremony at 6:30, followed by breakfast.  I imagine I'll be on my way to Koyasan well before 8, so I'll have a chance to see the Daishi tomorrow afternoon.  If all goes according to plan, I'll be back in Tokyo Saturday afternoon (yes, my friends, you're welcome for the warning.)

No pictures, not much action.  It's really beginning to feel like this part of the journey is over.  There'll be a few more exciting events on these pages before I leave Japan, so stick with me. (And thanks for sticking with me this far!)

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