2019-04-25: Kobo Daishi comes to Canada

I am happy to report that my Kobo Daishi walking stick arrived safely in Canada along with my box of Japanese sovenirs. I was surprised to find a tag added by the Tokushima ANA check-in agent with the following picture and note:

When flying back to Canada you arrive earlier than you leave Japan because of crossing the international date line. I like to say you get to relive part of your life over again.

When I arrived in Toronto earlier than I left Japan, the customs procedure is my luggage (my box of Japanese souvenirs) and Kobo Daishi walking stick didn’t have to be picked up and cleared thru customs in Toronto but would be shipped right thru to Ottawa.

Since I arranged to have a scroll made of the temple Buddha slips, I declared it as unaccompanied goods to be received later. This meant customs had to fill out a form, so when customs and duties are charged when it is delivered to Canada, I can apply to get a refund as part of my personal excemption of my trip.

The fun part was trying to get the customs officer to understand what a Japanese scroll was or to understand the word “scroll”, even though I had a picture from the company brochure in Japan. She asked to see the slips that I was getting mounted on to the scroll. Thankfully I had some extra ones ( since in some cases I received two) to show her. She wanted to know what the image was and I explained the temple Buddha enshined at the temple.

I explained I was also bringing a walking stick, which I explained was allowed per the customs regulations. I was happy to see it appear in Ottawa with a “Cleared Customs” tag on it.

It was nice to see the snow gone in Ottawa, the grass turning green and the tulip leaves starting to appear.

Now, it is just to deal with the jet lag. Instead of trying to make it through an afternoon at work, falling asleep at my desk, I decided to extend my vacation two more days, so combined with the weekend I would have 4 days to recuperate from the jet lag.

I was glad because at 9 am (which would be 9 pm in Japan) I finally crashed and was able to sleep until 1 pm after almost 2 days with little sleep.

Reflecting on my ohenro experience, I thank Kobo Daishi and all the wonderful people from around the world I met to make this another wonderful and memorable journey. I count my blessings and all the kindness I received from so many people and new friends I met along the way.

Time to adjust back to my routine and plan for my next journey.

Thanks everyone for following my blog and for your support/ comments. This will probably be my last entry for this ohenro journey. Arigato and a big THANKS.

2019-04-24: Wayward home

As I write this blog entry, I am sitting at the Tokushima airport Gate 4 waiting for my long journey back to Canada.

On the bus from Osaka to Tokushima yesterday, the bus kept displaying another destination. I asked the driver when I got on the bus – Tokushima……he nodded YES.

However, the bus seemed to be going the wrong direction. In a moment of panic, I thought to go ask the driver again, but to do this when he is driving is a NO-NO. So I thought I am still on my pilgrimage, if I get lost on the wrong bus, so be it. I will ask for help when we reach the ending point. Needless to say, I was wrong. I got out my smartphone and checked good old “Google maps” and it showed we were taking the longer, around the outside of Kobe route, probably to avoid rush hour traffic. Patience paid off and 3 hours later I was back in Tokushima.

Here is a picture of the tallest building in Osaka, as we zoomed by in the bus.

On the bus ride to the Tokushima airport this morning, I got a chuckle when I saw a place saying Canadian Coffee house. It is not the best picture as it was raining and the bus window was covered with rain.

I thought “am I home already”, or ” does someone know I am on my way home”. I wondered what makes a Canadian Coffee House unique.

Check-in at the Tokushima airport was so smooth. They put my Kobo Daishi walking stick in bubble wrap and checked it as my second piece of luggage.

So far the flight back to Canada from Tokyo looks on time. I was impressed with the ANA flight as it had free WiFi you could connect to with instructions in English.

It was interesting at the hotel when I was checking in and checking out, how people would react to seeing the Kobo Daishi walking stick and wanted to know if I was starting or finished the pilgrimage. I said finished and they smiled with a sign of approval for completing the pilgrimage.

At Tokyo Haneda they have an efficient way to transfer from the domestic terminal to the international terminal by bus. In the terminal it seemed to be busier than my previous visits, but it could be an extra long golden week (10 days) is about to start and people are traveling ahead of the rush.

Here is one last picture I took at Haneda of the many koi fish kites hanging in the departure area.

I will publish this post, before I board the flight to Toronto.

2019-04-23: Osaka shopping

Spent the last couple days shopping I Osaka. After getting lost a couple times (even using Google maps) and walking around circles I found a huge Daiso (dollar) store.

After a couple of hours of shopping, I managed a couple bags of items.

Close to my hotel is supermarket I have shopped at before. I was able to pick up the food items like seaweed, rice sprinkles, matcha latte powder, snacks, and other Japanese food items not available in Canada. I was able to pick up a box to pack the stuff in And ship on the plane as my suitcase.

Yesterday was relaxing day. I went to see the Osaka aquarium which has a large fish tank which must be over 4 stories high.

Here are some pictures:

There were penquins and Japanese otters. Here is a picture of the otters :

After a nice time at the aquarium I went to one of Osaka largest onsen called Spa World. It was huge and you can easily spent the day there using the many hot springs pools, swimming pool, relaxation area and food court.

It was a nice relaxing day. Tomorrow I will take the bus back to Tokushima to catch my flight back to Canada.

2019-04-19: Okunoin night tour

Last night I went on the Okunoin night tour. I learned all kinds of interesting facts and really enjoyed it.

The Okunoin is the largest graveyard in Japan and very sacred. There are over 200,000 graves above ground and they don’t know how many below ground.

The trees are a protected forest and all have a number tag on them.

See if you can see the tag on the trees.

I learned that in the newest part many companies have a tomb where workers can come and pray for their ancesters or fellow deceased co-workers.

There is one for a coffee supplier. See the UCC coffee cups.

There is one for Nissan.

There is one with pictures of some of the employees.

There is one with stickers on it. Looks like they might have been a cartoonist.

Then there was one with a rocket which we were told on the tour was for a Japanese space company.

Some had Buddhas and some we’re interesting but not sure what the company was.

I was impressed at the Ekoin temple (where the tour started) they had an electric car charging station.

In the morning I was up early and went to the 6 am morning ceremony.

Since I was up early I walked to the temple and waited by the Kobo Daishi tomb. As I said there a little old man (hunched over) wearing a black robe arrived to light a candle and say a prayer. For a minute I thought Kobo Daishi had come to join me.

After the morning ceremony I walked back to where I was staying for my 8 am breakfast.

2019-04-17/18: Osaka shopping and making arrangements to get to Koyasan

After a good sleep I headed off to Namba station to get the special two day rail/bus pass for Koyasan. I decided to take the 10 am limited express train which would get me in Koyasan around 11:30 am.

The scenery on the train ride was beautiful looking down the valley below.

It was nice to visit Kobo Daishi tomb and get my final stamp. It was a beautiful day and the walk through the Okunoin was impressive. Here are some photos:

Here is a picture to the temple bridge. After the bridge photos are prohibited because it is a sacred site.

The was one tomb where on ohenro hat was hanging in memory of a nun.

A nice day to explore Koyasan. Tonight I will do the night tour of the Okunoin and up at 5 am to go to the 6 am morning ceremony, since it takes about 40 minutes to walk to the temple.

2019-04-16: On my way to Koyasan via Osaka

After a nice sleep and breakfast at the hotel, I caught the bus to Osaka on my way to Koyasan.

It was nice to sleep in, have a relaxing breakfast and morning shower. The bus ride to Osaka was great. It was a bus with only three seats per row. A window seat, aisle, center seat, another aisle, and other side window seat. It makes it more comfortable.

I wanted to take a photo but thought some of the other passengers and driver might object. I did manage to try to take a couple photos of the scenery as we drove on the bridges and islands between Shikoku and the mainland.

Tomorrow I will head off to Namba to arrange for my train ticket and two day Koyasan pass.

2019-04-15: Day 32 – Back to Temple 1

Breakfast was at 6 am. After breakfast the owner of the minshuku drove Masa, Marie-Claude and myself to catch the community bus for the Shido train station. Marie-Claude and myself then took the limited express train to Tokashima.

The owners mother who is 87 helps out. She is a dear and enjoy her presence. Here is her picture she let me take before leaving:

In Tokashima I took Marie-Claude to the bus terminal to get her ticket for Osaka and I booked mine for tomorrow.

I then had a nice matcha latte green tea at Starbucks before heading off to Bando station to walk back to Temple 1.

Being back at Temple 1 was kind of surreal. There were a couple bus groups there and I joined into the Heart Sutra with them. When I went to get the completion stamp from Temple 1 he gave me a nice bracelet as osettai for completing the pilgrimage and coming back to Temple 1.

I sat at the temple for a bit reflecting on my pilgrimage journey this time, the many ohenros I met and kind Japanese people. Here are some pictures with many ohenros in white as they start their 88 Temple pilgrimage.

I then took the train back to Tokashima to check in the hotel at 16:00 hours.

Along the way there were some wonderful signage to guide you to the temple.

There were this wonderful bunch of Irises along the way that caught my eye.

At the Tokushima station there were some interesting characters to greet me.

After I checked in I met with David Moreton for tea and chatted about my ohenro experience.

Tomorrow I am off to Osaka to make plans for my trip to Koyasan.

2029-04-14: Day 31 – Temple 88

Today was the trek to Temple 88. The final temple of the pilgrimage. After a nice breakfast at 6 am, chatting with other ohenros, I headed out around 7 am, before the forecasted rain was suppose to start at 8 am. I enjoyed taking my time looking at the gardens and flowers along the way.In the gardens, I see many daicon still in the ground with the tops cut off. A while back I asked and was told they cut the tops off to stop it from growing and leave it in the ground. Daicon is like a radish and you find it in many dishes in Japan, pickled, and shredded under sashami we can eat raw. Here is a picture of it in the garden with the daicon with the tops cut off.As I was walking Naba (my Japanese twaiwanese friend, who I found out today, is actually called Masa), caught up to me, so we walked together to the Henro museum to get our certificate and pin. Here is his picture and my picture:We are now proud ohenro-sans. At the museum they have a nice Shikoku island model with all the temples.Since it started to rain, I contemplated on taking the community bus to Temple 88, but decided to walk with Masa instead. It was a nice walk up the mountain road route. We were advised because of the rain to not do the mountain climb in the rain. Along the way we stopped at a nice rest stop for a break.We were lucky, it never really rained, only small drops every once in awhile.When we arrived at Temple 88, we met up with ohenros from France/ Hong Kong and Denmark. We went to the local restaurant by the temple for a congratulatory lunch.I had a nice katsudon meal, which is breaded pork deep fried, with egg on rice.It was a nice feeling to share one’s experiences over lunch and achieving our pilgrimage goal.I liked the many statues that were for sale in the restaurant shop.As we headed off to the minshuku it started to rain harder. Kobo Daishi was definitely with us during our walk today. So glad the rain held off til we were finished.At the minshuku, I was able to do laundry, take a nice bath and have a nice dinner with special red bean rice, as our congratulatory dinner. It was nice spending time with ohenro friends. Marie-Claude from Montreal was able to join us.Again I enjoyed Marie-Claude’s story about getting lost and hitch hiking. An older man stopped and ended up driving her to the temple. We laughed over her story and how the Shikoku experience affects us.Tomorrow the minshuku owner will drive us to the bus stop, which will take us to the train station, where we will head back to Tokushima.

2019-04-13: Day 30 – Temples 84, 85, 86 & 87

Enjoyed the onsen last night at at 6 am this morning. As I was dropping off my key, who was at the check out counter but Marie-Claude from Montreal. She was getting them to make a booking for her for tonight. I am so glad and thankful Masa was able to make my bookings from Canada before I left. It makes it so much easier.

Since we were taking the train we walked together to the local train station.

Since Marie-Claude already did temple 84 yesterday, I got off before her to do my climb to Temple 84. It was a nice day, so made the climb and view nice. Since it was Saturday there were many non-ohenro also walking up to Temple 84.

Here is a picture of the statues and Tori gates at the temple.The view before the climb down was beautiful.I had to climb down and back up the mountain in the picture.There is a tram car that will take you up the last part of the climb, which I opted for. They give a 50% discount for foreigners who show their passport.Here are some pictures of Temple 87 with cherry blossoms still in bloom and a Japanese pine tree being groomed to grow a certain way.Today was a day of osettai. When I was lost trying to find the local train station, this little older lady came after me and explained where it was. She then gave me a paper with a note as osettai. Later I checked and it had 1000 yen note inside. Then at Temple 87, there was a bus group of ohenro. A lady broke away from the group and gave me an envelope (which I discovered later had 2000 yen in it). I gave her a Canadian flag pin and crest. We exchanged nameslips. Here is a picture of the osettai I received today.The kindness and generosity of the Japanese is truly amazing.

I checked into my minshuko, which is next to Temple 87, had my bath and ready for 6 pm dinner. They have WiFi so get to work on my blog before dinner.

Tomorrow is on to Temple 88, which is hard to believe. I am still trying to decide which route to take, the big Henro-korogashi hard climb or an old country road, which is a more gentle climb. I will see what the weather brings…….forecast says intermittent rain.

So will sign off for now. Another great day on the ohenro trail.

2019-04-12: Day 29 – Temples 80 & 83

Last night and this morning the view from the hotel was beautiful. It was a sunny day as I started out for my walk wondering what adventure or other ohenros I will meet along the way.

The walk along the mountain top plain was beautiful with lots of sakura still blooming in the mountains.

The walk down the mountain was grueling on the knees. At one of the rest stop there was a nice view.

There were a couple statues I like at Temple 80.

I then took the train into Takamatsu. I thought I would drop by my accupunture ohenro friend I met before to say hi, if I could figure out where he was.

At the Takamatsu train station there was my favorite bakery called “Willie Winkie” in the station and a nice town clock outside.

I was able to find my way to my accupunture ohenro friend but looked like he was closed for the day.

I then headed off to Temple 83. On my way I saw a few Barber shops. I looked in one and he wasn’t busy, so I got up the nerve to go in and see if he would cut my hair, as I like it short when I am sweating, and it has grown these last few weeks. As well, I thought I would support the local business. I got the ok and I explained #1 on the side and half off the top. He understood as we spoke broken English and Japanese and sign language.

He did an amazing job. I like the hot towel treatment and it only cost 2000 yen, about $20 Canadian. I thanked him with a Canada flag pin. So today’s theme was haircut day.

Here are a few photos from Temple 83, statues, colours and trees.

A nice day walking. I ran into a couple ohenro but none that I knew from before.

I was able to check into the onsen I am staying at and looking forward to a nice relaxing Japanese onsen tonight.

Tomorrow will be a couple climbs to the temples.

2019-04-11: Day 28 – Temple 82 & 81 again.

The view from my room at the New Sunpia Hotel this morning was amazing. I enjoyed using the onsen at 6 am, which also has a view of the mountains and city below. The sun is shining, the birds singing and I had a wonderful sleep last night, what more could I ask for. As my friend Theresa, from NS, always says “everything happens for the best”. With the mix up yesterday, things turned out great.

Here is a picture of the view.

I had breakfast with Marie-Claude from Montreal and Ubasheba. I got a chuckle from her temple 13 story, where she was lost and tried hitch hiking. Finally a farmer in a white pick-up truck stopped. She said she kept saying Dianciji temple as she didn’t understand any other Japanese. He finally drove her to the temple instead of explaining how to get to it. I told her getting lost was part of the pilgrimage experience. I related to Linda and Christine getting a ride at the back of a white truck and my friend Bob getting lost and climbing a mountain before he realized something was wrong. We laughed about our pilgrimage experiences and brought back fond memories for me.

Breakfast was amazing. Here is a picture of the seto:

The good thing is since I was staying at the same hotel tonight, I could leave my day pack behind today. It was a wonderful walk in the mountain trail to Temple 82. The cherry blossoms are still in full bloom. Some petals are starting to fall when the wind blows. I call it sakura snow, as it is like snow in Ottawa gently falling. Here is a picture leaving the hotel and one during my walk today.

When I arrived at Temple 82, I ran into Ubasheba, and we hugged. As I was about to leave Marie-Claude arrived. Since I was in no hurry, I chatted with Marie-Claude who said she got lost trying to find the trail to Temple 82. Finally the shuttle driver from yesterday drove by and picked her up and drove her to the temple. The good thing we laughed about the experience and how the Japanese are so helpful and friendly when a foreign pilgrim is in need or lost. I waited for her to finish at the temple and then walked with her to get her on track to her way to Temple 83.

I showed her the nice rest hut near Temple 82. I found and showed her my friend Dara from Ottawa nameslip (who was a great help to me the first time I walked).

I told her we meet for breakfast to chat about our pilgrimage experience, along with Luc and Collette from Gatineau, who did the pilgrimage in the fall. I told her about the woman from Mont Tremblant I met on the pilgrimage and would put her in touch with her if she wanted to start a Montreal group.

Along the way I ran into Kazushi and there were high fives all around. I said I was glad he was still going strong. In some ways he reminds me of my Dad, not a big talker, but loves walking and being in the woods.

After departing from Marie-Claude and hopefully giving her good directions on getting down the mountain I ran into Noba, my Taiwainese/Japanese friend. It was a day of running into previous ohenros, or like old home week.

At Temple 82 there is a statue of a local monster legend. Here are a couple pictures of him and one with Marie-Claude looking on.

I walked back to Temple 81. When I arrived I saw an ohenro in a wheelchair. This is the second time I saw an ohenro in a wheelchair. The temples have many stairs, which would be impossible for a wheelchair to navigate. I thought it was amazing they were doing their best to visit the temples.

One last photo of some statues I like from Temple 81.

I stopped at the small cafe around 2:30 pm, even though I wasn’t hungry, to support the local business, admire the view and wait til my 3 pm check in time. I couldn’t believe it, I had these wonderful udoon noodles for 250 yen. I was able to use Google Translator camera function to translate the menu. I hope other ohenros support the local business, so they can be around for years to come.

Tonight was laundry night. The good thing is you can find a washer and dryer at all of the places I have stayed. So it is not a problem to wash your sweaty clothes after a day of walking.

Tomorrow will be an easy day walking down to Temple 80 and on to 83. I will then be back on schedule.

2019-04-10: Day 27 – Temples 77, 78, 79 & 81 that was not planned.

After a nice soak in the onsen ofuro (bath) last night, I woke bright and early as lights out was at 9 pm.

I enjoyed the morning temple service. Because Temple 75 is the birth place of Kobo Daishi, there are many students studying to be monks. At the morning service there were about 15 monks chanting. Afterwards you got to go under the temple where there is a pitch black passageway and you put your left hand on the wall and felt your way along. Then you came to a dimly lit alcove with a statue, then back into the darkness until the exit. In a strange way I wondered if this is what death was like.

At breakfast I asked the 79 year old ohenro his name using good old Google Translator. When all else fails get out Google translator. He wrote down his name as Kazushi in English. So from now on I will call him Kazushi. As I left breakfast, I gave the serving lady a pin as I said “goshesosamadishda”. I could see Kazushi sign he had one too.

Today was a wet and cold day. It was like a cold front set in again. So I decided to take it easy and take trains again. I had to dress in all my layers and the wind was still cold. Can’t complain as I just had a nice bunch of walking days.

At Temple 77, there is a place that sells statues. I showed them the small jizo statue I liked ( that I would like to bring back for the backyard garden). When the lady got the man, I think he said 10 million yen, which is either 1000 or 10,000 dollars. Not quite sure, so declined. The lady showed me a smaller one for 100,000 yen, but I said too heavy to carry.

I then caught the train to the next temple. As I was walking back to the station, I ran into Kazushi, and he offered a high five and a big smile. I told him I left my daypack in a locker in the station and was heading back to pick it up and take train to next temple.

As I got off the train to the last temple who did I run into but the Japanese ohenro who loves to chat but my Japanese not good. We walked to Temple 79 together. When we got to the temple and were washing our hands, she wanted something from her pack. First I thought tissue to dry hands, and she said no. Finally she pointed to unzip her day pack, which I didn’t want to do. So I took a leap of faith and when I unzipped it there was her stamp book. I pulled out the bag and she gave out a sign of glee. It was what she wanted and she didn’t want to take off her rain poncho to get the pack off since it was still raining. I found out later her name is Udasheba.

Here is her picture:

After getting our stamp book signed at the temple office, she wanted to go get something to eat, however, I said I had to catch the train to pick up my daypack and go to hotel. Since I was early for check-in I found a nice bakery with a sit in to eat so decided to stay there for an hour before check in. It was a cold day, so enjoyed having a warm place to sit.

What would be a pilgrimage with out some unexpected adventure. Little did I know I was in for a change in plans. As I was about to leave to check in my hotel, who appears but Udasheba. She chatted for a bit and she offered to share her banana. I tried to figure where she was staying and showed her my hotel in the Route Guide book. Before I knew it she said let’s go. As I followed there was a shuttle bus and she gestured for me to get in. I showed my hotel to make sure he was going to my hotel and everyone said yes.

Then I was asked if I could speak English to a woman to tell here to take the shuttle. When I spoke to her she was from Montreal and was supposed to stay at Temple 81. We figured it was the hotel in the mountain next to Temple 81. However, I wasn’t staying at that hotel and I would be dropped off at my hotel in the city. Well before I knew it we were in the mountain on the way to Temple 81. I knew something wasn’t right but would ask the shuttle to just take me back to the station.

The shuttle stopped at Temple 81 and was told we get our book stamped. So I left my day pack on the shuttle bus. One guy on the bus could speak some English so explained I needed to go back to the station. However, when we came out of the temple the shuttle bus with my daypack was gone. Panic struck as where was my daypack. I found out later the plan was to walk from Temple 81 to the hotel. When we got there, my bag was waiting in the lobby. After some discussion, it was decided I could stay there after the hotel clerk called the other hotel to cancel. At the end it was a bonus, because I would now be able to stay two nights (as I was booked to stay there tomorrow night anyway). Instead I will do Temple 82 and back tomorrow night and then down to Temple 80 the next day. This way no big climb. Kind of like a rest day. Sounds confusing, I know, but actually things worked out for the best at the end. I figure the moral of the story is to not to panic and things have a way of working their way out.

Since it was raining, I didn’t take many pictures. There was an interesting picture with a wonderful thought of the day.

There was a nice display of ohenro statues at temple 77.

The ohenro from Montreal is Marie Claude. Here is a picture with Udasheba.

All I can say, what a day………and the Sakura is still beautiful even though it was raining.

2019-04-09: Day 26 – Temples 71 to 76

After a nice night rest and soak in the onsen for my sore calf muscles, I caught the free bus shuttle from the Kanpo hotel to the train station. I had breakfast with Diane (chinese American) from Washington, USA and had a good chat. She started the pilgrimage last year, so this year is is continuing from where she left off. She just retired last year and we talked about the transition to retirement.

The theme today is stairs. Like the song goes…….” How many stairs is there to get to Temple 71.”

When I got off the train and finding my bearings to where I could pick up the markers, who should appear but my 79 year old ohenro friend. He showed me where he put the Canadian pin on his Wasaga. I asked how the Japanese woman was who fell coming down from Temple 66 and he seemed to indicate ok.

He stopped to say prayers at a shrine, so I continued on. Not far along who should I run into but the Japanese woman that fell. She gave me a high five and smiled. I asked if she was ok from the fall and she said ok.

As I started my stair climb to Temple 71, I ran into two woman from Montreal, who said they were only doing bits and pieces of the pilgrimage.

I like Temple 71 because it is build around a cave with nice statues. I was able to sit in quiet and reflect.

As I started to head down the first long staircase….see for yourself…..

I decided to count the stairs. There were 108 in the long staircase and a total of 442 to get to the temple. So there is your answer.

As I continued on to Temple 73 and then 72 (I always get these ones order mixed up), I ran into the Japanese woman and 79 year old at Temple 73. Time for more high fives. Just before leaving temple 73 the 79 year old Japanese gave me osettai to hang on my day pack for good luck. Here is a picture of it.

Here are some pictures with the beautiful sakura still in full bloom.

And some of my statues of the day.

When I got to Temple 75 – Kobo Daishi birthplace, where I was staying, I brought a pin. When I asked what it represents I was told Kobo Daishi.

After checking in, I did laundry and at dinner who did I meet but my 79 year old friend. I gave him the pin I brought as osettai. One day I will find out his name.

Today I got to walk through a beautiful bamboo forest. Truly amazing.

Tomorrow calls for rain, so we will see how it goes. Today was a day of running into ohenro friends, even though I can’t speak the language, and climbing stairs.

2019-04-08: Day 25 – Temples 66, 67, 68, 69 & 70

Last night I enjoyed staying at minshuku Okada. My Taiwainese/Japanese ohenro friend Noba was there, so I could get him to ask some questions in Japanese. Mr Okada is 90 years old. He doesn’t look a day over 60. He enjoys explaining after dinner how to navigate the trail.

The room is filled with postcards from around the world he received. He showed everyone the plaque I send him after my first ohenro. He also found my nameslips I left. He has a scrapbook of all the nameslips people leave. He is living life to the fullest and enjoys helping ohenros. It is his hobby and passion.

As well at dinner I was told there was one ohenro who was 79 and didn’t look 60. They said he did the ohenro 14 times. I was amazed and wondered how he was going to do the climb to Temple 66 is is the highest climb.

Breakfast was at 6 am, so we could get an early start on the climb up to Temple 66. I was packed and off at 6:30 am since I wanted to do up to Temple 70.

I headed out well before everyone else, and as I rested to catch my breath during the hard climb, who should appear, the 79 year old ohenro, just a trooping his way up and past me. When we got to Temple 66, I gave him a high five and asked if I could take his picture.

As you can see he doesn’t look 79. The lesson I learned from the two of them is keeping active after retirement and doing the things you love to do and makes you happy will mean all the world a difference. A simple lesson I know but one that I found reflected so well in these two.

On the way to Temple 66, they have new signs which I liked especially the English part “you can do it”.

It rained last night, however stopped when I left. It was beautiful to view the sun rays thru the trees as the mist was clearing.

As well, the water droplets from the trees would drip on your head. Reminded me of being in India and having hot oil dripped on your forehead at Dr Rao after the massage treatment. The cold water droplets felt good on my head. Maybe a new form of enlighment.

On the way up the trail there was a sign no NO 2, which I thought at first was no snakes by the picture, but laughed when I realized no NO 2 toilet use on the trail please is probably what it meant.

At the top was a nice congratulations sign.

It took me about 2 hours to do the climb, but enjoyed it. He are some other pictures from Temple 66.

I like the one of all the Buddhas.

When I got to Temple 67, there were hundreds of people, many dressed in black. I asked at the stamp office and they said it was a celebration of Buddha birthday (I think). He said there was free udoon, but I wanted to get to Temple 70, so thanked him and said I didn’t have enough time.

At Temple 68/69 (which are together) the gift shop had an outfit for ohenro cyclist, which I thought was interesting.

There was a hugh tree in the middle of Temple 68/69.

Today was a crueling 31 km, which I realize is too much. No blisters, but my calves and heal muscles are very sore. Tommorow I will take a train part way to reduce walking. The Hotel has a nice onsen and said they have a free shuttle bus at 9 am to the train station.

A very good day walking and very inspiring how a 79 and 90 year old enjoy their retirement.

2019-04-07: Day 24 – Temple 65 and on my way to Temple 66

Today’s theme is osettai and peaceful meditation. My muscles were a bit sore this morning, so I walked a little slower and tried to take it easy on them. I felt better as the cold is getting better.

I enjoyed spending some time just sitting and enjoying the beautiful sakura amongst the Temple 65 buildings and statues. Here are some pictures of the beautiful sakura, which is in full bloom and a statue I liked. Just as I was leaving there was this bus group that arrived and they all marched in a single line led by a monk dressed in full pilgrim attire.

It was a nice walk along a shaded country road on my way to Temple 66, listening to the birds singing and the sounds of the morning. There was a beautiful view of the city below.

Before walking on the busy highway 192, I stopped into Bangai 14. These are related temples and shrines associated with the pilgrimage. When I got my book stamped the monk asked where I was from and gave me some crackers as osettai. There is a small jizo statue I really liked at the Bangai and nice statue of Fudo Myoo.

As I continue my walk up busy highway 192 with the trucks rolling by, there was a driveway where a lady was trying to pull out on the road. I stopped and waved her to go. Instead she waved me on. A man came out of the house with a banana and drink and gave it to me as osettai. I thanked him and before I knew it they disappeared down the road. Here is a picture of my osettai received today.

Along highway 192, there is a nice rest stop. Since it was a warm day, I stopped to cool off my feet and enjoyed my osettai. I am not sure what the drink was but it tasted ok and gave me energy. As I rested, I watched this farmer as he was using a tiller to get the field ready for spring planting.

Since I knew I would be too early to check in the minshuku (like a bed & breakfast), I was going to stop for a late lunch at this nice udoon restaurant that I was introduced to by an American ohenro, I met the first time walking. I was looking forward to tempura udoon for lunch.

I was a little saddened when I got there and it was closed along with other businesses around it. The water wheel was stopped and was in bad condition. I felt bad for the business of Shikoku, since this is not the first time I saw some shops closed.

Since I had two hours to kill before checking in, I didn’t want to sit by the busy highway 192. So I walked up this small mountain road with a small stream running. I found a path and walked along the stream and found a spot to sit and meditate on a rock in the small stream.

It was nice listening to the gentle flowing water and the frogs croaking. It was nice and cool, since the temperature when I walked through the tunnel said it was 21 degrees celcuis when I exited. I think the temperature sign is so drivers know if the roads are freezing in the winter. I saw a sign about adding chains to tires. It was a warm day when walking along highway 192. It was nice to relax, meditate and write my blog by the stream.

On my way to the minshuku there were these stuff birds sitting outside a building and some more fish kites.

It was another beautiful day for walking. Tomorrow is the big climb to Temple 66. Now I must get ready for my turn to have a bath (ofuro) and dinner at 6 pm. I have a nice room on the first floor with this stream outside my window with the sound of running water making it very soothing

2019-04-06: Day 23 – Temples 60 & 61

After taking more medicine for my cold and sinuses, it helped me to sleep well last night for an early rise for the big climb.

It was a beautiful day for walking and climbing. However, I didn’t take many pictures. At the bottom of Temple 60, before the big climb is a nice rest area. They put in new washrooms and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. A nice Japanese man, who had driven to the rest stop, gave me some nice dark chocolates as osettai. He then explained about breathing exercises I could do (I think) and I practiced the moves with him. He seemed to appreciate that I was following along, even though I didn’t understand what he was saying in Japanese.

Here are a couple pictures of the rest stop with the cherry blossoms in full bloom.

I then started the grueling climb up the final 2.2 km. It seemed to be the longest 2.2 km I have had to walk. At one point I ran into this older lady and man. She was struggling to climb the big steps. When I passed them I said “gambadette” which is do your best in Japanese. When I reached Temple 60, there was a mountain hiking group from a US tour company, which I chatted with.

Here are a couple photos of Temple 60.

They had a nice garden area with a fish pond.

Just as I was about to leave, the older Japanese couple arrived. I bowed to them and gave them each one of my ohenro badges as osettai. I congratulated them on making it.

The hike down to Temple 61 was longer than I expected.

When I arrived the stamp office building has been torn down and a temporary building in it’s place. It is a big modern building with a large Buddha inside. I like to just go in and sit but the stairway was blocked. Just as I decided to leave, I noticed people going up steps on the other side. So I followed and it was open after all. So I got to sit inside and admire the beauty of the Buddha and relax my sore muscles and feet.

Here are a couple pictures of the cherry blossoms.

They have now constructed a temple 62 office in the parking lot of Temple 61. This is where you are supposed to get your book stamped I guess now. Yesterday I stopped in at Temple 62 and paid 600 yen instead of the normal 300 yen.

The new Route Guide book shows the temple 62 office in temple 61 parking lot. I guess this is where you are supposed to get the stamp now, but it was too late for me.

On the way to Temple 61, while walking on the hot pavement, I thought there was a stick on the road. However, when I got closer, the hitting of my walking stick made the stick become alive and it was a big brown snake that was sunning itself on the warm pavement. It quickly slid into the grass after I was stardled. I was glad he decided to leave before I got too close. It is the first snake I have seen this time and I hope it is the last. I guess it is good to pound ones walking stick, so snakes can make an exit.

After taking the train I checked into the hotel. At the station I met a guy from Taiwan, who could speak English. He help me when we had to change trains. He said he was Japanese, but now living in Taiwan. He could speak English, Japanese and Chinese. I was surprised when I saw him using the English route guide.

A very good day for walking. I will head off to the onsen nearby to soak my tired muscles and then to bed early as I am exhausted.

2019-04-05: Day 22 – Temples 57, 58, 59, 64, 63 & 62

The temple list might seem a bit out of order, but this is the order I did them in. After temple 59, I took the train to temple 64 and worked backwards. Tomorrow I will do the big climb to Temple 60 (which the Route Guide says takes at least 3 hours) and the final climb is a henro-korogashi, which means a hard climb up to 750 meters. Then back down the mountain to Temple 61.

Today’s theme is still cherry blossoms. There are so many of them and they are so beautiful.

This one had different shades of pink.

Along the way there were some fish kites flying on an elaborate flag pole.

At Temple 57, I took a photo of the Buddha footprints and some of the beautiful Japanese trees.

At Temple 58, there were no cherry blossoms, but a beautiful view of the city. Here are some couple of statues I took.

At Temple 59 you get to shake Kobo Daishi hand for good luck, which I did a couple of times.

I then took the train to temple 64 and worked back to Temple 62. While waiting at the train station, I met this Japanese woman that I saw yesterday and at Temple 59. I gave her a Canadian pin and ohenro badge. She really likes to talk to everyone and to me in Japanese. I tried to tell her ” my Japanese is not to good” and she chats away at me anyway. We exchanged nameslips. Her nameslips was red. I asked if this was her fifth time. She said ten times ( I think) , however, when she showed me her stamp book, it was almost completely with red ink. You see they only do the black script once and then get the red stamps each time you do the pilgrimage in the same book. It looked like more than ten, but probably got lost in my translation.

While on the train she chatted to the person next to her and pointed to me that there was snow on Mount Ishizuchi, that Bob and I climbed last time, but I don’t plan to do this time.

As I was walking from Temple 63 to 62, I ran into her, we smiled/chatted and she have me a high five.

At Temple 63 there are elephants at the entrance, which I haven’t seen at any other temple.

As well, there is the stone with the hole in it. The legend goes if you can walk from the main hall with your eyes closed saying your wish and get your Kobo Daishi walking stick thru the hole your wish will come true.

I tried it last time, but didn’t have time this time.

After I checked in to the hotel with an onsen, I went to the onsen and soaked my hot tired feet in the ice cold pool for about 20 minutes. It was like an ice pack on my feet and calves.

Today was mainly walking on pavement, sometimes smooth, but sometimes rough. On the ohenro Facebook page, there is always lots of discussion on what kind of shoe is best. I have found the Altra runners with maximum cushioning works best for me. I learned about the Altra trail running shoes from an American walker when I did the pilgrimage with Dara. Even though they are maximum cushioning, I could still feel the small stones from the rough pavement. Hence, it was nice to cool the feet down in the cold bath at the onsen.

A couple more cherry blossom pictures before I sign off, go for dinner at 6 pm and early to bed, as it will be a hard day tomorrow and breakfast is at 6:30 am.

2019-04-04: Day 21 – Temples 52 to 56

Today was a sunny day. It started off cool in the morning and warmed up by mid-day. Around between 3 and 4 pm it starts to cool down.

I didn’t take many pictures today. There were lots of sakura in full bloom, but thought I have already posted a few sakura pictures.

At the end of my day, as I headed for the hotel to check-in, there was a park full of sakura with some pansies in front. So this turned out as my flower picture of the day.

Here are some of the temple photos:

Temple 52

Temple 53

Temple 54

Temple 55

Temple 56

At Temple 56 there was a small cherry blossom sapling, which will probably be a beautiful sakura tree in the temple in the future.

Since there was lots of sun, my nose and face got a little sunburned today. I forgot to bring sunscreen with me. Tomorrow I will wear my floppy hat to try and keep the sun off of my face.

I didn’t see any bus pilgrims today. There were lots of driving pilgrims.

Tomorrow will be another full day of temples. I still have this head and chest cold from when it was super cold a few days back. I would be walking and all of a sudden my nose would be dripping, as I race to get a tissue before someone see my runny nose. As well, I still have a bit of a sore throat and chest cough. I am hoping the warmer weather and taking it easier, will help shake this cold.

2019-04-03: Day 20 – Temples 46 to 51.

The minshuko I stayed at last night was nice. I was happy to be able to have a warm bath to warm up. When I got up for breakfast at 6:30 am I figured I was the only one that stayed there last night.

I checked the forecast and it said -2 degrees. I looked out the window and could see frost on the car windows. I said to the owner, it is very cold and showed him the forecast, maybe only up to +4 today. However, he showed me what it would be in Matsuyama, where I would do most of my walking today and by mid day it should be +12. I gave a sigh of relief.

The theme today is temples and sakura. I did a total of 6 temples and every one of them had sakura in full bloom.

Of course I had to find a few tulips and daffodils in bloom along the way.

So, here are the photos for today with the Sakura theme in mind.

Temple 46 – oooops, no sakura, but colorful peace crane chains.

Temple 47

Temple 48

This is a Japanese ohenro I saw at each of the temples today.

Temple 49

A shrine along the way.

Temple 50

Temple 51

At Temple 51 I ran into the Dutch couple I met the day before and thanked them for turning up the temperature. They laughed and we’re glad to be staying in a hotel tonight.

I then walked to the Dogo onsen and checked with the tourist office on which tram I could take to the JR Matsuyama station, which is where the Henro House I am staying at is nearby. It was so easy, one tram, number 5, all the way to the end and the fare is a flat fee of 160 yen.

When I arrived at the Matsuyama train station there was a Daiso store on the 2nd floor (100 yen shop or dollar store) which I had to check out. I needed to buy some incense. I also found an incense plastic case (which I find handy and left at home), some white driving gloves to keep my hands warm and snacks. I had to resist on buying too much as I would have to carry the extra weigh. I am sure I will find one after I finish my pilgrimage and do the shopping part of my trip in Osaka.

The day started with me putting on every layer I brought with me. At the end of the day, all I needed was my long sleeve t-shirt and ohenro white cotton jacket. What a difference a day makes.

Tomorrow, the plan is to walk about 20 km and cover 5 temples. Hopefully this warmer weather will hold up.

2019-04-02: Day 19 – Temple 44 & 45

Last night I stayed at a Henro House Guest House which was different. The first thing I did when I arrived was to use my Google Translator to figure out how to turn on the Air con as it was freezing in the dorm room.

I shared the room which that three double bunk beds with a guy from Australia and a Japanese student from Tokyo. I was surprised when the Japanese student said he was only 16. He was so tall he had to duck when going through the door. He said he was still on school break and traveling to see Hiroshima, Osaka and Shikoku. His English was very good and he told me he is learning it in school. Between me an my maritime accent and the Aussie with his accent, it was a miracle he understood a word. The good thing is we all got a lower bunk bed. There was a kitchen, toilet room, bathroom with shower and a common room with counters you could work at. The owner was very nice and explained things well in English.

There was a hot springs nearby, so I purchased a discount ticket from the Guest House owner. It was nice to warm up in the hot pools. There is one that is not too hot, and kind of like sonic bubbles. Your whole body gets covered with these tiny bubbles. It reminded me of when Dad was in the Camp Hill nursing home, and when they lowered him into the bath, they would turn on these sonic waves, which I put my hand in to feel and it felt the same. It helps to clean the body without having to scrub oneself.

Today turned out to be another cold day for walking. The wind was brutally cold again. When I ran into a Dutch couple near Temple 44, they said they stayed in a Henro House in the mountain last night and it snowed.

Today was flower day. While walking trying to get my mind off the cold, I came across some different flowers I never saw before. The first one was a beautiful red flower and seemed to just pop from the ground.The second ones I saw were at a Rest Stop area shop.I have been looking for post cards to mail to my friends back home but couldn’t find them anywhere. Finally at the Rest Stop area shop they had some of cherry blossoms. I was able to buy some Tokyo Olympic stamps, so just needed to find post cards to put them on. Tonight will be post card writing night.In Matsuyama I came across an interesting statue this morning which I liked.Here are some pictures I took at Temple 44. I found statues of the seven lucky dieties, on a boat in a pond at the temple, which I liked.Temple 45 was a steep climb. It is next to a mountain face with cave holes in the side of the mountain.On the walk back through the town, on the way to my minshuko, there were numerous displays of Girls Day dolls in front of homes which were beautiful.One last photo. As I was walking I came across this statue, which was my favorite statue of the day. I thought the expression on his face was unique and priceless.I was glad he had a nice warm hat on and two bibs, as he sure needed it today.

Hard to believe I have passed the half way point of the 88 Temples again. Tomorrow I will visit 6 temples as I work my way back to Matsuyama.

2019-04-01: Day 18 – Temples 41, 42 & 43

After another good night sleep and using my Japanese gargle stuff for my throat, I felt ready to hit the road.

Last night the hotel staff explained where there was a public bath (called sento in Japanese) nearby. So I went for a nice warm bath and got a bento box at the 711 convience store for dinner.

It was nice to sleep in a comfortable western style bed and that it was a non-smoking room.

When I headed out this morning the weather said rain clearing around 9 am. Well, all I can say, is not only was there a cold wind, there was also a cold rain. The rain pants I brought got put to good use. The problem is the sun would peak out for a few minutes, then all of a sudden you could feel the temperature drop and it was like this vortex hit with rain and very cold wind. I kept checking the weather forecast on my smartphone and the sun that was supposed to come at 10, kept changing, so never really showed up until late afternoon. On with the layers, and when it warmed ever so slightly, off came some layers. This was how it was all day. In amongst the sunny breaks I tried to take some photos.

There was a bed of nice daffodils, I passed, just as the sun was shining. So I had to stop and take a picture and count my blessings.

It will be awhile before I see daffodils in Ottawa.

Here are some pictures I took of Temple 41.

Here are some pictures of Temple 42.

I liked the one with the dog by the statue and it reminded me of Hanako and Chibi.

Finally, here is a picture of Temple 43 of a cherry blossom tree. On the way to Temple 43, the trails were closed, due to a major wash out. Even when walking on the highway you could see where the road had washed away in many places to one lane, and they were trying to repair it. I did try one trail but it was super tretrous. There were many fallen trees and trail bridges washed out. Very easy to sprain an ankle.

On the way down the mountain from Temple 43 there was a house with statues of Mickey and Minnie mouse. They must have been fans. It definitely brightened up my day as I had to fight the cold wind all day.

Tomorrow I will take the bus down to do Temple 44 & 45. Temple 45 is a hard climb.