Estimated distance walked this day: 25 kms
Cumulative distance walked: 75 kms
Since we sort of overdosed on adventure the two days previous, we hoped that this day would be less exciting. We woke up early, ate another delicious meal, then ventured out onto the temple grounds. A cold mountain wind was blowing through the trees. We got to observe the temple staff preparing for the morning: cleaning the cases for lit candles, raking the incense dust in the incense holders, putting out fresh towels at the hand-washing area. I heard one fellow muttering while he was waving his hands over the base of a statue, and I was wondering what prayer he was uttering, but it turned out he was just greeting the koi in the pond at the bodhisatva’s feet as he was distributing them their breakfast.
Finally, they were done, and ready to open the stamp office.Pilgrims buy a stamp book, and each temple, for a ¥300 fee, they stamp your book and caligrapher the name of the temple on the page. I had my two books (one is my personal copy, one is a “souvenir” book for friends and family, from which I will cut pages and frame them — they are quite beautiful), and also Ann’s, as she was in the ladies’ room. Unlike the other temples, at this one they questioned me somewhat severely about exactly how many people were getting their books stamped. Well. As it turns out, this temple is so remote and difficult to reach, they don’t stamp “extra” books. So if you were hoping for my temple 12 page for framing — tough darts, I don’t have it for you.
Then, we set down the mountain. Down, down, down. We made it back to where our angelic rescuers got us the coffee. Then we made the decision to not take the mountain trail to the next temple, but to walk along the road alongside the river. A few hours later we made it to the next hamlet, and ate our rice balls and fruit sitting beside the road. After another km or so, we had a decision point of taking the “low road” with higher traffic, and basically flat, or the road that skirted around the Kamiyama Forest Park. We opted for the latter.
The road was very narrow — you’d have a hard time aiming your Avalanche or Suburban down the thing. Sort of like the Old Blewett Pass road for those who know it: poor pavement, incredibly winding, tree litter on the pavement. It was a steady climb up. Then we made it through a short tunnel — wouldn’t you know it, for so little traffic, a car came through the tunnel just while we were in it.
Then it was back down. First through fir and cedar forest, bamboo forest, then farmers’ orchards. Walking, walking. We still seemed to be in quite a rural area. Where was the temple? Making it worse, this non-mountain path, high road route was not entirely shown on our trusty map.
So, we stopped an older gentleman who was walking along the road and asked if we were going the right way. He assured us that not only that we were, the temple was just one km away, and he would be delighted to show us the way. He soon led us off the road, and through twisting village streets, getting the bonus of greeting his friends along the way and telling them how he was helping these two gaijin women. He told us that he was a recent widower, losing his Korean wife in July. Soon, we were at the temple gates. After nine hours of walking, we had made it. Further, our inn was just adjacent to the temple on the pilgrim path. We were happy to have had a day of natural beauty, less dire situations to muddle through, and to have made it safely out of the mountains.