Temples 20 and 21

Estimated distance walked this day:  13 kms

Cumulative distance walked: 115 kms

For our last morning in Tokushima, we got up early, with the intention of catching an early bus. Unfortunately, we mis-remembered the schedule, and just missed it. I used the extra hour blogging here, with my last few hours of WiFi. Then we did our final spoke out of the city, taking an inter-urban bus out into the countryside. Temples 20 and 21 are on adjacent mountain tops. The bus took us to the base of the mountain for Temple 20, Kakurinji.

While it was merely overcast in the valley, as we started to climb, it started to snow. It wasn’t very cold. The snowflakes were swirling flurries, melting before they got closer to the ground. It’s hard to convey the beauty of these flurries, and our photos didn’t necessarily capture them either, as we climbed higher and higher in the cedar and pine forests. Finally, we reached Kakurinji, the sky whirling with snow. This beautiful temple is one of the few which has never been harmed by fire, so all the architecture and images are 1200 years old. “Green backpack guy”, who we had run into the day before, advised us on Japanese custom, and we exchanged some treats.

Then it was time to descend. At the bottom, we ate our lunch at a henro rest hut. They have established a network of rest huts along the henro trail, some of which are extensive enough for more impoverished or adventurous pilgrims to sleep in, and spend the night. This particular hut was very open air, so was unsuitable for overnighting, and had a motley collection of chairs for seating. Still, it was pleasant enough for a picnic.

Then, we moved on to Temple 21, Tairyuji. Ann had considered more than doubling her distance, and walking on the flat to the gondola lift up to this temple. Instead, she bit the bullet, and headed up the next mountain path with me.

As we ascended, we saw an elderly couple, not that much younger than my parents, sitting in a rest hut. They were not pilgrims, but locals, with a wheelbarrow of firewood that they had collected. They were presumably taking a break before maneuvering the cart down the hill. Not too much further than this couple was a team of lumberjacks, busily taking down cedar trees and stacking logs on the tiniest lumber truck imaginable. I hoped that the  elderly couple had gotten their firewood as scraps from the loggers, rather than them sawing them down themselves.

Again, after reaching a certain elevation, it started to snow. The forest again was magical. We made it to Tairyuji, at the top, and looked around. Since this temple is at the top of a gondola line, it had more touristy geegaws for sale. But I also really felt the beauty of the temple, too.

When we were in the nokyu office getting our book stamped, I mentioned to the monk that we had reservations at the inn at the foot of the mountain; could he call them and let them know we were coming? It was already about 3:30, and I was a little nervous about the timing of our descent. He had the inn practically on speed dial, and confirmed our reservation for us. It was a steep short walk down — really only took an hour to complete.

When we got to the inn, it was crowded with other pilgrims. A group was staying there with a monk leading them, plus several other pairs and singles like us. We had an excellent dinner, good soak in the tub…a positive end to a great day on the henro trail.

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