Estimated distance walked this day: 15 kms
Cumulative distance walked: 169 kms
These temples were the first of a set leading out from Kochi. We took the train from the central station to Gomen, then headed a couple of miles north to Kokubunji. This temple had, in my opinion, very nice temple grounds — an oasis in the city. We sort of picked up another henro, an older Japanese man, who wanted to walk along with us for a while. He was interested in pointing out various native plants, as Ann is interested in horticulture. We ambled along quiet roads and trails paralleling the Kokubu River, until we got to the vicinity of the Kochi University Medical Hospital. At this point we split off to eat lunch; he continued on his way.
After lunch, we continued until we came to a rest hut. I read various entries from Westerners who had spent the night there and marveled at these hardy folks. One praised the hut for having an electrical outlet as well as porta-potty and vending machine. I complain when there’s no WiFi!
After this hut, the scenery changed: we were walking next to a large recycling center, and then were walking along a busy highway. Then we threaded a short bit through a quiet neighborhood, and made it to Temple 30, Zenrakuji. I understand that due to inter-religious conflict, this temple fell into decline, and its main treasures moved to another temple, and there was for a time two temple 30s. Only sixty years ago did the temple get to be reunited, and was rebuilt.
This temple thus had a very new feel to it; its grounds were mostly concrete. I would say that this was not my most favorite temple, but considering its tumultuous past, I can’t criticize it too harshly.
We were a bit tired at this point, but we pushed on. There was then a higglity-pigglity mix of farmers’ fields, an amusement park, a hospital, and a couple of rivers to cross, all along a busy road.
Once we returned to more urban streets, we started up the hill to Chikurinji. Ann had expressed an interest in also visiting the adjacent Makino Botanical Gardens, but was afraid that our long day of walking would mean that the gardens would be closed before we finished with Chikurinji. Or if we did go to the gardens, by the time we finished, the temple would be closed.
Little did we know. An unadvertised bonus of walking to Chikurinji is that you get into the back of the botanical gardens for free. Further, the official walking henro route then takes you smack-dab through the center of the gardens. By the time we made it to the entrance, at the front (our exit) we realized that we would also have the opportunity to stroll its truly wonderful hothouse besides.
We then exited the gardens, mounted the steps for Temple 31, and went directly to the Nokyo office to get our books stamped. Then we viewed the temple. As befitting a temple next to a botanical garden, it too had lovely flowers and trees. (Since I first drafted this blog entry, I have learned that this temple’s gardens have been designated as a natural monument.)
By the time we were done with this, we plotzed at the city bus stop. I remember the bus ride back, but little else. It had been a long day.