Estimated distance walked this day: 14 kms
Cumulative distance walked: 361 kms
The next day had much better weather — while it was still misty in the morning, it steadily cleared up, and confirmed the wisdom of just hanging out the afternoon before in the warmth and dry of our room.
Over in the post, “A Culture of Kindness“, I mentioned the Community Bus — this was a day where we used it. The only people who got on the Community Bus were elderly people and pilgrims, like us. The elderly were dropped off at community centers, hospitals and clinics, an old folks home — and all the pilgrims were dropped at an unmarked spot by the side of the road. We traipsed more or less together through the countryside. We passed by a massive chicken farm — something I was rather interested in. We ate eggs every day, and chicken from time to time, but I had not seen a single chicken in the country, whereas I had seen cows several times, and pigs at least once. The chickens were in massive ventilated sheds, and I could hear them clucking and cheeping, but they were hidden, so I have no idea of their condition of living.
After several kms of walking, all of us pilgrims arrived at the Unpenji Ropeway station at about the same time — just as the aerial lift car had left. So, we had twenty minutes to kick around, look at the souvenir shop, and maybe buy snacks. Taking the ropeway cuts out about 5 kms of walking to Unpenji, Temple 66, which is at the highest elevation of any of the temples, at 927 m. The ropeway is the longest in Japan.
The top of the ropeway doesn’t just lead to the temple, it also leads to a small ski area (closed March 10), and a paragliding launch area; and there’s also a big statue of some god holding a trident, but I never found out exactly who it was.
We got off the car, and it was quite a bit colder. It was too misty to see any view. I put on my jacket and vest.
The trail from the ropeway to the temple is lined with statues. These statues depict all the followers of the Buddha, arhats, who were present at his death. They are also supposed to depict all the kinds of people there are in the world. I thought these were sort of cheesy, but Ann liked them.
The temple had many new elements, and a section was under construction when we were there. I think something like the ropeway really helps these mountain temples, because rather than it being a long hike to reach them, ordinary people come up to the top of the mountain to see the view, and then when they’re there, they also look at the temple. Then they buy good luck charms, through money in the donation bin, and all of a sudden, the temple’s Net Operating Income looks a lot better than when the ropeway wasn’t there. Apparently it’s a big deal locally to ascend to the top of the mountain on New Year’s Eve, and those throngs of people also make donations and buy things. All of these new visitors fuel the ability to build lodging and fix up temples, and spruce up the grounds.
One of the temple’s symbols was an eggplant. You could buy eggplant good luck charms, and they had a large metal eggplant you could stroke for good luck. I have googled things like “sacred eggplant”, and I still can’t figure it out.
After we were done at the temple, I noted that of all the pilgrims who came up the ropeway, we seemed to be the only ones walking down. The rest took off back to the aerial car station. We took a trail along the ridge top, seeing more of the hundreds of arhat statues. Then we managed to take the right trail (yay!) down the mountainside that would lead us to Temple 67, Daikoji. The trail ran through the forest, and there were lots of birds. We also saw tons of lizards. We ate our picnic lunch at a shady bench on the trail.
After exiting the trail, we were now coming through the valley on a road, past some small lakes, up and over the hill…I was starting to get nervous because I knew, from my conversation with the tourist information office, that the last community bus was leaving about a mile and a half from Daikoji at 3:47 PM. It had been about a ten km walk to Daikoji from the mountain top, and it was now three o’clock. We visited the temple, and at the stamp office, I asked for advice on how to find the community bus stop. The monk there made a dot on my map, and we set off. The rest of the story may be found, again, in my previous post, “A Culture of Kindness“.
The Community Bus returned us to central Kannoji. From there, we walked back to our lodging for the night.