Estimated distance walked this day: 21 kms
Cumulative distance walked: 417 kms
(Before I go into the narrative, a side note: I tried mapping out this route, just to see if I could do it – and also to verify that my estimates of our total walking distances are not that far off. If you’re interested in seeing it, go to: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=6282912)
Our innkeeper, again conscious he was serving Westerners, gave us ham and a sausage instead of fish with breakfast. Then, we left the inn and went to Poplar, a convi, and got ourselves sack lunches. The rain of the previous two days had dissipated, and the sky was a mix of clouds and sun.
This area is famous for its growing of bonsai trees, and along the way out of the valley floor, we passed by many bonzai nurseries. This was our last real mountain temple hike, and I was already feeling sentimental. The route started off like so many other mountain temple hikes: first a road leading from the valley floor, then a steeper road, then a trail, then a series of steps up.
When we first started along the trail, there was the usual sign warning us about pit vipers. Here, a group from the local ornithological club gave us a specific sort of bird seed to leave along the trail to encourage some particular type of bird. We climbed the endless steps up the trail. Just before the top, there was a henro hut with a view. We didn’t stop for long, but continued until we were at the road.
We were then at ridge top of the Goshikidai Plateau, which juts into the Inland Sea between Sakaide. Goshiki means five colors, and each peak that makes up the plateau is assigned a different color: Konomine (Crimson Peak), Kinomine (Yellow Peak), Kuromine (Black Peak), Aomine (Blue Peak), and Shiramine (White Peak). Just take that “Shiramine” and add the suffix “-ji” for temple, and that’s where we were headed: Shiromineiji, Temple 81. We saw both recreational cyclists, and recreational motorists in a fancy German sports cars, enjoying the road that winds among these mountains.
The road that connected the climb up with the next trailhead mostly want along what we finally sussed out to be a military base. After we left the road, the trail was a bit muddy from the previous days’ rains. It was flattish-downhill, and then we were there.
Emperor Sūtoku, the one who was assassinated and then floated in the pond for three weeks back at Temple 79 is buried here. I personally am happier to think of him in the ground than in the water. Because of the temple’s association with an emperor, it also had a large Shinto shrine adjacent. Scenes from the grounds:
The temple’s website states, with regard to the pilgrimage:
It is a training journey to reconsider themselves that are kept alive in nature. In addition, regardless of denomination, it is also a place of faith wishes of the people to be the worship is fulfilled. Wave of violent Pacific Ocean, sacred mountains, inland sea, the steep Shikoku, mild Seto, rural and laid back, full of change, leaving the earthly affairs, and contact with the nature, to feel the joy of living, body and soul of reincarnation ‘s a pilgrim journey.
While the machine translation is a little awkward, it’s also sort of poetic. I like it. It is the perfect sum of our journey.
We ate a snack before we left the temple, then headed back up the muddy track. This time instead of rejoining the road, we continued on a wooded trail, skirting between two peaks. I think this is where we scattered the seeds from the bird watching group. When we came out on to the road again, there was a fairly well-built henro hut, a small shrine, and public rest rooms. We ate lunch here.
It wasn’t far from there to Negoroji, Temple 82. This temple started off with the large image of a demonic cow (I kid you not). Supposedly, in the 16th century, this bovine demon appeared frequently on this plateau and scared the local people. A brave samurai named Kurando Yamada, an archery expert, shot it, cut off its head, and brought the horns to the temple. The people believed that it had the power to purge an evil force. Later, they built a statue of the demon near the fountain in the temple compound, which you can see here:
The temple had both steps up and down to connect its buildings around the mountainside. It was quite beautiful to explore.
After we left Temple 82, we backtracked our way to the intersection of roads, shrine, and henro hut, and had another break. We continued back along the trail that we came, and I was pleased that I was able to find the intersection with the trail that would take us directly back to our original intersection with the road at the top of the Plateau.
This was a pleasant, relatively flat course through the woods. We found our intersection with the road, and started heading down the steep trail. A teenaged couple were at the henro hut, romantically looking at the view, no doubt.
It was now a reverse course down all those steps we had climbed in the morning, and then down the road, until we were at the valley floor once again. At this point, after a good long day of hiking, it was nearly 5:00 PM. We both had good long soaks in the tub at the inn, and then ate the supper our host made for us with gusto.