Shikoku 88 Temple Foot Pilgrimage, Yakuōji – Temple 23 – Temple Of The King Of Healing
We had breakfast at 6:30 in the morning at our small guesthouse across from Temple 22, and started walking by 7:15.
The food was simple and good.
Two slices of a Japanese egg omelet, Natto (fermented soy beans that are eaten with soy and mustard), pickles, rice, miso soup, a fresh sardine and a cabbage salad.
The Mama-san gave each of us a banana to take on the road with us, which was fortunate, since beside some ice cream and unsweetened green tea, we found no places to eat and no convenient shops along the path.
We started walking down the road from the guesthouse when a young man passed us, driving his car.
I bowed and said hello.
Moments later, he turned his car around and drove towards us.
He told us that we were walking in the wrong direction and that we needed to turn back and cross the bridge across from the temple gate, in order to follow the Henro path.
I was so touched that he took the time to turn around and drive back, just to save us the effort of walking in the wrong direction.
The day was sunny and warm, and we saw a few other Henros walking along the trail as well.
In a rest area for Henros, we met a Japanese couple and we chatted.
They said that they planned to follow the main road, (route 55) because it is a shorter way to get to Yakuōji, temple 23.
I wanted to take the coastal route (route 25), which included following route 25 along with walking on a foot path through the forest.
The coastal route is more scenic but also much longer.
They said that it would add at least five more kilometers to our day.
It turned out to be seven extra kilometers but it was very scenic and much nicer than walking by the main road, which was a busy road full of cars.
They complimented us on walking so fast and for being so strong.
But we felt neither.
My feet were already throbbing after the first seven kilometers of the day and we had to walk another 21 km from there.
I was not sure if we should make our route longer with my feet feeling this way, and Jules was also slower than usual.
But the scenic route chose us, and we were very grateful it did.
We simply followed the red arrows for walking Henros, and we ended up on the coastal route.
Jules writes: “I struggled a bit with the weight of my backpack this morning, even though it was exactly the same as the day before.
It took me at least the first five kilometers to start to feel more comfortable, although my feet did not begin to bother me until much later in the day.”
In that rest area, I left the rain poncho that I got as a gift, in the box that other pilgrims leave notes to each other.
I hope that someone walking in the rain will make use of it.
In the next rest area that we passed, I saw that someone else left a set of rain pants and rain jacket for other pilgrims to use on a rainy day.
About an hour after we left the rest area, a thought came to my mind:
“Oh my God, I left my backpack in the rest area!”
Moments later I realized that my heavy backpack was on my back the whole time…
I guess I am getting so used to carrying it on my back, that I am no longer bothered by it.
But my feet were still throbbing most of the day.
It was a hard day of walking for me.
I felt grateful and happy that the scenery was so breathtaking, instead of walking along the busy and noisy highway.
Walking on the coastal road gave us some great vistas of the Pacific Ocean, several rocky beaches, and beautiful climbs and descents into quiet forests.
It has gotten hotter since we started walking south and west.
We passed through small fishing villages in which every house had some fishing nets and fishing buoys in their garden.
The local post office shop also sold eggs, snacks and ice cream and was so crowded, that I could hardly turn between the fully stocked and messy shop.
The post lady was hunched over but with a youthful smile.
In many spots along the path we saw large Henro dolls, the size of marionettes, made of bamboo and painted, to help us find a hidden entrance to a forest path.
We were able to find plenty of unsweetened green tea, but there were no places to eat lunch.
It is not yet hot enough to swim or to surf and some of the seasonal restaurants we passed were closed.
Jules said that he saw a sign for one place that said that their season started at the end of May.
By the time we got to Hiwasa town, at about 2:30pm, I was almost waddling like an injured duck.
We bought some delicious sushi and fruit in a supermarket and made our way to the temple.
We ate our late lunch and got our Pilgrim’s book stamped.
There were many stone stairs to climb to the Hondo and Daishido (main hall and Daishi hall).
We chanted the heart sutra, deposited our name slips in the boxes, lit some incense and said our prayers.
The temple faces the ocean and offers great views of the whole city bellow.
We chose to stay the night in Yakuōji Shukubo, the temple lodging.
It did not look like much from the entrance, but our room is very clean, spacious and smells great.
The biggest benefit of our accommodation is the hot springs Onsen.
It is attached to the Shukubo but does not belong to it.
Guests of the Shukubo get passes to enter.
The Onsen is modern with black granite stone on the walls and countertops, many stalls to wash your body before you enter the hot bath and everything sparkling clean and very wonderful.
Jules writes: “For me, the highlight of this Onsen were the jets of water in the main soaking bath.
They felt so-o-o good on my tired shoulders and feet!”
It even has a lovely place to eat a small meal or drink.
This temple is known as a healing temple.
Many of the people I saw at the temple came asking for cures for their ailments.
I met two women in the Onsen as I soaked naked, blissed and feeling grateful.
One woman told me that she walked the whole pilgrimage years ago, but not all in one go.
She did a section at a time, walking for ten days each time.
The other woman was old and toothless.
She was holding my body for support, which is NOT very common for Japanese people, who tend to be very proper and reserved.
I did not mind.
I no longer feel guarded about “my space” or “my body.”
Nothing is mine.
My body is nothing but spirit and I am NOT my body…. I am free.
If she needs to hold it, it is more than fine with me.
I alternated soaking “my” tired feet in the hot springs and in the icy cold bath.
I stayed in the Onsen until it was time for dinner.
At dinner, we met the couple who had taken the shorter route, that we had first met in the rest area earlier in the day.
The woman told me that I had not tied my Yukata correctly.
I needed to fold the left side of the kimono OVER the right side.
The right side is always tucked inside.
Dinner was a large Bento box with delicious but very little food.
Later in our room, we ate more grapes, cherries and nuts that we had bought at the supermarket.
This is our last temple in Tokushima prefecture.
The “Awakening” stage of our journey towards Enlightenment is over.
In the next few days we will be walking for many hours every day, to make it to the next temple in Cape Muroto, which is 75 kilometers away.
Today was a hard day for me…
I wish I had not said yesterday that this pilgrimage is easier than I thought….
I hope that my feet will recover enough for tomorrow, because we have another long day of walking planned.
If we take too many rest days, we will not be able to complete the pilgrimage in two months….
Wishing you a good day/night and some words from Ryokan, a Zen monk:
“Talk is ALWAYS easy,
Practice is ALWAYS hard.
It’s no wonder people try to make up for
their lack of hard practice,
With easy talk.
But the harder they try to live easy lives,
The worse things get.
The more they talk,
The more their lives go wrong
And get harder.
It’s like pouring oil, to put out a fire.
Just foolishness and nothing else.”
(Taigu Ryokan, a Japanese Soto Zen monk and poet)
Day 11 (May 19th 2016)
Our location on the earth:
23. Yakuōji (薬王寺) –Temple of the Medicine King
Overnight at the temple Shukubo with an attached modern Onsen
Active walking 6:45 hours
Active day 9 hours