Shikoku 88 Temples Foot Pilgrimage, Shinshōji (Temple 25) and Kongōchōji (Temple 26)
At our Temple 24 lodging, we had an early morning breakfast at 6:30.
It was a good, small and simple breakfast of miso soup, a small bowl of steamed rice, a few slivers of pickles, grated Daikon radish and cooked seaweed.
The woman running the kitchen gave us cards with a painting of the temple deity on them and a written blessing for our journey.
The temple’s guardian deity is Kokûzô Bosatsu.
This Bodhisattva is a wish-granting deity, bestowing worldly blessings on all beings. He holds a lotus jewel, representing joy and virtue.
In his right hand he carries a sharp sword, which represents wisdom and determination.
We made a resolution not to eat any more ice cream or sweets on the pilgrimage.
At home we avoid all sugar, and our only sweets are fresh, dried or cooked fruit.
But on this pilgrimage we had loosened our rule, and we now feel that we have been eating too much sugar.
We believe that the body needs SO LITTLE food and that most of us are eating way too much. We carry pounds and pounds of food storage in our bodies in the form of fat, and we can go on for weeks if not months, just with the fat stored in our bodies.
We bought two large apples in a small shop and a package of long and very tasty cucumbers for snacking along the way.
Our walk through the fishing villages toward Temple 25 was beautiful, and the early morning weather felt divine.
We saw how the local people dry fish on wooden frames with mesh nets.
I walked by a senior citizens activity center and they called me to come in and talk with them.
They seemed so excited to have foreign pilgrims to talk to.
They gave us ice cold green tea and asked us many questions.
They showed us the crafts they do and we all took photos together.
When we left, they told us that ahead of us are some very tall Nanshos, which are temples perched on top of tall mountains, and wished us strength to make the climb.
Their kind faces and childlike enthusiasm, was so heart warming to me and I wanted to kiss each one of them.
Farther on, we passed by a tiny pharmacy.
I decided to check and see if they sell rubbing alcohol for my feet.
I know that in New Zealand, this simple item that is sold in any supermarket or pharmacy in the U.S., is not sold at all.
They only sell small pads soaked with alcohol.
I guess they fear that the youth will inhale or drink the cheap rubbing alcohol as if it were a good Vodka.
On occasions like this, I miss the good old USA where you can get anything you want everywhere….
I could not get rubbing alcohol in Japan either, but the old and very kind man had a good selection of “second skin” band aids and something “similar” to alcohol which he said will work also.
He did all of his calculations of the cost of what I had selected, on an old wooden Abacus.
I LOVE that old Abacus. It is so cool.
I also asked him for a foot cream.
He showed me a big package that was too heavy to add to my backpack.
I asked if he had something smaller.
He disappeared into the back of his shop and came back with a small empty container.
He then used a knife to scoop some cream from the big container into the small empty container and gave it as a gift to me.
As if this were not enough, he also gave me a gift of a few packages of tissues.
What a kind and generous soul!
Temple 25, Shinshōji, is the Temple of the Illuminating Seaport.
It sits on a strategic spot overlooking a small and picturesque fishing port.
Near the temple’s office, we saw a children’s art exhibition with paintings of the temple.
A set of steep steps leads to the top where the Hondo (main hall) is located.
We lit our incense, chanted the Heart Sutra and said our prayers.
We walked towards temple 26 through more small villages.
Along the way we stopped in a small restaurants but nobody was inside.
We washed our cucumbers in their washroom and got ready to sit in the shade and have our snack, when a woman came down the stairs.
It was Yumiko San, the woman we met two nights ago at the lodge that we stayed at on the way to Cape Muroto.
Yumiko San said that she was taking time off since her legs and feet hurt, and her feet were full of blisters.
On top of this, rain is forecast for tomorrow, and she decided to take two days off and rest.
This restaurant that we tried to eat lunch at, was also a guesthouse.
We continued up the coast and entered a thick forest.
We climbed a steep hill to Kongōchōji –the Temple of Vajra Peak, Temple 26.
It is a beautiful temple.
The story tells that demons lived in a camphor tree at this temple and that Kōbō Daishi chased the demons away.
A copper engraving tells the story of Kobo Daishi chasing away the demons at this temple.
Right above the temple on a quiet road, we came upon a forest full of small copper sculptures of all sorts of creatures and demons.
It felt almost magical, since it was not marked on our map nor had any road signs leading to it.
I was at awe….
We chose a quiet road to walk towards our accommodation in Kiragawa.
It meanders slowly through the mountains and turned and twisted through fruit orchards and chestnut trees.
By the time we got to our historic guesthouse in Kiragawa, I had had enough of walking.
Since we cannot read Kanji, we cannot use any of the information available to Japanese people when making a booking.
We go by blind faith that we will find nice places.
This old historic Inn is located in a small Oceanside town, Kiragawa, famous for the high quality coal that has been produced here for centuries.
It is mostly used for speciality cooking and gourmet grilling, not for heating.
Kiragawa is one of many towns across Japan which have preserved and restored a street or two of traditional Japanese homes and shops. They are fun and interesting to visit, because the old style gives a completely different feeling to the visitor than modern architecture.
We got a large suite, which is actually a Japanese traditional old house.
It has a narrow wooden wraparound patio all around the house, and sliding shoji doors which are lined with rice paper.
The interior of the house is lined with tatami rice straw mats, and instead of fixed walls, there are sliding wood frame screens that slide back if you wish to make an open space.
The bedding was a futon with a thick padding underneath and goose feather pillows……. Mmmm….heaven…. A night without gravel pillows!
The bathhouse is a separate structure, and we are the only guests they have for the night.
I showered and scrubbed my body and tired feet and soaked leisurely in the Wooden Ofuru hot bath.
It was a small Ofuru, made for one person sitting down, but it felt just heavenly to sit in the hot waters allowing my muscles to relax.
In all of the lodging and guesthouses that we have stayed in, we have had free use of their small washing machines or dryers, or they had those machines that cost about $2 in two 100 yen coins.
It is always so nice to start a new day with fresh and clean clothing.
We put our laundry in the washing machine and wore the comfy pajamas that they gave us.
We were served dinner on the large wooden table in our room.
There was a dish of locally charred Tuna Tataki served with a lemony soy sauce, a dish of local sashimi with real grated wasabi, a dish of Koyasan Tofu cooked with carrots, a miso soup, steamed rice, a fresh salad, a dish of grated daikon, two pieces of small caramelized sardines and a traditional Japanese cooked egg dish that is made from folding over a thin omelet many times.
It was a good and enjoyable day.
My right foot is swelling a bit from walking too long on a blister that has formed between my toes.
I switched to walking with my bare foot Vibrams, which have no support and feel very much like walking barefoot.
At least in these barefoot shoes, I get no more blisters forming but I can also feel every stone on the road and my heavy backpack puts more impact on my feet.
Here is what the famous Malibu, California surfer Laird Hamilton said:
“I believe the Earth is charged with an electrical frequency that matches your nervous system and immune system.
So the bare feet allow us to absorb that energy and is a critical part of your wellness. Having them trapped in a boot, toes squeezed together, affects your whole system.
To restore dexterity and balance after I’ve been in shoes too long, usually at my home in Malibu, I warm up a couple days a week by standing with one foot on a golf ball.
I roll it around, poke it, put weight into tender spots.
It’s amazing how your system will be stimulated through working your feet.”
Jules writes: “Staying at the traditional house, Kurakukan Sakan, which has been in the owner’s family for generations, feeds the soul as much as the local delicacies we had for dinner feed our bodies.
The couple who are our hosts here have worked hard to renovate these beautiful spaces, as we have done to renovate our house in New Zealand.
Our brothers and sisters are everywhere!
Tomorrow might possibly begin as many as three days of rain.
Next month begins the rainy season here.
Just walk, walk, walk…”
Day 16 (May 24nd 2016)
Our location on the earth:
25. Shinshōji (津照寺) –Temple of the Illuminating Seaport
26. Kongōchōji(金剛頂寺) –Temple of Vajra Peak
Overnight at Kurakukan Sakan Ryokan in historic Kiragawa
Active walking 5:34 hours
Active day 8 hours
Active walking grand total: 316.5 km