Day 4 – The Chūgoku 33 Temple Kannon Pilgrimage, Japan – Myōō-in Temple and visiting a bird cafe

Day 4 – The Chūgoku 33 Temple Kannon Pilgrimage, Japan – Myōō-in Temple and visiting a bird cafe

We have walked 88.5 Kilometers in the pilgrimage’s first three days.
This means that we have averaged almost 30 Kilometers per day, which is quite ambitious for people who did not walk at all during wintertime before coming to walk this pilgrimage.

It would have been smarter if we had walked only 20 Kilometers per day at the start of the pilgrimage, to get ourselves more acclimated to walking a long distance pilgrimage.

Today was a cold and rainy day, so I took the advice of a friend and decided we should have half a day of rest.

Because this season is a very busy one in Japan, we made reservations for the next two months, which means that we do not have much flexibility in taking extra rest days.
Like it or not, we have to walk on.

But somehow, walking seems to help the pain and stiffness in our legs.
We seem to get stronger muscles as we walk, and we also feel less stiff.

When we leave Okayama tomorrow, we will have a shorter day of walking ahead of us, because we already covered most of the distance yesterday, on our long walk south.

Tomorrow will be our first mountain climbing day with our full backpacks.
We will be staying at a hot spring hotel on top of Yugasan mountain, near Temple #6, Rendaiji Temple, which is right next to a locally loved Shinto Shrine called Yuga Shrine.

We decided to take the morning off, sit in the Okayama Starbucks cafe, organize our photos and notes and plan our walking route, and until noon.
We then walked for about three hours, to make up some of the distance on a long day planned for our walk towards Fukuyama.

We decided to visit Temple #8, Myōō-in Temple, and walk from there to shorten our walk later on.

The temple is located on the slope of a small mountain across the river, right next to Kusadoinari Inari Shrine,.
The shrine, which has beautiful Tori gates and stone stairs leading into the mountain, is a beautiful shrine painted in red vermillion.

Myōō-in Temple was built in 807 by the founder of Japan’s Shingon Buddhist sect, Kukai, or as he is better known, Kobo Daishi.

The temple’s full name is Chodo Sanen Ko-ji Myoo-in.
The main temple building and the pagoda are both designated as national treasures.

The 5-story pagoda is the 5th oldest pagoda in Japan.
The main building is a fusion of Japanese and Chinese architecture.
The temple hosts a few ancient statues of Kannon, Buddha and Fudo Myoo, that are beautifully carved and in perfect shape.

The Godess Kannon statue, like at many of the temples on this pilgrimage, depicts her as the healing Goddess.
She has one hand open to welcome all, and in the other she holds a small bottle representing a healing nectar.

For over a thousand years, each of these temples were considered to be sacred sites, and each has been associated with many miracles of healing all sorts of physical, psychological and spiritual pains.

One of the widespread practices is writing the name of a loved one who needs healing on a wooden stick, which will later be blessed and burnt by a priest in a healing ceremony.

I wrote my sister’s and mother’s names on the stick, and after chanting the Buddha’s Heart Sutra, we lit incense and got our pilgrim’s book and scroll stamped.

It was even colder when we left the temple and continued walking along the river on a narrow road, to make up some kilometers on our future days towards the town of Onomichi.

Even though the road was barely wide enough for two people to walk side by side, a fair amount of cars drove on it, and we had to be careful to walk on the edge of the road, by the canal.

To save time, we did not have any lunch and did not carry water with us.
I came upon a Ramen restaurant, but did not want to eat pork Ramen, which is how most places make their Ramen’s broth.

My map was showing a small and charming cafe only two kilometers away, so we kept on walking.
The cafe turned out to be a “Bird Cafe.”

We have been to a “Bunny Rabbit Cafe” and to a “Cat Cafe” in Japan, but never to a bird cafe.
A cat or a rabbit cafe is a place where people come to play with cats or with fat furry rabbits, comb their hair, give them a bath, feed them and just cuddle or snuggle with an animal they cannot keep at home.

This bird cafe was a really charming place.
All the birds were parrots and parakeets in large room size cages with a glass wall.
The birds were colorful and beautiful, and had swings, toys and a variety of foods.

You can tell if a bird is happy or not, and these birds were happy birds.
They had room to fly around, and they played with one another all the time, kissing and feeding one another seeds from their own beaks.

The cafe was spotless and smelled wonderfully.
The lunch menu set was freshly made and delicious.
The steamed rice was shaped like a bird and the fresh fruit smoothie we ordered came with a bird shaped stirring spoon.
Dessert was a soy milk cheese cake with a berry sorbet.
They also sold all sorts of bird shaped souvenirs and toys.

The bird menu on each table lists the nickname of each bird and its birth date.
We chatted with the friendly owner and when we left the cafe, she gave me a gift of a small box in the shape of a bird and memo notes shaped like a bird as well.

We might have not walked much in this rainy and very cold day, but it felt very relaxing to me.

With love and light,

Daily Stats:
Steps: 18,017 steps
Distance Walked: 13.5 Kilometers
Active Walking: 3 hours
Total Time: 4 hours
Total distance walked on the pilgrimage so far: 102 Kilometers

Temple Visited: Temple #8, Myōō-in Temple 明王院 in Fukuyama
Accommodation: Daiwa Roynet Hotel Okayama Station

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