Day 9 – The Chūgoku 33 Temple Kannon Pilgrimage, Japan – Senkoji, an Ancient Rock Temple in Onomichi



Day 9 – The Chūgoku 33 Temple Kannon Pilgrimage, Japan – Senkoji, an Ancient Rock Temple in Onomichi

Last night, we stayed at the inn near Senkoji temple.
The walk up to the temple was a beautiful one, through a park planted with cherry trees, now in full bloom.

There are very large boulders on top of the mountain, and the Senkoji temple buildings are wedged between the rocks, or leaning into massive boulders.

There is an ancient sacred Kannon sculpture kept at Senkoji which is unveiled to the public only once every thirty three years.

The grounds are filled with calligraphy carved into the rocks, and many Kami God statues stand under the boulders.

One interesting and very old rock carving was of the spirit of a Bird-man carved up above the temple.

The temple hosts an annual exhibition of a contemporary well known artist, who paints Buddhist paintings.
His work is shown in the temple three times per year.

When we approached the halls to pray, an automatic recording of the heart sutra being chanted, started playing.
It was easy to join in and chant alongside it.

The rain started just as we finished visiting the temple.
We walked up the poetry path and back to our hotel.
We left our scroll and pilgrim’s book in the hotel, collected our umbrellas, rain pants and coats, and had some green tea, before heading out to walk towards Mihara.

I was happy that the rain held off until we finished visiting and enjoying the temple.
While back in our room, we had some hot tea and dressed up in our full rain gear.
We do not mind walking in the rain, especially since we will not be walking with our backpacks, and with our rain gear we do not even get wet.

On the brighter side, there is no more rain in the forecast for the next week.

I was happy that today was not a long day of walking.
My legs are still stiff and Jules has developed a pink eye infection.
Both of us will be fine as we walk this through, but for now it is good that the path by the sea is flat and the day is not too long.

In the past, we found that the first two weeks of a pilgrimage are the hardest.
After two weeks we adjust to the rhythm of walking in all weather, to being all day on our legs carrying a pack, and to getting up early to start walking to the next destination.

The path through Onomichi, was narrow and beautiful.
We walked by old temples and old houses.
When we left the town of Onomichi, we walked by a stretch of busy road that paralleled the train tracks.

You would think that walking between the mountains and the sea, would be a beautiful walk, but it was not.
The seaside was lined with old cement factories, most of which were falling apart from the sea salt spray and the corrosion.

The mountain side was reserved for the train tracks.
The road was sandwiched between them, with lots of cars and trucks.
At least we had sidewalks to walk on the whole way.

By lunchtime, we stopped at a small cafe that looked completely closed.
But I tried the door anyway and it opened.
The owner looked almost shocked to see us.
She served us a coffee set – a cafe latte and a big toast with butter, which was delicious.

When we left, she gave me a handful of peanut candies and packages of rice crackers as a gift, and left the cafe and waved goodbye to us many times.

This tradition of Osetai, or gifts given to pilgrims, is alive and well in Japan, even though we do not wear pilgrims’ clothing or hats, and often we do not tell people we are pilgrims.
Still, people give us gifts all the time.
Even at a pharmacy, where we went in to buy Jules some eye drops, the old couple that own the pharmacy gave us a gift of bath salts, made locally from the Seto Inland Sea.

Later in the afternoon, we stopped again in a small cafe by the sea, to have an afternoon tea.
From below, it looked like a run down garage.
But we climbed up the fire escape’s metal stairs and found ourselves in a small haven.

The cafe had some old leather furniture, spacious tables overlooking the Seto inland sea and a nice small menu of home baked cakes.
It was run by friendly young women and it had a collection of small cute antiques with a sea motif.
I would have never expected it to be so pleasant inside

When we left the cafe, the rain intensified, but still with our umbrellas and rain gear, we did not get wet.

From Mihara, we took the train back to Onomichi.
Tomorrow when we check out of our hotel, we will take the train to Mihara and hop on the ferry to Ikuchi island, where temple #11, Kojoji Temple 向上寺 is located.

Before going back to our hotel, we decided to go to a coin laundromat.
Our hotel, like many Onsen hotels, does not have a washing machine.

Unlike business hotels which always have coin laundry services, the higher starred hotels mostly attract people who are on vacation, and who wants to do laundry on vacation?

We walked from the station about a kilometer to a coin-op laundry in Onimichi.
In the laundromat toilet, we took all our clothes and changed into our rain pants and rain jacket only.
In forty minutes we had washed and dried all of our clothes.

Once the laundry was dry, we walked back to the station, and took a taxi back to our hotel.

It was nice to soak in the hot spring baths at the hotel. Nobody else was around. People were already having their dinner in their rooms, and I had the bath all to myself.

In these hot springs baths, they often put all sorts of products for the women to try, with the hope that they will buy them in the hotel’s store.

In this hotel, they had something I had not seen before.
A shower wash cloth made from fishing nets.
It was long enough to scrub your back, and it had handles on both sides.
The fishing net was scratchy but gentle, and it took the soap well and was very pleasant to use.
I wish I could buy it and take it home… but my backpack is already so full.

But if you are an entrepreneur and you wish to start a business, this is a GREAT idea to try to market in the West.

Daily Stats:
Steps: 30,226 steps
Distance Walked: 22 Kilometers
Active Walking: 5:20 hours
Total Time: 6.5 hours

Total distance walked on the pilgrimage so far: 182 Kilometers

Temples Visited: Temple #10 Senkoji Temple in Onomichi

Accommodation: Senkoji Sanso, right next to Senkoji temple.
They offer spacious Japanese style rooms, a small hot spring bath, and a simple but fresh Kaiseki dinner served in your room and breakfast.

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