Day 14 – The Road To Enlightenment – Walking The Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage – Hatsushima To Wakanoura and Kimiidera, Temple #2, Wakayama, Japan
I love traditional Japanese minimalist house design.
When you close the rice paper shoji doors and screens in front of the windows, you could imagine that instead of sleeping on a characterless road, you are sleeping in front of a beautiful sea or a lake.
Inside the room, the feeling is uniformly the same as in many traditional inns, radiating warmth and calm.
Our inn last night does not get many tourists.
Most of their clientele are businessmen who travel to the area on business trips.
The owners were super friendly towards us, and the night watchman cracked up laughing every time we said something to him in Japanese.
They served us breakfast and we started walking early.
We wanted to get to Kimiidera temple in plenty of time to enjoy our visit.
We have been told that the Sakura Cherry blossoms at the temple are in full bloom now, and that in less than one week, the flowers will all fall to the earth.
The busy car road out of Hatsushima had no sidewalks.
We tried to walk by the side of the traffic, taking as little space as possible.
There were also a few tunnels, and none of them had sidewalks.
Two hours into our walk by the busy road, we came upon a tiny cafe with an unlikely location between two tunnels.
We stopped in to rest and drink.
The owner was a lovely man who loves music. He decorated his small cafe with old music albums and music magazine covers.
He also had a selection of worldwide coffee beans, which he grinds to order and brews very meticulously.
He asked us what were we doing walking on the road.
He had heard about the Saigoku pilgrimage, and asked if we had walked the Kumano Kodo first.
From there, we continued walking north.
We passed by many large factories, some of them partly hidden behind beautiful tall trees, trimmed meticulously into nice topiary that seemed our of place in front of the rusty factories.
By lunchtime, we reached the outskirts of town and had many choices of places to eat.
We chose a sushi restaurant chain, because other places were very busy, with business people standing in line.
The sushi restaurant soon filled up with people also.
We enjoyed the tasty lunch and the restful time.
Soon we came upon a pedestrian only tunnel, and from there on we walked on a charming pedestrians-only street, lined with beautiful trees and flowers.
We said hello to every person cycling by or walking their dog, running or walking by.
We wanted to stop at an outdoor gear shop along the way, just a few kilometers south of Kimiidera temple.
We needed to upgrade our backpack rain covers, which are not so waterproof any more, and also to buy a pair of hiking socks for each of us.
The shop was large and had a good selection of things.
The owner and his two assistants were curious about our pilgrimage.
We continued walking on the pedestrians-only lane, until we reached Kimiidera temple.
At the front gate, there is a charge of two dollars per person.
The friendly ladies agreed to keep our backpacks in their small booth, so we would not have to carry them up the 275 stone steps leading to the main hall.
We climbed up with lots of people who had come to pray and enjoy the beautiful temple.
Many spoke to us, some in excellent English.
It felt nice to be greeted warmly, instead of being looked at with suspicious eyes in these unfriendly coronavirus times.
We first visited the amazing hall that hosts the huge golden Kannon
Goddess with a thousand arms and nine heads.
It was erected in 2008, and it is the largest free standing wooden statue in JAPAN.
It is called SENJYU KANNON.
We sat inside the hall and chanted the Lotus Heart Sutra in front of the beautifully gold gilded Kannon.
Then we walked over to the main hall to get our scroll and book stamped.
KIMIIDERA was founded in the year 770 A.D. by a Chinese (Tang Dynasty) priest named IKO.
About 1250 years ago, IKO [為光] came to Japan to spread the Buddhist teachings.
During his travels, he saw a bright light coming from a mountain.
Drawn by the light, Iko climbed to the top of the mountain. There he saw the Kannon Bosatsu Goddess, shining in all her glory.
Iko was so moved by his vision of Kannon, that he immediately set to work carving a statue of the version of Kannon that he saw.
He then encased that statue inside a much larger and more elaborate statue of Kannon, and built Kimiidera Temple to enshrine these statues.
This temple is famous for its early flowering cherry blossoms.
The name KIMIIDERA, means a temple that has three fountains in the Kii area.
It is an interesting fact that despite the fact that the temple is built high up and on a steep hillside, fountains of clean mineral waters have gushed out here and they have never dried up.
The views from this elevated temple overlook the city and ports at sea.
We reclaimed our backpacks, thanked the ladies at the gate and continued walking to our hotel in Wakanoura.
We had booked a room with half board, and whenever your accommodation is preparing your dinner, it is best to arrive by five in the afternoon.
But before heading straight to our hotel, we did a small detour to see the main park in Wakanoura, full of blooming trees, birds and bridges over a pond.
A Shinto shrine and an old temple look out over the hills above the park.
Above them, a big seated Buddha is on a hill overlooks the sea.
Our hotel for the night was built by a Japanese man who lived and studied in California for six years.
He drew his inspiration from the Greek islands, and he designed and built this Greek style resort on a cliff in front of the blue sea.
He did a great job, and the place feels very beautiful and relaxing.
He told us that his hotel is one of the only two Greek inspired hotels in all of Japan.
The restaurant served us a delicious Mediterranean seafood dinner on elegant oversized glassware.
The lobby also serves free hot and cold drinks all day, which was a lovely place to sit and do some trip planning.
We have gotten another hotel cancellation due to the coronavirus, this time in Kyoto.
We needed to book another hotel instead.
Luckily we found a good replacement to the hotel that we had booked, and at a much better price, too.
The Greek hotel does not have hot spring baths, but the private bathtub in our room overlooks the sea, and it is located in a glass room.
I used all the good olive oil beauty products that they gave me and soaked my body in the hot bath, while Jules did our laundry in the hotel’s laundry room.
Tomorrow the weather forecast is for rain all day, but on the positive side, it will be followed by a week of sunshine.
With light and love,
Steps walked – 36,200
26.5 km. walked
Active walking time – 6.5 hours
Total walking time today – 8.5 hours.
Total walking distance on the Saigoku to date – 262.5 km
Kimiidera, Temple #2, Wakayama