Day 20 – The Road To Enlightenment – Walking The Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage – Fujiidera To Kashihara, And Visiting Kashihara Jingu Shrine, Japan

Day 20 – The Road To Enlightenment – Walking The Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage –    Fujiidera To Kashihara, And Visiting Kashihara Jingu Shrine, Japan

Our next set of temples were located in Nara Prefecture. 
We were happy to be leaving Osaka prefecture, which is more built up and congested, and walking through the quiet fields, forested hills and mountains of southern Nara Prefecture.

We will still be returning after our walks at night to stay in the townhouse we rented in Matsubara, Osaka, but only for two days. 
We asked if we could drop our bags off in the morning at the rental house.

We met the owner, a young man who told us that he had renovated the second floor by himself. 
It is a cute townhouse with five bedrooms, spread across three floors. He asked us to choose our bedroom, and then he locked all the other bedrooms.

He gave us the complete tour of his Air BnB type apartment, and what to do and not to do with every appliance. He was an anxious young man who said, “Whoosh!,” every time he got nervous.
When the gas cooking stove did not work, he whooshed many times nervously. 
Finally I reassured him that it was ok. 
We had no plans to cook, and no time to even go to the supermarket to shop.

After he left, we had a cup of tea and a cookie before leaving. 
It was already about 12 noon, so we only had a little time in the day left for the walk.

We decided to walk backwards, taking the train to Kashihara and walking as far as we could back towards Fujiidera. 
At the Kashihara train station, we had a lunch of tuna melt sandwiches and soy tea and coffee.

Before leaving Kashihara to walk back, we decided to visit the famous Kashihara Jingu, the site of the Imperial Palace of the first emperor of Japan, Emperor Jinmu.  
This site was reconstructed by the government and reopened on April 2, 1890.  
We walked around the shrine and its expansive grounds.

Kashihara is an old and beautiful town, and the streets are lined with old traditional houses. 
The park around Kashihara Jingu has a large pond full of ducks and turtles. 
Flowering cherry trees were in full bloom, and families with kids were feeding the seemingly forever hungry ducks. 
There is a circular hike through the mountains, and we decided to take this route out of town.

Before we embarked on the hike, we passed by a small and very cute cafe. A sign said the cafe was open, and a handmade sign explained the hiking route that was not on my maps. We were still full from lunch, so we did not walk in.

We started walking through the fields into the forest. 
We passed by lovely farmhouses and soon we were deep in the woods. 
The path soon deteriorated and completely disappeared. 
We made our way over fallen trees and thorny overgrowth.

The rains had caused many landslides and the path was no longer there. Now the only guideline we had was my compass, and I directed it back towards the Kashihara Jingu.
We made our way around muddy ponds and not-so-dry riverbeds towards the shrine. 
Everywhere there were signs of wild boars.

When we finally reached the shrine, it was fenced in, with a tall fence and a locked gate. 
We decided to try to walk around the fence, with the hope of finding a public entrance. 
But soon it was clear that this was not a good nor a practical plan.

The forest got really thick and the fence got taller and added barbed wire on the top. 
There was no other way to go forwards. 
We had to reverse our steps and walk back. 
It was not an easy task. 
We felt a bit like survivors, climbing around and over fallen and rotten trees and muddy ponds, while trying not to get dirty. 
But after awhile, we found the path.

By the time we reached the small hikers cafe, it seemed like a very good idea to go in and have a rest and a hot drink, before our long walk back. 
The cafe was open, but nobody was inside. 
It was actually a very cool honesty-based hikers cafe. 
It had small lockers for hikers to use before climbing up, a lot of old Manga cartoon books, little things they sold and sweet toys. 
The coffee and drinks were on an honesty system. 
If you took something, you deposited the money for it  in a box. 
We did not want coffee, and we had our own tea and snacks. 
So we just sat there, drinking our own tea and eating our own food.

After ten minutes, the owner came over. 
He was surprised to see us inside, but friendly. 
He turned on all the lights for us and the Jukebox and asked about our day hike. 
Then he left again, asking us to stay and rest as long as we wished. 
But we packed our things and left very soon.

We still had a few hours of walking to do, and we wanted to be done before sunset. 
The walk was all flat, and we passed by farms, fields and small villages. 
We saw almost no people. 
At one village two old ladies asked us to stop and chat with them. They were laughing at Jules’ little hair braid and told us they loved our hats. 
Then they asked what we were doing there, and could not believe anyone was walking the Saigoku pilgrimage.

It was dark by the time we returned to our apartment. 
On our walk home, we passed by a Thai restaurant. 
Jules suggested that we eat dinner there. 
The owner was a Thai woman whose partner took off his face mask to smoke indoors.  Her young children were playing inside the restaurant. 

She yelled at the children to go away. 
At first we did not understand what was going on. 
Then she took our order haphazardly without really listening to us, and produced very mediocre food. 
When her kids came near us again, she yelled at them and we finally understood that she was frightened that they might catch the virus from the foreigners. 
We canceled two of the dishes before she made them and left right away. 
It is best not to linger where you are not welcome.

I did not sleep well that night. 
Images from the day played again in my mind. 
It seemed like this virus was flushing out a lot of the society’s hidden ills. 
In New Zealand, so many people called the police to report their friends and neighbors breaking the lockdown rules, that the police got overwhelmed and set up an online form for people to file complaints instead of calling.

These are times in which we need to rise up. 
We need to be extra friendly and helpful….

With blessings and light,


Daily stats: 
Steps walked – 29,554 
22 km. walked 
Active walking time –  5.5 hours 
Total walking time today – 7 hours.  
Total walking distance on the Saigoku to date – 397 km  

Temple Visited: 
Kashihara Jingu Shrine in Kashihara

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