A spectacular walk today. It began at the nearest Lawson store to the Nagao-ji inn which was very good. Silvie was at the inn last night. I met her at Temple 60 (800m) when she was heading inland to climb Mt Ishizuchi (2000m). Hats off to her. She is French and she doesn’t speak a word of English let alone Japanese. She walked with Blanca and I today.
Despite my excellent school boy French she had the usual problem understanding me. It’s the same with all French people. I’ve walked into a boulangerie in France and asked for a petit pain or a croissant and they look at me with no understanding. “What does he want?” they ask each other. So it was with Silvie until we were in the hills and I said “regarde le serpent”. She got that first time. It was my fifth snake which I was expecting to round off the pilgrimage.
On the way we visited the museum which tells the story of the pilgrimage and we received a personalised certificate and goody bag. This included a DVD containing photos of every temple. It sums up how Japan has stood still in some ways.
It was a real mountain climb today. The trail led us into rocks which had to be climbed with hands as well as feet. Had this been Temple 1 no one would go any further. The weather was excellent. Sunny and around 20 degrees. Eventually we reached the summit at 800m and then descended to the 88th and final temple on the pilgrimage.
The temple was worth the climb. I changed into my pilgrim gear and we followed our usual ritual. I had two additional duties to perform. First the disposal of my staff. It had safely led me to all 88 temples. As we approached Temple 88 it started to get very excited. Having paid 2000 yen for it plus 420 yen in rail fares to recover it from being left behind, I now paid 1000 yen for it to be burnt by the monks.
The other farewell was even more poignant. At the start of my wonderful via Podiensis pilgrimage in Le Puy, 2017, I was at the Pilgrim Mass and we had to write a wish and put it in a box. We then had a lucky dip to take another pilgrim’s wish to the end of our pilgrimage. The one I drew was written by a Japanese pilgrim. I finished in Pamplona but couldn’t find anywhere to leave it so in 2018 I carried it along the Via Francigena to Rome but still couldn’t find a suitable home for it. So I’ve now carried it around Shikoku and decided to leave it with all the prayer slips at Temple 88. I dropped it in the box and looked at it for awhile. The person who wrote it would be amazed to learn of the journey it made and its ultimate destination.
We are staying with another French pilgrim called Ryan in the Shirotori Onsen which is remarkably cheap and good. Tomorrow will be a long day when we must cross more mountains and retrace our steps to Temple 6 for the night. And it is a long way to the first store.
The trek up to Temple 88