Seventeen Temples and a Plate of Lu-Foot Sashimi

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August 1st 2008
Published: August 1st 2008
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Well, here i am, six days in, and I'm in the city of Tokushima, resting my feet for a day - it may have to be two - because i can hardly walk for blisters. I have about seven and they are oozing various gross substances. (i always end up writing about puke and ooze in my blogs, don't i? The realities of travel!) My dad tells me they should harden up in a day or two, but yesterday it took me seven hours to hobble eight miles which isn't good. Still, I'm holding out hope for a recovery within the next 24 hours. I've still got 71 temples to go! I have come 62 miles. I'm kitted out with the hat, the hakui shirt and the staff, much to the amusement, I'm sure, of many who know me. (I think i pull it off OK, but i do get the giggles when i see my reflection in a shop window...) It's been very hot and there are areas with no shade, so it takes longer to cover distances than i thought; i'm not the only henro finding this, however - i frequently meet others who are semi-collapsed by the side of the road with facecloths on their heads, and we say to each other 'OOf!', and point at the sun. The locals have been very sweet to me. There's a tradition called o-settai, when people give presents to pilgrims to help them on their journey. This is supposed to symbolise the person giving to the saint Kobo Daishi (founder of the pilgrimage) so it's rude to decline. But i'm still quite shocked when people give me money, drinks, food and offer lifts. My Japanese is crap, but shifting from totally crap, to just quite crap. I have learned the temple drill - bow at the gate, ring the bell, make your prayer or wish at the main hall, post your fuda slip with your name and address on it in the box, put a coin in the box, then repeat all this at the daishi hall and get your book stamped with the temple seal; beautiful calligraphy. Since I'm not religious, I'm not chanting sutras but to see and hear the other pilgrims doing so is quite enchanting. Every temple is distinct but if i'm honest i do blur some of them together a bit in my mind and have trouble remembering exactly which one had which gate/deity etc! There are pilgrims travelling by bus, by taxi, by car and by bike. Only a few are walking and less, i think, then i initially thought because i found some of the paths in the mountains were overgrown. There were times when i saw nobody for about six hours. I'd find deserted shrines in the middle of the woods and fill up my waterbottle, and see nothing but snakes and cicadas. So serene. And a little eery...
I have survived my first nansho temple ('temple in a perilous place') which was temple 12, a full 2,600 ft above sea level and with a very steep climb. The sense of achievement at the top was massive, even if i had sweated off half my body weight. It was getting dark after i got my stamp so i walked to a little shrine and asked the women in the house next door if it would be ok to sleep out there. They were fine with it and i spent the night on a wooden platform in my sleeping bag, watching lightening flash over the mountains and the mist creep in around the lanterns and statues. There were many spiders and scuttling creatures but i had picked up a beer at a vending machine and drank it to calm my nerves; excellent! People say that Japanese wildlife is disappearing because of all the development. Spend the night in a shrine, madly shining a flashlight around, trying to locate the many creatures that are running around you going, 'breee-cha-cha-cha-cha!' and you'd have to disagree... It was mad. It was one of several moments in the last five days when i have thought, 'this has got to be the craziest thing that i have ever set my mind to.' And god knows there are contenders to that throne. Next morning, my blisters were coming on strong. I walked eighteen miles that day. It was damn hot. I almost trod on a pink snake that was sunbathing on the asphalt. I stayed in a ryokan and found i could barely walk the next morning. And so that brings me up to here, in Tokushima, trying not to get stressed about my feet! I mean, i thought i'd get a few, but seven, bleeding ones?!! I thought if i had trouble it would be with courage, or my pack being too heavy, or getting lost - but blisters? if these stop me from being able to do the walk properly then i will be the angriest woman on earth. Still, this little break is giving me some time for reflection on the things i have seen so far. I'm looking at the history of each temple (almost of all of them have been burnt down several times) and the beliefs behind the sutras i hear chanted. On my first night, i stayed in a shukubo (temple accomodation) and sat in on the prayers. People say that Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion, but from where i was sat it looked like a religion. There was a sermon, and there were sutra books - like prayer books - and people took it in turns to come to the alter and bow and pray, and mark their foreheads with incense. I need to understand more about what all this means. And, staying in quite a nice hotel, i've got a perfect place to do my research; hot tea, a comfy bed, fine views over Tokushima, a few good bowls of udon and hopefully all of the rest of Shikoku ahead of me. Not a bad situation.

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4th August 2008

Hi Lu i'm sorry to hear about the blisters. are they still oozing? i would like to come up with some clever idea but the only i have is make sure their kept clean don't get infected. ooo maybe burst them and the bandage them up. aside from the blisters the trip looks amazing and the outfit is pretty cool and you do pull it off really well.
13th August 2008

the oozing is less severe now, thanks! i have got into the habit of squishing them several times a day with antiseptic. oh what a glamorous life i lead! hope you:re well x
3rd February 2011

Respect for your Henro diary
Hi Lu, Hajime-mashite from Japan, I feel very glad to find such a great diary about Shikoku 88 henro, especially from the view of forign people with a great interest and joy of travel. I am a Japanese male, native in Kagawa, Shikoku and O-Daishi-San and 88 henro have been very familar and respectful to me since my childfood, and my house religion is also of Shingon and belief in Daishi. Then, it'll be great that recently many people from abroad are also trying to have a nice experience and understanding of pilgrimage and buddhism. And actually, I am a Japanese and also native in Shikoku, but untill now, I've never tried this great pilgrimage before, and just recenlty I've succeeded to collect all the packings and clothes for it, and now ready to leave for Daishi soon. ( so, strangely I may have to learn a little from your diary about it, haha...and the reason I wrote my comment on this page, is because I'm still ready to leave, and not after Kechi-gan still, have NO right to commnet on your kechigan page....). Anyway, it was a great joy to read your diary and see pictures here, truely great. Hope I would have a wonderful experience too, and have some enlightment from gods and bodhisatvas on the road waiting for me. Shuji Minato (Kagawa, Takamatsu)
5th February 2011

Shuji-san, thanks so much for your message and for reading my blog. It is wonderful that you will be going on your own pilgrimage - ganbatte kudasai! I am sure you will have an amazing experience. I hope you keep a blog, I would love to read about it. I hope one day to return to Takamatsu - the Ritsurin gardens were so beautiful, I would like to see them again. And then of course, there is the udon! Best of luck with your journey, -Lu-
5th February 2011

Thanks for your response,
Hi Lu-san, thanks for your fast response though you'd be busy for your day life, I'm glad to see your kind answer. And still kind of cold here, but I'll leave soon or, may have to leave untill Aprill I think, and I hope I'll not fall down on the mountanous road of Kochi or anything as some cold meat no one'd find it untill the next year... haha. Yes, it is a joke, but actually, just recently an old pilgrimage master who had been devoting to put so many signs and coner-stones on the henro-road for more than 30 years, was very sadly to be found as a coarpse in the mountain, just after missing for a month, he may be slipped from the road and froze in this winter weather, truley sad and reported in here Shikoku newspapers. Then, I myself would be careful too, and also have some respect and pray for many people before down on the road. And then, also thank you for recommending to the Ritsun Park or Udon, etc, yes we love it here and proud of it. (But once you have to eat those Udons some Three Times a day in a hot summer day, you may start to hate the noodles....yes, it is just like rice or miso soup here, we'd die once we lack'em even once two days or something!) About blogs, I'm not making any about my journy still, but I have a facebook page and write some about Japanese Shrines and Temples I've traveled (but mostly I've written about historical knowledge, not so much about my own travell experience), then hope you'll check some day after I write about my 88 pilgrimage. OK, now I have to go, thank you so much for your response and help from your diary too, Arigatou-Gozaimasu. Shuji

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