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Published: September 3rd 2018
Ichiro and Me
Hello my fellow travellers!
After some 20-25 hours or so spent on trains, planes and airports I finally arrived back in Tokyo, almost a full year after my last visit to Japan. This year's trip will be quite different from the previous years' though, because this entire trip will more or less be a long pilgrimage set in five different parts one after another.
The first part of the pilgrimage, which will begin tomorrow, is to climb to the summit of Mount Fuji. My initial plan was to do this together with Takae, but unfortunately she can't take time away from her work on Monday. My back-up plan was for us to do a bullet-climb, starting in the morning and ending in the evening, but for that to work I would have needed to stay at Takae's home so that we could get as early a start as possible.
However, for some reason, she thinks that their house is to small for me to stay there. As a Swede, a culture in which guests are always expected to sleep at your home despite it's size, I found this to be a strange reason. So, instead of staying with
Takae and her family I instead asked my friend Ichiro in Tokyo if I could stay with him again this year which he agreed to. Normally I would be staying with Junko in Shizuoka which would have solved the problem, but she is unfortunately not at home during my stay this year.
Because of this though I'm beginning to think that me and Takae won't really climb Mount Fuji, but instead I'm thinking that we'll climb the smaller peak next to it, called Mount Hōei, this is a last minute thought on my part and I will ask Takae about it tomorrow.
It will be a rough couple of days for me though, climbing both Mount Hōei and Mount Fuji in rapid succession, especially since my grand total of practice before this trip has been to buy a new pair of hiking boots and spend five days walking in them. I started at three km and ended at nine km in total distance walked in succession. I have also biked about 50 km per day for the last month going to and from work, but that was primarily because the trains have been so terrible that the bicycle
has simply been a better option.
Once I have climbed Mount Fuji (or have died trying) I will go to Osaka to stay with my friend Kenichi for a night to rest up. After that I will do the second part of my pilgrimage which is to head to Mount Kōya which is the centre of Shingon Buddhism in Japan. My plan is to take a train from Osaka to the Kii-Hosokawa station and then walk from there, completing the last part of the 24 km long Kōyasan Chōishi-michi pilgrimage trail.
The name of the route comes from the stone (ishi
) markers that comes every 109 metres (chō
) on the road (michi
) to Mount Kōya. It stretches from the temple Jison-in in Kudoyama to the Okuno-in on Mount Kōya. Okuno-in is the temple where Jükai, the monk who founded Shingon Buddhism in 819, still sits in eternal meditation praying for world peace.
I will stay one night at Mount Kōya in the Shojoshin-in temple. This is called a shukubō
, or temple lodging. Mount Kōya is one of the most popular places in Japan to do this. I just hope that there aren't too many tourists around because
of this but I have a feeling that there might very well be.
After Mount Kōya I will head back to Osaka and stay one more night at Kenichi's home to rest up a little bit more before the third, and largest, part of my pilgrimage begins. The third part is a six day and five night's long hike through the mountains of the Kii Peninsula along the Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodō pilgrimage trail. This is done with the purpose of visiting the three grand shrines known collectively as Kumano Sanzan, literally the "Three Mountains of Kumano". these are the Kumano Hongū Taisha, the Kumano Hayatama Taisha and the Kumano Nachi Taisha.
The fourth part will be an easy one as I will take the train from the Kumano Nachi Taisha to the Mie Prefecture where I will visit the Ise Grand Shrine which is the most sacred shrine in all of Shintoism.
After that I will return to Tokyo to rest another night at Ichiro's home before I head up north to the Yamagata Prefecture where I will attempt the fifth and final part of my pilgrimage, the Dewa Sanzan pilgrimage trail. These are
the mountains of Mount Haguro, Mount Gassan and Mount Yudono which represent birth, death and rebirth respectively. I must admit that the last part of this travel was tacked on kind of last minute and isn't very well researched so I'm not sure if I'll be able to complete it but I will do my best.
As for this night though it was all about resting up in preparation for two weeks of pretty tough physical toil. After I met up with Ichiro we first went and grabbed some ramen
, the Chinese-style noodles, to eat and then I suggested that we head to the onsen
that is located nearby. We went there last year as well, and he agreed to repeat the experience this year. So, within a couple of hours of arriving in Japan I was already soaking in an onsen
and it felt great to be back.
Mellowed up from the onsen
we returned to his home where we indulged in a couple of beers before we went to bed as I have a tough day ahead of me tomorrow. I said my goodbyes and thanks to Ichiro tonight because will leave early in the morning,
before he wakes up, but we'll see each other again in about a week and a half though.
Tomorrow my pilgrimage begins in earnest and I will also get to meet Takae again which I'm looking forward to a lot!
Until tomorrow I wish you all peace and happy travels!
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