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Henro Pilgrimage - Day 1

I couldn’t sleep until past midnight. Nerves and other thoughts swam through my head. I was worried that my Kongō Staff wouldn’t last the trip, but I see now that it’s pretty much the same as everyone else has.

Breakfast was offered as Osettai by the Henro House. After setting off I headed up to Ōasa-Hiko Jinja to ask protection from the nature gods (even though this is a Buddhist pilgrimage). It was 7 a.m. but there was already an attendent around. He was quite nice and sold me a charm unique to their Shrine made of hemp. Setting off again, I cried for some reason. I felt like I had a lot of support behind me and felt new determination.

Gokurakuji (2) was quite beautiful, and I couldn’t shake the feeling I had been to Kinsenji (3) already last year. At Dainichiji (4) I gave some candies to a pair of older pilgrims. As I was taking a break, I met a guy named Jeffery from Taiwan, but I was concerned that Takahara-san hadn’t shown up yet. It was noon by the time I arrived at Jizōji (5), so I bought a bentō from a lady selling them in the parking lot. At Anrakuji (6) I ran into Jeffery again and we discussed where we’d be sleeping for the night. I got us permission to stay in the bell tower above the main gate from the temple staff. First though he’d head up the road to Jūrakuji (7) and do it early. While there I met an American girl from Hawaii named Sydney. She was pretty cute. She had nowhere to stay that night so I took out my Japanese map and showed her the location of an offical Henro Hut nearby. I’ll probably see her again.

Once back at Anrakuji, lo-and-behold, Takahara-san was standing at the entrance. Apparently he had gotten quite lost in the afternoon, but was otherwise fine. He soon set off for the next temple. We then found someone else in the Bell Tower, a tatami maker from Kyōto named Kenji-san. It’s the three of us here tonight.

Osettai: Breakfast, candles, incense, a handle cover for my staff, eggs and water, chocolate.

Post-trip Addendum:

Osettai is a pilgrim hospitality culture specific to Shikoku. The locals know how hard the journey is, so they offer whatever help they can, often in the form of food or drinks.

I came with a tent packed for days that I’d sleep outside. I hoped for about a 5050 split between that and staying in inns. When you’re walking the pilgrimage route it’s basically impossible to plan ahead of time (re: reservations), since you don’t know how far you’ll get each day. There’s a lot of playing it by ear.

Temples generally don’t close their gates, but the temple offices where you receive proof of passage open at 8 a.m. So no matter how quickly you arrive there in the morning, you can’t continue until past 8. Hence it’s part of a walker’s strategy to position the previous night’s lodging about 2 hours away from the next temple. You start walking at 6, get there just before 8, do the rites, and you’re on your way with no time loss.

Original Japanese:



極楽寺は綺麗だった。金泉寺は来た事がある気がしてならんかった。大日寺で二人のおじさんに飴を上げた。待っていると、台湾の Jeffery が現れても高原さんが中々来ず心配した。地蔵寺で丁度お昼になってお弁当を売っているおばさんから買って食べた。安楽寺まで行くとまた Jeffery と鉢合わせして今夜の野宿計画を立てた。まず十楽寺まで行ってお詣りしていると、ハワイ在住のアメリカ人女性と話した。 Pretty cute だった。宿坊の予約がなかったから地図を見せて先の遍路小屋に送った。また会うだろう。夜は六番の山門の上の鐘楼で寝る。戻ったら奇跡的に高原さんも居て、昼はさんざん迷ったと言う。鐘楼にもう一人先客の「けんじさん」も居る。


#henro #japan #buddhism

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