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Henro Pilgrimage - Day 5

“You’re telling me these people have completed the route over 100 times? How on earth is that possible?”

The inn owner’s answer was simple: “By car.”

From the other side of the room an older, veteran Henro pilgrim spoke up. “That’s not true Henro, that’s little more than stamp collecting.” He meant it. At the time I thought him just a gruff old guy from the countryside, but later in day at a temple he taught me how to do the cleansing ritual properly, and how to better carry my Sanya Bag so it would balance out the weight better.

I quite liked Tatsueji (19). The monk at the Nōkyō Office told me a lot about his training when I asked. He had spent 8 years atop Kōyasan, and finally came back to Shikoku as this was his first master’s temple.

Kakurinji (20) was up another mountain and was quite peaceful. The climb was steep. The temple staff told me that I’d be able to sleep at an abandoned elementary school in the village at the foot of the mountain. Just as I got down and reached the school, it started to rain. Tonight I’ve pitched my tent under the eaves of the gymnasium, with many swallow nests overhead. This school was founded over 100 years ago, but at the moment is “not in use”.

Animals: 1 cat, 2 mountain birds, 1 murder hornet

Post-trip Addendum:

A Sanya Bag is white and holds one’s pilgrimage supplies, like the map, candles and incense, prayer beads, etc. It’s to be worn hanging in front, not over the shoulder as I had been doing. Apart from this I also had my proper hiking backpack of course, which weighed between 9 and 11kg depending on my supplies of food and water that day.

The school being “out of service” is a growing trend in Japan, as economic prosperity since the end of WW2 has spurred new opportunity and incentivised the younger generations to flock to the cities. With fewer and fewer children in the distant country towns, schools eventually close, which seals the loop. With no schools, new families can’t take up there, and the fate of the town is sealed.

Original Japanese:




#henro #japan #buddhism

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