Day 9: Asa Gongyou

After the 30km double-mountain hike yesterday, it was hard getting up this morning but I dragged myself out of the futon at 5.30 am in order to make the 6 am prayer service (Asa Gongyou) at Byōdō-ji (平等寺 – 22) right next door to Sazanka where I was staying.

Asa Gongyou at Byōdō-ji

I felt a little awkward as I was the only one in attendance but luckily only my ears were required. The monk, a friend of Masako’s, chanted non-stop for an hour with the occasional help from a pair of cymbals and a rattle (I’m sure it has an official name) which he rung every so often.

Statue of Kobo Daishi at Byōdō-ji

I had no idea what he was chanting but it was the perfect meditation to begin the day. Afterwards, he explained some paintings of Kōbō-Daishi in the temple. I think I got the gist of it.

Aratano rice fields
Beware of snakes!

Heading back to Sazanka I had breakfast at 7 am before hitting the road just before 8 am. Walking through Aratano I noticed a sign warning of snakes. I’ve already seen a couple of small ones but apparently, only the big ones are dangerous.

Fields and mountains
Home near Aratano

About 5km later the small road I was following merged into the larger Route 55 main road which I’ll be following for the next few days.

Kiki village

Luckily I was able to get off the main road within 2km and followed an alternative route along the coast which passes through some nice small fishing villages.

Tainohama beach

The first village I passed through was Yuki where I took a short break on Tainohama beach. They have good camping facilities with showers if you were thinking of stopping here.

Henro hut at Kiki

Close by is the village of Kiki where I nearly got lost by walking up route 289 by mistake. Luckily not much time was lost and I found a nice henro hut overlooking the harbour to have my lunch (a banana and rice ball).

Yamaza Pass

Continuing along the coast through the Yamaza Pass I bumped into another pilgrim I’d met yesterday; a Japanese-American woman from Dallas, Texas who was doing the pilgrimage for the second time in two years!

Yakuō-ji from Ebisu-do

Founding the corner of the peninsula I got my first look at Yakuō-ji (薬王寺 – 23) from Ebisu-do rising up from the mountains beyond. With the goal in sight, I quickened my pace for the final 2km.

Ebisu-do from Hiwasa

After walking through the small town of Hiwasa I reached Yakuō-ji at 2 pm. Set on a number of levels rising up the mountain I didn’t fancy carrying my heavy pack all the way up but luckily the staff in the shop at the bottom let me leave it there.

Wooden staffs at Yakuō-ji

There was a large tour group praying when I arrived so I let them do their thing before paying my respects. I noticed many of them dropping 1 yen coins on the steps going up which is apparently for good fortune.

Leaves at Yakuō-ji
Hiwasa from Yakuō-ji

Looking out over Hiwasa and the 20km path I had just trodden it felt well worth it although my feet might have had a different opinion.

Luckily Yakuoji Onsen is right next door so I popped in for a short soak. As a stereotypically reserved Brit, public nudity is not usually our thing but the needs of my feet outweighed any ingrained fears!

Body refreshed I stopped by a small udon restaurant to top up my energy before continuing along Route 55 towards my destination.

Black Phillip: Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?
Black Phillip: Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?

There was something rather surreal about passing through small ancient farmsteads while walking along a busy highway. At one point I passed a goat standing alone in a field which sent shivers down my spine when I remembered a certain film.

Hiwasa Tunnel
Yokoko Pass

Feeling pretty beat I reached the gaping mouth of Hiwasa Tunnel. I had planned to take the Yokoko Pass to go around it but there had been a landslide and the old henro trail looked none too safe so I decided to take my chances in the tunnel. Luckily a handrail separated the traffic from walkers.

Uchikoshiji Temple

800 meters later I emerged back into the sunlight and less than 20 minutes later arrived at Uchikoshi-ji temple where I hoped to stay the night. I bumped into the monk walking his dog around the grounds who kindly gave me permission to sleep in the annexe. With a kitchen, bedroom and shower it was way more than I imagined and I’m ending the day feeling very lucky once again.

It’s over 70km to temple 24 and with rain forecast, for the next two days, I don’t want to overdo it. Over and out for now.


Distance walked: 30 km / 43,000 steps
Temples visited: 23
Overnight lodgings: Uchikoshi-ji (駅路寺打越寺) – Tsuyado

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David avatar

6 responses

  1. Tiago avatar

    Happy hiking and good luck! It’s been a pleasure reading every day your adventures!

    One question, out of curiosity, what kind of shoes are you using? Or which brand and model, more specifically. I used Merrell for my big three week trip in Japan and they weren’t so good, I would be screwed if I had to this trail.

    1. Hey Tiago – actually my shoes are Merrell (not sure which model) but so far they seem to holding up pretty well. I’ll let you know how they’re fairing in a couple more weeks!

      1. Tiago avatar

        Thanks! I have the Merrell Moab Rover, they are beautiful on the outside. But the heel is too narrow, it feels like my heel is on a U-shape sole, weird.

  2. James Boddy avatar
    James Boddy

    Great photos David, after our pilgrimage we returned to Hiwasa and had 3 days relaxation there at Shiroi Todai, outdoor onsen overlooking the Pacific Ocean. When you reach T 24 an interesting option is to wild camp beside the ocean next Kukai’s cave, he possibly bathed there?? Nice restaurant close by. I see from your archives your parents live at Surlingham, we are on the opposite side of Norwich at Colney! Very much enjoying your daily journal and the memories it rekindles, thank you. You are giving lots of pleasure to your readers. James.

    1. Wow, it’s a small world indeed! Thanks for the camping tips – if it stops raining by the time I reach 24 I’ll definitely give it a try. When did you do the pilgrimage?

      1. James Boddy avatar
        James Boddy

        Started on 25th September 2014 and had almost 9 weeks on Shikoku. I love walking in the rain, the wetter and wilder the better!! Always invest in the very lightest and best kit to ensure feet and body are 100% dry regardless of conditions. I wear Hanwag leather Gore Tex boots with extra width and 1000 mile lined socks, feet are inspected and powdered every morning, very rarely have any blisters. Very much enjoying your daily journal :-))


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