I’m writing this by torchlight tonight from the tsuyado at Unpen-ji (雲辺寺 – 66), the highest mountain temple in Shikoku at 900m. Due to some weird borders, I’m technically back in Tokushima Prefecture and will pass into Kagawa, the fourth and final prefecture tomorrow.
The day began under a thick blanket of grey clouds with the promise of scattered showers throughout the day. Donning all my wet weather gear I head out from the business hotel shortly before 8 am and went to a nearby Lawson for supplies.
Just as I was about to continue I realised I’d left my reusable water bottle back at the hotel. I groaned and walked back 15 minutes to retrieve it. Given everything I’ve managed to misplace over the past few days, the fatigue definitely isn’t helping.
Back on the trail, I walked under the Matsuyama Expressway to Togawa Park past a huge electrical substation. From here it was about 5km uphill to Sankaku-ji (三角寺 – 65).
By the time I arrived at 9.45 am the rain had eased off but the combination of the humidity and sweat had absolutely drenched my clothes and was pretty uncomfortable.
Sankaku-ji has a covered hut next to the temple office where I was able to take the rain gear off and dry out a bit. That done I completed the temple rites and headed to the office where the monk in charge gave me some helpful advice about the route ahead.
With the sun beginning to shine through the clouds I was feeling in a much better mood as I left Sankaku-ji.
I came across a gentleman carefully tending to his topiary. He’d made what looked like a heron and two turtles with golf balls for eyes!
Given the kerfuffle in the morning, I hadn’t eaten much for breakfast so 7km later stopped for a snack at Jōfukuji (bekkaku temple #14).
I had planned to eat lunch at a restaurant near the base of the Manda Trail leading up to Unpen-ji. Unfortunately, when I arrived the restaurant turned out to be long gone. Directly opposite it was an old bus turned into henro zenkonyado so don’t anticipate any food if you stay there.
Not wanting to dig into my supplies for dinner I resolved to walk through the 855m long Sakaime Tunnel where there was another restaurant on the other side. Whilst hurrying through I saw another henro walking in the opposite direction with his head bent down low, evidently wanting the experience to be over just as much as me.
Luckily Suisha restaurant was open and I sat alone as the only customer enjoying tendon for a late lunch. When I got up to pay I noticed to my dismay the same water bottle I’d almost lost in the morning wasn’t clipped to my bag as normal. It must have fallen off somewhere earlier. Not wanting to retrace my steps back through the tunnel I had to let it go 🙁
I had expected the Sano Trail to Unpen-ji to be hard going but after an initial steep section, it was a gentle climb up to 900m through the woods.
Near the temple entrance, I passed a husband shouting at his wife for walking too slowly. It was a bit of an ugly moment in such a beautiful place.
After getting my book signed and stamped I asked if I could stay at the temple tsuyado and the woman pointed me in the right direction. It turned out to be a pretty spacious room with tatami mats but no electricity.
I bought ice cream at the nearby ropeway station and enjoyed the view before getting cleaned up and settling down for a simple dinner of a salmon onigiri (rice ball) and a katsu sandwich.
After the sun had gone down I walked outside in the pitch black darkness to watch the stars and reflect on the day. It had been a bit of a mixed bag but had ended pretty well. The loss of the water bottle reminded me that in many ways our possessions own us rather than us owning them so it’s not worth getting too attached to material things.
Tomorrow begins another string of temples in close proximity. It feels like I’m on the home straight now but at this point, it’s become hard to imagine what life will be without all the walking.
Distance walked: 29 km / 42,100 steps
Temples visited: 65–66
Overnight lodgings: Unpen-ji (雲辺寺) – Tsuyado
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David you are doing really well, enjoy the descent tomorrow.
Thanks James – I’m actually a day behind so already down 😀
David your photos and text are inspiring. Forget about the lost water bottle, when my house burnt to the ground 2 1/2 years ago I realized everything were only material popssesions and we can live without them or replace them. Hope your journey brings you peace.
Thanks Ann 🙂
Sorry to hear that your water bottle disappeared. The most important thing is that you are doing OK. Material things can be replaced. Who knows it might even re-appear again, as in the Buddhist tradition. As you enter you final phase of your pilgrimage, on your way to Nirvana, there will still be some climbs ahead, but they will be a piece of cake, after what you have accomplished so far. Don’t forget to take the time to stop and admire the view and enjoy life. For me, the end of the pilgrimage brought up lots of questions like, “what’s next”, “what will I do after I am finished”, sometimes dealing with feelings of emptiness that it is over. Don’t let these take away from your experience. That’s why you will find many on the Ohenro facebook that do the pilgrimage again, and again, like me planning on doing it a third time this fall. I enjoy your photos and the valuable information in your blog. You have duly earned the title of “ohenro-san”.
Thanks Arnold, all the encouragement and advice has been much appreciated.
[…] to the mountain temples at Shōsan-ji (12) and Unpen-ji (66) were both mentioned as defining moments where hard ascents were rewarded by spectacular views […]