I woke extra early at 5.30am today, in order to make a head start on the mountain that Yokomine-ji (横峰寺 – 60) is perched on, only to find it had already begun raining.
It was a pretty miserable 8km trudge down to Myōunji save for school kids shouting “Ohayo gozaimasu” as they cycled past on their way to school. Already pretty soaked, I stopped at FamilyMart at 8.30am for some snacks to give me energy for the ascent ahead.
The 9km route up to Yokomine-ji (740m) starts with a gradual 7km uphill walk along a road before a steep 2km section through the woods. This last part was a real killer since I had to be extra careful not to fall on the slippery rocks.
Arriving at 11am, the summit was shrouded in thick mist so visibility was pretty low. After the long climb, the first thing I did was to down a can of juice from the vending machine before conducting the temple rites.
An equally long 10km path descends to Kōon-ji (香園寺 – 61), through the forest and along a reservoir. Halfway down I met a group of four elderly ladies who were having a damp picnic in the middle of the path. Good on them for making the effort in such bad weather!
Below the clouds the weather had dried up a but the dark skies looked as if they were threatening another downpour at any moment.
Unlike the usual wooden temples, Kōon-ji stands out for its modern brutalist design with an enormous prayer/service hall at the top.
Whilst not the prettiest building on the eye I applaud it for having tried something different. Not always easily done in Japan.
Hōju-ji (宝寿寺 – 62) and Kichijō-ji (吉祥寺 – 63) were just a few kilometres apart each. I was trying to be quick so I could make it to Maegami-ji (前神寺 – 64) by 5pm but kept getting delayed by the same bus tour group who were clogging up the temple offices.
My timing wasn’t helped by my own forgetfulness since I left my stick at a Lawson combini on the way to Kichijō-ji and wasted 30 minutes going back for it (for the second day running).
It had begun to spit with rain again but the 3.5km route to Maegami-ji along a side road lined with traditional houses was actually rather pleasant.
When I arrived at 4.30pm the monks had already begun clearing up so I guess I was the last visitor for the day.
Luckily Yunotani Onsen where I am staying tonight was just 10 minutes away so I was able to make it there by 5pm. The dinner was especially good.
The combination of the long hike in damp shoes hasn’t been very kind on my feet today so I need to be a little gentler tomorrow in preparation for the next big climb up to Sankaku-ji (三角寺 – 65) and Unpen-ji (雲辺寺 – 66).