Day 33: Iwaya-ji

I had a bit of a scary moment last night. Having fallen asleep in my tent around 10 pm I was suddenly awoken by a bright light. I checked my phone and momentarily thought I’d overslept before realising it was still night.

Outside I could hear movement and heard the sound of my staff falling over. As I scrambled to get out of my sleeping bag the light suddenly faded and I could hear the sound of a car driving away. I took a look around but everything was as I’d left it and whoever was snooping had even put my staff back upright.

Feeling rather uneasy I managed to get back to sleep again before being woken by the chimes of the public announcement system at 6 am.

Firshermen in Tado River
Tado River

The morning started with a walk along the Tado River up to the Ochiai Tunnel. Along the way, I spotted bands of old men in wetsuits fishing in the shallow waters. In each group, one would throw a net into the water while the others dived in with snorkels to try and entrap the fish.

Preventing landslides

From here the path continues along a local road up the Shimosakaba-tōge Pass (570m). In Shikoku, there’s a constant battle between man and nature being fought over the mountainsides.

Landslide risk

Everywhere you see major engineering works going on to try and contain potential landslides with huge steel nets and concrete retaining walls being built everywhere you look. It looks like extremely dangerous work.

Pine tree stand
Buddhist statues
Hiwata-tō Pass

After dipping back down into a valley the trail goes back up almost immediately along the Hiwata-tō Pass (790m) with a couple of nice off-road sections. In the woods, I came across a stand of pine trees where lines of cut logs had been curiously lined up at the base.

Solitary statue

20km of huffing and puffing later I reached Kuma town at noon where I found a small restaurant and ate curry udon for lunch.

Straw clogs

With my energy recharged, it was a short 15-minute walk to Daihō-ji (大宝寺 – 44). Over the gate, two huge saddles made of stray were hung, which are apparently remade every 100 years, with smaller ones on the railings for good luck.

Daihō-ji Temple
Statues at Daihō-ji

It was a pretty temple but the women in the nōkyōchō office did such a rushed job of signing my book that I was a little annoyed. I guess it makes that particular page unique at least.

Road along Tōnomidō Pass
White and purple flowers
Hacchōzaka Slope
Hacchōzaka Slope

The route to Iwaya-ji (岩屋寺 – 45) was another 10km roller coaster up the Tōnomidō Pass (730m), through a small village, and then a final push along the Hacchōzaka Slope (785m) with a dip in the middle.

Iwaya-ji inner sanctum

On the way down I passed the inner sanctum of Iwaya-ji which lies between two enormous rocks which appear to be breaking away from each other.

Iwaya-ji Gate
Iwaya-ji Daishi Hall
Iwaya-ji ladder
Iwaya-ji Rooftop
View from Iwaya-ji

Iwaya-ji itself is built into the rock face giving it a really distinct look. It has a viewing platform built into an alcove above the main hall which can be accessed via a rickety ladder.

Iwaya-ji Main Hall
Iwaya-ji joinery

I spent a bit more time than usual here enjoying the unique atmosphere and the beautiful woodwork before descending a kilometre down to the road.

Naose River

From here it was a short 30-minute walk to Furuiwaya-sō, an onsen/hotel where I’m staying tonight. Along the way, I met an American henro, Tom, who was on his way to temple 45. He mentioned that he’d passed two Brits heading in the same direction as me.


It turns out they’re staying at the same place and I got chatting with Niels and Sophie over dinner. They’re from London and have taken a year off work to travel the world. It was great swapping stories and discussing our impressions of the pilgrimage.

I’m now halfway in terms of temples but there’s a cluster of six coming up so the next two days so that number will quickly increase. Progress!


Distance walked: 37 km / 50,000 steps
Temples visited: 44–45
Overnight lodgings: Furuiwaya-sō (国民宿舎 古岩屋荘) – Onsen

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David avatar

11 responses

  1. James Boddy avatar
    James Boddy

    Enjoy relaxing in the onsen and the superb scenery. You deserve a celebration now you are on the homeward leg of the 88 temples!!
    The walk along the ridge and then down to T45 is certainly memorable.
    When you get to Matsuyama if you have a day off a visit to the castle is interesting and worthwhile also the famous onsen.

    1. Thanks James – looks like rain for the weekend so I might take a rest day in Matsuyama 🙂

      1. ha! Surely you’d planned one anyway – so much to see (and eat) 🙂

  2. Arnold Smith avatar
    Arnold Smith

    Wow….you are at the half way point….time flies. The Sen Guest House is an excellent place to stay when in Matsuyama ( The couple are very friendly, helpful and speak English. They have a kitchen where you can prepare your own food. I stayed there twice and enjoyed staying there. Maybe you can check it out.

    1. Thanks for the tip Arnold – I’ve booked to stay there tonight!

      1. Arnold Smith avatar
        Arnold Smith

        Great. Hope you enjoy. I am planning on staying there when I do the ohenro pilgrimage this October, to experience it during the fall colors. I remember arriving one time early, after walking in the pouring rain all day, drenched to the bone. They allowed me to check-in early, so I could get dried off and become human again. They were very helpful that evening in calling and making some bookings for me, or recommending places to stay. They are also fellow ohenros, so really understand and support what you are doing.

  3. Erik avatar

    I’m curious what you think was going on with the night commotion? If you were in the US, I’d say they were trying to steal your stuff, but that certainly didn’t happen, and it doesn’t seem like a potential intruder would place your walking stick back upright. Locals coming to offer you osettai but then realizing you were asleep? Other henro realizing there was already someone sleeping there and decided to move on to another hut?

    1. I think it was probably someone wanting to use the toilet next to the hut and didn’t realise someone was camping.

  4. Margaret avatar

    Beautiful flowers growing along your route and good to see the photos today including the rickety ladder!

  5. Paul Gillot avatar
    Paul Gillot

    The line of cut logs are for growing Shiitake in all likelihood
    Great logbook

    1. Thanks Paul!


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