Day 49: Return to Ryōzen-ji

I’d like to say I slept soundly last night in preparation for the final push but at 3 am my neighbour decided to watch TV. After five minutes of listening to the muffled sounds of a sports game, I banged on the wall. Loudly. Not very Buddhist perhaps but it did the trick.

Mountains in Higashikagawa

When it came time to wake up properly, luckily I didn’t bump into my neighbour and left Shirotori-onsen at 8 am. Yesterday’s clouds had disappeared and the sun was shining 🙂

Rice Paddy Art

The morning consisted of a long 20km walk up to the Sanuki coast. Beside the road, I came across a special rice paddy that had been planted in a pattern so that from above you can see an image. The plants hadn’t fully matured yet but you could already make out the shape of a pilgrim carrying his staff.

Goodbye Kagawa

Close to Hiketa a woman pulled up in her car, got out and gave me two bottles of green tea. It was really kind on such a scorching day.

Ōsaka-tōge Pass
Ōsaka-tōge Pass Sign

After saying goodbye to Kagawa Prefecture, and having a quick onigiri at Lawson, I began the final ascent up the Ōsaka-tōge Pass (370m). Having spent the morning on hot tarmac it was a relief to be under the shade of the trees.

View over Itano

Instead of heading south to Konsen-ji (金泉寺 – 3) I decided to take the route going east along Betano Stream. This meant I could avoid the busy Route 1 and arrive directly behind Ryōzen-ji (霊山寺 – 1).

Utatsu-goe Pass

The final stretch of road over the Utatsu-goe Pass was a series of sharp turns which followed the contours of the mountain. Nestled in one of the valleys I passed an enormous solar array.

Ōasahiko Shrine Avenue

Reaching Ōasahiko Shrine at 3 pm I walked along the leafy stone lantern-lined avenue towards Ryōzen-ji.

Bench in woodland clearing

Passing the bench where I sat to write the first blog entry on the evening of Day 1, I was struck with the realisation of the ending even more powerfully than I had been a day previously at Ōkubo-ji (大窪寺 – 88).

The last time I sat there 49 days ago I was full of questions and nerves about how the walk was going to go or whether I was even up to it at all.

Ryōzen-ji Fountain

Ryōzen-ji was quieter than during my first visit and it was a blessing not to have to dodge any tour groups.

Completed Nokyocho

At the temple office, I got a special stamp in my book. The Chinese characters 圆满 mean to complete something in a circle (or as a whole) consummately and perfectly.

Ryōzen-ji pilgrim log book

I found my entry in the temple log book where I had registered my departure and updated it with my completion date.

Filming at Ryōzen-ji

While I was there a Vietnamese film crew was in the middle of filming a program about Japanese culture. A young actress had dressed up in the full henro outfit and was asking questions via an interpreter to an older Japanese lady.

I got chatting to the producer and it turns out they were being sponsored by the Japanese tourist board. The first season had been such a success that they were now filming a second.

After watching for a while I left and walked to Bando Station to catch the 4.30 pm train to Tokushima. Retracing my steps also invoked feelings of nostalgia and I wondered if I’ll ever be back again.

In the evening I had the good fortune to meet David Moreton, one of the authors/editors of the English guidebook who works at Tokushima University. I had a fascinating conversation with him about how the book came to be, the pilgrimage, and life in Shikoku.

If you’ve followed the blog this far, thank you! At times it’s been hard to find the energy to post each day but all the wonderful comments and advice made it more than worth it. It’s been amazing having your support here as well as from all the people I’ve met on the trail.

I’m going to spend the weekend in Shikoku to visit a couple of places outside the trail before heading to Koya-San on Monday. Posting might be a little more sporadic but watch this space for some further thoughts on the pilgrimage and a review of all the gear I carried once I’ve had a chance to decompress a bit.


Distance walked: 40 km / 50,000 steps
Temples visited: 1

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David avatar

20 responses

  1. James Boddy avatar
    James Boddy

    You have completed the circle David, congratulations ?
    Enjoy your well earned rest and reflections.
    Your daily experiences and photos have been a joy to read, thank you.
    88 in 7×7 auspicious numbers!

    1. Thank you James ??

  2. Hunter avatar

    Well done and thanks for all the blogs. I will miss them. It’s been enjoyable to watch your progress.

    1. Thanks Hunter ??

  3. David Moreton avatar
    David Moreton

    It was great meeting you last night. I enjoyed our conversation.

  4. Erik avatar

    David, I’ve truly enjoyed all of your posts. They were often the highlight of my day when they arrived in my RSS feed, and I’m considering following your lead and doing the pilgrimage later this year. Congratulations on a completing your journey!

    1. Thanks Eric, I’m really glad you enjoyed them. If you do end up doing to pilgrimage (highly recommended!) feel free to ask me any questions 🙂

  5. Steven avatar

    Twitter recommended I follow you when your pilgrimage began. It was great reading your posts. Thank you and congratulations!

    1. Cheers Steve!

  6. Yoav Shapira avatar
    Yoav Shapira

    Congrats! Been enjoying every post. Looking forward to your reflections and next adventures 🙂

    1. Thanks Yoav 😀

  7. Chen avatar


    7×7 also means something special in Buddhism. In tradition, the “rebirth” or “nirvana” takes 49 days to complete, and every 7 days are one stage of that change. (This is also why Chinese funeral last for 7 weeks) In Zen purification treatment, it also takes 49 days to purify one’s mind.

    You’ve done a great job, David.


  8. Margaret avatar

    David – it has been a joy to read your daily account of the pilgrimage, to see the marvellous photos and read all the great ‘snapshots’ of chance encounters, generosity and your thoughts on it all. I was struck by the contrast of your anticipatory blog post from the beginning of the pilgrimage to that of the conclusion. Thank you so much for sharing it all with us every day. Margaret

  9. Tiago avatar

    What a journey! Congratulations!

    It really was amazing to read your adventures every day. I was waiting so eagerly for every post. 🙂

    One day, I’ll do this pilgrimage too, maybe when older and retired eheh

    Now everyone is going to be missing all of these daily posts. Maybe you should continue walking like Forrest Gump 😀

  10. Arnold Smith avatar
    Arnold Smith

    Congratulations as well …..and thanks David for sharing your journey. Enjoyed following your blog. The pilgrimage is like the Hotel California song by the Eagles….”you can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave”. Your pilgrimage experience will always be with you now…….what made you happy, what made you sad, and how you brought happiness to others. I hope the pilgrimage will help you in your future endeavors in life. I know it has help me. Your blog has been great and gave me some great pointers for when I do the pilgrimage this fall.

  11. Julien avatar

    Wow, David, congratulations! It was great to read all your updates and I look forward to hearing/reading about your state of mind. You have probably also planted the idea of doing it some day in my head…

    1. Cheers Julien, see you in Tokyo soon!

  12. Nice job David, a lot of respect for completing everything 🙂

  13. Hey David,

    Thanks a lot for sharing your story.
    I’m planning to do the pilgrimage in October and I’m a blogger as well. I would like to know if you were publishing during your trip ? Did you find it difficult ? Did it remove the experience you lived ? Did you use your computer to publish ?
    Sorry for all those questions, I just would like to know how you managed that part :))


    1. Hi Ryan,

      I’ve written a bit about the experience & process of publishing during the trip here: – in short it was a lot of work each evening to make it happen but I did enjoy the process of recording and organising my thoughts. If you want to be a purist perhaps the contact with the outside world should be avoided but I found a lot of value in sharing the experience with others around the world and receiving their encouragement.

      I used an iPad to edit my photos and write each journal entry, more about the gear I carried here:

      Good luck with your pilgrimage in October!


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