For my last full day in Shikoku, Masako was kind enough to drive me around Tokushima, starting at Kamodani (加茂谷) in Anan City (阿南市) between Kakurin-ji (鶴林寺 – 20) and Tairyūji (太竜寺 – 21). It was a damp morning and fog hung over the mountains, creating a surreal aura along the valley floor.
From the large steel bridge which crosses the Naka River, we first headed north to Katsuura Town and then west along the winding Sakamoto-gawa River, slowly rising into the mountains.
Our first stop was Kanjogataki waterfall which is more of a light mist than a cascading torrent. We climbed up for a better look and came across a ledge carved into the mountain where practitioners of Shugendō and Shingon Buddhism carry out fire and water rituals.
Probably not this vigorously.
A short distance below, obscured from the road by dense foliage, is Onbuchi waterfall. There was a large rock in the centre of the plunge pool which would make the perfect spot to meditate in better weather.
Continuing east to Kamikatsu we parked in a small village with houses dating back to the 17th Century and continued on foot up Mt. Yamainudake (山犬嶽).
15 minutes into the walk we came across one of the most astonishing places I’d seen during the whole pilgrimage.
Set among the mossy feet of the trees and rocks, a mini 88 temple pilgrimage had been created at some point in the distant past with a similar topographical layout to the real thing.
Small stone carvings had been erected to represent each temple and signs pointed out a circular path around them.
Climbing a large rock afforded an astonishing view out over the valley, the swirling mist devouring the mountains beyond.
Below the green canopy, the cedar trees stood tall and straight like telegraph poles in waiting.
Back in the car, a short distance south we paused to overlook the beautiful rice terraces at Kashihara no Tanada. The area is designated as an important Cultural Landscape (文化的景観) and protected from development.
45 minutes west, the largest waterfalls were found in Naka Town along the Sawadani-gawa River. Steep slippery steps allow you to reach the base of Oogamanotaki waterfall from where it becomes apparent how deeply the water has cut into the rock over time.
We ended the day with a late lunch at Shikibidani Onsen which specializes in deer and wild boar dishes.
Over misty mountains, along ancient trails and stormy shores, come rain or shine, the pilgrimage took me to places of unfettered beauty and introduced the most generous people I’ve ever met. I’m sure these images will stick in my mind for many years to come.