Please start at Day One

Friday, 8 April 2011

Day 39 - Elections, Badgers, Cable Cars.

Apparently elections are being held in a couple of days. Minibuses full of waving people are constantly driving past, with very polite requests to vote for their candidate being screamed from speakers strapped to the roof-racks. As I left Takamatsu City this morning, I passed a campaign office with two canvassers standing outside in red jackets. Their technique was simply to bow repeatedly towards  the rush hour traffic passing by - they would certainly get my vote!

I received a volume of emails from my partner who is now in Tokyo with her parents. She was woken by an earthquake this morning, an aftershock from the powerful earthquake which caused the devastating tsunami on the 11th March, I have not felt any quakes yet in Shikoku, but she says I will get the 'real' Japanese  experience in Tokyo. We have arranged to meet at Koyasan and I am excited, this is a perfect arrangement. There have been occasions when I have been emotionally overwhelmed by a temple, mountain, forest, view or some encounter that I wanted to share with her, but by undertaking the main part of the pilgrimage by myself I have encouraged myself to engage more with Japanese people and to practise my language. Both of which aspects I have enjoyed, and both of which have made my experience more meaningful and memorable.

At Temple 84 there were two statues of badgers, large statues, large badgers. The sign, which helpfully was also in English, explained that people come from all over the country to pray to the Badger God Yoshima Tasaburou who, according to the legend once metamorphosed into human form to guide Koubou Daishi through the mist on the mountain. Worshippers pray to the badger for assistance in maintaining a peaceful family, marriage and success in the restuarant business. I love Japan!

Just before the final 1km climb up to Temple 85 there was a very tempting Cable Car up to the summit of the mountain. Of course I am not lazy, and I desperately wanted to feel the burn in my legs as I plodded up the mountain, but I was concerned that there might be some low level anti social behaviour, or some fare-evaders on the Cable Car, so I decided that as a responsible caring police officer I should conduct a patrol of the Cable Car even though I was off duty. I am proud to say that I maintained law and order on the Cable Car for the three minutes or so that it took the driver and I to reach the top. The Cable Car was not a suspended cabin like a ski-lift cable car. It was a one coach train, on an impossibly steep railtrack which was pulled up the mountain side by the cable, rather like the first steep section of any rollercoaster, just not quite as exciting.  

It had been raining all day, and this slowed down my walking on the mountain paths where the rocks and logs had become slippery. I arrived at Temple 87, my last temple for the day, at around 4:30pm and it was very quiet. I took the time to consult my electronic dictionary and translated a sign at the temple wash basin, "Rinse well. Don't drink the water!", I wondered how many of these signs I had inadvertently ignored at the previous 86 temples. The Ryokan was literally across the road from the temple, and when I arrived, tired and soggy, Okaasan gave me a hot ginger drink which hit the spot perfectly. In the evening she gave me, and the two other Henro guests, a hand-drawn map of the route from her Ryokan to Temple 88, and some brief instructions on which roads to take, she also advised us to stop off at the Maeyama O Henro Salon on the way to Temple 88.
  • Distance walked today =  26.5km
  • Distance walked so far = 783.1km
  • Temples visited today = Temple 84; Yashimaji, Temple 85; Yakuriji, Temple 86; Shidoji, Temple 87; Nagaoji.
  • Kouban visited today =  nil
  • Accommodation =     Ryokan and two meals ¥6000 , Azumaya Ryokan, Nagao, Sanukishi, Kagawaken 〒769 2302
  • Expenditure today = cable-car to Temple 85 ¥550, candles at Temple 86  ¥150, four temple stamps¥1200.
  • Settai = the calligrapher in the Stamp Office at Temple 84 gave me chocolate biscuits. At Temple 85 "amacha" - sweet tea, and snacks were being handed out to all Henro as O Settai, they were celebrating Buddha`s birthday, which is on 8th April in Japan, but 8th May in most other countries.

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