I started walking this morning with the other two chaps who had stayed in the same Ryokan as me opposite Temple 87. We arrived at the Maeyama O Henro Salon a few minutes before it had properly opened, but they let us in early and gave us hot green tea. The O Henro Salon, conveniently en route to Temple 88, features exhibits relating to the pilgrimage and its history. The salon also contains a large 3D model of the island of Shikoku, like a relief map, with all of the 88 Temples marked on it with red lanterns. This map confirmed my suspicion that virtually the whole island of Shikoku is one massive mountain range, and made me feel proud of my achievement in walking around the majority of this beautiful, mountainous island.
The salon also presents free certificates to walking pilgrims. The certficate says 1,200km, but because I took the occasional train and bus I actually walked only about 800km. I discussed this with the other two chaps and they said as long you walked most of the route, that it was still ok to call yourself a walking pilgrim, as distinct from the car / bus tour pilgrims.
I was walking a bit too fast for the other two chaps, or maybe they just didn`t think much of my Japanese conversation, because they told me to go on ahead of them. It was appropriate that the path to the final temple, Ookuboji, was tough, a final challenge. I was in four-wheel-drive mode again, grabbing at tree roots and rocks to pull myself up the narrow rocky mountain `path`. I genuinely suspected that I had missed one of the Henro Path markers and had taken a wrong turning, and I nearly re-traced my steps on a few occasions when the path became incredibly narrow and steep. I was glad that today was a clear sunny day, the path would have been rather tricky in the rain.
*almost finished. I proudly received the final Temple Stamp at Temple 88, it was an emotional moment but I managed not to cry and embarrass myself. I had made an effort to recite all of the sutras entirely from my Hiragana (Japanese alphabet) prayer books for the first time, without taking any shortcuts or resorting to the English. This took a long time and a series of other pilgrims had stood next to me, finished their sutras and then left, while I was still on the Heart Sutra, but it felt like an achievement. The two chaps that I had started walking with this morning arrived after I had finished so I sat and had a snack with them before continuing.
At the Temple Stamp office I also paid for the certificate below which signifies Kechigan (completion of the pilgrimage). However, opinion is divided and some say that one must complete the circle to achieve Kechigan, by returning to the temple you started at, which for me was Temple 1. And there are yet others who say that one must first complete the circuit, and then proceed to Koyasan to truly complete the Shikoku Pilgrimage.
- Distance walked today = 22.1km
- Distance walked so far = 805.2km
- Temples visited today = Temple 88(!); Ookuboji.
- Kouban visited today = nil
- Accommodation = Shirotori Onsen Hotel and two meals ￥6800, Shirotori Onsen, Higashi Kagawashi, Kagawaken 〒769 2714
- Expenditure today = bottle of Kirin with evening meal ￥550, lemon Vit C drink ￥150, 88 Temple Certificate ￥2000, coin laundry ￥450, one temple stamp￥300.
- Settai = as I was leaving last night`s Ryokan this morning, shortly before 7am, Okaasan gave me some sweets, a big bar of chocolate, a bottle of drink, then said "Shush" and checked the other guest weren`t watching as she gave me back one of the ￥1000 notes I had just paid to her. Free 88 Walking Prilgrimage Certificate, and tea, from Maeyama O Henro Salon.