Today was a mixture of many experiences.
The innkeeper at Masu-ya Ryokan gave me instructions on how to open the front door to let myself out in the morning. Before going, I had an opportunity to look over his collection of various good luck pieces like the lucky cat whose one eye is painted when a wish is granted. I liked this modern version that was perhaps telling that all will be well on this part of the journey.
I was off early because I had a lot of ground to cover and five temples to visit. The urban environment offers a lot of stimuli.
School children were returning after their spring break. It was interesting to see how they crossed busy intersections. Everyone lines up and follows the senior (oldest student – sempie) who is holding a flag. The concept of the sempie is ubiquitous across Japanese society. In school, underclass students defer to more senior ones. Even Ayoyama-san jokingly referred to me as sempie because I was a few months older than he was. We both deferred to Akita-san, the 80 year old ohenro. Such rules seem to bring a high level of order to the society.
Another phenomenon is the amusement and gaming facilities from pachinko to other forms of entertainment. The caption says – Slot Brave Man’s Spirit. I don’t know what this was all about. But you certainly pick up the testosterone in the message.
Shortly, I reached Temple 54, Enmeiji. A beautiful canopy of cherry blossom trees framed the street leading to the temple.
At the temple, someone had left a staff by the hondo. Check it out. Looks like the skeletal reproduction of a leg. Staffs that ohenro carry come in many different forms usually a four sided square-like pole with a decorative covering at the top. I wonder if the person had come to the temple for a cure and voila it happened because s/he left this staff.
I included another photo of staffs that people had left at Temple 57, Eifukuji. I’m not the only person who leaves a trail of forgotten items. Look closely at the decorative covers. Mine is bare – I lost my covering three weeks ago.
Temple 57 also displays copies of the Buddhist feet rocks from the temple in India where someone had achieved enlightenment. Perhaps they were placed here as an encouragement to ohenro because Ehime prefecture is the place of enlightenment.
As I left Temple 57, I met up with five people, two of whom are pictured here. The fellow on the left as you view the photo is 82; the one on the right is 77, Kondo-san who speaks very good English. I found out that he walked ohenro in 2011 when his mother passed away. While doing ohenro, he met a Frenchwoman who told him about the Camino. He has walked parts of the Camino every year since then. He’ll be going to Spain on 8 May to join up with three Italians for another walk.
I then made the climb to Temple 58, Senyiji. The initial climb is a bit steep. When you get to the sanmon, one then climbs a stair like path up another 300 feet to the top. What a view! I can understand why Monique will stay here again. Book this one.
I included a photo of the person signing my book. Signatures are well done at every temple but his was particularly artistic. Turns out that he was an art professor at Todai (Tokyo University) – printmaking and photography. I loved his style.
As fate would have it, on the way down the stairs of Temple 58, I ran into Kondo-san again. He took a selfie of us and later sent it to me. I responded by saying that I was free for dinner. He took me up on the offer to enjoy his favorite izakaya in Imambari by the train station. (I added the photo of my taxi driver that I needed to get to the eki. Women are making inroads into this profession.) We enjoyed the small plates, and, of course, beer and sochu (distilled sweet potato) from his personal bottle. Look for his name above the label. He says the best sochu comes from Kyushu. I can attest that it was smooth.
He lives alone and loves to meet people and to walk. I invited him to join me on my last few days of ohenro. Who knows. It will another gift to learn about another person and his perspectives on life, Japan, and more. The adventure continues.