Not something but moi.
The morning started with the owner’s mother playing the Japanese flute for us while we had breakfast. Have you ever had live music (other than perhaps your children) performed at 7AM?
She played what I know is Sakura — spot on given that cherry blossoms were at or just after their peak in this area. My grandmother and mother listened to this music when I was a boy. What a joy to hear music again.
The distance between where I was and where I supposed to be was between 35-45 km. That was near marathon distance with a moderate mountain climb included (450 feet up). I decided to take a short train ride to reduce the distance to just over 15 miles.
What pleasant morning believing that I had the walk under control. I passed some houses with “modern” Japanese architecture – minimalist. As I started the climb to Temple 65, Senryuji, a welcoming broadside was painted on the side of a building.
The sanmon of the temple was the first to have its bell over its entryway. All other bells had a separate structure to house it. The grounds were magnificent even though the sakura was past peak. A very large statue of Kukai was framed against the forest. A cartoonist was sketching pilgrims. The temple was showing well.
After receiving the priest’s signature, I started the walk to my minshuku at the base of the mountain where Temple 66, Unpenji, is located. Everyone says Unpenji with reverence because it sits at the highest point on the pilgrim trail, 912 meters, or more than 2700 feet.
I thought that today’s hike was to be a cakewalk. But I took the wrong path and was in the middle of the forest alone. Am I trying to get into the 88 Temple Hall of Fame of Lost Souls? I eventually found a ravine to take down until I found a road that utility workers use to repair high power electrical transmission towers. I needed to find Route 5.
A woman on a motor scooter was coming towards me. I flagged her down but she could not place where we were on the map. Within seconds, a man in a van was coming up the road. He stopped. From the looks of his uniform, he was connected with the local fuel company. He told me to get in the van and off we went for a short drive on the road that I just came down.
In Japanese, of course (thank goodness for those lessons on directions), he told me that I needed to go straight on the road and then to make a right at “T” and finally a left at the top of hill. Got that?
I hurried my pace because I had lots of distance and time to make up. I went straight, past where I had just come down, and made the right going another 2 miles up the road. As I got to the place where I needed to make a left turn, two trucks whizzed by and then stopped in front of me.
Out popped the same man who had give me the lift. Huh? Was this his planned route or did he intentionally follow up on me to make sure that I had found my way? I didn’t ask but was profoundly thankful when he pointed to signs for the ohenro road. I was on my way to my minshuku.
The owner of Okada minshuku greeted me as the American sansei. At dinner, he introduced me to the other guests in the same way. Turns out that two of the seven guests I had met before on the road. One was Matsuo-san who was carrying Marc from Switzerland’s staff (see Day 27).
Our host enjoys people. The walls of our dining room were filled with photos of people who had stayed at his minshuku and had climbed Unpenji. He chit chatted with us throughout dinner. He even gave a lecture on the correct path to the top and what we will see when get there. What a character and someone you can tell loves being part of the ohenro experience. Can you believe that he is 91? We ended the evening in order to rest for the next day.
Thank you Kukai for sending that man who set me back on the right course. No need to become another wasuremono. I have lost enough things already.