Day 43: The Curse Is Lifted (15 April 2019)

Finally, I saw someone sporting the Boston Red Sox. I have not mentioned that the logo of the Evil Empire from New York has been seen numerous times. Our bearer of the hanging Sox came into the restaurant where I was having lunch. He was surprised when I asked him if I could take his photograph. My basic Japanese worked well enough and he agreed to have his photograph taken.

Using the rewind button, Kondo-san and I attended a morning service before breakfast (6 AM) as is the custom when you stay in temple lodging. Once the congregation was seated, mostly on the floor, nine priests processed to the alter. Chants, a sermon, striking of a bell, lighting incense, and more chanting ensued. An hour passed.

Kondo-san said that the ceremony was unusually long, the typical ones being about 30 minutes. Perhaps we got the longer ceremony because we were at Kukai’s birthplace. I likened it to a Catholic solemn high mass as opposed to a low mass. Regardless of the reason, the ceremony was interesting and for someone who could not understand most of the Japanese, a time for meditation.

Sadly, after we said prayers and had our book signed at Zentsuji, it was time to say good-bye to Kondo-san at the train station. Our chance meeting at Temple 57, Eifukuji, turned into a three day opportunity to share one another lives. I have had two such gifts on this journey. Although it was hard to part, the togetherness was well worth it.

Onward I continued to Temples 76, 77, 78, and 79. I wanted to finish the day with Temple 80 at the foot of a mountain where two temples sit at the top. However, I underestimated how long it would take to finish an 18 mile segment. Also, I took almost an hour at lunch because the route was shorter. If I did not, I would have missed the Red Sox fan.

These temples were mostly on flat ground and displayed the usual architecture. However, I took a photo of the display of wooden boards with messages to Buddha. One sees these displays at every temple though not as filled as this one. Look carefully and you will see an illustration on one of the faces of the boards. Each temple has its own distinct one.

The host of the Ebisu-ya Ryokan greeted me at the door. It was already 5 PM. She asked for my laundry which she did as an osettai. At the call for dinner, Mitake-san appeared. I first met him on Day 35 at Sea-pa with Akita-san. There he was again for the fifth time. We laughed about how ohenro brings people together. Since he will be in Tokyo during Golden Week, he suggested that we go together Kamakura and walk to the many temples in that city. I agreed although we both recognized that his English is limited as is my Japanese.

Dinner was served and the usual banter ensued about what happened during the day and where we will be staying the next day. I mentioned that I was staying on the mountain by one of the temples. Frowns appeared; heads moved back and forth; da-me (bad) was said; and two index fingers in the form of Xs were shown. Apparently, in the Japanese ohenro community, this particular lodging has a bad reputation.

An animated conversation in Japanese broke out. I could make out about 10%. Ah so, desu ne. Da-me yo. E- to, kono hotel wa e desu. It was settled. I was getting reservations at a different hotel. Calls were made to make the new reservation and cancel the previous one after which we settled back into a conversation about temples we thought were particularly interesting. You have to have faith!

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