Day 44: How Small the World Is (16 April 2019)

We all have stories about meeting people with connections to your past in the unexpected places. I had two zingers in my hip pocket – one from Budapest and another from Kuwait City. Now, I can add a third.

I had made it up the mountain and decided to visit Temple 82, Negoroji, before Temple 81. Kukai founded the temple as a secluded place to practice ascetic virtues. About 450 years ago, a monster terrorized a local village. A champion came forward to slay the beast which he did. The villagers offered the horns of the monster to the temple. Here is a synopsis of the story that presents a caricature of the monster as well as a sculpture that stands outside of the temple.

Besides its superb setting, the temple has a unique hondo. Surrounding the courtyard are indoor corridors that contain rows and rows of small effigies with names of the deceased written at each base. There’s still room for more customers.

While sitting near the temple offices, I saw a couple – the man was white and the woman Asian. Where from?

I left the temple and stopped at a roadside cafe for some udon. In walked this couple behind me. Where from? San Francisco, now San Mateo. I’m from LA. The fellow responded, “I was born in Long Beach.” “What do you think about the pilgrimage?” I asked. “We’re both Catholics but the beliefs are so similar if you practice them in the way you should.”

She said, “Mark once studied for the priesthood.” Mark said, “At a place called Los Gatos.” To close to be true.

Mark is a 1961 Loyola HS graduate, my alma mater. He had Bill Barnett for English and was one of Bill Jr’s confirmation sponsors. Bill Jr is a classmate.

Okay. An okay coincidence. But here is the kicker. Shirley, his wife, Chinese-American, went to the University of San Francisco between 1966-1970. She knew Elliot Short, USF’s chaplain at the time and once my senior religion teacher who opened the ideas of social justice to me. The story goes on from there – too complex to relate here.

They were not walking the entire 88. They are on a custom tour of a sampling of temples in which transportation is arranged for them to a starting point. They walk from there and at the end of the walk are picked up to go to their hotel and the next destination. They get a feel for the walking ohenro but in a limited dosage. Not a bad alternative.

Unlike my usual self, I did not take their photo. They were in a hurry to go down the mountain in order to connect with their taxi. As a gift, Shirley gave me a caramel sucker, cafe latte flavor, from See’s. As good as it gets.

I’ll end today’s blog with panorama photos from the hotel where I am staying. I think that the ohenro network is alive and well.

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