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Wednesday, April 06, 2016

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 3 The Mito Peninsula Part II

A Walk Around Shodoshima
Day 3 The Mito Peninsula Part II
Saturday December 26

Coming down the hillside I quickly arrive at a small, white shrine, the okunoin of temple number 29, Kazaana-An, which I find not far below. It is high on the hillside and down below I can see the fishing village I would have come through if I had taken the coast road around.

I would have been disheartened to find a big climb up to here so once again I'm glad I chose to follow the pilgrim footpath. Just as I arrive I see a pair of young women heading down to the car park below. The first pilgrims I have seen since starting this walk three days ago.

As I get to the road I meet a young man just arriving by bicycle. I keep bumping into him during the day. In such hilly terrain walking and cycling have a similar pace. My route now heads up the west coast of the peninsula, a much more populated side with farming villages as well as fishing villages, and quite a few larger temples.

Giant sago palm at Seigantoji, Shodoshima.
Giant sago palm at Seigantoji, Shodoshima
Around the corner and over the rise, the next village is called Yoshino and is set in a small valley with rice paddies. The next temple, Shohoji, number 30, is a fairly standard rural temple. There is a priest's house, but no-one is home. Back to the coast road and once again around and over to the next little village and valley, Hamaminami, and temple 31, Seigantoji. This is a little more substantial, with a gate with a bell, and in the forecourt a truly massive Cycad, a Sago Palm.

Claimed to be over a thousand years old, it's not the biggest in Japan, but is well known as one of the biggest. The main hall is on top of a rise above a rock garden. Not the kind of raked sand rock garden, rather the slope is a collection of boulders with a few plants in between. I sit under the gate for a little rest and in the small chapel in front of the gate a group of chattering old ladies are busy sweeping and cleaning. One insists I take a tea. I'm not too fond of green tea but it would be impolite to refuse as it is osettai, a gift to a pilgrim.

Shodoshima somen, Shodoshima.
Shodoshima somen
Carrying on up the coast, once more around and over into Muro. The pilgrim trail passes by two small hermitages, one of which, Hojuji-an, is number 34. Now I'm entering a more touristy area. Up on top of the headland are two large hotels, and underneath, by the side of the road, is a "road station." I stop in for some lunch. I decide to try the local somen, a speciality of the island, a very thin noodle somewhat akin to vermicelli. It's ok.

The next temple is on the hillside up a steep flight of steps. Aizenji, number 32, is a nice surprise. A fairly substantial temple with nice landscaping. There is a big, old Juniper tree and a nice rocky hillside garden. Most interesting of all for me was the discovery of an onigawara in the form of a kappa, the first I have ever seen.

One more bend and one more rise to cross and I am looking down over Ikeda, another of the towns of the island. Once I get down to sea level, I visit a rather unusual structure just inland from the beach. It's called a sajiki, looking like castle walls, its a series of terraces made out of stone that provided seating for watching the festival of the nearby shrine. At least that is what the locals believe. They don't know exactly when it was built either.

Ikeda sajiki, Shodoshima.
Ikeda sajiki
Behind the sajiki on the hillside is Choshoji, and it is by far the biggest and grandest of the temples so far. Set on three levels with massive stone retaining walls with lines of steps leading up, many of the buildings are relatively new. There is obviously money here. The grounds also have some very nice raked sand gardens with little "islands" topped with pruned pine trees.

Down the hill is the major shrine of the area, Kameyama Hachimangu, and on my way up the driveway the priest of the shrine returns to his house and we chat for a while. A few minutes later while I am exploring the shrine he comes running up to me with a English language guide to Shodoshima. He asks where I am staying tonight and then offers to drive me there but I politely decline as I still have two more temples to visit. The last two temples of the day, number 36, Shaka-do, and 37, Myoji, are right next door to each other and share the same grounds. Both temples have some nice Fudo Myo statues which is a nice way to end a long day.

Nearby on the main road is a bus stop from where the bus will take me back to Furue. Today I have visited 15 temples. With 88 to visit in 8 days, that is not a bad day. At the end of the third day I once again feel that this has been a surprisingly interesting three days of walking and exploring, and I wonder whether the next five days will be just as good

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 3

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