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Monday, May 23, 2016

A Walk Around Shodoshima To the Great Kannon

A Walk Around Shodoshima
Day 6, To the Great Kannon
Saturday February 6th

Due to a combination of my own schedule and lousy weather forecasts, it has taken a month for me to be able to get back here to Shodoshima so I can finish the last leg of my walk around the island on the Shodoshima 88 Sacred Sites Pilgrimage.

This sixth day of my walk the weather is set to be fine for walking and I am based in Tonoshima and will use the local buses to get back and forth to my various starting points. Today I start from Tonosho and start to head up the western side of the island.

The first temples on the route are across the narrow channel and I can see them from my hotel, but to get to them I must walk into the town and cross the bridge across the Dobuchi Strait and then walk out again.

Once I get to the other side I sit and have a little break and a small car stops and I am given the all too common interrogation: "Where are you going?" "Where are you from?" etc etc. They tell me they have a guest house and I am welcome to come and stay tonight free of charge. I politely decline as I have already paid for my room at the hotel and that is where my luggage is, so then they invite me to come for lunch.

I scribble down the phone number but don't tell them that I don't have a cellphone, as to finish the walk in time I can't afford the break. They drive off and I head up a back street to find the next temple, number 61, Jogen-an, a small place of just two small buildings, but with a large tree in front, an Obame Oak, used to produce a particularly fine type of charcoal called Binchotan.

Not far up the coast road is the next temple, Honkaku-ji, number 53, the temple I could see from my hotel on the other side of the water. It's a fairly substantial temple with many buildings and statues. Some steps lead up the hill to a tall stone pillar topped with four lions. This is an Ashoka Pillar, memorializing the great emperor Ashoka who ruled the Indian sub-continent in the 3rd Century BCE who is famous for converting to Buddhism.

A Walk Around Shodoshima To the Great Kannon.
Shodoshima Pilgrims
A path from the pillar leads up a little more to the next temple, number 65, Komyo-an, a concrete building with no windows. Just as I am about to leave a mini bus turns up and out pile about a dozen chattering pilgrims all dressed in white with staffs and all the other correct pilgrim paraphernalia.

This is the first pilgrim tour group I have encountered on my walk on Shodoshima. I head up the road towards the headland where there are a total of six pilgrimage temples to visit scattered across three or four fishing villages.

Most are unremarkable, but Shorinji, number 68, has a nice raked sand garden featuring a cone and a pyramid. One thing that did strike me as I was wandering around the labyrinth of narrow alleys and lanes in the fishing villages was that over on the other side of the island people were paying good money to visit the 24 Eyes Movie Village, a fake reconstruction of a traditional fishing village, and yet would never dream of visiting any of these genuine ones.

Shikai, fishing village on Shodoshima.
Shikai, fishing village on Shodoshima
As I head north the road veers inland towards the mountain ridge I know I will have to climb over later, but first I stop in at quite a substantial temple, number 70, Chosoji, with white walled grounds and a bell tower gate. There is some nice statuary and gardens within so I pause for a while and prepare for the slow uphill walk to come.

About a kilometer further up the narrow country lane a small car stops. It's the man who stopped earlier this morning and he tells me it's lunchtime and beckons me to get in. His place is just 200 meters back down the road and we go into a big log cabin, imported from Canada apparently. Inside six women are busy preparing lunch.

Free organic lunch at  Mr. Imagawa's place.
Free organic lunch at  Mr. Imagawa's place
Jiro Imagawa has quite a nice set up. He has a big organic farm and also runs a guest house as well as having a converted barn with more spartan facilities at only 2,000 yen a night. He offers a variety of "experience" tours on the island, but many of his guests are WWOOfers, people, often foreign, who stay for free in return for a few hours labor on his farm. So instead of trudging the pilgrim trail up into the mountains I get to enjoy a delicious organic lunch surrounded by female company.

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Jake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 5 Part II

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