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Friday, August 26, 2016

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 8 The Final Morning

A Walk Around Shodoshima
Day 8 The Final Morning
February 8th 2016

I had hoped to finish yesterday, but both yesterday and the day before had been excellent days with some time-consuming "diversions", so it leaves me with a very short day today to finish. The bus drops me off on the headland sticking out of the north east of the island.

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 8 The Final Morning.

As expected with dawn's light the views are great. A shortcut along the pilgrimage path lets me leave the main road briefly before rejoining it on the descent into Yoshida, a small fishing village but with a decent sized resort hotel. Heading inland I reach Yoshida-an, 83 of the 88. It's a single building and no-one around. Just across the road a nice local shrine with a big tree.

Instead of heading down the coast the path now continues inland towards the massive Yoshida Dam. The path now heads straight up the mountainside, and though the pass is only 190 meters above sea level, I think it's the steepest climb of the whole pilgrimage. As I get closer to the top I catch views inland to the high country still blanketed in cloud. The trail descends quickly into the back of Fukuda, the port where ferries from Himeji arrive and depart.

I soon find Fukuda-an, temple 83. A little old lady is cleaning up inside and as I am about to head off she calls me back and hands me a tray with a bowl of zenzai, a soup of sweet beans, and a cup of tea. The hospitality towards pilgrims here on Shodoshima has been a real added bonus to a wonderful walk.

I skirt the back of the village and then once again take a path through the woods to reach the next temple. Actually, like a couple of other places on the pilgrimage it's one temple but containing two of the 88 sacred sites. Unkai-ji, is temple 84, but one of the halls within it, Unshi-do, is number 85. It's on the lower slopes at the back of the village, and so has a view looking out over the village and port.

I now skirt the edge of the village and head towards the coast and the main road that heads south. I'm in a bit of a hurry as there is a bus and ferry connection I want to make that will get me home this evening comfortably, so I no longer slow down to enjoy the view. Number 86 Atehama-an is a typical small hermitage like so many others, though peering in the Thousand-Armed Kannon statue seemed quite nice. A little further down the coast there is a sign point to a path that wanders around one of the old quarries where stones for Osaka Castle were produced.

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 8 The Final Morning.

No time as I am not making as speedy a progress as I want. The coast road is very pleasant with very little traffic and great views, but there is more up and downs than I had thought. Kaitei-an, number 87 passes and then it is just one more headland to round before the final temple, number 88, another rather simple hermitage, and that's it. I'm finished, without about seven minutes left till my planned bus arrives. At 150 kilometers, the Shodoshima is the shortest of the six long distance pilgrimages I have completed in Japan, but in some ways it was the most enjoyable. Part of that was due to the amazing cave temples, and part due to the hospitality shown to me by the locals, but I think the most enjoyable was that so much of the route was on path rather than road. Next up on this blog will be the diary of my 48 day walk along the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 7 Part II

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