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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 2 Afternoon

A Walk Around Shodoshima
Day 2, Afternoon
Friday December 25th

Faced with a choice about which route to take I opt for what is probably the more difficult option -walk up the mountain and take the ropeway down. I am not a masochist, but I am walking a pilgrimage, and it has been my experience that the more effort that is involved in the journey then the more satisfying are the rewards.

The trail up to Sekimondo, Shodoshima.
The trail up to Sekimondo
The road is steep and windy and heads up a narrow gorge. It's a concrete road with corrugations to help vehicles in icy weather I guess. On the way up the sides of the steep valley form into spires and jagged peaks. It's steep all the way until I reach Sekimondo, temple number 18 on the pilgrimage.

It is very impressive, with a cave temple, natural stone arch, and multiple building perched up the valley. The trail carries on up to the top of Kankakei Gorge, after first passing through the opening in the cliff that makes the natural stone bridge, the sekimon.

It is just as steep as the first half of the trail and I begin to doubt the wisdom of my choice. I stagger out at the parking lot of the upper station of the ropeway and my legs are about done in. It is lunchtime and already I must have climbed about a thousand meters in total. After a hot coffee from a vending machine I have a look from some of the viewpoints, and the views are great, but I need to press on as the day is disappearing fast.

Intotani Pond at the lower end of the Kankakei Gorge, Shodoshima.
Inotani Pond at the lower end of Kankakei Gorge
I share the ropeway down with a French family, and they offer me a ride in the taxi that is waiting for them at the bottom, I'm tempted but decline gracefully. From here it should all be downhill. Once I get back to where I started up to Sekimondo, I find a footpath that goes straight down rather than having to walk along the road which winds back and forth, saving me about a kilometer.

The path comes out at the big dam above Kusukabe and then I enter the outskirts of the small town. I have a bit of trouble finding the next temple but a little old lady points me in the right direction. Number 19, Kinoshita-an, is a small hermitage but I am beginning to appreciate the unpretentiousness of these small establishments.

They are very welcoming and completely lacking in ostentation. Another kilometer and I'm in the middle of an urban area and I find number 21, Seikenji, a somewhat larger temple with some curious sculptures in the park next door.

The afternoon becomes golden as the sun rushes towards the horizon. I cut back up a little valley and find the next temple, number 17 Ichinotani-an, snuggled against the hillside. It's another small hermitage. According to the map the next temple is down the valley then around and up the next little valley over, about one and a half kilometers, but signs at Ichinotani-an point to a footpath that goes through the woods.

Gokurakuji Temple, Shodoshima.
Gokurakuji Temple, Shodoshima
Once again the route for walking pilgrims is much shorter than for those driving. The last temple of a very long day was Gokurakuji, number 16, and was quite impressive being reached across a bridge that spanned a wide pond in front of the temple. By now the valley was in shadow and it was cooling down quickly so I headed straight down to the main road to catch a bus back to my minshuku as the sun dipped below the horizon across the sea. A long day filled with great sights and nice weather.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 2 Morning

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