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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 4

A Walk Around Shodoshima
Day 4 Back into the mountains
Sunday December 27th

Yesterday was spent mostly walking along coastline, but today I head back into the higher country. The first two days of the walk included visits to some of the amazing cave temples of the island, and today there will be some more. Tonight I will be staying in Tonosho, so for the first time I will be carrying my full pack with me.

Dawn over the hills of Shodoshima above Ikeda Port.
Dawn over the hills of Shodoshima above Ikeda Port.
I get off the bus not long after sunrise and start heading up a small valley towards Hoanji, temple 40. It is located at the head of the valley and approached up steps. It was pretty enough, with some unusual little statues in shrines at the base. In the grounds of the temple was a stone statue of the reclining Buddha, not so common in Japan, and a small wooden Fudo. Bathed in dawn's light it was high enough to have a view over Ikeda.

The priest's wife (or sister, or daughter) was loading a car and was kind enough to show me where the trail up the mountain began. Pretty steep, but nice to be among trees with the rustle of dead leaves underfoot. The path comes out on a small asphalt road that winds along the mountainside to the entrances to the next two temples. From here the view is more expansive and Tonosho is in view.

Ahead I catch a glimpse of some green roofs at the base of the cliffs some way ahead. I reach the turn off that heads up the mountain to Bukkoku-san. It's very steep and after a while opens out to a parking area. Passing between the stone Nio guardians the way is now lined with stone lanterns. As I approach the gate a statue of Kobo Daishi is perched on a rock overlooking visitors.

Stone statue of Fudo Myo, the main deity at Bukkokusan Temple.
Stone statue of Fudo Myo, the main deity at Bukkokusan Temple.
In front of the cave entrance is a curious statue of a male and female Ogre, he red, she blue. The story behind it and full details of this and the next cave temple Nishinotaki can be found in a full article here.

The cave entrance is fronted by a small structure with a temple roof. Inside is like a grotto, with many candles supplying the only illumination. There are numerous altars and statues, but the main one is Fudo Myo.

Back down at the gate I find the footpath that goes along the side of the mountain to Nishinotaki. Once again the footpath is the quickest and easiest route. If I were in a car I would have to walk all the way down to the car park, drive down to the asphalt mountain road, go along a ways and then drive up, park, and then climb some more. By foot its just a ten minute stroll with no climbing involved.

Looking down on Tonosho from Nishinotaki Temple.
Looking down on Tonosho from Nishinotaki Temple.
Nishinotaki is a much larger temple complex, below sheer cliffs towering above the buildings, The main hall fronts a cave, but the entrance to the cave is through a tunnel to the left of the main hall. There are statues everywhere, many of Fudo Myo, and the views over the island and sea to Shikoku beyond are stunning.

Higher than the main hall is a large building on a concrete framework that projects out. This is a Goma Hall where fire rituals are held in front of yet another Fudo Myo statue. The young priest directs me to another large stone carving of Fudo at the base of the cliff.

All in all the temple is a surprising large complex considering its location. From the main building a long stairway, lined with lanterns, lead down to the car park. From here I follow the driveway down as far as the main road, and from here I take a footpath that continues to descend to the village below and the next few sites on the pilgrimage.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 3 Mito Peninsula

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