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Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Walk Around Shodoshima To the Great Kannon Part II

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

After a delicious lunch with mostly female company it was time to press on. As pleasurable as lunch was, it had taken almost two hours out of a very short winter's day, and if I was going to get where I needed to before dark I had to pick up the pace.

A kilometer or so up the quiet narrow lane and I arrived at the small village of Takinomiya where I enjoyed a drink while exploring the local Yasaka Shrine. Nearby was Takinomiya-an, a small hermitage and number 71 of the pilgrimage. The bell tower was moved here from the Yasaka Shrine when the government separated the Buddhas and Kami in early Meiji.

Approaching Kasagataki, Shodoshima.
Approaching Kasagataki, Shodoshima
I take the well signed footpath that heads up towards the top of the ridge. I have been climbing gently since mid-morning and so the last stretch to the ridge is quite quick. The ridge is very narrow and every now and then I pass a statue. As the trail starts to get steep I come upon a curious circular room of concrete and above it a statue of Fudo Myo. Down below, the valley I walked down on day 4 stretches away into the distance.

The trail now starts down the opposite side of the ridge. It is very rocky and the trail is not at all clear but it's fairly obvious where I'm heading. Soon I reach a wide path and a bell tower and then lines of statues. I've reached Kasagataki, the okunoin of temple 72, Ryukoji, which is located lower down at the base of the mountain.

Way up at the base of the cliff is a group of building set against the rock, obviously various caves/ halls, and on top of the cliff itself a tall, pagoda made of stone. Between me and the building is a huge, steep slope of bare naked rock. Not perfectly smooth, but with no steps carved into it, a handrail goes part way up. However, a yellow rope is strung across the base which would seem to imply that entry is forbidden. I slowly start to make my way up. Where the handrail ends there is a small cave off to the right which I go into and explore.

The main halls of Kasagataki, Shodoshima.
The main halls of Kasagataki, Shodoshima
The entrance is flanked by stone lanterns and statues and inside a small altar. From here there is a chain to help with the climb up to the main halls. I really want to make the climb but figure the doors are probably locked so instead I head back down. Following the path along I come to another section leading down that is just exposed, jagged rock. There is a handrail but here also a yellow rope suggesting entry is not allowed, but as I have come over the mountain rather than up the mountain from the temple below, there is no other way.

From the gate a long and wide flight of stone steps leads down to the road. Coming from below it must be one hell of a climb up to Kasagataki. I follow the country lane down into the village where I find Ryukoji, a substantial temple and one of only a handful on this pilgrimage with Nio guardians. I walk along the hillside through the village and head north east towards the Daikannon. First I stop in at pilgrimage temple number 73, Guze-do.

Entrance to the Great Kannon.
Entrance to the Great Kannon
From here the bright, white, slender figure of the giant Kannon statue becomes visible rising from the hillside ahead. I take what seems to be the most direct route towards her, but come to a stream with deep concrete banks and so must head back towards the main road before finding the entrance.

The base of the statue, which is more than 50 meters high, contains a temple and after paying my entrance fee, go in and explore. An elevator ascends up inside the statue to the viewing platform. The small windows looking out are the jewels in Kannon's necklace. The views to the front look down on the valleys and mountains I previously walked, and the view from behind is the coast of Shodoshima and views towards Okayama and other islands. The sun is close to setting and there is a bus stop just in front of the Daikannon entrance, so its a good point to stop for the day and catch the bus back down to Tonosho.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 6 Part I

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