Posted by: MicheleLisa | April 3, 2012

What happened?!?



University happened that’s what.  If you haven’t guessed by now, all that studying tends to kill my blogging muses.

But we are on spring break next week, so I hope to at least get the next post out.

Have no fear, I’m not abandoning this until I’ve finished, it’s just had to sit lower on my priority scale.

Until then!

Posted by: MicheleLisa | February 26, 2012

School’s back!

Just a quick announcement, I start back at university tomorrow, so I’ll be revising my scheduled posting days.  Look out for new posts on Wednesdays and Sundays (more or less)~

Posted by: MicheleLisa | February 24, 2012

Henro Day 5: Journal

November 25, 2011, Day 5

  • Walking from 7:40 am to 3pm
  • 2 temples (Idoji, Onzanji)
  • 20.2 km
  • Staying at Minshuku Chiba (6825 yen including dinner and breakfast)

Today I had to push myself.  Legs are feeling very very stiff and my calves hurt!

I exchanged name slips with my two new friends at breakfast, and then we were off around 7:40.  Made it to the first temple shortly after 8.  Then it was the long slog to temple 18.

Idoji (No. 17)

I took the route through Tokushima city.  It was interesting to see a little more of Tokushima, but it’s not a huge city.  Nor does it have much of anything really.  But it was better than climbing the 150 m pass if I used the other way.

Followed route 55 for most of the day.  All in all not very inspiring.

Did have a woman stop and talk to me – surprise surprise – a Jehovah’s witness.  You can never escape them.

Rest Hut on Route 55

I really needed to find a toilet and I didn’t see any of the convenience stores that were marked on the map.  In fact I know one of them was closed (out of business?) but luckily for me I found a rest hut that wasn’t marked and there was a toilet!  With toilet paper even!  The rest huts are really nice and clean, but simple.  And they all have a guest book to sign as well.  So I did.

Guest Book

Temple 18 was a bit of a disappointment, not well cared for (although an organization was there today cleaning leaves).  At least Minshuku Chiba is close by!

Onzanji (No. 18)

Not  so sure how I want to finish this.  Tomorrow I’ll go to 19 and stay about 100 min away from 20.

20 is Henro Korogashi…  and so is 21, but there’s nowhere to stay between.  I’ll book in a place after.  Or do I go to Minobashi Station and then train to 22 and 23???  From 21 to 22 is 4.2 hours.  And from 22 to 23 is 6.3 hours..  So hard to decide, and I must decide tomorrow.

All that being said, I’ll probably walk to 22 and train to 23.  Feeling very very tired tonight, so I’ll turn in early.  (It’s only 6:30!)

I forgot to mention, I was given osettai yesterday at 18 – a really cute drawstring purse 😀

Posted by: MicheleLisa | February 20, 2012

Henro Day 4: Reflections

Day 4 was a day of contradictions in a way.  By the afternoon my legs were so sore and stiff, getting up stairs was near impossible.  And the last 6 km was a real challenge, mostly flat, but because my legs were giving me so much grief I couldn’t move as fast as I would have liked and it felt as if it really dragged out.  However, all that being said, it was my favourite day!  Mostly because the downhill stretch was so beautiful.

As per usual I left pretty early in the morning, and because I started out in the mountains it was still somewhat dark.  But as soon as I got through the pass I had the morning sun breaking over mountains, valleys, and little townships.  So very pretty.  The sky was a gorgeous blue, and the water in the river was just so clear.  Not at all what I am accustomed to in Japan.  The scenery in that part of Japan is just right up my alley.

Surprisingly there was only a little bit of off-road path on day 4.  The rest of the trail was on roads, which surprised me, but I do have to admit that I prefer the slope of a road to climbing down stairs (which you find a lot hiking in Japan).    I think people have a hard time choosing the right kind of shoes to do the Henro trail, because you would think it’s hiking, but really you spend most of your time on roads.  I was wearing trail runners, which I found gave me enough grip (although I didn’t have to test that in wet weather) and yet were still comfortable enough for walking on bitumen.

Dainichiji (No. 13)

Kokubunji (No. 15)

I ended up running into many of the same people again today.  Everyone left the lodge around the same time, and we all would catch up to each other along the way, as well as the bus and car pilgrims at the temples.  Initially I had only planned to walk to the next temple as that would have been about 19 km, but after talking to all the other Henro the night before I decided to push myself to temple 16.  I was kinda glad that I did, because otherwise I would have stopped for the night far too early, but it really was tough going.  There were two other Henro who had stayed at the lodge the previous night at the same Minshuku this night, which was nice because we could have a chat over meals.  It was also a pretty nice Minshuku as well, I had a room which looked out on a courtyard garden even!

Just a couple of other curiosities worth mentioning from day 4.  Passed my first rest hut for pilgrims which was designed for people to sleep in.  Very very basic, and probably very cold in winter, but if that’s your kinda thing I guess~  Certainly a great idea for people who get stuck.  Also passed a mini truck that had been pimped.  It was rather funny.  I guess I can understand doing that kind of thing to a big truck, but I just seems a bit ludicrous on a truck that size.

Posted by: MicheleLisa | February 17, 2012

Henro Day 4: Journal

November 24, 2011, Day 4

  • Walking from 7:30 am to 4pm
  • 4 temples (Dainichiji, Jorakuji, Kokubunji, Kan-onji)
  • 24.9 km
  • Staying at Uroko-ro (7650 yen including dinner and breakfast)

Boy, do my legs hurt (and feel stiff).

I let the others at the lodge last night talk me into the extra 6km.  So tonight I’m near No. 16, rather than No. 13.

Another Henro on the trail

Actually made good time to 13, 5.5 hours.  Considering I thought it would be all down hill, but actually there was a pass we crossed and then mostly downhill.  Today is wasn’t cow smells, but chicken smells.

The walk downhill

And there was this one bridge.  If you could call it that.  More like planks were there used to be a bridge.  But it was very very pretty in the mountains and along the river.  It was amazingly blue.

Plank Bridge (with a chicken farm behind)

After 13 it was back to Tokushima city and suburbia.  It actually took 2.5 hours just to cover the last 6 km.  Mostly due to the fact my legs can’t go any faster.  And don’t mention stairs.  Actually I pretty much did the same time on foot for the last 4 temples as a bus group.  They seemed a little shocked.

Jorakuji (No. 14)

It was pretty windy and cold today.  Glad I wore my long johns.

Also found a post office and bought some stamps as well as deposited money (finally).  Now I wont be totally f***ed if I get robbed.  And I’ll have to write postcards tonight.  After I do some washing and bath.  Can’t quite feel my fingers.

Finally, played some more ‘Where’s Wally’ today.  Wally being what I’ve dubbed the little red henro on all the guide stickers.  Didn’t get too lost (only one street off).

Wally the Henro

Can’t decide if I should take a very easy day tomorrow, or a regular day.  It’s hard to say what my legs will be like.  I’ll have a look at the book later.

Posted by: MicheleLisa | February 14, 2012

Henro Day 3: Reflection

It’s no surprise that I like hiking, so it should also be no surprise that day 3 was one of my favourite days.

The trail from temple 11 to temple 12 is a ‘Henro Korogashi’ which I’ve only seen translated as Pilgrim falls down.  I think a better translation would be Pilgrim’s downfall.  There are a few points along the pilgrimage which are known as Korogashi, and they are known as that because they are particularly steep or arduous, and day 3 is the first test for any pilgrim.

I’ve spoken to another friend who attempted doing the pilgrimage a few years ago, and day 3 was as far as he got, so I was a little nervous about what to expect.  In fact, I was quite ready to pull out if the weather went bad, or it was too difficult to do in trail runners.  A funny thing, at temple 11 there is a mini pilgrimage before you start the trail, so if you don’t make it you could just pay your respects at the little shrines circling Fujidera.


Overall, I found my first Korogashi not too bad.  None of the mountains were particularly tall, and all the steep areas had stairs.  It would still have been nice to have a walking stick though.  It was a bit annoying that it wasn’t like a ridge walk, and you had to go all the way up and then all the way down all three peaks.  There were also a few people on the trail, not only fellow pilgrims, but also locals out for some exercise.

One thing I love about hiking is being in nature.  Japan has really lovely scenery, quite different from what I’m accustomed to in Australia.  Day 3 was mostly hiking through cedar forests, which have this mysterious air to them I think.  And there were a few bamboo groves along the way as well as a great view of the river basin that I walked across the previous day.

Arriving at Shosanji was a little surreal.  It is a very pretty temple, but the contrast between the natural forest on the trail and the not-so-natural scenery at the temple was a little disconcerting.  Or maybe it was running into all the bus pilgrim crowds.  Shosanji has an interesting story about it’s foundation, apparently a dragon was terrorising the mountain, but was contained in a cave by Kobo Daishi, thus saving the people of the mountain.

My accommodation for the night (Nabeiwa-so) would have to be my favourite place I stayed the whole trip.  It was really really lovely, and also probably the best value for money.  I think the building was somewhat new, but built in a rustic style, and even smelled of fresh cut wood.  There were about 8 Henro staying that night (mostly older retired men, but also one other woman), so dinner in the dining hall was a very lively affair.  Oh, and dinner was really yummy, fresh greens, rice, miso, and tempura!

The mix of people I met this day was very interesting.  It included a two local men who were out for some morning exercise by hiking the first mountain.  A couple of young university students from Kansai doing a few days on trail.  A woman from Shizuoka doing the trail a few days at a time.  Another man from Tochigi who was planning on doing about 2 weeks.  And also an older man who was doing the trail in reverse, and for the 5th time!  They say doing the trail in reverse is something like 3 times harder than the regular way.

So, finally, here’s  a picture of me, just to show you how I was kitted out.  I’m wearing the pilgrim’s white coat, but my little bag of supplies was in my backpack that day.  I also ended up wearing my rain jacket under the coat quite frequently as I found it to be a good wind breaker.  Apart from that I was wearing just a long sleeve t-shirt, hiking trousers, trail runners and a head sock or cap.  Although you can’t see it, my pack looked big, but was only about 6kg, and on the waist strap I have my camera bag.  Not going to win any beauty contests with this outfit, but it was really comfortable and functional.

Posted by: MicheleLisa | February 13, 2012

Posting delay

I haven’t been able to keep to my unofficial posting schedule of Mondays and Fridays this week.  Keep a look out for my next post sometime tomorrow!

Posted by: MicheleLisa | February 10, 2012

Henro Day 3: Journal

23 November, 2011, Day Three

  • Walking from 7:30 am to 4pm
  • 1 temple (Shosanji)
  • 17.9 km
  • Staying at Nabeiwa-so (6825 yen including dinner and breakfast)

Made it!  I kept telling myself if I got though today I could get through anything!  And I did.  17.9 km, 3 mountains, 1 temple (and 12.9 km in 5 and a half hours with breaks – I’m proud!).

Start of the trail at Fujidera

Started out after a quick breakfast of croissants at the hotel then walked back to Fujidera.  Started out on the trail around 8 o’clock.  To be honest, the mountains weren’t that hard, 600m, 745m and 705m, but three in 5.5 hours was a challenge.  And I had a blister (but luckily it’s under my foot and gave me no trouble with a band-aid on).

Kobo Daishi at Joren-an

Kept crossing paths with new people today.  And spiders.  At Joren-an (the last shrine before Shosanji) there was a lovely statue with a huge cedar tree behind it.

Shosanji (No. 12)

Shosanji temple itself was lovely, up amongst the cedars.  Stayed there for an hour of so before heading to the lodgings for tonight – Nabeiwa-so.  On the way I was stopped at a shop and invited to have some coffee and persimmon as osettai.  There I met another pilgrim from Tochigi.  Most pilgrims seem to be retired men!

The lodge itself is beautiful.  New looking yet traditional and rustic with exposed beams and a lovely cedar smell.

Sign marking Henro Korogashi

So my first henro korogashi challenge is past!  Only one more in Tokushima.  Looking forward to a good sleep and some flat ground tomorrow!

By the way, I’m in the Cosmos room 😀

Posted by: MicheleLisa | February 6, 2012

Henro Day 2: Reflections

Kirihataji (No. 10)

Day two was so much better than day one.  And that was mainly because I had a lot more interaction with people.  I seemed to keep running into the same people over and over.  If someone was at a temple as I was arriving, I would generally see them at the next temple too, the same with people who were arriving as I was leaving.  So we would all say ‘hello’ and give a few words of encouragement.   Even the bus henro, because sometimes it would take the same amount of time to walk between the two temples as it would take to drive.

This was also the first day that I realised my guide-book (Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide, 1600 yen on, despite being an excellent book, was occasionally lacking in accuracy.  The road maps in some areas don’t show all the details, so it can get a little confusing (like trying to find your hotel).  However, in terms of the route, there are stickers and path markers everywhere marking the path, so I never got lost.  (And some really cute stickers!  I wish I could have bought some for myself)

Before starting out I practically had no plans as to how many days I would do, and where I would stay, etc.  I wasn’t even sure how far I could walk in one day.  Everything I had read recommended doing between 20 and 30 km a day, but I didn’t know if I was physically fit enough.  After day 2 I pretty much decided that 25 km was probably the max I could handle, but that was mainly because doing the trip in November only gave you limited daylight hours to walk.  The sun would just be rising as I left, and would set about 430, so it was getting dark around 4.

Jurakuji (No. 7) and Shukubo (on right)

Choosing where to stay was the next factor that I had to plan for.  I went to the Information Centre in Tokushima and asked for some recommendations on accommodations, and the girl there said that staying in Shukubo (Temple lodgings) would probably get me through Tokushima alright.  I didn’t actually, but at temple 7 I saw my first Shukubo.  Next time I will probably give it a try.  Ringing up the night before and booking accommodation worked fine for me, but I don’t think it would be such a good idea during peak seasons.

Kumadaiji (No. 8)

Also saw a few interesting and random things on day two.  Temple 8 was my first ‘what the?’ moment.  The gate for the temple was about 500m away from the actual temple, which was a bit unusual.  It was sort of sitting alone in the middle of nowhere.  Also saw a house like that, just surrounded by rice fields.  I guess they have space for that in Tokushima.

The last leg of the journey was really interesting, and the longest of the day.  Basically you had to cross from one side of the plain to the other, so you could actually see the prior temple from close to temple 11.  The plain is intersected by the Yoshino river, which is the widest river in Shikoku I believe.  It wasn’t all flowing water, and even had rice fields in the middle of it, but it took something like an hour to cross!  On the other side was where I met my volunteer guide, and he walked with me for about an hour and a half explaining things to me.  It was nice to have someone to chat to.

Yoshino River with Kirihataji (No. 10) in the distance

He was a little confused as to why I didn’t stay closer to temple 11 that night, but I was happy with my decision to stay in town.  If it started raining the next day I wasn’t going to attempt to climb to temple 12.  The trail to temple 12 was steep in parts, and I was only wearing trail runners, so I didn’t want to risk climbing in the rain.  Also, since I was close by to a convenience store, I could buy myself some lunch to take up the mountain with me.  Most days I would have great breakfasts and dinners, but for lunches I mostly relied on calorie mate, chocolate and mandarins.  Not the best, but it worked for me.

The one thing I regret about day 2 is not buying a staff near temple 10.  In terms of pilgrim attire I wasn’t all ‘decked out’.  I only had a hakui (white vest), bag, nameslips, stampbook, incense and candles.  I didn’t buy a staff initially, but thinking of day three’s hike I decided I should get one at temple 11.  Little did I know that there were no shops nearby temple 11.  I still managed to survive though.

Posted by: MicheleLisa | February 3, 2012

Henro Day 2: Journal

November 22, 2011, Day Two

  • Walking from 7:45 am to 4 pm
  • 6 temples (Anrakuji, Jurakuji, Kumadanji, Horinji, Kirihataji, and Fujidera)
  • 23.8 km
  • staying at Access Business Hotel (5,500 yen including breakfast)

A much better day today.  Breakfast was early at the minshuku, and it was (partly) raw egg.  Which they kindly cooked for me.

Anrakuji (No. 6)

They also gave us all a 5 yen piece (shiny) and some matches, which came in handy today.  And then they drove us to the next temple!  I can’t decide if that’s cheating or not, but considering the majority of people bus the whole thing and they encourage people to do it any way they want, I guess it’s okay.

Horinji (No. 9)

Today I went to temple 6 to 11.  I kept running into the same people along the way, with 3 guys who were amazed at how fast I was going (not that fast really) and kept asking if I was running it.  I also had a weird Oji-san talk to me at temple 7.  I didn’t understand half of what he said.

Buddhas in Bibs

Between 10 and 11  had a volunteer guide latch on to me.  Interesting guy.  65 and just out for a 30km stroll.  Showed me the dragon on the ceiling at number 11 and pointed out that Japanese dragons only have 3 claws vs. Chinese, which have 5.  He also pretty much walked me to the hotel.  Except the last crucial 50 meters in which I managed to get hopelessly lost.  It was hiding behind a convenience store.

Kobo Daishi at Fujidera (No. 11)

Smallest hotel I’ve ever stayed in too.  More the size of a motel, but definitely a business hotel.  Cold water in the shower though. 😦

Maccas for dinner (meh), did some washing, repacked bag, sent some e-mails.  Oh, forgot to mention Tokushima kinda smells.  Lots and lots of cows living in sheds.

Little worried about tomorrow – rain and my first Henro Kogoroshi.

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