The Pilgrimage Part II
The next section of the pilgrimage started with a hike into the mountains covering an
increase in elevation of 3500 feet. This is equivalent to climbing the Washington
Monument seven times, nonstop.
At the top of the mountain was a beautiful temple. After a six hour
hike, the rice balls and noodle soup really tasted great.
This man was proud that his seventeen-year-old granddaughter would
come on pilgrimage with him. When asked how he felt about her being
so much taller than he was, he said that it seemed only natural.
After all, he said, his children were also taller than he was.
High Tech Pilgrim
The cell phone generally seemed to work throughout the course of
the pilgrimage, no matter how far into the mountains the path progressed.
This made it convenient to make a reservation at the next inn or to get the
Along the way I met Mr. Takaba, shown here with his wife. He is a distance
runner and intended to run the entire 700 mile course. At the rate he was
going I estimated that it would take him little more than two weeks to cover
the distance it takes the average pilgrim to do in two months.
Miraculous cures have been reported by some people who have gone on the
eight-eight temple pilgrimage. These signs, posted in a temple, say, "Every
day is moxibustion day." and, "If you have hepatitis, please ask us."
I thought I might post my card here with a note saying, "And if you have
a toothache, call Dr. Ward."
The pilgrimage followed some beautiful mountain trails.
I met up with new friends Don Weiss and family while on the trail. He
did the pilgrimage about twenty years ago and wrote a book about it.
Many of the temples provide accommodations and meals for the pilgrims
at a very reasonable price. Sleeping arrangements are often dormitory style,
with ten or twenty people in a tatami mat room. My experience has been
that pilgrims, without exception, all snore.
Gifts for Pilgrims
It is custom to give gifts of food, lodging or money to the pilgrims. When
we stopped to ask directions from this woman, she gave us a yogurt drink
and some candy. It is considered very bad manners to refuse these gifts.
The pilgrim will often pray for the gift giver at the next temple he visits.
I met the head priest from a big temple in western Japan. He was
on pilgrimage with over one hundred of his parishioners.
After seven days and one hundred miles of hiking I reached the costal
village of Hiwasa. I spent the night in the temple accommodations,
bought a used mountain bike, and took off down the coast road on the
next leg of my journey.