The Pilgrimage Part VII
A few of the temples are high in the mountains and get snowed in during the winter.
Risks along the Trail
Grave stones along the trail attest to the fact that the pilgrimage used
to be a risky endeavor. Many who embarked on it a few hundred years
ago would never return home. If a pilgrim died along the trail, he would
be buried where he fell.
You wouldn't think that it would be possible to disappear in a country as
densely populated as Japan, but even today people go missing on the
pilgrim circuit. Posters like the above are often seen in temples along the
way. Most of these people are elderly who may have wandered off the trail
or have fallen off the side of a steep mountain path. I personally have no
fear. I always carry my cell phone. If I were to break an ankle along the
way I would just call Mieko and she would come and take me home.
Bands of monkeys are sometimes encountered along the pilgrimage trails.
Although they do not seem to appreciate intrusion by humans into their
territory, they do not attack pilgrims. The animals will usually just run off
while voicing their disapproval. There are also wild boars in the mountains.
However, they are quite timid and avoid pilgrims. The greatest threat is
from mosquitoes, which are ferocious in the summer months.
Cats can often be found lounging around the temples. This one is dressed
in traditional pilgrim white. Perhaps he is looking forward to being a human
in his next life, and thus being that much closer to achieving enlightenment.
The Long and Winding Road
After five hundred miles on the circuit you would think that I would be
getting tired, and looking forward to the end of the trail. Quite to the
contrary. This stretch of winding road was so beautiful that I was
wishing the pilgrimage would never end. It followed the crest of a
mountain for several miles to the highest temple on the circuit at
nine hundred meters.
It's Not All Temples
The northern shoreline of Shikoku faces on the Seto Inland Sea and is
very industrial. This is the view I got from my hotel room one morning.
Don't Try This at Home
Legend has it that as a child the Great Teacher Kobo leapt from the
side of a cliff to test his faith. As we all know, he survived and went
on to become Japan's most famous Buddhist saint.
Although all of the 88 temples on the pilgrimage are Buddhist, there are
several Shinto Shrines along the way.