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.



Missing Pilgrims

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.



Other Dangers

This notice was posted at several temples in western Shikoku. It warns
people to avoid this person who is a crook posing as a pilgrim.



Wild Animals

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.



Pilgrim Cats

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.



Shinto Shrine

Although all of the 88 temples on the pilgrimage are Buddhist, there are

several Shinto Shrines along the way.