The day started off well enough. It was a pleasant sunny morning as we departed Tokushima on the first of three trains and one bus. They would take us to the foot of a trail leading 200 meters up through dense forest to Hotsumisakiji, Temple 24 on the Henro pilgrimage route.
By the time we disembarked the second train at Kaifu, the weather had turned. Rain pelted as we made our way across the platform to catch the third train, the festive Asa Seaside Railway bound for Kannoura. Festive because the interior was decorated for the coming cherry blossom season with silk flowers on the walls and strings of flickering colored lights overhead.
By the time we departed the bus at Hotel Misaki, across from the temple site, we were in the midst of a blustery storm. It’s a steep climb to Temple 24, along a dirt path strewn with slippery stones and tree roots. But we passed through the temple gates and all concern for a driving rain and harsh winds dissipated behind the chants of fellow pilgrims. They were more devout than us, or so we assume, but we all shared a communion with this magical space. For me, it was also a chance to revisit the last temple visited in 2015, prior to our return to Winnipeg, where my mother, Anna Firman, was fading from life and would ultimately pass away not long after our return. Back then, I left an osame-fuda (name slip) dedicated to her. Today, I will leave a second one in gratitude of her 89 years and her unwavering encouragement of me throughout my life.
We made our way down the slope to Muroto City. The weather continued to pound and the temperature dropped. By the time we reached Fuji Business Hotel, our humble abode for the night, our fingers were stiff and raw. But one more detour, one more excursion, in this wicked weather. We headed off for nearby Shinshoji, Temple 25, and climbed its long, steep stairway. It was a less-than-inspiring temple.
The Fuji Business Hotel could be described as shabby chic, with emphasis on the former. But it was a welcome and dry place today and a dip in its furo (soaking tub) for the good part of an hour was sheer pleasure.
Against all odds, the Fuji’s staff of one provided a wonderful multi-course dinner, featuring two local delicacies, seared bonito and clams. A fitting end to this first, harsh day of walking.