On our second day of walking, we leave Fuji Business Hotel and Muroto City behind as we make our way along the coastline of Kochi Prefecture. We also leave yesterday’s stormy, wet and cold. Sure, it is cooler than we would wish but the bright overcast is a welcome reprieve.
Soon, we are climbing once more to yet another temple perched high on a hill. It’s a 200-meter climb along the rough trail leading to Konongōchōji, Temple 26. Just enough to build up a sweat. The temple complex is similar to most other hilltop temples, which is to say a suitably welcome reward after a challenging climb. Hardship yields to a sense of peace up here, perhaps the whole point of the pilgrimage promise.
A local man who lives in Muroto, greets us in English and accompanies us on our return to sea level. Down there, he takes us to Fūdo-iwa, the Okunoin (inner sanctuary) of Temple 26. It’s a cave tucked in a jut of land projecting into the sea. The setting is attractive to us but, historically, it was an important place for ascetics-in-training to hide out in between prayers up at the temple.
From here, our journey follows the coastline. Unfortunately, busy Highway 55 also follows the shore, so the Henro-mishi moves slightly inland, along small, much quieter secondary roads linking the continuous thread of urban development. Along the way, we encounter the Antique Street of Kiragawa. It’s evident that something is different here. The one- and two-storey buildings lining the narrow street evoke a sense of history missing in most Shikoku communities. Here, the buildings are intact 19 C. and early 20 C. structures, all well-preserved. Any new infills carry on the style and level of craftsmanship of their historic neighbours.
We end the day under a full sun at Mishuku Misono. This is a modest home for the night, but Misono, the proprietress, is full of scattered energy that makes us smile. She feeds us handsomely, readying us for the next day’s hike.
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