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.
We’ve just arrived in Tokushima, a mid-sized city on the eastern tip of Shikoku, the smallest and least populated of Japan’s four major islands. This will be our jumping-off point for our on-again, off-again long-distance Buddhist pilgrimage walk around the island. (More about that as our journey progresses.)
Today we leave behind the big city and our pilgrim friends, Kanaka and Itou. They will be heading back to their homes on the mainland. We will thread our way through the messy edge of the city and back into a more rural landscape of villages, rice fields and temples.
Not that we leave humanity far behind. Our path is mostly along roads, minor and major, lined continuously with buildings and structures. So far, most escapes to a more natural environment along the pilgrimage route tend to be through the woods or up a mountain path leading directly to a temple.
Farewell mountains. Hello Tokushima. Again. Our five days of walking has taken us in a complete circle, back to the place where our journey began.
When we first arrived on Shikoku five days ago, we headed to Temple 1 in the small hamlet of Bando. There, we purchased our Henro gear and fumbled our way through the etiquette and rituals of temple-visiting. Within a couple of hours, we were on a twenty-minute commuter train ride to the nearby city of Tokushima, our home for the night. We would return to Bando the next morning to continue our 88-temple pilgrimage. (more…)