Departed at 6:30AM on the 35th day of our walk around Shikoku Island. We ascended 3 hours a challenging 286 meters to Temple 84. Many of the Temples are on mountain tops so at this point we are just used to it. Walking by the Main Temple, a monk was blowing a horn. That’s a first.
Then back down and crossed a river going through an urban area and up to Temple 85 before another descent down into the city stopping for an Osettai offering of refreshing cold green tea and 3 octopus dumplings.
We continued on arriving at Fujiya Ryokan at 2PM. After all the ups and downs, we reveled in their hot bath with added salts. Thankfully, it was bit enough for me to completely stretch out.
Dinner was excellent and varied and fitting for last night; tempura, sashimi, bonito stock soup, 2 small rockfish, milte(fish testicles), and roe(female fish eggs), lotus root and small piece of duck. Yes fish testicles. I tried them first before asking what they were. Actually a smooth creamy texture and quite tasty.
17 May, Day 36:
Woke early, around 5:30, with the excitement of the last day of our pilgrimage. Our last breakfast was excellent; a hot pot dish with egg, bacon, cabbage, bean sprouts, seaweed, salmon, and soup.
With the early start, we arrived at Temple 86 before 7 and hoofed it hard down main road 8k to Temple 87. Then walked to Community Center where they were offering osettai of green tea, peanuts, brown sugar candy and cookies. We received our Certificates here and were told we were now official ambassadors of The 88 Temple Pilgrimage. They also informed us we were the 1,242nd and 1,243rd to walk the pilgrimage this year, 2019.
I was surprised at the low number, learning that only about 3,000 pilgrims actually walk the full circuit. Most of the 150-200,000 ohenros completing the pilgrimage do so by motorised transport.
My backpack with Camino Shell in front of Camino Exhibit at Japan Pilgrimage Community Center before Temple 88.
There was also a section in the Community Center dedicated to the Camino de Santiago.For 2 veterans of that pilgrimage, this was a pleasant surprise. And for me a powerful connection as Mika and I met in Santiago de Compostela after completing the Camino de Norte.For anyone interested I wrote a comparison piece; How The Japan 88 Temple Pilgrimage Is Different From The Camino de Santiago.
Our final stretch was an appropriately difficult, sometimes steep mountainside requiring a bit of scrambling over the 600 meters up. I was tiring and Mika verbally pushed me through the last part which was the most challenging but reaching the top we then had a final 30 minute slightly downhill jaunt to Temple 88.
There was no celebration or congratulation from anybody. Very different from reaching a mountain top or end of a pilgrimage like the Camino de Santiago. Though it makes perfect sense as the Buddhists are very attuned to the importance of the pilgrimage being the journey itself more so than the temples. 88 it just one more temple.
Though it was an emotional experience for me getting the final stamp and calligraphy in my Nokyocho (Stampbook).
Mika in front of Temple 88 with our Nokyocho Stampbook.
After taking a few final photos we caught the 1:30 bus back to Tokashido Station. Talking with Mika on the bus, sharing my feeling of a strong connection to Kukai and Santiago, she suggested that we could walk the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage and visit the tomb of Kukai at Okunuin Cemetery at the top of Mount Koya. Why not. The Kumano Kodo is also a sister pilgrimage to the Camino de Santiago, and there is a Dual Certificate available. They are the only 2 Pilgrimages in the world that share the distinction of being World Heritage Sites.