Jun 28, 2009

Day 6 - later in the day

This little building was closed up so I do not know what it was, but it looked like it might have a statue inside.

A large statue of Kobo Daishi, with some people offering prays.
Ian, with the blue poncho covering this backpack, going up the stairs at Temple #18.
Another view, a little further up the stairs.
A tour group chanting the Heart Sutra. Notice all the walking sticks in the receptacle on the right side of the group. Each time you entered a temple, you left your stick in one of the receptacles and picked it up again when you left. Also, I can't remember if I mentioned it or not, since the stick represents Koko Daishi, you are supposed to wash the bottom (his feet) before you put it away for the night. Many of the places we stayed did this for you so you did not have to be bothered. At one place an old lady (who worked there) came out to watch and make sure that we did it.

Jun 25, 2009

The grandkids

These pictures are basically for my family members who are following the blog. It's baby pictures so if you do not continue, I will understand - all babies look alike, I know.

This is Tsubasa Sato, my second grandchild and my first grandson.

He is quite small because he was born at 8 months, but he is almost exactly the same size as my daughters (who were born at the regular 9 months)

Tsubasa is only a day or two old in these pictures. I am not sure because his father took them and then sent them to me by email.
He is in a hospital that specializes in premature babies, so he is getting excellent care. Kyoko, his mother, is now out of the hospital her self and living at home again. She goes to Tsubasa's hospital at specified times to feed him and get hands-on instruction in baby care.
This last picture was taken last week. It is me and Tomo-chan (Tomone Yatsu), my first grandchild. She had not seen me for six months and had more or less forgotten me and at first she was afraid of my beard, but we gradually made friends. By the time she left, she was copying things that I do. For example, walking around with my hands behind my back, a habit I picked up in the classroom.

Jun 24, 2009

Day 6 - trudging on

During the morning we kept having trouble finding our way. There were numerous roads that were not on our map and the roads on the map did not exist on the ground. Finally when we stopped a local person to ask directions, we discovered that there had been a huge road building effort in the last year or so. One of the roads had only been open for a few days.

After a particularly frustrating section, we were looking for a bridge to cross a narrow river and discovered a very fancy looking coffee shop in the middle of nowhere. We were both hungry by this time and decided to stop. We order a breakfast set. Ian had a more extensive one than I did.
This is a view of the inside of the coffee shop. The furniture looked expensive and was very comfortable. The old man in the back, the cook, gave us some extra stuff, but the waitress, apparently his wife, sort of ignored us. However, when we paid, she lowered the bill and told me that it was settai.
This area was not well marked but there were signs telling Ohenro-san where to go. There is one in this picture. Can you see it? The blue square and the red arrow on the white pole are the markers. The indicate that the Henro Trail goes off to the left.
As we were crossing a bridge, we say this interesting pagoda off in the distance. There are stone statues at the base that are based on cartoon characters. There were also dinosaurs.

Jun 23, 2009

Day 6 - the beginning

As usual we were in a Japanese style room with tatami mats on the floor. Ian and I always put our packs and equipment on opposite sides of the room so that we would not mix up our things. After breakfast each morning, we taped our feet, put on our clothes for the day, and packed out bags. Then after a last check of the room to see if we had forgotten anything we were out the door and on our way.
On other thing we did each morning before leaving was check on our route for the day, including such things as where we could get lunch (convenience store, restaurant, or what?), and whether or not we needed to shop or to find a post office so we could get money from our postal savings accounts.
On the road again. I had spent the night in the white building, behind the left hand windows on the top floor.

After about a half hour we entered a flat open area and right in the middle was a large building. When we reached it, we discovered that there was a hairdresser's on the first floor with apartments above. The sign on the side of the building, advertising the beauty shop, was so well phrased that I just had to take a picture of it. After taking the picture, I stood looking at it, wondering what Kobo Daishi would have thought. Actually since were were walking with Kobo Daishi, I should say I wondered what he was thinking.

Jun 22, 2009

Day 5 - the end

I have posted all the pictures from Day 5 but there are a few more interesting, I hope, comments to make.

First, Day 5 was the beginning of foot trouble. I had blisters on the ball and little toe of my left foot and they got very bad during the day. My little toe actually turned black and I was more than a little worried. However, I taped everything and, using a needle, drained the liquid from the blisters. On June 20, the toenail of my little toe finally fell off. I now have a hard spot but no actual toenail. I have no idea whether or not it will grow back but in any case it should not be a problem.

Also I began to see why this is a Buddhist practice. My inner voice, that voice in the head that is constantly chattering, started to quiet down, and even when it talked it was mostly about what was happening at that moment - for example, where I should place my foot for the next step. I suspect that this began to happen because of the constant necessity for paying attention to your feet while negotiating the mountain trails. It was a state that, as far as I could tell, was the same as I arrive at when doing meditation.

One last thing, but it is only indirectly related to the Henro Pilgrimage. I am participating in what is called an Urban Retreat. For a week, I am joining meditation, thinking, and activities being organized worldwide by the Western Buddhist Organization. The timing is very good because my wife, daughter and granddaughter are all leaving this morning and I will be home alone, which means that it will be very easy to participate in the Retreat activities.

I will start publishing Day 6 pictures tomorrow.

Jun 21, 2009

Day 5 - out of the mountains

As we came down out of the mountains we started finding signs of civilization. Under this umbrella, there was a box for leaving the local newspaper and on the right side what looked like the remains of a large PA speaker that was being used as a storage compartment for a bunch of small boxes. You can see that we were still on a very steep slope but someone was farming it.
We met and befriended a little dog. He followed us a short way and then turned and went home. Home is always preferable to most animals. Recently at zoo in Australia, I think it was, an orangutan escaped but then simple sat on the top of the wall for awhile, looking at the big wide world, before turning and going home, just like the dog. I wonder why humans, read Ian and I, are so interested in going to new places and experiencing new things.
We were now in a river valley and had no more really steep slopes to negotiate.
At one point the Pilgrimage trail crossed the river on a rickety old wooden bridge. It did not look very safe but trusting our luck (or maybe the goodwill of Kobo Daishi or then again maybe the practical upkeep of the Henro Association) we headed across.
Hard to see but the trees in the background are in bloom, a beautiful pink. Maybe this is symbolic of what was happening to us Buddha nature in full bloom but hard to find.

Jun 18, 2009

Tomone at 11 months

My granddaughter Tomone is visiting I a took a few pictures. She will have her first birthday on July 1st. She is walking and has been for a couple of months but is not talking yet. She seems to understand a lot and is physically very active.

Jun 16, 2009

Day 5 - the mountains

The mountains that we walked through on Day 5 were absolutely beautiful and to add to our pleasure the bad weather of the previous days had disappeared and we were able to walk in the sunshine. For this entry, I am going to let the pictures speak for themselves.

Jun 15, 2009

I am not sure exactly what the significance of the two figures is, but I think that the one standing up is Kobo Daishi. This was part way down the mountain at a small group of buildings.
We were still going down the mountain when we passed through a fairly large orchard where the plum trees were in full bloom. This area is famous for plums and products made from the fruit.
Much of the trail was through dense woods. When the sun came out at one point, we were treated to this wonderful view.
The trail when across the natural lay of the land so that we constantly went down into the valleys and then climbed up to the next ridge line. This was in contrast to our route in other places where we frequently followed either the ridge line or a river in a valley. The above picture was taken at the highest point as we crossed a fairly high hill. There was a small building containing some statutes and across the street (we were back on paved roads) was this line of Buddhas. We stopped here for quite awhile, eating our lunch and just resting for bit. My lunch was a daifuku (red bean paste covered with skin made of rice flour) and an Aquarius (a sports drink that replaces all the stuff you lose from sweating).
A little further on, we can to another plum orchard. Personally I think that the plum trees are as pretty as the cherry trees, but the cherry blossoms are associated with partying and the flash of beauty that we call life.

Jun 11, 2009

Day 5 - the morning

This is the view that greeted my when I first when out doors after getting another good night's sleep - about 9 hours.
This is the front door to the rooms where we stayed. The rooms were straight ahead, baths, toilets, etc, were off to the right.
This slice of tree trunk was decorating the entrance hall. The Japanese love this sort of thing and like to place them near the door of a more or less public place - like the entrance to a hotel.
As we were leaving, I looked back and took this picture of the building we stayed in. I should point out that the road did not last very long.
We started down the mountain and toward Temple #13, which we had visited a few days previously. In the area near the temple there were some houses but these disappear within a few hundred meters, and we were back on the mountain trail. This time it was all down hill and in many ways a harder walk than the climb on the previous day. At least the weather had cleared up

Day 4 - some miscellaneous pictures

At the end of the large file of pictures of day 4, I found a few pictures that have completely different numbers on them. I am not sure why the numbers are different, but rather than spending the time to figure it out, I am just going to post them here. This week I have extra classes on Saturday and have to give a test and prepare another to give on Monday, so I do not want to spend the time comparing pictures. My apologies if you have already seen these.
The above picture shows the mountains in the area near Temple #12.

This picture is a bit fuzzy because of rain water on the lens, but it shows the signs that we found along the trail. There were signs like this every few hundred meters and just after any place where the trail divided.
This is Ian coming up a stairway behind me. I almost always set the pace because Ian was a lot stronger than me. By me being first, we stayed together and I did not get worn out (any more than necessary).
Ian again on another part of the trail.
Another view of the steep stairs down to the rest area between the high point and Temple #12.
This is the statue of Kobo Daishi (Kukai before his death) that marks the high point on the route between Temple #11 and #12. The tree behind the statue is the namesake of this place - the one sugi tree or Ipponsugi.

Jun 10, 2009

Day 4 - final reached the top

After eight and a half hours of climbing up and down, we finally reached the main gate to Temple #12.
Just outside of the gate on the left side, was a very nice statue of Kobo Daishi. The stone stele on its left gives the name and number of the temple.
We stayed on the temple grounds in a large tatami-mat room. The food, which we ate in our room, was good, and some of the other people staying there drank beer or sake with their meals. We could tell because after you eat, you put the tray with the dishes and the empty bottles in the hallway, where the staff collect them at their leisure. As we walked out the front door of the building we stayed in we found these two little statues. The fence was to keep you from falling off the 4 or 5 meter drop from our level down to the road below.
Another view of the statues and the mountains in the distance.