Feb 27, 2010

Ian's photos 32

As the day progressed we saw more bays and more headlands. During the tourist season some of the bays had large hotels but in March there were no tourists - only a few pilgrims passing through.
The main beach in this bay was very nice, with large stony pyramids rising from the gray sand. You can get some idea of where this is in the previous picture by thinking about the white hotel. It is in the distance on the right in the above photo, but in this one it is one the left and just a little ways behind us.
This huge tree was at the end of a main shopping road. It had been trimmed many times to allow for the power and telephone lines. Most countries bury these lines, but because of the constant earthquakes that would cut underground lines, the Japanese leave them above ground so that breaks can be found and repaired quickly. At first I thought they were extremely ugly, but I have been here long enough that I have become like the Japanese - I don't notice them most of the time.
We stopped for the night in a business hotel. The beds were very unusual. There was a wooden platform along one wall and mattresses were placed on top of it. There was a long built in table along the wall on the left.
We arrived early, before lunch, so in the afternoon we went out to explore the town and to visit the next temple. There was a nice little port and on the other side a peninsula was crowned with a castle. We considered walking up to it but because it was in the opposite direction from the temple, we decided not to.

Feb 26, 2010

Ian's photos 31

The sign says it all. This is a place where the crabs cross the road. Apparently they go inland at times and cross the road on their way to and from the ocean. We did not see any, probably the wrong time of year for the. A little further on, however, I did see a monkey run across the road. It all happened much to fast for me to get a picture. In fact by the time I got Ian's attention and got him looking in the right direction, the money was out of sight, deep in the woods.
We passed through a very pleasant small fishing port. The barge in the middle was in the process of digging out the channel. We stopped and watched for a while, both because it was interesting and because it was time for a rest stop.
All along the Henro Trail, there are places for pilgrims to stop and rest. Some, like this one, are put up by companies or even the government. Many are constructed and maintained by local clubs. The second type are the best because they usually have free food and drinks. The club members gain some of the Buddhist merit from the pilgrim's trip by assisting the pilgrims. In case you did not notice, that is me putting on my pack to continue our trek after a nice rest. Although this looks like it is in the woods, if you look carefully at the foreground on the right, you can see a small part of the road that Ian was standing on when he took the picture.
The route for the day contained a fishing port in almost every bay that we passed around. We walked around the inland side of a bay and then went up and over a high land separating us from the next bay. We repeated this all day.
A Henro Trail sign with a picturesque bay in the background. I must say that visually I enjoyed this day very much, although it was a bit too overcast.

Feb 25, 2010

Ian's photos 30

The Henro Trail crossed the railroad tracks a number of times. This is one of the crossings. On the extreme right you can just see the ocean.
During the day we saw a single train pass us. I can not tell if it was one car or two, but it was quite short in any case. Since there are not the vast numbers of people that you get in the areas around the big cities, most of the local trains are only a car or two long.
The next picture is me getting ready to attack my evening meal. The large covered bowl on the left is rice. We almost always at everything they gave us and sometimes asked for more rice. Both Ian and I gained weight in spite of the large amount of exercise that we were doing. If the scales in the various lodges were anywhere near accurate. I gained around 7 kilograms (about 10% of my body weight) during the first two weeks and then lost a couple during the third week. I think that if we had done the entire circuit, I would have lost 7 to 10 kilograms. As we got more used to the daily routine, our appetites seemed to decrease.
This shows the remains of Ian's meal just before he ate his desert, a large strawberry and a small piece of watermelon. Most of the lodges tried very hard to serve good meals, tasty with enough calories for the walkers.

Feb 24, 2010

Ian's photos 29

This was a very pretty spot. However, the signs say that it is dangerous. The lower sign has a picture of a kappa, a mythical river creature, who is saying that this place is abunai and kiken, both words meaning dangerous. The taller sign says to be careful of mamushi in the area. Mamushi are an extremely deadly snake. (They like warm weather so we do not have them in Sendai.)
This was the first time either Ian or I had seen anything like this. It is a bamboo farm and the thing running down from above is a guide for sliding bamboo poles to the bottom where they can be collected and carried off. The horizontal lines are bamboo poles that are used to create stairs and also, I think, to help keep the hillside in place.
We had to pass through a rather long tunnel. Even with a sidewalk, or path as Ian would call it, it felt a bit dangerous. Trucks and cars came roaring through and the tunnel amplified the sounds, making them seem to go even faster and more recklessly.
On the other side of the tunnel, we found a set of train tracks that ran right along the edge of the trail for a long way.
The Henro Trail followed a relatively new road the swung inland; the old road that followed the shoreline was blocked off in places, so we could not use it. Eventually, however, we reached the ocean again and were greated by a beautiful beach.

Feb 23, 2010

Ian's photos 28

This is another view of the entrance to the main hall. Usually the doors are shut so you can hardly see inside. There was no one there at the time so Ian and I stood in front of the brown donation box to do our chanting.

These were old shrines that had been outdoors somewhere and then moved in under the roof of a small building. They apparently all still had statues inside and some people stop to pray or chant in front of them. We just looked and then took pictures.
This was a statue of someone in meditation. I am sure that the person was important in some way and that the red coloring is representative of some aspect of Buddhism.
The temple grounds were quite nice, spacious and well groomed.

Feb 21, 2010

Ian's photos 27

We saw some strange things in the mountains. This was one of those jetskiers, I think that they are called, that was being used to store branches that had been trimmed off the plum trees. I have now idea what they might have done with them later.
We again had some long walks through bamboo thickets. I am glad we did not do the trip in warm weather because mosquitos love this kind of place.
Here we were walking along a ridge line and the left side was all trees but the right was bamboo.
We arrive at the next temple and were able to see the ceiling in one of the buildings. Each of the squares is about a foot on each side and the entire ceiling is made up of individual drawings. It was quite impressive.
The veranda on which we did the chanting was very gaudy. Much more so than most of the other temples. Some of the hangings are just colored paper but a few of them are origami cranes. In Japan people make 1,000 cranes for good luck. In high schools the students will make them and take them to the schools athletic meets.

Feb 18, 2010

Ian's photos 26

Here are some more views of the surrounding mountains. When the trees on our right thinned out so that we could see, the views were absolutely stunning. On our left was the steep slope that in places was almost vertical, matching the drops on our right.

We were almost caught by the dark, arriving at our lodging place just as it become impossible to see. For the last few hundred meters, we were essentially feeling our way with our feet, while moving toward the lights of the inn.

The next morning was brighter and the day started off well. We were now walking along a steep sided valley, but the road had only a gentle sloop. These are rice paddies across the road from our in. The road we had come down the night before went up the valley and into the mountains.
In the parking lot, we found this 13 level pagoda. Each level is in the shape of a turtle. Why a turtle? I am sure that there is some esoteric reason but at the moment I have as little idea as you.

Feb 16, 2010

Ian's photos 25

The same window (door?) had a large daruma with an offering of fruit. Daruma was an indian Buddhist who, according to legend, sat in meditation for so long that his legs fell off. In Japan these little, or sometimes quite large, statues usually only have one pupil painted into the eyes. The other is just plain white. When you want something, for example winning an election or passing an exam, ask daruma to help you. If you are successful, you reward him by painting in the other eye. His original name was Bodhidharma and he was the Indian who was credited with bringing Zen to China. If you are interested, there is a comprehensive article about him at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhidharma
This is another example of the things that you can find if you have time to wander around the grounds. In summer, the sections of tree trunk in the foreground would probably be full of flowers. The structures in the background are the main hall and administrative buildings.
We left the temple and started down the mountain. We had a long way to go before reaching our night's lodging so we had to hurry. If it got dark, we would end up on mountain trails with no light at all. It was almost raining so at night there would be no light at all. As you can guess from the following pictures, the edge of the road just dropped off for 10s of meters, sometimes with slopes of 80 degrees or more. However, even without strong sunlight the scenery was wonderful so it was a nice, but tiring, walk.

Feb 15, 2010

Ian's photos 24

I was the official map reader and navigator for our trek. So every time we stopped to rest, I would get out my book of maps of the Henro Trail and familiarize myself with what we should see during the next few kilometers. I was particularly concerned about places where we had to turn off and with landmarks that would tell us we were still on the Trail.
When we got to the next temple, we found that the access road just turned and snaked around the main gate. We went up the stairs and through the gate itself. Somehow not going through the gate did not seem proper.
The temple itself was a long way from the gate and along the way the road followed a steep hillside. I kept wondering, if I went over the edge, how far I would fall before hitting a tree that would act as a brake.
The grounds were well kept but the cherry trees were not yet in bloom, only the pregnant buds turning the world pink. It would have been truly beautiful in another week or two.
One of the buildings have glass sliding doors and inside were wood carvings.

Feb 14, 2010

Ian's photos 23

After crossing the river, we headed up into a long sloping valley that would take us to a pass where we could cross over into the next valley. At first there were farms and a good road.
There was a scenic stream that separated some woods from a field that contained some sort of crop with each plant in its own little vinyl hothouse.
We started climbing into the hills and the road gradually became less and less kept up. It was just wide enough for a car and there were tracks so we knew that someone did use the road, but in places the foundations were gone and it looked like the weight of a car would collapse the whole thing.
Eventually we found a rest house, so we stopped to snack and have a drink. While we were resting, it started to rain so we got into our rain gear.
A little ways further on there was a picnic bench, but I can not believe that anyone would come here for a picnic. However, some Henro Pilgrims might stop to rest and have a bite.

Feb 13, 2010

Ian's photos 22

As we crossed the bridge, we turned and looked back the way we had come. The large building on the right was some kind of Shinto related hall. I suspected that it was one of the strange little sects that are apparently common in the countryside.
The river valley was very pretty. Ian and I spent a lot of time on the bridge just appreciating the beauty of nature.
This is me, standing in the middle of the bridge taking pictures.
Sometimes the Henro Trail was poorly marked and we just had to guess at where we should go. At other times, there was definitely an overkill. Here there are four different signs indicating the direction that we should go in.
Another view of the same signs, but here you can see that there is a plastic hose running from the faucet down into the garden area in the back. I assume that the owner was tapping into the public system to get water for his garden.