All posts tagged: temples

The Welcome Committee

There were some things about getting home that were a definite improvement on Japan… ..but overall, this was the toughest time I’ve ever had leaving a country. Hey, all. Yup, back in Brisbane, as of Friday, and I’m just about recovered from the jetlag, lack of sleep on the plane (aisle seat + apparently weak-bladdered co-passengers = much annoyance) and I suppose the accumulated effects of all that walking. I’m still a little rundown, my walking speed has plummeted, and I’m pretty damned down over the end of another adventure. But all of those negatives are tempered by being home with my folks in a good place, and the satisfaction of getting so much done in those 88 days, including: My Daisetsuzan traverse in Hokkaido Climbs of Iwaki-San and Hakkoda-San, beautiful old volcanoes in northern Tohoku My first ascent of Yatsu-ga-Take, despite the cruddy weather A three-day return to the South Alps starting with Kita-Dake, Japan’s second-highest peak Lots of walking in and around the old capitals & temple heartlands of Kyoto & Nara Temple-rich …

The Backwards 88, Day 47: And Then, Suddenly, I Ran Out of Temples

Hey, all! Yes, the circle will be unbroken — thanks for asking. At 4:50 this afternoon I entered the temple gate at number 1, bringing me back to where I started, completing a 1,200- or 1,300km loop of Shikoku and a 47-day tour of 88 freakin’ temples. I guess I’m in pretty good shape for an old bastard as my sum total of aches and pains after all that tarmac-pounding and mountain stomping is: zero. In fact I was seldom tired for more than five minutes on the whole walk. Injuries: three missing toenails (keep your eye out), some degraded toe skin, aching knees when I woke yesterday — but they’re fine today. I think I’m getting good at this stuff! As Matt (a former henro along with his wife Nori) at Sen Guesthouse back in Matsuyama said when I was there, you’re just starting to get good at the whole thing and then you reach the end. A damned shame. I have all my rituals and routines down, and have nights in my tiny tent/bedroom/ office/base camp …

The Backwards 88, Day 40: Pilgrim Postcards

[You might have received this post in your inbox erroneously titled “Day 39”. I just realised I’d lost a day! It happens on the blurry path to wisdom!] A LAWSON’S STATION KONBINI, KAINAN, TOKUSHIMA PREFECTURE ~  Morning, all. As threatened, here’s another batch of shots from the last week or so, mostly of scenes and subjects encountered between temples. I enjoy both my subject areas, the temples themselves and the stretches of road and path linking them, for different reasons. The temple one is far more challenging. My aim is to capture a sense of the place that is different from the others, and respond to it artistically in the conditions in which I find it. Believe me, with 88 of them to deal with, that can get pretty tough! As someone who doesn’t believe in anything, I’m obviously not reacting to the places in any spiritual sense. I’m interested in them as places, and judge them on aesthetic grounds, how they relate to their environment, their architecture and landscaping, historical elements etc. Avoiding repeating …

The Backwards 88, Day 27: Beyond the Difficult Place

SOMEWHERE NORTH OF KONGOFU TEMPLE (#38), EAST COAST OF CAPE ASHIZURI, KOCHI PREFECTURE, SHIKOKU According to legend, this location was given to Kūkai by a mysterious female recluse named Hokke-sennin. Kūkai carved two Fudō-myōō statues and created this temple which is considered a hansho (difficult place) ~ from Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide, my guidebook Hi, everyone. It’s been a while. It’s always been a while… How long’s it been since the last post? At least a week. This post will cover quite a lot of ground in more ways than one, but I’ll try to keep ‘er lighter than that last one. Shouldn’t be too hard, since, as the title suggests, I’m in a far better condition emotionally this time around. Firstly, for the sake of clarity, that header shot, which I’m unable to caption, is from Temple #45, Iwayaji, the place referred to in the quote above — not Kongofukuji, which I visited yesterday. Kongofukuji must also be considered a difficult place, since getting there nearly killed me, yet again. (Once again, there aren’t many temple shots here, as …

The Backwards 88, Day 17: Under the Big Stone Hammer

MATSUYAMA, EHIME PREFECTURE Hey, all. Well, I’m 38 temples into my journey, having visited #51, Ishiteji (“Stone Hand Temple”), the day before yesterday, here in Matsuyama, and numbers 53 and 52 yesterday. Yes, out of order, which is due to some unforeseen good fortune two days ago. What we used to call Trail Magic on the Appalachian Trail. It was about time my luck changed. Let me set the scene. Overall, it’s been a rewarding journey, though one of the hardest I’ve done and I’m only a couple of weeks in. I do remind myself sometimes that I’m not the 42-year-old who finished the A.T. feeling the strongest I’d ever felt years back; I’m also lugging the kind of pack weight that helped me develop stress fractures back on the A.T. But it’s one of them thar lonesome trails you hear about, and even for me, a man used to solitude, this one pushes the boundaries at times. Doing the pilgrimage in reverse order would challenge the social life and sanity of even a Japanese person …

The Backwards 88, Day 8: Sandal Power in North-Eastern Shikoku

Greetings, folks, from rainy Kan’onji City on the western fringes of Kagawa Prefecture, Shikoku. If you’re the kind of weirdo who prefers kanji (Chinese characters), I’m here to help: 観音寺市. It’s the name of both the city and one of its two principle temples (the suffix -ji means temple). Kan’on or Kannon is a Buddhist goddess of mercy (and pets, apparently), much venerated along the Shikoku pilgrimage route: 29 of the 88 temples are dedicated to her. One unusual thing about this temple, #69, though, is that it adjoins #68, Jinnein, which meant a delightfully easy double whammy with which to start Day 8 today. I’m presently squandering that advantage by sitting here on my Z-Rest outside a 7-11, typing this long-overdue post and stealth-charging laptop, wifi hotspot and one of my arsenal of camera batteries. I haven’t tapped into a convenience store’s power outlet since I last wandered through Shikoku in 2008… (I don’t like supporting the evil 7-11 Corporation, currently in the news in Australia for ripping off their student workforce, but their stores are …

The Backwards 88: The End of the Beginning, Beginning at the End

Hey, folks. How’s that for a mouthful of a post heading? But it’s a pretty good summation of where I am right now on this circular pilgrimage journey — one of the very few circular pilgrimages in the world, by the way. (By the way, I’ve just added a new post category, The Backwards 88, so all forthcoming posts about my Shikoku walk will be accessible from the “Recent Posts” section below.) It’s barely 6:00am and I’m recovering from one of my worst night’s sleep in the month I’ve been in Japan. Ironically, perhaps, it was here at Ryozenji, Temple #1, in a pavilion provided to pilgrims (wow, say that phrase really fast) where I was the lone guest. Unfortunately the bench I lay on closely faces a country road which, despite its narrow width, seems to funnel every speeding truck in Shikoku past the front gate. Also, I was a little drunk on the bad wine I shared with the head monk. Other than that, it was a great kick-off to my Big Walk. In …

Pilgrim Country!

I, KUKAI, WAS FOND OF WANDERING OVER MOUNTAINS IN MY YOUTH. WENT HIKING TO THE SOUTH FROM YOSHINO FOR ONE DAY AND THROUGH TO THE WEST FOR TWO DAYS. CAME ACROSS A SECRET ELEVATED PLAIN CALLED KOYA… ~ from a very fortuitously situated poster (a copy of which I immediately bought to send home), here in the tourist information centre in Koya where I am tapping out this post — and tapping into some free wifi & electricity — before hitting the pilgrim trail. *          *          *          *          * Hey there, folks. There’s an old monk tapping sporadically at the free PC here in the info centre. Things have changed a tad since Kukai (or Kobo Daishi as he was posthumously renamed) founded the place in the ninth century. Another example: there are a lot more foreigners on the streets these days, including this one. And my pilgrim staff is made of aluminium… I could go on, but I have …

A Korean Flashback #4: A Dog-Forsaken Land

So here we are, flashbacking/flashing back to a generally unhappy period of my life again. Why? Perspective is a funny thing. I’m way more miserable lately, but at least my Korean prediament was alleviated by the promise of something exciting to live for at the end of it. It’s weird, but putting together these little collections, even when they’re not exactly uplifting, is distracting from the occasionally bleak present I occupy right now. Enough of that — there’s enough misery in this post, but it’s not mine, and just maybe it’s leavened here and there by glimpses of something else in the eyes of my charismatic assemblage of subjects. I did a Korean Flashback — which is my way of breaking from the regular seaside-wandering stuff I’m sharing of late, while mining some of the thousands of un-shared shots and stories from my two years in that country — a little while back about cats, and it’s easily the most-viewed, most commented-upon post I’ve ever done. That post, Where the Kitties Get No Pity, was featured on Freshly …

A Korean Flashback #1: Where the Kitties Get No Pity

Lately a few fellow early birds I run into as I make my rounds between seaside sunrise and coffee shop have asked how the morning’s snapping went and then hit me with “So, what do you with the pictures?” And I always mumble something about the blog, and personal satisfaction, and more tangible options along the line when I have some money — but mostly what I do with them is edit. Delete and edit. Pretty sad, I know. But they give me a reason to walk, I guess… A plus side of all this downtime is the progress I’ve made with a ton of shots from my two years in Korea, which was when and where I really buckled down and tried to improve as a photographer, largely as an attempt at therapy, self-medication and diversion. And it would be a shame if I didn’t share some of them, so I’m going to do periodic Korean Flashbacks built around a certain theme — and this inaugural episode is about cats. Cats are on my mind of late, and Kate’s …

Light Show of the Gods

We have all we need of heaven here on earth ~ Edward Abbey I’m definitely an off-season beach-goer. Songjeong Beach in the last gasps of Autumn was the quietest I’d seen it — and heard it. Except for the half-hearted thumps from a late-night mattress rodeo in the room next door, the Kuhn Motel was pleasingly silent. I still woke at 3:30am — excitement, probably. And 3:30 was extreme even for me, at least in late Autumn. I rose again around 5:00 and hit the road, aiming at the crisply outlined fingernail moon hanging over the ocean, then northwards again up the coast road, Yonggung Temple bound.

A Sucker for a Sunset

Funny how I always seem to be walking north. Well, until I reach the end and turn around… Exams from Thursday till yesterday meant a nice, relaxing few days at work — for me. Exams over, student motivation plummets even lower than usual — and mine with it. My goal is to do nothing in class but play movies for the next month, and little between lessons but read, write, edit and post. Prepare for a Goat that Wrote tsunami!  Meanwhile, in the real world, I am beginning to wind up my affairs here in the Orient. Part of that is saying goodbye to my favourite local landmarks and paths. On Sunday I did a nice farewell hike up Big Ass Mountain. The golden autumnal weather just goes on and on, unbeatable rambling conditions. Let’s hope it hangs in there. Another part is dusting out the archives of unpublished Korean material while there’s still time, starting with the weekend before last, one of the top three or four in Korea for me. Really delightful weather, walking …

On Shape-Shifter Mountain

PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOUR TOKYO, AUGUST 2013 The oddly pleasant smell of burning mosquito coils wafted through the upstairs-room window as I slipped into chu-hi-enhanced sleep. Then sometime after midnight I was shaken awake by tremors rippling through the tatami — wondered in the morning if I’d dreamed them till Andrew told me they’d originated up north, somewhere near the site of the Fukushima disaster.

Inokashira: Back to the Source

PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOKYO, 2013 I seemed to spend half my waking life on the Chuo Line when I lived in Tokyo. Now I was once again jumping into one of the familiar orange carriages at Nishi Kokubunji, playing a little game of Guess the Next Station from Memory as our kaisoku (rapid) train sped inbound: Kokubunji, Musashi-Koganei, Higashi-Koganei, Musashi-Sakai, Mitaka — and then the next stop on my high-speed visit to places from my Tokyo past: Kichijoji.

Spring Snow & Frozen Fingers #2: Down

The conclusion of yesterday’s tale. Two posts in 24 hours = two consecutive days of doing something useful at work! This could be habit-forming… So back I went along the ridge, down the foggy ruins of time (Bob Dylan), umbrella swishing nice cold raindrops into my eyes from low-hanging boughs. I dug my main camera back out of my pack, slung it round my neck and resumed my struggle against the forces of darkness — I mean the forces of moisture. I’m pretty reckless with that little machine, but I’d rather have it handy and risk a few raindrops than have to keep stopping and retrieving it.

Blood & Blossoms on Sineo-San

[Folks, this post, published earlier this month, recently disappeared from my site. Like, utterly — it’s not even in my WordPress trash folder. How is this possible? Thanks to Kate, my diligent blog monitor and number-one fan, for alerting me — I had no idea! Don’t understand how this could happen but am CERTAIN it wasn’t me. Anyway I’ve recovered it from Google Cache and backdated it to the original date. Apologies if I can’t get the original comments back as well…let’s see…] *   *   *   *   * The wreckage looked like shredded pieces of paper. The plane’s broken tail and nose came to rest near the top of the mountain, where a lack of access roads slowed rescuers’ efforts to reach the scene of the disaster… The plane hit one side of the mountain and then plowed toward the peak, catching fire and cutting a trail of fallen trees 100 yards long and 30 yards wide ~ CBS News, April 15, 2002

Sunday Playtime in My Big Backyard

Hi, all. How was your Sunday? Mine rocked — fortunately, as I wasted my Saturday completely. Well, I slept a lot, and I probably needed it. But staying inside a tiny apartment for a whole day sends me a little loco. I hit the pavement with a lot of pent-up energy this morning, and after loading up on carbs and caffeine at the bakery I was ready to take on anything.