We went on a pilgrimage today, visiting quite a few shrines. They’re all interesting, they’re all different, they’re all peaceful.
The names on the brochures don’t always exactly match the names on Google Maps, so sometimes, we couldn’t be sure exactly where we were. But that doesn’t matter: we had a very nice, strenuous walk.
As we set off towards the mountains, we were delighted to see a flock of birds of prey circling… we were curious but didn’t really need to see what they had their eyes on. Too small to be eagles, not fast enough to be falcons, maybe kites of some kind.
Let us know if you can identify it from the silhouette!
Here’s an interesting sign that invited us to deviate from our course.
It was a very steep path, rocky but covered with moss and leaves. After a ridiculously short time, we realised that this path wasn’t for us: hard enough going up, never mind coming back down. We never even got as far as the back of a cow.
We returned to the road, wondering what we’d missed seeing up the hill, but we needn’t have been concerned. Just round the corner, we came across a Buddhist Temple.
There was nobody around, so I don’t think it was open for business nor for visitors.
Wheelchair users must be made of stronger stuff in Japan, if they have to contend with ramps like this one. It’s probably for bicycles to be pushed up and down, really. There are a lot of cyclists around here, partly because, I’m sure, the roads are so narrow. A typical car from Anchorage wouldn’t fit in here.
We thought we’d walk up these stone steps, up the mountain. Only later did we learn that this was the path down which the gods came to Earth. It was steep, it was long, it was a challenge, we had to stop several times.
Here’s a delightful little shrine that we came across: this wasn’t the main attraction. It looks like somebody just wanted a small place to worship halfway up the mountain: maybe they just couldn’t climb all the way.
After a long climb, 538 stone steps, to be precise, on this warm, humid morning, we reached our target: Sessha Kannokura Shrine, or Kamikura-jinja Shrine, depending on which source you trust. My translation program couldn’t read the signs at all, so that’s no help!
We’d passed and been passed by a Japanese lady on the way up and at last, we all caught up with her husband. He very kindly took this picture of us, so of course, I returned the compliment.
The view over the city of Shingu towards the ocean was a fine reward for our exertions.
Walking back down was in some ways much more of a challenge. For a while, it looked as if we would step off the edge of the world, the steps were that steep.
The palms were very sweaty, and not just because it was such a humid day.
The man playing the flute near the bottom of the climb had left by the time we returned. I was looking forward to sitting down, having a rest and listening to him for a while before proceeding.
Apropos of nothing at all: who wants to see a mole with boobs?
And who wants to see a picture of a big spider? Huge, it was, with its several siblings, sitting there, overhead, waiting for flies or the opportunity to drop down somebody’s neck.
We walked around town for a while afterwards: it felt strangely reassuring to be back on a nice, flat, horizontal surface. A cute little café provided cute little cups of coffee and the cutest, titchiest little cream jugs in the world!
Watarigozen Shrine is just round the corner from where we’re staying and as well as being delighted by the small shed-sized shrine itself, our minds were blown by the bamboo growing behind: it certainly put our old beanpoles into perspective.
Kumano Hayatama Taisho Shrine is also very close. It’s on a much bigger scale, really impressive in its own right, and it was reassuring to see so many people paying respects and praying here.
The Nagi-no-Ki tree is over 800 years old and well cared for.
I put money into the box and picked out my O-mikuji, a random fortune printed on a strip of paper. I was surprised at how much text was printed there but of course, I couldn’t read it. Later, in the comfort of the Airbnb house, I translated it as well as I could. Suffice to say, I was relieved not to see something really bad.
We carried on walking and found ourselves by the Kumano River. By this point, the sky was getting darker, we wondered whether a thunderstorm was on its way a day early.
In one direction, more mountains and in the other, bridges over the river as it flows into the Pacific Ocean.
We went home via the tourist information place where we picked up some info for tomorrow’s trip. Then at home where, several hours later, it still hasn’t rained, by the way, we chilled: read, typed, listened to the radio, cooked, ate, and eventually, we’ll walk up the wooden stairs to Bedfordshire.
Today’s tour was just a small subset of our original idea, to hike from shrine to shrine on the Kii peninsula, several miles each day, for a number of days. That was probably too ambitious, and I think we’ve got the balance right, now.