Half Way Through

This weekend was a great weekend on the Ohenro trail. On our very cool tour bus of the 88 temples we had a two-day trip through Ehime and to the south of Matsuyama City. As usual, the trail did not disappoint and it was a remarkable time.

As I mentioned in the last blog, there is something pretty awesome about the ohenro that travel by foot through the long days and weeks around Shikoku. They look so determined, so ready, and sometimes so exhausted too! It’s a rough way to go, and not one to be taken, or treated lightly!

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But there is a certain luxury and “space” when traveling to these temples by car or bus. What I mean is that when you are not struggling with a heavy bag, cursing your blistered feet, or hustling through from destination to destination because you may not be able to reach your lodging in time, you miss things at each temple. This is a common lament I hear from the Ohenro who travel by foot. Their accomplishments to tough it out on the road are formidable, but they are given such little “space” to see and record, and to be in the moment due to the stress and strain of the travel itself.

I am hoping that this blog and site will serve as a place to capture what many people cannot share with you as they roam through the temples and down each long hard road. But what you may see here is only but a thin slice of what you will experience when you come yourself. So, do make your plan to come out this way to Shikoku. And do take what you need to travel safe. And do heed the good advice of the road travelers who know what to carry, what to wear, what to leave behind, and what pace you need to move. But, if possible, also do take some time at each place to breathe in the air a little longer, linger around the buildings and temple bells a little longer, and seek out the hidden corners of each site.

This last weekend marked the half-way mark on my own first Ohenro experience. We are on the “reverse course” year of the the Shikoku Pilgrimage and have traveled thus far from 88 to 44.

The first portion of this experience has been phenomenal. I look forward to continuing down the roads, and up the hills and mountains for the next installment. I do hope you will come along with me!

Travel safe!

Mark

 

Overdue Updates

Hello Friends and Neighbours!

Thank you very much for visiting this page. I am trying to update periodically, but life sometimes just takes over and it is hard to do all the things I want to in the same day.

Regarding the Ohenro journey, more updates are coming to the site, but the commentary is taking some time to work on. At first I simply put up the photos I took during the visit and then return to it with my notes, a little research, and some discussion. I hope that you enjoy taking a look at the photos of these incredible temples.

I have to admit, if any of the photos look half-good, it is only because it is basically impossible to get a bad photograph. Visiting each temple grounds is a kind of submersion into a pool of culture, spirituality, and nature. I am not sure that I can find a parallel to a Canadian experience to properly compare. I think that there is no such thing.

Canada has for it, a great sprawling natural landscape. The coastline, the mountains, the prairies, the Canadian shield of stone and rock, the lakes and rivers, the hills and forests… It all blends into a seamless stream of nature. There are cities and towns, train tracks and roads, but they are strange artifacts that decorate a world that belongs to the animals, the hills, and the seasons.

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One figure of so many at Upenji.

The Ohenro journey, on the other hand, seems to be like a visit of the familiar, and each temple seems to be a welcome to another experience, or a new understanding.

Of course, I cannot comment too much on the actual journey that the walking Ohenro endure. I can see them at the temples, and I see them from the windows of the tour bus and from my car as I go about my weekly work. I have to admit that they are a marvel to see. Determined and focussed to keep moving forward. There seems to be something in each step that is a reminder to those that bear witness.

As I am currently on the “reverse course” (88 to 1) this site gets updated from the last temple moving forward. Up until last month I have been to temple 58. So, that is only 3o of the 88. Next instalment will be a 2 day trip, but I think it will be a bit easy. We are going to stay overnight at a hot spring hotel in Ehime Prefecture in the middle. I will post pictures here for you to see.

That is one thing I want to mention about this site and the blog. My intention throughout this experience is to simply “take you along” with me. I put the photos on each temple page in the order that I see them. So the first photo is usually one of walking up to the gates and taking in what I see as I go. My first few temple visits looked a bit stilted I think, particularly as I was trying to get the buildings “framed” and looking in a way as one would look at an historical exhibit. In the last few visits I am trying to change the style a little and to take pictures on a “smaller scale”. I want to see the things within each site. Sometimes it is a building, but sometimes it is a face carved in stone, a flower, weathered trees, moss growing over statues, or something in the corner that pulls me there.

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There is something in every corner.

The Ohenro experience that you will have will be your own. And you will see some of the things I have seen, and your eye will draw you out to see the things that you need to. And you will see much that I will not see, or cannot see. That is something interesting too.

In the meantime, I hope this blog finds you well. Travel safe.