Escorted Tour from Honolulu Shikoku OHENRO Pilgrimage Tour Vol 1
Eight people including myself left Honolulu at 2:10 pm and safely arrived in Kansai around 6:30 pm without any turbulence. It was a long flight. The bus ride to our hotel also took about 3 hours from the airport with a rest stop. It was too dark to see the famous NARUTO whirlpools but we are looking forward to see that on the way back to Ōsaka on our last day.
After checking into our hotel in Tokushima city around 10:30 pm, our guide took some of us who were still energetic and were curious to explore around the hotel and the Tokushima JR station area for good places to eat.
We lost one day due to international dateline so our first day of our tour was actually the 3rd day after we left from Honolulu.
Day 3: A total of 12 people joined the Shikoku Ohenro Tour. Today was the beginning of our spiritual journey in Shikoku. At Ryōzenji temple, the first temple, everybody bought Ohenro attires and other necessary items. We learned how to read sutra, the etiquette of Ohenro, and were ready to hit the temples! The second temple we visited was Gokurakuji. We found a longevity tree there and prayed for a good long life. We met a group of Japanese Ohenro at the 3rd temple, Konsenji, and joined them to read sutra. We visited #4 Dainichiji and #5 Jizoji. They were ordinary looking temples but Jizoji had beautiful cherry blossoms.
For lunch, we enjoyed handmade noodles, Tokushima’s popular food. It was quick and easy and enough to fill our hunger.
After lunch, we visited #6 Anrakuji, #7 Jurakuji, #8 Kumataniji, and finally #9 Horinji. We saw beautiful cherry blossoms at Anrakuji. These temples were easy to get to because they did not have steep stairs.
It was a very busy day visiting a total of 9 temples. We were exhausted and were bit confused about the name of the temples and their locations. We needed to replenish our energy for the next day so everyone seemed to retire early for the night.
Day 4: After eating a buffet breakfast at the hotel, we left for Kirihataji, the 10th temple of the 88 temples of the Ohenro circuit. The road to the temple was very narrow and winding so we had to use a taxi to get there. How lucky we were not to climb 330 steps to reach the main hall of the temple! There were more steps to reach the very old temple within the Kirihataji. It was worth climbing to the top because the view was beautiful. The owner of the gift shop where we took a taxi was so kind to give us gifts to take home. We experienced Ossetai first hand. Fujiidera, the 11th temple, was also very interesting. Some people did visit a total of 88 miniature temples at Fujiidera. Another interesting temple was Shosanji, the 12th temple. It was situated almost at the top of the mountain and considered one of the pilgrimage’s difficult temples to reach. The yama sakura and multi-colored camellia were in full bloom and they were so beautiful!
We had lunch at Kaminoyama Onsen. The food was delicious! We got free oranges from Dainichiji, the 13th temple. The temple #15, Kokubunji, was under construction. It was a small temple. The last temple, #17 Idoji, had unusual cherry blossoms, pink and green petals!
Some of us visited Bizan using a rope way. The view of Tokushima city from Bizan mountain was superb. The weather was very nice.
Day 5: We have been very fortunate with the weather so far. A professional Ohenro guide (Sendatsu) joined us all day today to teach us how to properly visit temples. It was a delight to have him since he knew a lot about the history and many interesting stories about each temple and it’s background. We visited 6 temples. The first temple we visited was Onzanji, #18. According to Sendatsu, all your sins will be forgiven and you can reach to heaven if you buy the Omamori from this temple. I wonder how many people bought Omamori from there??? The 19th temple, Tatsueji, had many beautiful peony flowers. The cherry tree still had some flowers. There was an interesting story about a woman whose hair has been kept at this temple.
The rope way ride to Tairyuji, the 21st temple, was exciting. There was an open view area inside the gondola and we could see far down below. It was a bit scary. There were lots of steps since it was in the high mountains. The 20th temple, Kakurinji also had many steps to reach the main hall. To have a stamp on the back of Hakui brings good luck because the symbol of this temple was crane that represents longevity and good fortune. The 16th temple, Kanonji, was an ordinary small temple. The last temple of the day, # 14 Jurakuji, had very unusual courtyards i.e., it had uneven rock bed and it was a bit dangerous.
Four of us went to see Awa dance after the temple tour. It was really fun!
Day 6: The ride to Kōchi from Tokushima took us about 2.5 hours. We visited 5 temples today. The first temple we visited, # 29 Kokubunji, had gorgeous peony flowers all over the temple ground. It was interesting to see that most of the peonies were protected from strong sun light by umbrella. The 30th temple, Zenrakuji, was an ordinary temple.
We stopped at a restaurant which happened to serve whale meat and the restaurant was decorated full of antiques and junks I should say. It was a very unusual restaurant. Food was OK.
The weather forecast indicated that it was going to rain in the afternoon. We were hoping that no rain will fall upon us but, the forecast was right unfortunately. After having lunch at the funky restaurant, the rain had started. We visited three temples in the light rain. Unexpectedly, we found that the rain somehow enhanced the color of the moss on the temple ground and the color of fresh green leaves of maple tree. The Chikurinji, the 31st temple was amazingly beautiful! It had many steps to reach the main hall. The 32nd temple, Zenjibuji, had a very steep stairs but had nice view from their temple ground. The 28th temple, Dainichiji, was an ordinary temple. There was a statute of raccoon dog.
We stayed in Kōchi prefecture for overnight. The hotel we stayed had onsen. Some people were ready to hit the onsen to relax our tired feet! The Kaiseki dinner we had at the hotel was delicious. We all wore Kimono called Yokui to the dinner and had a great time.
Day 7: luckily, the rain stopped and the sky had started clearing. We visited a total of 6 temples today. The first temple we visited, # 27 Konomineji, had beautiful wisteria flowers. It had a pungent smell and was gorgeous! We had to use a taxi to get there and there were many steps to reach the main hall but the view from the temple was very nice. The 26th temple, Kongochoji, had spiritual tree trunks that supposedly protect people from getting cancer. We made sure to pray not to have cancers in our life.
The 25th temple, Shinshoji, had a very steep step to reach the main hall. It looked more similar to a Chinese temple. By this time, people’s knees were hurting so not many people went up to see the main hall. It had an unusual palm tree on the lower temple ground. The 24th temple, Hotsumisakiji, was known as cave temple. We had lunch at Shishikui Onsen Michino Eki. The food was very good.
The 23rd temple, Yakuoji, had an unusual tower. Unfortunately, we did not have time to climb to the tower but we could see a very antique carriage that was used during Edo era. Yaku means ill fate or danger in Japanese. By coming to this temple and pray, it is believed that you can turn aside ill fate. The last temple, #22 Byodoji, had a string from the entry way all the way to the top of the main hall. You could not touch the deity of this temple but by touching the string could reach the heart of the deity that had been enshrined at this temple.
We visited a total of 32 temples during this Ohenro tour. The first part of Ohenro ended with a sumptuous Japanese Kaiseki dinner at a restaurant close to where we were staying. All you can drink made us very happy!! We had a time to share the individual thoughts about our Ohenro tour.
Day 8: Today was dedicated only for sightseeing in Ōsaka city. We woke up late (Ohh. It was so nice to sleep in) and left the hotel at 10 am for Ōsaka. We visited Dotombori, a famous shopping and restaurant area, and Kurohone Market. Both places were filled with tourists from China. Later, we stopped at Umeda Sky Building, a landmark of Ōsaka, to see the view of the city. It was a very modern building designed by Hiroshi Hara, famous architect in Japan.
Well, the time went by so fast and it was time to say good bye to our Ohenro comrades. Stay safe and healthy until we meet again to finish visiting 88 temples! Kōbō Daishi is watching over us. Aloha!
Posted by Harumi Karel
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Honolulu HI 96814
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