Thursday, May 26, 2011

Riding with the Daishi: The Shikoku Pilgrimage - Ehime

四国巡礼 - 愛媛県


I left the rider's house early, and actually had to backtrack a bit. To efficiently visit the 88 temples, you should stay near your next temple, or even in it if you can. Many temples offer what is called a shukubo, lodging for lay men and women. I was trying to get the most out of my fairly pricey tent / mat / sleeping bag that I bought last year, and temple stays tend to cost more than zero yen, so they were out. Anyways, stay near the temple, wake up around 6am so that you can be there for the front desk opening at 7am. Come 5pm, find your next bed, and find it near the next temple. Efficiency.


But this trip to Shikoku had a few extra bits I wanted to accomplish. One was to revisit the rider's house I had stayed at 3 and a half years ago. The other was to stay with a friend in Ehime at his fish cake factory. More on that later. These wants took me a bit out of the way, and I put a few hundred extra kilos on the odometer seeking them out.


Anyways, I was able to get a few temples done in Ehime this day.


Here's a tip for the henro. If you see a massive bus tour arriving, RUN for the front desk to get your book stamped. Unless you like waiting in a line of 60 people. Cause that's what you will do.


More on delicious kamaboko later.


Ehime's temples get a bit repetitive at times. There are stretches where a walking pilgrim could visit 5 or 6 temples in a few hours.


What up dog.


After a few spots in the countryside you'll be taken into the heart of Matsuyama. Not all Shikoku is countryside. Matsuyama, I don't know how to feel about it. Having driven it's streets, I probably have a very different opinion than someone arriving by train or tour bus. This place is pretty scummy! Just past the main tourist attractions and important historical sites is an expanse of pachinko parlors, 4 story apartment buildings, and cheap diners. A bit of a change from the empty mountain roads that I had been riding for the past few days.


Temple #51, Ishiteji, is a bit touristy. This makes since, the temple is a few blocks from the famous Dogo Onsen. Dogo is a really old hot spring. The line is long. Do yourself a favor, when your Japanese friends ask if you went to the onsen, just say yes, even if you didn't. Because the idea of passing by this historic place without taking a bath is utter insanity. Remember how I said Matsuyama is a bit scummy? Well a few blocks from Dogo, away from the nice hotels, is a crazy red light district! I was there daytime, and it was in full swing.


Even though it's one of the most touristy temples, I'd recommend it in my top 10.



Yeah, the grilled rice cakes are famous. According to my guide, in the past they were given free to henro. I paid a dollar.


Ehime kitty. Beauty is on the inside, no?


Check out this behemoth. Inside was seating for a few thousand people.


5pm rolled around and it was time to head to my boy's place. But first... fuck you navi!

My friend T lives on an island just off the mainland. This involves crossing a massive bridge, which is part of the Shimaname toll road. This toll road, a 60km network of bridges connecting Shikoku and Honshu, is awesome. Traverse it if you have the chance, during the day, in nice weather. For me, it was dark and I just wanted to get to my friend's place. I entered his address in the navi and drove on.

He had told me Oshima in the past, so I was surprised when my navi said to continue past that island, and onto Omishima. Of course, this was completely wrong. Did I mention that this toll road is very spendy? Well it is. When I asked the grumpy old toll booth attendant if I was on the right track, he yelled at me for holding up traffic, then told me to make a u-turn and go back one stop... after paying him.

Once I was at the right exit, I had no problem finding the fish cake factory, as everyone on the island knows where it is. So the navi has popped my tire, took me to some remote islands, and cost me a few thousand yen. Damn.


T wanted to take me to nothing but noodle shops. I had to beg him for fresh fish, and we did some damage at a local spot with his family.


Nice stuff. The sushi shop is run by an actual fishing company, so you know it's good.


Back at home T showed me his great grandfather's collection from the 88 temples. Some people do the book, some do the scroll. Next time I'll get a scroll.

In the past, it was tradition for those living on Shikoku to do the pilgrimage before getting married. But in modern days of high speed trains and communication, traditions like this have faded away. Shed a tear.


Mr. T is the part of an interesting lineage. His family has been running a fish cake factory for over 100 years. Modern machinery prepares the traditional recipe, churning out tasty kamaboko from 6am until the afternoon.


Good stuff! Expect more about this in the future, T's family invited me to help them out during the New Years holiday rush. A week of working in a fish cake factory, eating sushi, and drinking. Word.

If you want to eat some now, hit up the expensive department stores like Isetan, cause this stuff is cream of the crop.


The Ehime section of the circuit represents enlightenment. I was certainly enlightened to the shitness of my navi, which I packed away for good. But as for the enlightenment that should, in theory, come from this religious pilgrimage, I don't know. The whole time, I've felt like a tourist. Do you feel connected to Christianity if you visit the cathedrals of Europe? Does once feel closer to Allah when they see Masjid Al Haram in Saudi Arabia? Do chanting henro draw you to Buddhism?

I put myself directly in the oncoming headlights of Buddhism on this trip, but felt very little. I'm not as sarcastic as this blog portrays in real life, and open my mind to many experiences and ways of life. Perhaps, as I finish my quest, something will pop.

1 comment:

rory said...

i grew up mormon, and only recently, for lack of a better term, renounced it. i'm not a metaphysical or theocratic person, but i find various religions interesting. i'd like to read the kur'an (koran?) someday, and buddhism is also something i was raised with and still fascinates me.
never gone on a pilgrimage, but reading your entries has piqued my curiosity. sounds like you had a blast.
now to catch up on some ramen adventures.