Henro Day 3: Refelctions

14 02 2012

First posted at iHenro!

It’s no surprise that I like hiking, so it should also be no surprise that day 3 was one of my favourite days.

The trail from temple 11 to temple 12 is a ‘Henro Korogashi’ which I’ve only seen translated as Pilgrim falls down. I think a better translation would be Pilgrim’s downfall. There are a few points along the pilgrimage which are known as Korogashi, and they are known as that because they are particularly steep or arduous, and day 3 is the first test for any pilgrim.

I’ve spoken to another friend who attempted doing the pilgrimage a few years ago, and day 3 was as far as he got, so I was a little nervous about what to expect. In fact, I was quite ready to pull out if the weather went bad, or it was too difficult to do in trail runners. A funny thing, at temple 11 there is a mini pilgrimage before you start the trail, so if you don’t make it you could just pay your respects at the little shrines circling Fujidera.

Overall, I found my first Korogashi not too bad. None of the mountains were particularly tall, and all the steep areas had stairs. It would still have been nice to have a walking stick though. It was a bit annoying that it wasn’t like a ridge walk, and you had to go all the way up and then all the way down all three peaks. There were also a few people on the trail, not only fellow pilgrims, but also locals out for some exercise.

One thing I love about hiking is being in nature. Japan has really lovely scenery, quite different from what I’m accustomed to in Australia. Day 3 was mostly hiking through cedar forests, which have this mysterious air to them I think. And there were a few bamboo groves along the way as well as a great view of the river basin that I walked across the previous day.

Arriving at Shosanji was a little surreal. It is a very pretty temple, but the contrast between the natural forest on the trail and the not-so-natural scenery at the temple was a little disconcerting. Or maybe it was running into all the bus pilgrim crowds. Shosanji has an interesting story about it’s foundation, apparently a dragon was terrorising the mountain, but was contained in a cave by Kobo Daishi, thus saving the people of the mountain.

My accommodation for the night (Nabeiwa-so) would have to be my favourite place I stayed the whole trip. It was really really lovely, and also probably the best value for money. I think the building was somewhat new, but built in a rustic style, and even smelled of fresh cut wood. There were about 8 Henro staying that night (mostly older retired men, but also one other woman), so dinner in the dining hall was a very lively affair. Oh, and dinner was really yummy, fresh greens, rice, miso, and tempura!

The mix of people I met this day was very interesting. It included a two local men who were out for some morning exercise by hiking the first mountain. A couple of young university students from Kansai doing a few days on trail. A woman from Shizuoka doing the trail a few days at a time. Another man from Tochigi who was planning on doing about 2 weeks. And also an older man who was doing the trail in reverse, and for the 5th time! They say doing the trail in reverse is something like 3 times harder than the regular way.

So, finally, here’s a picture of me, just to show you how I was kitted out. I’m wearing the pilgrim’s white coat, but my little bag of supplies was in my backpack that day. I also ended up wearing my rain jacket under the coat quite frequently as I found it to be a good wind breaker. Apart from that I was wearing just a long sleeve t-shirt, hiking trousers, trail runners and a head sock or cap. Although you can’t see it, my pack looked big, but was only about 6kg, and on the waist strap I have my camera bag. Not going to win any beauty contests with this outfit, but it was really comfortable and functional.


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