The Dojo of Entering Nirvana – The Final Phase begins (video)
This past week in Japan was Golden Week, a string of Japanese national holidays from April 28th to May 6th. Last Thursday I made my way back on the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage, continuing from temple no. 52 in Ehime prefecture. Ehime prefecture is home to 31 of the Shikoku 88 Temples and is known as The Dojo/Land of Enlightenment, the third of four phases on the pilgrimage. By the end of this Golden Week, I completed all the temples in Ehime prefecture and began The Dojo of Entering Nirvana, the name of the final phase of the pilgrimage. The Dojo of Entering Nirvana in Kagawa prefecture begins with Upenji Temple (No. 66), the highest elevated temple on the pilgrimage at 916 meters above sea level (over 3000 feet). Having woven through the remote towns and mountains of Tokushima, Kochi, and Ehime prefectures, I have now completed temples 1-71, which leaves me 17 temples short of completing Japan’s most famous Buddhist pilgrimage. To celebrate this last phase, I will be making three volumes of videos allowing you join me as I travel around Kagawa prefecture and ultimately end with a visit to Mt. Koya in Wakayama prefecture, where Kobo Daishi was buried. The first installment is now complete and includes video of temples 66 to 71. Check out Vol. 1 below! But before I end this blog, let me reflect upon my most memorable temples in Ehime prefecture:
- No. 45: Iwayaji Temple (The Temple of Rocky Cave) – This temple is located on a rocky mountain, surrounded by a huge bluff and gorges. Why I remember this temple is because the necessity for all pilgrims to walk up sharply sloping steps for 30-minutes. Although some temples require minimal walking even with a car, this temple was clearly the biggest challenge for those not anticipating having to do any serious hiking. I still remember the tour bus folks with big proud smiles on their faces, saying “konichiwa” to by passers, and I believe thinking privately, “Look at me… I’m really doing it now…” 🙂
- No. 51: Ishiteji Temple (The Temple of the Stone Hand) – Located in Matsuyama City, the largest populated city on Shikoku, this temple is located near the famous Dogo Onsen (hot spring), Japan’s oldest and most historic onsen. In addition to the temple itself, the grounds include a temple museum, various booths displaying/selling gift items, a memorial monument of Haiku poems, and much more.
- No. 60: Yokomineji Temple (The Temple of Side Summit/Peak) – at 700 meters (2340 feet), this temple is the third highest elevated temple on the pilgrimage. Like myself, most people drive up the mountain to the isolated temple, however, there are those with the time and energy to walk up the mountain which takes approximately 3-hours round-trip. Yokomineji is considered the most difficult temple to reach if walking, because of its perilous, unpaved steep path. Several pilgrims have died attempting to reach this temple.
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