Thursday, April 23, 2015

Day 23 -- A rollercoaster ride to my new favorite Shikoku city

Total distance: ~60 km

Today I arrived in Matsuyama City. As it turns out, there are a ton of temples in this city. I haven’t seen this many temples in a day since Day 1.

Temple 45 岩屋寺 Iwayaji (~10 km)
As you may recall, temple number 45 was a round trip from where I stayed last night. Originally I was planning on making the trip out and back yesterday, but because the road was so terrible I figured I wasn’t going to be able to make it in time. Since I didn’t get to go yesterday, I went today.

Turns out, that was a good idea. Even if I had gotten there in an hour (which would have been difficult in and of itself), there are a ton of stairs leading up to the temple, too. Because, you know, ancient Buddhists and mountain temples.

This one was pretty cool. It was actually built into a cliff face, which is kinda unique.

Temple 46 浄瑠璃寺 Jōruriji (~30 km)
Temple 45 was the last temple on the mountain, so to get to number 46 it was a long road downward.

This was maybe the best experience of the entire trip so far. Since the road was meant for general traffic, including big trucks, the incline was shallow enough that I didn’t really have to use my brakes much at all. I just cruised down the mountain at about 30-40 kph, winding down with the enormous city of Matsuyama in the background.

I took one picture. I could have taken a million but I don’t think pictures do the trip very much justice.

When I got to the temple, it felt very quaint. It was mostly forested, and for some reason there weren’t so many people there so it was pretty quiet. I got into a conversation with the lady in the stamp office and she gave me an enormous orange and a banana.

All in all, it was a great welcome to the city

Temple 47 八坂寺 Yasakaji (~0.9 km)
The next temple was extremely close. It was small too, but had less of a foresty feel to it. It had paved sidewalks and whatnot, and included a lot more stairs. 

As I was leaving, someone gave me two mikan. I considered stopping at the next rest area and making a Carmen Miranda hat with all the fruit osettai I was getting.

Temple 48 西琳寺 Sairinji (~4.6 km)
On the way to the temple, I stopped for a second to get my bearings and make sure I was going the right way. There was a family doing a ton of yardwork in their huge yard nearby. Suddenly, the grandpa fellow of the family cals out and asks me if I need help, in English. I said I was fine, and he then offered to teach me a shortcut to the next temple. He explained it in pretty excellent English, too.

A shot from inside Jōnofuchi Park
It was really cool because his kids and grandkids were looking on with pretty stunned faces. I bet they don’t get to hear their grandpa tearing it up in English very often.

Next to the temple was a shrine called Jōnofuchi surrounded by a small but very pretty park. I had a little extra time so I walked around a took a bunch of pictures and stuff.

Temple 49 浄土寺 Jōdoji (~3.1 km)
This was a pretty big temple. As I was walking around it, there was this little kid, maybe 2 or 3 years old, yelling the Japanese word for ‘big’ — ‘ookii’, but saying it weird and slangy so it sounded like he was yelling ‘okay’ over and over again. It took me just slightly too long to realize he was saying ‘big’, not ‘okay’, so when he ran to me and yelled ‘ookaaaaay’ I gave him a thumbs up and said ‘okay!'

He thought this was the greatest thing ever and started saying ‘okay’ over and over again, until his mom dragged him away.

Temple 50 繁多寺 Hantaji (~1.8 km)
This temple was small but the middle of it was very open, so you could see the whole temple as you walked through the gates. That was kinda nice. Lots of times there are twists and turns and whatnot that kinda hide the buildings from you.

The little kid’s family was apparently doing the pilgrimage too, by car, and it just so happens that they arrived slightly after I did. The kid recognized me and instantly started yelling ‘okay’ again, in an attempt to communicate with me. I said ‘hello’ to him, but he replied with ‘okay’, as if to correct me. His horrified mother carted him off.

Temple 51 石手寺 Ishiteji (~2.8 km)
The big red pagoda
This temple was enormous. It’s located in a fairly urban location, but it’s difficult to tell when the shops end and the temple begins. Within the temple grounds there were stalls selling fried mochi and all sorts of seafood snacks.

There was a big red pagoda in the middle of this temple, which kinda stood out from all the traditional Japanese-style architecture I'd been seeing up to that point. I have the feeling it might be some other form of Buddhism. Something from India, maybe? There was a sign outside of it written in a language I can’t read for the life of me so it’s entirely possible it was Hindi.

The kid arrived shortly after and started yelling ‘okay’ again. This temple was crowded with people so they started trying to correct him, telling him to say ‘hello’ to foreigners, not ‘okay’, but the kid was having absolutely none of it.

I left, got some food at the fancy-sounding “K’s Cafe” (some kind of weird attempt at being fancy by the convenience store Circle K) and went to my hotel. Well, it's called a hotel, but it's kinda halfway between a hotel and a kinda lazy Ryokan. 

The stores in stalls leading up to temple 51
That was a lot of writing. For day 23 I’m gonna include Matsuyama Castle in the itinerary.

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