Thursday, January 2, 2020


THE NEXT DAY, I arrived at Okuiya Niju Kazurabashi, or the twin bridges. I walked down a hundred steps to the bridge are still visible spectral-tangle of vines stretching over the river rapids. Local residents believe the bridge is higher and long known as the man, and the lower bridges and short are known as women. Floating fog, blurring the panorama of hills and surrounding areas.

Of all presented in the Iya Valley-mountains, temples and hot springs-this is the place I visited as recommended mandatory Fumiaki. "The bridge was reportedly built by the Clan Heikie in the 12th century, when they fled from Kyoto after losing the civil war to the Genji clan," he said. "Heike live in the interior mountains, and they built this bridge for protection. This
Shikoku relics of the past. "

A gust of wind shook the bridge, the rain made ​​the slippery wooden boards. Giddy, I set foot on a wooden board first. I regret using the sandals, not proper footwear. I stepped up and took a deep breath, step foot next to a wooden board. Hap!

I slip up, sat down, and my feet wedged between the wooden planks. I tried to pull it out, and the rough tangle of vines hurt my feet. Suddenly everything seemed so close: Wood, fog, spirits of the Heike warriors.

"Yeah residents still believe the gods lived in the mountains," Fumiyaki once said to me, and now I understand why. I seemed to hear them giggling from behind the trees.

Finally I managed to get away from the tongs wooden planks and vines. This time, I was extra cautious step and both hands clinging to the rod of the bridge. Focus, focus. I walked slowly, swaying and creaking bridge. After 10 minutes of heart is pounding, I reached across and spontaneous jumping for joy. I imagine Fumiyaki and pray to the god of the mountain.

ROOM ON MAIN temple complex in Zentsuji, hanging spiral incense and monks sang solemn hymns, while a half-dozen parents bowed and prayed; outside, the young monk sweeping the yard. At one point, a group of Japanese tourists admiring the five-story pagoda towering: four women with chic hairstyle murmur audible ooh and aah  at the front of the cinnamon tree which looked older than the temple.

Zentsuji is the cradle of Buddhist and leaders Kobo Daishi, who built this temple in the early ninth century. It is recommended Kuniko father, Ojiichan. "To understand Shikoku," said Ojiichan, and pilgrim-o-henro-san-walking from temple to temple for virtue and chastity. As a child, every time the pilgrims approached the house we will hear the sound of the bells ting-ting-and they bring mom told me to bring rice and oranges for them. Therefore, we cordially welcome the stranger in Shikoku.

In this complex there is a gift shop that sells books, beads, crutches, and other pilgrimage equipment. I carefully read the picture book tells the journey of Kobo Daishi legend, until he felt the time passed so quickly. When I came out, looked everywhere for pilgrims using conical bamboo hats, jackets and white pants. I approached the couple and the child's seizures. When I asked their trip, the girl grabbed my backpack and pulled out a book bound in red silk and gold. "In every temple, the priests wrote the name of temple on one page and affix seal of the temple," said the father. Her fingers turn a page. "Every time a pilgrimage, I feel enlightened. This pilgrimage reminds me of the meaning of life. After the pilgrimage, I was able to do everything, "he continued.

"Of course," said his daughter, "It's only the fourth round. O-henro-san over there "- he pointed to an elderly man wearing black clothes and colorful belts-" he made rounds to 333! "
I am sure, the pilgrims thankful for Shikoku. They walked slowly in humility, reminding us not to make a fuss and commit to a higher spiritual purpose. I realized the truth of the words Ojiichan tradition hospitality and kindness of the island.

I circled the island for two days, to feel the texture of old hay and straw-clay material village house, lounging in a quiet fishing village, bow pilgrims pay homage to the people I have met. In hot water spa, a half-dozen middle-aged women were friendly, forced to pay my dinner. When I got lost in the intersection, the truck driver was kind enough to drive me. At a roadside snack stall, the owner asked me if I was on a pilgrimage, and when I said no and claimed to have been looking for the heart of Shikoku , he exclaimed, "Then you are also a pilgrim!" And presented me with strawberry shaved ice.

In the afternoon, on the fifth day, I arrived at Johen. Family Kuniko was awaiting my arrival. We enjoyed dining Katsuo sashimi (fresh raw fish meat) and grilled fish, as well as mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumbers fresh from the garden.

While sitting on tatami mats around a low table, Obaachan look with sparkling eyes. "All right," he said, "the success you find
Shikoku heart?"

"Of course," I replied, and all eyes looked at me expectantly. "But I do not only find it in one place. I found it on lading agriculture, fishing village, also on the pilgrims who would not stop to give thanks for the gifts of the day. And again I found it on the people around were greeted with enthusiasm and friendliness. "

For a moment, I was not sure Kuniko family understand my words in Japanese just were not at all fluent. But then they nodded and smiled.

Ojiichan poured beer for us all and raises his glass. "Don-san, glad you are finally back home. Kanpai! "

Together we sipped drinks,
then obaachan raised his glass again. "And this time I'm glad you're not stuck in the ditch again!"

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