Today I visited Ōkuboji, the last of the 88 temples of this Shikoku pilgrimage, and collected the final stamp on my book.
This o-henro route, however, didn’t go down without a fight: the climb to Mt. Nyotai was tougher than I thought, especially at the very end.
It started off pretty easily, on a paved road, but then, the closer I got to the top, the steeper and more tracherous the path became.
For once, I started my day almost on time, after a series of lazy mornings. I knew I was on a tight schedule, if I were to complete all my objectives: reach the temple #88, go back to the #1 and spend the night in Tokushima.
And so I started to walk with a good pace, until I reached the so-called Henro Salon. There you are given some hot tea, sweets and a certificate of your kechigan (end of pilgrimage). You can get it before reaching Ōkuboji (#88), so that you don’t have to go back afterwards. Much appreciated.
You are also nominated “Henro Ambassador”, which I found both honourable and cute at the same time.
Moreover, you can find a scale model of the island of Shikoku in the middle of the facility, with all the temples represented on it. It was very well done and part of me wishes to have a similar one in Berlin.
After that, it was all about sweating and cursing until I climbed Mount Nyotai. Going down from there to the temple was also not pleasant, due to the huge amount of steps my knees had to endure.
Once I arrived at Ōkuboji, however, I started to smile. A raw feeling of satisfaction that I hadn’t felt in a long time. The sweet confirmation to the “Yes, you can do it!” mantra I’ve been repeating myself since six weeks.
Arriving to Santiago in 2013 was a much more emotional moment than this, but the happiness I felt was indeed of the same kind.
After savouring the moment for a while, I followed a Japanese man that I first met a few days ago to the bus station. Both he and I were bound for Tokushima, with the difference that I wanted to stop at the temple #1, first, and close the circle.
He could speak some English and was very friendly towards me, going as far as buying me a small bottle of Suntory Whisky as osettai. To celebrate my kechigan,he said. Best gift ever!
These people are way too nice. Every time they make me feel like the rudest person that has ever lived on this planet.
I arrived at Ryōzen-ji (temple #1) shortly before 5 PM, when it was already getting dark. I stayed inside the main hall for a few minutes, emptying my head from all kinds of thoughts and just letting the feeling of “completion” sink in.
After that, I handed my kongōzue, the walking staff, to a lady who took care of the temple, as its job was completed as well. It kept me company for hundreds of kilometres, every day, and I was a bit sad to let it go.
With that symbolic handover, though, I felt that my pilgrimage had finally ended.
Now I’m in Tokushima, together with my small bottle of whisky.
It’s time to relax, enjoy a sip of Japan, think back at the whole journey and keep smiling.