Shikoku: Nov.2014

REALLY small car....!

We decided to take a day off the Shikoku pilgrimage route and took the ferry to Hiroshima since we were very close. We knew it would be upsetting, and weren't disappointed. Here are a pair of melted eyeglasses - nothing else remained of the individual...

This is the only building to survive near ground zero, now preserved as a World Heritage Site. The bomb was set to go off at 600 m above ground for maximum destruction, and completely annihilated everything within 2 km of ground zero with the exception of this building. The bomb was dropped at 8:15 in the morning and the breakfast cooking fires burned whatever the bomb left outside the 2 km radius. 140,000 people died, the vast majority civilians. The polite Japanese history of why the U.S. decided to drop the Bomb on Japan: "With Japan in an extremely weak position, the United States was considering the following ways of bringing the long war to an end: invade the Japanese mainland, ask the Soviet Union to join the war against Japan, assure continuation of the emperor system, of use the atomic bomb. The U.S. believed that if the atomic bomb could end the war, Soviet influence after the war would be restricted and domestically the tremendous cost of the development would be satisfied."

Black rain. After the initial devastation of the bomb, the cloud of radioactive dust and debris started to rain down on the city. Some of the surviving schoolchildren recalled trying to catch the black raindrops on their tongues...

Dancing in the sun...

More guardians - Temple 58.

We've keep running into these two monks, Tanbochi and Hiroshi, about every week ever since the first week we were in Shikoku. The cherry blossoms were still in bloom in November at this temple for some reason...

Shadow henros.

Lunch spot.

Statues of this strange little Japanese racoon dog named Tanuki seems to be everywhere, usually holding a bottle of sake. "Raccoons were strangers to Japan until around 1977, when a television cartoon about an American boy befriending one of the cute little carnivores led to the animals being imported as pets. But the relationship since “Raccoon Rascal” aired in Japan has soured. Owners, fed up with trying to tame the wild species to be cute little critters like the one in the cartoon, dumped them in the wild — where, lacking a natural predator — they have proliferated and are now perceived as pests, occasionally damaging crops and bothering people."

Baby buddha.

500 stone monks. One of the tougher climbs in Shikoku is Temple 66 - 900 meters up and 900 meters down. Possibly to make up for that gruelling climb, there are 500 stone moonks at the top - each one different, and most looking a wee bit demented...

Suspension bridge on the way to Temple 66.

Village life...

In some parts of the Shikoku trail, accommodations are few and far between. On Nov. 10th we ended up visiting 7 temples in one day after 9 hours of walking, so took the 11th off in Marugame. In that city there's a big castle on a hill surrounded by a long moat. Instead of crocodiles, they have hundreds of carp defending the castle...

Marigame castle. The moat is in the foreground (the other side of the tree).

Tiny maple leaves. Funny story - today we were walking a long and as we turned a corner we were stopped by a movie camera, a movie crew of three and two hosts. They stopped us at a henro hut (these are little hut shelters for travelling henro to stop and rest, eat and even sleep). The hosts didn’t speak any English nor we any Japanese. The lady host kept leaving the poor guy alone with us to try to have a conversation, while she ran away and came back with some very sweet and ginger tasting tea with small cakes and bananas. She said that they were o-settai (gifts for henro). We said thank-you a lot and sat to eat, while the cameras running, filming us eating and smiling (a lot like Japanese food shows…!) - it was kind of tricky being on camera with nothing being said, so we smiled a lot and said thank-you many times! The woman kept running away and coming back with small gifts like small lavender filled cloth bags and small Japanese dolls on strings to hang from our bags… so we kept on smiling and saying thank-you! After we ate, we motioned that we had to start walking again so they filmed us walking away!! We’ll watch the news tonight and see if we made the evening news on a slow day in Japan...!

Tiny trees. We're walking through the part of Shikoku that specializes in Banzai Trees and all sorts of tiny plants.

Lunch in a henro hut. There were sometimes little henro huts along the way where we could stop for lunch. We could usually find oranges, bananas and apples at either a super (supermarket) or a small grocery shop. The supers also had almonds, cashews, peanuts, banana chips and raisins, so we always had a bag of 'trail mix' with us.

We were always close to the coast, and it always provided spectacular views with lots of small islands. The major fault line in Japan runs right through Shikoku.

As we got closer to the end, we started to walk shorter days and visit more local sights. In a park where they had recreated and restored some old villages, they build this suspension bridge all made with vines. We waited until we were across the bridge to take the photo...

When we started the climb up to the last temple no.88, we didn't realize that the sign at the bottom wasn't kidding... The trail at the top of the mountain went straight up for 100 m with only rough stones and cut steps. It was so steep that it would have been impossible to back down - keep moving forward and avoid looking down...


We spent the next 5 days at Tokushima, the nearest city to Temple 1. There are ruins of a castle there with a wonderful, peaceful garden.

Tokushima castle garden 2.

We were very fortunate to have the protection of a super-hero while in Tokushima, who stayed right outside our hotel window (upper left). From the front, we found out his name was Mona (insert lower right).

We've become big fans of sumo wrestling over the last month - it's the only thing on television we can follow (thanks to some background from Wikipedia)! Here, Stoneface takes out Elvis.

Charley - Mona the super-hero's buddy.

After our stay in Tokushima, we then took a ferry across to the biggest Japanese island and went to Mt. Koyasan where the monk who set up the Shikoku pilgrimage route is buried, then on to Kamakura where we spent 4 days. To get to Kamakura, we had to take 7 different trains (train 5 was a bullet train like this one) and buy tickets at 3 different places. Astonishingly, we made it without any hitches, thanks to about a dozen helpful folks! In Kamakura, we mostly just took it easy and wandered around - a nice change of pace.

Back in Canada! After a couple of days in Ottawa, we went to Toronto for a 5-day Zen retreat ( to try to assimilate what we've been going through for the last few months.

When we started off a couple of years ago, we were trying to create something like the Indian sannyasin tradition - people in the latter stages of their life who renounce worldly and materialistic pursuits and focus on more meaningful things. We're not really sure how that's going, but our experience seem to be having a positive impact on those who hear about it. That's encouraging...

We went to visit Roxanne's Dad in the nursing home. Some politicians swung by while we were there.

New House! Roxanne and Amber decided to build us a new house! It was a bit small, 'though, so they donated it to the Manor staff who take care of Grandpa Stanutz.