The hike started with me seeing lots of people with the white clothing of the pilgrims. The beginning of the walk was great as I just watched the countryside moved along. The mountains got bigger and we were soon winding in valleys with a river beside us. The views were great. I walked through small empty villages. Soon I met up with a father and his two sons. They didn’t speak English so I just let them be. I would pass them, then they would pass me. I would smile and they would smile as well the hike was fairly easy since the flat points were not too bad.
We arrived at the base of the mountain hiking trail. There were a lot of people around. We walked through a small village then began the climb. I started in front of them. It started on an easy road but soon got really tough very quickly. I got to the top of the road and didn’t know where to go. The man and his sons pointed me in the right direction. My mouth dropped to the ground. It was a trail looking like it went straight up. The hike was flanked by tall strong trees. It was completely covered and the ground was very uneven. The man and his boys went way ahead and I didn’t expect to see them again. I passed many older Japanese men who said “Konichiwa.” I replied the same way. It was nice. I wasn’t wearing ear phones. It was just nice but it was tough. I was sweating a lot. I had to take off my jacket since I was just too hot. I felt my pulse through my skin. I was breathing hard but I was still making a good pace. I passed a few older couples. I was wheezing. I would get through the forest and saw the man and his boys waiting for me to point out the way to go. I was floored at this kindness. I never expected it. It was touching. All through the hike they would go ahead of me, then wait then point the way. It was amazing.
The forest broke way to a small farm. The the farmer smiled and bowed to me saying “Konichiwa.” Amazing. My muscles were in pain but my mind was in an amazing state of mind. The more I walked, the more pain I was in, the more joy I found deep under the pain. The farm land turned into forest and it felt like I was going up on a 90 degree angle. Again the man and his boys were waiting to point the way with a smile. They never talked to me they never made any motion to me but they waited to make sure to guide me through the way. I got to a point on the mountain where I looked out and saw I was above the mountain tops of the mountains around me. I pressed on.
I got out of the trees and saw the temple above me perched on top of foundation of stones. I climbed up and went through the gate. I had arrived. There to greet me was the man and his boys. Through the pain and agony I was in a bit of tears both for making it to the top and also for the gratitude of these people who just made sure I was ok. I bowed deeply and said “Arigato.”
I could have taken a bus or car all the way up. Doing it this way was far more meaningful. I went to the temple and paid my respects by washing my hands in the water beside. I went to the main temple and threw in a Yen then bowed my head in silent meditation. The others around me were chanting the Heart Sutra while I was just in peaceful meditation. To say it felt good is an understatement. I rang the bell then turned and went to the office to get a stamp for my journal.
I met this woman who said she studied in Canada. We talked for a bit then she asked if I had a place to stay. I said no. She said she stayed at a place the night before. She is going a different direction then I. She then whipped out her phone and made a call. They were all booked. She then spent the next 10 minutes calling places until she found one for me. It was back the way I came but it is on the way to temple 13. I thanked her with a big “Domo Arigato” (Thank you VERY much).
The climb down was easy. Going down took less time but hurt in different areas of my body. It was easier and I wasn’t sweating as much. The weather was getting colder as the sun was going down. My shirt was dry but I had to get my jacket back on. I got down the mountain in a few hours and it felt good.
I got to the place where I was staying and was greeted by an elderly couple who looked like they were in their 70’s. They couldn’t speak any english but showed me where I would sleep; a sparse room with tatimai mats. I threw my bags in and I tried to ask about a place to shower and such, they said Onsan. I said Hai (yes).
I threw my bag in my room then grabbed my shower stuff, thinking it was close by. I took advantage of the free laundry facility as well. He motioned to the truck. The Onsan is a 15 minute drive away. A Onsan is a natural spring with different pools of water with a common shower area. The best part is the hot spring outside. The top of my body was cold while the bottom, under the water, was hot. It was GREAT!!! I paid nothing.
They picked me up an hour later then took me for some Japanese BBQ. It was odd since they both couldn’t speak any English but yet I was having dinner with them in a restaurant. The BBQ was similar to Korean style. They made sure I ate enough and continued to order food until I was happy. I paid nothing. People would come in and then look at me with a bit of shock but it was just odd. They kept talking to me in Japanese and I just tried to understand but there was no way I could. They still had these long conversations but I just tried to show I wasn’t sure what they were saying. They ordered me a beer. The meat was pork, chicken and Kobe Beef along with lots of vegetables. There was also kimchi which I had a lot of.
We drove back to their home, where i am staying. They talked amongst themselves. The sky above me was black. No cars were on the road. Just an Amazing Day!