19 May 2008

Henro companions

I met a number of henro during my journey. Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of all, only those with whom I shared the walk, or in the case of Mr Ohgita below, whom I ran into again and again.

Ohgita-san is in his 60's and was doing the pilgrimage in sections by bicycle. Normally, I would have met him once and he would have then ridden far faster than I could hope to walk. But I happened to meet him in southern Ehime prefecture when I was as a result of my sprained leg doing a bit of hitchhiking. And so Ohgita was most often playing catch up to me. Here we are at Meisekiji in the city of Seiyo, the day before Ohgita went home to Osaka.

Back when I met Toshiyuki at Ishiteiji, we shared the walk with this young lady from Tokyo, Natsumi, who was also doing the pilgrimage in small sections. We all spent the night at Senyuji, but where Toshiyuki and I slept with the reformed gangster, Natsumi paid for her lodging and so had use of the bath (and full meals). Natsumi is now back in Tokyo. Attentive readers may have noticed she left a comment on this blog.

Towards the end of my journey I met Keiko, a wife and mother from Tokyo doing the pilgrimage in sections. We met in the vicinity of temple #10, which was for her just the start of what she planned as a multi-year pilgrimage. Her children were apparently worried to death about mom being out on the road all by herself. From what I saw, kids, there's no need to worry. Mom can take care of herself.

Last but hardly least is someone from my own island of Kyushu, a young man who decided – like me – that he'd had enough of his job. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Yoshihito started walking in late March and we first met at Kiyotakiji, #35, in the city of Tosa. We met again in the town of Uchiko, in the long walk between temples #43 and #44, at the Ohenro Muryo Yado, a barn converted into a sleeping space for walking henro. And on Yoshihito's last day I walked into the Ohenro Kouryu Salon and there he was having a cup of tea. The picture here was taken at the peak of a rocky mountain over which you have to climb very slowly and carefully, a last challenge to reach the last temple, Okuboji, #88. It was there that Yoshito finished his pilgrimage, while I went on to #1-17.

Yoshihito celebrates the end of the journey

Many thanks to all of you for sharing your time and your lives with me. I hope I gave as good company as I received.


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