Boats and trains, though, don't usually travel in straight lines and it ended up taking five and a half hours to get from one to the other via bus-ferry-train-train-train. By the time I arrived it was dark and even the station master at the little town of Kudoyama didn't know where my hotel was. In fact he said there were no hotels in Kudoyama.
The lady of the house came out to meet me once I had phoned. She and her husband took good care of me for the few hours I was there. They fed me well, helped me pack up the stuff I no longer needed to carry and could ship back to Fukuoka, warmed me in the morning with a fresh cup of coffee, took me to the convenience store to ship my box and to provision myself for the walk up Koyasan, and finally took me to the temple where the mountain trail begins. If you're ever looking for a place in Kudoyama, try the Ryoutei.
There was another young henro there that night, like me planning to finish his pilgrimage with a walk up Koyasan. He was going to leave before me and wouldn't accept a ride to the temple. He overslept and we both ended up at the start of trail at the same time and so we walked most the trail together.
The start of the Koyasan trail. You can see the post marker just to the right of the torii, the first of 180 leading pilgrims to the peak.
The guide map says the 22km hike takes 7 hours 20 minutes. Obviously, this is not for henro who are used to such walks on a daily basis. We set off at07:00 and arrived at 12:00. In fact when I looked at my watch, standing in front of Daimonji where I had departed 35 days previous, it was exactly 12:00:00.
I arrived just a few minutes before Akira and while I was waiting for him, another henro came down another nearby trail. "Jeff!" he shouted. It was Toshiyuki, whom you might remember from my night at Senryuji with the reformed yakuza. I hadn't seen him in weeks and neither of us expected to see other again, but here we were sharing a big hug in front of Daimonji.Just then Akira emerged onto the road from the trail and Toshiyuki shouted "Akira!" Akira shouted "Toshi!" And there was another happy reunion in front of Daimonji. The two had walked several days together at the beginning of their pilgrimages and hadn't seen each other for weeks.
Akira (left) and Toshiyuki (center)
We went and had lunch together and found that Toshiyuki and I both had reservations for the Youth Hostel. Akira was planning to go back to Tokyo that evening, but having found Toshiyuki decided to spend the night. We ended up having dinner together, sharing the same room, and this morning attending morning services at Muryôkô-in.
It was a fortuitous end to an incredible adventure.