Temple 51, Ishiteji. Note the statue of Kobo Daishi on the top of the mountain to the left of the pagoda.
After I finished up at Daihoji, I decided to walk what the guidebook said was eight kilometers to the next temple, a walk mostly though mountain forests which ended up seeming far longer but that led to one of the most incredibly sighted temples I've seen thus far. Commanding a high spot in the valley, Iwayaji is built in the side of a huge piece of rock at the end of a spur from which hikers and drivers have to circle. There is no onward road.
Temple 45, Iwayaji
Having hiked across the mountain to get there, I walked back along the road with the intention of visiting the nearby onsen for a bath and dinner and then camping out in the nearby bus stop. But while I was in the bath I met Mr Takimoto, an 81-year old former shop owner, born in Seoul during Japan's occupation, who is now living alone. When he heard I would be camping out he invited me to spend the night at his home. Which is what I did.
Actually, I stayed in one of his homes. Not the one he lives is, but one that is now largely abandoned. And that was just fine and probably better than sleeping in a bus stop.
This morning, Takimoto-san got me up at 05:00 and drove me into town, where it was far too early to start hitchhiking, but where I arrived just in time for the first bus to Matsuyama city, on which I was the only person who was not a high school student. I rode about half-way down the mountain to a hiking path that took me on an hour's walk to the first of Matsuymaya city's temples. Today I visited six.
05:30 with Takimoto-san in front of his house in the village of Naose
Walking down through the mountains
Then tomorrow I'll be finishing up in Matsuyama and heading for Imabari.
Om namu Daishi henjo kongo.