17. End in Sight

16 Apr

TempleGates of Wrath: Entrance to Jōdoji on the outskirts of Matsuyama

The previous day’s climb had exhausted me, so I decided to treat myself to what was essentially a rest day, heading out late morning to visit Jōruriji and Yasakaji, the two temples I had bypassed located at the foot of the mountain I had tackled yesterday.

I then looped back north to take in three more temples, and continued onwards to the more centrally-located Temple 51, Ishiteji, with its three-storey pagoda. Ishiteji was only half a mile away from the most famous (and oldest) natural hot spring bathhouse in Japan, Dogo Onsen, so I cycled over to take a look. The building is often claimed to be the inspiration for the bathhouse in the popular Japanese animated film Spirited Away, but then again I’ve also visited a building in Shima on the mainland that claims the very same, so I’m not sure what to believe. Regardless, it is a beautiful sight – although on this occasion I chose not to partake in a dip in the baths, preferring my own shoebox-sized bath in my hotel room over the stare-fest that usually occurs when a Westerner sets foot in an onsen.

From Dogo Onsen it was a short hop through the city centre back to my hotel near the train station. Matsuyama had more charm than the average Japanese city, in part thanks to the trams that rattled around the streets. Once or twice a day a silly little steam train ran on the tram tracks, tooting its way along and usually waking me up in the morning as a result, leading me to thoughts of sabotage to allow me to sleep past eight o’clock at least once.

Being back in an urban metropolis meant I could further my secondary mission – that of reaching Curry Nirvana – so in the evening I ambled along to the CoCo Ichiban chain restaurant for a Spice Level 7 curry, dispatched with ease (and a litre of water).

Until today I had never been able to visualise an end in sight to my journey, but planning tomorrow’s route in the curry restaurant I realised for the first time I was very close to finishing. Although I was only a little over halfway in terms of temples visited, if all went to plan within two days I would be in the fourth and final prefecture, Kagawa, and it was only a few days more cycling from there to retrace my steps back to Temple 1 where this pedal-powered journey of the Crazy 88 started a long two weeks ago.

18 miles


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