ツーリング: 遍路の大窪寺と土柱等 – Road Tripping: Okuboji Temple, Dochu Sand Pillars Etc.

Every so often it is nice to just get in the car and explore some new roads, without any concrete plans in place.  Stopping wherever it seems interesting and familiarizing oneself with some new surroundings makes for a great afternoon.  Soeng and I set out east from my place to see what we might happen across.

The first stop was at the Dochu Sand Pillars.  I had passed some sign advertising them a number of times, but had not thus far found any justifiable reason to stop.  Today was the day though.  We parked up, and along with a couple of elderly camera-wielding tourists we shared a spectacularly mediocre view.  We spent far less time actually looking at the sand pillars than the distance we went out of our way necessary to have the chance.  They were nice-ish, and certainly not worth a dedicated trip to see them, but it is another line on my Shikoku resume.

They are big, I guess

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On the road once more, we carried on towards Okuboji Temple, the last of the 88 temple loop that runs throughout Shikoku.  I’ve said it before that I want to see each of the temples located in Kagawa, so this was me getting one step closer to that goal.

The main hall

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We entered the temple complex near some auxiliary hall where we could see a couple of the monuments and oddities that made it unique.  Every temple seems to have some distinguishing aspect to it, and in the case of Okuboji there was a large collection of pilgrim figurines and also an arrangement of kongo-zue.  This being the final temple, the figurines each bore the name of someone who had completed the 1200km loop.  The kongo-zue are the wooden sticks that each pilgrim carries along with them throughout the journey, and they symbolize that Kobo Daishi is always with them.  Because this is the last temple, the pilgrims leave their stick upon completion.

The a fraction of the pilgrim army

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And here we have a glass case of sticks401800_777631173845_754317159_n

We saw a little footpath that went up into the mountains and we decided to follow it.  The whole thing was uphill, and when we saw a sign informing us that we were over 7km from the next checkpoint and only halfway up the mountain, we turned around immediately.  Our sidetracking did help us to work up an appetite, so back at the main complex we poked our heads into the main hall and then took a seat at the nearby udon shop.  These noodles are certainly not my favorite dining option, but they are cheap and eating along side the other pilgrims was experience enough to justify the lapse in my culinary standards.  There was a decent selection of oden as well, which after spending some time in Japan is something I’ve developed a great appreciation for.

The spicy mustard is what makes it so good

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Before we left we did a bit of trinket shopping and came across some guy kind enough to talk on end about konyaku.  This is a type of potato that is used to make a gelatinous brick often used in soups.  I eat the spud frequently in restaurants and especially in school lunches, but I had never never seen it in the unprocessed form.  I was able to learn more than I could have ever hoped to know about the root vegetable.  We hopped back in the car and went on our way.

The peeled ones in the bin below are what we eat

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We carried on towards the northeastern edge of our prefecture and then cut west towards Takamatsu.  We stopped along the way at a local produce market where we got a huge jar of honey.  This stuff is usually quite expense, and among the 30 and 40 dollar jars of botique honey, we found this one for about 6.  We were in disbelief of our find, so as soon as we returned to the car we sprung the lid to taste it.  Jackpot.  So pleased were we with our purchase that we each took a gulp.  Try drinking honey sometime, the viscosity makes for an odd sensation.

We also stopped at the Monyu Dam.  I know nothing about the dam other than that it was built about 10 years ago.  It was wholly uninteresting, but the existence of a sign directing us towards it meant that we had no choice.  Another impromptu stop was at an elementary school that had fallen into disuse.  While not particularly interesting to most people, my position as a teacher in a rural region that will soon be facing such effects of depopulation had me keen.  We didn’t stay long, but our research showed that it had at least been used 10 years ago.

The dam itself wasn’t anything special, but the view from the top of rural Japan was

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The last stop of the day was at Chishiti, a restaurant that serves really authentic curry that tastes far better than the usual Japanese variety.  I always order the spiciest they have, a level twenty on their scale – its not even listed in the menu.  This must be a joke though, since it is scarcely spicy at all.  The Japanese have such an intolerance for spicy food that their idea of hot is nothing by western standards.

I don’t think I ever had curry before Japan.  I’ve really been missing out

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We got home at last, having covered about 100km and seeing a nice variety of things.  Twas a nice way to spend an afternoon and also a move towards ‘Kagawa completion’ before I get out of here.  I’m sure that another trip or two of this nature will put me in a good position to leave without any regrets or unfinished business.

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