Chichibu 34 Kannon temples pilgrimage, day 3

Kodak T-MAX 400 at EI 400, developed in HC-110 dilution E for 8:30 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds.

Above: Temple #28 under the rock

Since I had sort of messed up the official route by visiting more temples the second day of pilgrimage, I had to wing it a little and try to reach Temple 30 in a day so I would have only one more day left.

My route this day was: Temple #24 U+2192.svg Temple #25 U+2192.svg Temple #26 U+2192.svg Temple #27 U+2192.svg Temple #28 U+2192.svg Temple #29 U+2192.svg Temple 30. Between Temple #29 and Temple #30 I took the train from Urayamaguchi station to Shiroku station as I was running out of time and the walk between those two temples was over two hours. The only time I felt uncomfortable walking along a major road next to heavy traffic was just after leaving Temple #24. The caretaker at Temple #24 had warned me about the dangers and how right he was: it was a very curvy and tight road with loads of trucks and fast driving cars coming around almost blind corners with no pavement for me to walk on.

Kodak T-MAX 400 at EI 400, developed in HC-110 dilution E for 8:30 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds.

Above: Peaceful Temple #30 with its beautiful garden.

I was now really walking through the countryside and the pilgrimage had really grown on me by this time.  The temples were getting further apart again after they were rather close together on the second day.  I also started to get the feeling that fewer and fewer pilgrims would reach these temples and sometimes it took a bit of puzzling to find the location where to get the stamp as I don’t read kanji and a kind note on a door telling a pilgrim were to go was a big barrier.

I guess because I was carrying this large camera and camera bag around, this day monks and caretakers would regularly show me folders or photo albums  full of photographs of the temple. Really helpful if you don’t have much time to find the best angle for your shots 🙂

You must visit Temple #26 to get the temple stamp but it is worth to climb the stairs up into the mountains and visit Iwaidou, the secret Kannon Hall of Temple #26. From there you can hike directly to the Giant Kannon statue that towers over Temple #27.

Shot on KODAK TRI-X at EI 400, developed in HC-110 dilution H for 11 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds.

Above: Iwaidou — the secret Kannon Hall of Temple #26

Shot on Fuji Neopan Acros 100 at EI 100, developed in HC-110 dilution E for 7 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds.

Above: the Giant Kannon statue of Temple #27

Temple #28 was very impressive underneath its massive rock and Temple #30 was very peacefully located in a carefully constructed garden.

From Temple #30 I returned to Shiroku station and from there to Seibu Chichibu station.

Maybe a nice anecdote: When I walked up the hill to reach Temple #30, I passed three kids who were dillydallying on their way home after school. After exchanging “konnichiha’ as I passed them, they practiced their English on me but after a few replies to their “hello” ‘s and “how do you do”’s I walked on to be able to use the last light of the day for my photos as the temple was on a slope facing north and the sun had already set behind the mountain. By the time I had collected my stamp and finished my prayer, the kids showed up at the temple and very enthusiastically started relating the whole ‘adventure’ to their father, the monk of the temple when they discovered me again taking the last of my photos. Their story cut short and they mumbled ‘ah, ano hito’ after which they became all very shy all of a sudden 🙂

Read all about the last day of the pilgrimage here.

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Chichibu 34 Kannon temples pilgrimage, day 2

Fuji Acros 100 at EI 100, developed in HC-110 dilution E for 7 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds.

Above: Giant Ojizō-sama, Temple #10, Chichibu

A few days later, I set off for the second day of pilgrimage. This time I left much earlier and walked from Seibu Chichibu station to Temple #10 to continue at the next temple from where I had left off last time.

My route this day was: Temple #10 U+2192.svg Temple #11U+2192.svgTemple #12 U+2192.svg Temple #13 U+2192.svg Temple #14 U+2192.svg Temple #15 U+2192.svg Temple #16 U+2192.svg Temple #17 U+2192.svg Temple #18 U+2192.svg Temple #19 U+2192.svg Temple #20 U+2192.svg Temple #21 U+2192.svgTemple #22 U+2192.svg Temple #23

The recommended route for the second day would cut off at Temple #18 and return by train to Seibu Chichibu station, but as it was still early and I was still fit, I decided the push on and take an advance on the next day.

Fujichrome Velvia 50

Above: Ojizō-sama statues, Temple #19, Chichibu

At Temple #11 I had an amusing chat with the caretaker about from which country HäagenDazs ice cream originated and at Temple #16 I received a bit of chicken for lunch 🙂
From Temple #18 until Temple #23 I kept bumping into the same person so it became a bit of a habit to have a short chat at every temple. I loved these little interactions with strangers, this happens so rarely – too rarely when visiting Japan.
At Temple #15 I ran into a group of five pilgrims and we had a long chat. They asked me where I was from and long after we had said goodbye, I could still hear them talking about Holland. I ran into the same group at the end of the day at Seibu Chichibu station as they had just returned from Temple #19 and it felt like meeting friends.
Temple #12 was meticulously kept and at Temple #13 everybody was served a cup of tea (supposedly good for eyesight) and a short manga featuring the temple and explaining its background and why it does have a kindergarten associated with it. Temple #20 was very beautifully situated.
Temple #17 and the old bridge between Temples #19 and #20 had featured in the well-known Anohana anime and when I arrived at Temple #17 a couple of girls in cosplay were posing with their DSLR on a tripod. They had come on bicycle, so they were clearly going from location to location and, this I remember vividly, they were quite impressed with the sound of my Pentax 645NII medium format film camera 🙂

From Temple #20 one really starts to enter the countryside with the very rural Temple #22 as highlight for this day. After visiting Temple #23 it got dark and, coming down the hill again, it was a straight shoot into town back to Seibu Chichibu station.

Read all about the third day of the pilgrimage here.

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Chichibu 34 Kannon temples pilgrimage, day 1

Fujichrome Velvia 50

Above: Temple #2 in the middle of the woods.

In October and November 2013 I walked the 34 Kannon temples pilgrimage in Chichibu in four days and I wanted to share my experience in case other people are interested and keen to walk it themselves. If you want a summary: it was awesome! Wholeheartedly recommended! !
Leave a comment or drop me an email in case you want to know more, I’d be more than happy to help you out.

I had read about the pilgrimage last time I visited Chichibu and this year I came prepared and had bought a second hand copy of Chichibu: Japan’s Hidden Treasure by Sumiko Enbutsu which turned out to be very useful and full of background information although it is perfectly possible to make the pilgrimage without it and pick up the booklet in English at Temple #1.

On day one, I took the bus to Misawa Minano from the bus station next to Seibu Chichibu train station to Temple #1 (Fudasho-Ichiban stop) where I arrived around 11:00 and where I bought a nokyocho (納経帳) which is a little book to collect the temple stamps and this book was my companion during the pilgrimage. There is a choice of different versions and I went for the one made of washi (Japanese paper.)

Fuji Acros 100 at EI 100, developed in HC-110 dilution E for7:00 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds.

Above: The page for temple #18 in my nokyocho.

The book contains a page of each temple and at each temple the monk or caretaker will add stamps in red and some calligraphy. The donation expected for this service was ¥ 300 at the time I did the pilgrimage but this can be subject to change of course.

The route I took for the first day was pretty standard: Temple #1 U+2192.svg Temple #2 U+2192.svg Temple #3 U+2192.svg Temple #4 U+2192.svg Temple #5 U+2192.svg Temple #7 U+2192.svg Temple #6 U+2192.svg Temple #8 U+2192.svg Temple #9

All temples are remarkably different and exceedingly beautiful and access is free. This was a little bit of a surprise as I had previously visited Nara and Kyoto where it is quite normal to pay ¥ 500 or ¥ 600 for entrance to a temple that is nothing special.

As Temple #9 is conveniently close to Yokoze train station and as the sun sets already around 17:00 in the afternoon in October, I decided to call it a day and return to Kawagoe where I was staying.

Especially in the Yokoze area of Chichibu the signs indicating the different temples are many and I didn’t have a lot of trouble finding my way. When I started I had no idea what to expect and I was surprised about the number of people making the pilgrimage. Some of them by car, others on foot like me.
At several temples I received a little gift in the form of a snack or a book about the pilgrimage which I found rather touching.
The other pilgrims and the people of Chichibu were really friendly and curious about a non-Japanese walking the pilgrimage and it was easy to have a quick chat with the different people who I met on my way and I think that the interaction and the friendliness of the people I met were a key contributor of the success of my pilgrimage experience.

Read all about the second day of the pilgrimage here.

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There is now a free Android app to guide you through the Chichibu 34 Kannon Temple pilgrimage packed with loads of information and details of the temples.

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Temple stay at Taiyoji temple

KODAK TMax 400 at EI 1600, developed in HC-110 dilution b for 7:30 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds.kODAK tmax 400 at EI 1600, developed in HC-110 dilution b for 7:30 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds. Fuji Acros 100 at EI 100, developed in HC-110 dilution E for 7 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds. Kodak Portra 400 Kodak Portra 400 kODAK tmax 400 at EI 1600, developed in HC-110 dilution b for 7:30 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds. kODAK tmax 400 at EI 1600, developed in HC-110 dilution b for 7:30 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds. kODAK tmax 400 at EI 1600, developed in HC-110 dilution b for 7:30 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds.

The shukubo

One of the most rewarding things we did this trip to Japan was a temple stay (shukubo) at Taiyoji temple (Taiyo-ji). Deutsch hier. Français ici. We had done a temple stay at Koyasan before but this was a much more satisfying experience. Not that we didn’t enjoy our stay at the temple on Mt Koya, on the contrary, but there is a reason why the Taiyoji shukubo is considered the best of all shukubo experiences in Japan.

Imagine an isolated temple on the top of a mountain in a glorious area of Japan and only 2 hours away from Tokyo. This is not the endless urban area of Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka or Hiroshima anymore, this is not the well-trodden route most tourists in Japan stick to for even repeat visits, but this is the Japan I would like all tourists to Japan to enjoy.

As part of the shukubo we copied the sutra in calligraphy, participated in all Buddhist services, chanted the sutras and enjoyed a morning zazen session. The shojin ryori, the vegetarian food served in Buddhist temples was delicious and at the end of the day the rotenburo (outdoor bath) waited.
After each service there was a Q&A session about anything Buddhism related. The zazen hall was very beautiful but maybe we were lucky as it was a fabulous morning and meditating in front of an open window with such a beautiful view was difficult as the peaceful mountain was distracting (loved it!)

Staying longer

If you would like to stay at Taiyo-ji temple longer than just one night and are willing to help out with the cooking and serving of the shojin ryori, cleaning, etc., this is perfectly possible and you wouldn’t need to pay full price. Had I known this, I would have stayed for a week, what a chance to learn to cook the shojin ryori!
Contact the temple to get the details.

How to get to Taiyoji

We took the train from tiny Ohanabatake station in the middle of Chichibu to Mitsumineguchi station and continued by bus in the direction to Nagatsugawa via Kawamata and alighted at the bus stop serving Taiyoji temple.  From there we walked the rest of the way by turning to the right over the bridge over the Arakawa River from the bus stop and following the tarmac road leading up for the mountain. From time to time, wooden signs indicated the way.  After about 4km, we arrived at the fishing spot with a tiny soba/udon restaurant and followed the sign for the temple leading up for a steep and ancient pilgrim’s path lined with Ojizō-sama statues which brought us directly to the temple.

Alternatively, get a taxi from Mitsumineguchi station or call ahead to Taiyoji and somebody will come and pick you up from Mitsumineguchi station.

Other

Contact Taiyoji via their contact form, the monk does speak English and there is no need to have any prior calligraphy or zazen experience.
Click here to see the location on Google Maps.

I created a book of our temple stay experience and put it online, I am sure you will recognise your stay at Taiyo-ji Temple in my photos!

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