Day 11   60km  We have a decent ride on wide sidewalks, then along the sea, through fishing towns with small harbors.

                                                        We have renewed energy.

                                                       CLICK ON PHOTO ABOVE


Heading for Matsuyama, Shikoku's largest city and hometown for 'haiku', a literary art form, where three out of ten residents are said to be haiku poets. It is also home to the Dogo Onsen, one of the oldest and best known hot spring spas in Japan.

We call ahead for a private room at the Youth Hostel. 

But again we can't find it!   


We ride around looking but end up stopping at a high class hotel for directions. Out walks a GEISHA, all dressed to the hilt.   SHE GASPS when she see's US! Ahh like wise!


Of course we are just down the hill from our destination in the old Dogo section.  



Checked in, we head straight for the Dogo Onsen a 5 min. walk. It is MAGNIFICENT!!!

                                                                   The Old Dogo Onsen


Getting in is a bit confusing. You pay outside for either a basic bath ($3) or ($6) for a bath followed by tea and a snack and a yukata to wear.   ($9 to $12.40) you get the tama-no-yo (Bath of the Spirits) followed by tea and a sweet dumpling. 

Steve stops to put his bag of valuable in a locker and decides to put his socks in there too. This sets off a panic! 

They think this gaijin is about to disrobe in the lobby!!

I opt for the Kami-no-yu (Water of the Gods) and hope this heals my wounds.

           I enter a hot steamy granite room with huge murals of white herons and a stone fountain spilling warm water in a deep granite pool. Ladies of every shape and size are either lounging, doing yoga or beating themselves with massage wands.

The white heron is a symbol of Dogo Onsen. As legend says long, long ago a wounded white heron was seen to bathe here as if it knew the healing effect of the hot spring. They are not only for healing physical ailments, the alkaline water contains minerals supposed to be good for rheumatism, skin diseases and wounds. I have come to the right place.  

Day 12   A day off the bikes and we are feeling pretty good after our bath and despite all our odds. Perhaps we should have done a clockwise pilgrimage as most henro have done for centuries. But some people deliberately make a counterclockwise circuit.  We have slept on the mountain above the temple,  a most significant temple of our counterclockwise journey, #51 Ishite-ji Temple.

We decide to take a path down the back way. It takes us almost immediately into a bamboo forest. We are awed by it's gentle swaying and distant clacking sounds from the canopy above, like the mesmerizing symphony of a million wind chimes.

Then breaking out into the 'asahi' our view is extended to a mountain top across a tight valley. There on top is a huge statue rising up above the trees in a morning haze. It is SURREAL!!


We continue down past some amazingly old stone figures crumbling and covered in moss, then past a cemetery with many more figures and monuments, tumbling over and forgotten.

 A huge sitting Buddha statue is out of place with the face of a bearded westerner, it's body emaciated, ribs showing, face gaunt. There is an unusual smell, like wet earth.

To my right I pass a huge rock which fascinates me . I stop. There is a dark space behind the rock and I squeeze in behind for a look. I am mesmerized!! There is a long dark tunnel where 50 yds inside are small flashing lights, like little strobes, intermittently sparking here, then there, to the sound of dripping water magnified by the tunnel.

Not a 'tunnel person', I back out and yell for Steve who has passed it by. He is immediately intrigued.

(Oh No what have I done - another dark tunnel and Steve comes charging forth like a knight in shinning armor without his steed)

Suddenly my fear level is at it's peak like that first tunnel on Hokkaido.

Do I turn and run? Do I follow? Not wanting to acknowledge I am the damsel in distress I am professed to be, I storm in after him as he disappears into the darkness.

We meet up at the flashing lights.  What is this place?  How far does it go? We are surrounded by mandelas, etched in the walls of an alcove, little stone statues, a spray of twinkling lights hanging over our heads illuminating this eerie space with each strobe.

 Oh NO, we simultaneously express the same thought....


                                     HAVE WE ENTERED SOMEONE'S  CRYPT??        

We are both stunned into silence!!





There are little stone statues in a line going down deeper into the now totally dark tunnel.

We are both overwhelmed with a sense of curiosity......turning back is not an option. We are now committed to KNOW what is this WAY??                   



We stay to the left of the statues and not to bump our heads we keep our left hand on the wall and move rapidly and silently along into darkness.

Hearts pounding, feet shuffling faster and faster we come into another alcove with even more bizarre statues, white calligraphy on black walls, offerings illuminated by a dim light. We are now at least 1/2 a kilometer inside.

Our fear has turned to calm, as if the amazement of our surroundings is all consuming.

And in the distance we see a man size figure illuminated by a speck of daylight.

There is the smell of inscents getting stronger as we gingerly approach the figure.  It is a brightly painted statue facing outward which seems to be guarding an opening.  Then the sound of voices getting louder and then .....

                   ................................a hugely loud GONG of a bell!!!


  Squinting into the daylight there is a little wooden shrine covered in offerings shrouded in a haze of burning candles and a couple very much alive ladies adding to the offerings, startled by our sudden appearance from behind.

Low and behold we are somewhere in the middle of the Ishite-ji Temple grounds.
It is not until much later we learn, and to the surprise of our informer, that two 'gaijin' have discovered the introspective journey known as KAIDAN-MEGURI. The utter blackness along the path symbolizes the darkness of the human mind or human ignorance of the Truth. One IS supposed to go along with the palm of the left hand pressed against the left hand wall which we did without knowing.

The wall painted with the mandelas, angles and lotus flowers, is the Buddha's Way. It is said that you will be safely guided as long as you are on His Way.
 We continue on into the last days of our Shikoku Pilgramage KNOWING we are on the right path.