Coming back to Japan, let’s go on a long walk
I wanted to see Japanese mountains.
That was what came up in my mind first when I started considering coming back to Japan after almost 10 years in the USA.
Funny thing is, I was not a big fan of hiking back then. In the US, I had never been to any mountains or national parks for hiking. I was very busy every day, as an MBA student in NYC for the first two years, then as a newspaper reporter in DC almost the entire time Mr Obama was president.
Even funnier, I was in the Japanese army in my 20’s, so running around in bushes and forests was my job. Probably I unconsciously liked Japanese mountains all the time, that’s why I picked the Army without considering joining the Navy or Airforce. Childhood memories of my parents taking us to nature tourist sites on vacation, not to theme parks or shopping malls stayed at the tiny corner of my brain.
Recently various organizations and governmental groups have been working to get the Shikoku pilgrimage route recognized as a World Heritage Site. However, to do so it is necessary to prove to UNESCO that the sacred sites and paths leading to them have outstanding universal importance.
While the pilgrimage route might have been significant to people hundreds of years ago, a lot has disappeared with modernization or is in a state of disarray. Thus, one strategy is to find and reestablish original sections of the route. One example is a short section by Temple 20, Kakurin-ji (鶴林寺) and another by Temple 21, Tairyūji (太龍寺), which are now designated national historical sites (国指定史跡).
The first two days of the Shikoku pilgrimage from Ryōzen-ji (Temple 1) to Fujii-dera (Temple 11) are easy because the path is on flat paved roads. However, on your third day, you will face a strenuous twelve-kilometre hike up and down mountains on a dirt path through the forests to reach Shōsan-ji (Temple 12). It is said that the journey from Fujii-dera and Shōsan-ji takes between five to eight hours depending on your physical fitness.