I’ve always wanted to backpack in a strange land. When I was in high school, I read a book by a fellow who walked the Trail of Tears backwards and then hitchhiked across the Pony Express route, from St. Jo’s to San Francisco. It impressed the hell out of me at the time, that this guy would just go and do this sort of thing. I spent most of that summer walking around Del Mar and Encinitas. I actually walked from Solana Beach to Del Mar more than once, just to do it.
Maybe that’s part of why I detest driving, and don’t have a license anymore. Or maybe it’s even simpler. I just like to be outside, feel the weather on me, sweat freely and hike. Walk as long and as far as I can, with no real destination in my head except ‘out there.’
Now I admit to being very OCD. Dad calls it ABC, and thus I’m now called ABC-chan at his place. But like me, the Japanese make timetables and a plan and we stick to them. This is how I ended up with my father, my brother and an older gentleman named Sone (pronounced SO-nay), whom I will call Sone-san, befitting his honorific, trekking across the island of Shikoku and visiting 23 of 88 Buddhist temples.
My brother’s a Tibetan Buddhist by nature, and he really wanted to do this. He asked me to come and, since I’m his bitch, I did. I’d do just about anything for the boy and he knows it well. Last year, he and Dad did this and met Sone-san, who has 2/3rds of a heart and his wife won’t allow to hike alone. Obviously they teamed up and the foursome (Sone-san’s son was there) tromped through 16 temples before Dad tried to die. This time, Sone-san planned out a 10 day, 70km hike through the 23 temples.
The story goes that Kobo-Daishi, the founder of Nirshan Buddhism (among other things – He was a scholar, an architect, an inventor, etc – every culture has a hero like that), made this walk and visiting all the temple sites. The devout mimic him in a quest to find nirvana.
But along the way, I met Christians, Buddhists of all varieties, an atheist and even a Muslim. I met a Frenchman who was making weekend trips while studying abroad, an 85-year old chain-smoking lady who was hell bent on doing it all on her own. There were young men, old men, a 90 year old guy on a foldable bike, young punks on motorcycles, three generations of women in a tour bus, a family in a van, and everything in between.
We all toured the island in our own way and for our own reasons. Some were religious, some were personal, and some where retired and bored. And while not everyone made the journey out of an act of religion, we all made it for an act of faith. Belief in God, perhaps, but also in mankind, in beauty and in nature.
I brought four moleskin notebooks with me and filled two about my journey on the Dojo of Awakening Faith. And I will share that journey with you.