Sunday, April 29, 2007

Ikkoku Mairi (一国まいり): Okayama

My first journal is written in anything but a religious setting. However, I have already had an encounter that warrants a write-up.

My schedule thus far:

Take the train to Kurashiki to finally see the historical district around the canal. I will admit this is a rather nice place to enjoy a sunny afternoon or to view the Bizen pottery, famous in this area. However, Kurashiki is hardly a monumental stopping force. A few short hours, a few pictures, and one typical random conversation with a curious Japanese person later, and I'm on the local to Okayama.

Arrive in Okayama. As long as I was here, I figured a few shots of the famous Korakuen Garden wouldn't hurt either. The garden was as beautiful and crowded as ever, but it wasn't until I was already headed back to the station that I had a rather random encounter...

A couple approached me from behind. I didn't see the man's face, because it was obscured by a rather large sugegasa - the conical hat normally worn by henro - he was wearing. Upon further inspection, I saw he was dressed in monk garb - white robes (although he had brown outer robes), a purple sash, the sugegasa, and white two-toed sandals.

Naturally, I knew he couldn't be a henro traveler, because I was still in Okayama-ken. That didn't stop me from assuming he might be headed the same direction I was... I moved forward for a closer look and discovered: he was a foreigner! And more to the point, he was speaking English to his female companion. Curiosity got the best of me: I had to ask.

"Ohenro des ka?" (Are you a pilgrim?)

"No, but I've done it five times."

If chance encounters were strawberries, I would have been eating a rather large fruit smoothie. I quickly told him I'd be attempting the 23 temples in Tokushima-ken for Golden Week, and passed along my blog address. I really wish I could have stayed and talked about lesser known pilgrim facts, but I think he had to be somewhere.

But, that wasn't before I learned his name was Kevin (later discovered to be Kevin Seperic, mentioned on the known henro list). He was a monk in Okayama, and he had completed his last pilgrimage in June on his scooter, marking the trail with a series of "X"s in spray paint - very useful. He also confirmed the free lodging I had heard about near Temple 12, which was a relief, because that day will be filled with a lot of mountain climbing.

I'll be catching an early train on the Marine Liner from Okayama to Takamatsu tomorrow morning.

May the spirit of Kukai be with you.


Anonymous said...

sorry i didn't stay and talk to you some more. I had the feeling that you were in a hurry...anyway, the stencil is of a buddhist symbol called "kongo katsuma" in japanese. you can read a bit about it here:

Anonymous said...

this Kevin guy is a total fraud