Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Temple No.11 Joraku-ji

Climbing up the slope past the limestone quarry, we reach the entry to well-kept Temple No.11 Joraku-ji. The Kannon Temple was rebuilt in 1880 after the Edo period original edifice was consumed by fire, watched over by an elegant row of Jizo statues. The pathway wanders up the hillside turning back on itself through a tunnel of spaced-apart termite-chewed old torii gates under cyprus. At the summit, the somewhat forlorn-looking shrine is guarded by fox statues but evidently not often visited by pilgrims in winter. The foot of the hill marks the entry to Chichibu City, with a cheerful Yebisu (itinerant fisherman) statue, a plump tanuki and waving cat. We ate lunch at the soba restaurant in a huge log building with toasty warm heating and fire-heated kettles. A brief visit to the tourist information centre indicated that you can rent the pilgrimage outfit (white loose cotton, white bag, straw hat, purple sash, and hiking pole for 800yen($8)/day.