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My Shikoku Journey (5) by Raymond, Australia

Raymond TAIT, Australia Rounding Shikoku

Encounter on the pilgrimage — Pushcart Ohenro Otera-san

During a visit to Temple 12 Shosanji on 7 May 2022; my friend & I noticed a Pushcart on the side of the road with signs hanging of it and on Ohenro Seguasa or Conical Ohenro Hat at the base……ahh, looks like a sleeping or napping Ohenro; as it was late morning. We inquisitively pulled over my car and got out, initially, to check if he was OK but also to what we thought – Napping and take a candid photo of this unique sight and we did!!

After visiting Temple 12, my friend John visiting from Tokyo for 4 Days and much fitter than me decided to Run down the Ohenro trail and we met up at the halfway point of Nabeiwa to find John chatting with the Napping Ohenro. John asked me to take his photo and we decided to give him some snacks to encourage him along and in return he gave us an A4 Page of his handwritten story……

Basically, Otera-san was a typical Osaka Salaryman that at retirement age of 65 decided to walk the 88 Temple Pilgrimage of Shikoku. Not only he enjoyed it; he became addicted and lives alongside his Pushcart 8-9 Months of the Year (August is too Hot & January/February too cold). He has stopped getting Nokyocho anymore, as he lost track of how many times, he has walked it of the past 17 Years. Rather he just enjoys meeting people along the way. We parted and spoke about him several times thereafter translating his story along the way. 

The next day as we were driving along the road between Temples 12 and 13; we saw Otera-san again and again offered him snacks and this time we wanted to give him money to help him out, but he politely refused and said it was not necessary “he had everything he needed & that Kobo Daishi would look after him. We insisted again and said what about a nice dinner with Meat tonite…. mmm, he said that would be nice and accepted a thousand Yen; refusing the earlier 10 thousand. We parted ways once again and felt enriched by the encounter. 

Then low and behold an hour later whilst we were taking photos roadside of the famed Tokushima Mannequins – here comes Otera-san pushing his cart along and we call out and again chat to him. He then glances over at a weather worn Ohenro sign marker and delves into a draw of his cart and pulls out 3 Large Permanent Marker Pens (Red) and starts to Color the sign-in. I stood there in humble disbelief, as this unassuming gentle man has decided to take it upon himself and his own resources to help maintain the signage on the Ohenro Michi. This selfless act touched My Ohenro Spirit but also made me reflect deeper that Otera-san is the richer and bigger person out there on the Trail – doing his own way & pace finding his own inner peace!!

So, when you see Otera-san along the Ohenro Trail – stop by and offer him a snack and have a chat to him, as there is more to him than meets the eye!!