Omogo Gorge and Iwaya-ji 面河渓、岩屋寺
Imabari Yunoura Onsen michi no eki
Imabari Yunoura onsen michi no eki is noisy, being on the main road, but I sleep well regardless. In the morning, I discover it doesn’t have an onsen, but it does have a Fog Machine. This is a dome of large, rough stones that intermittently puffs out steam. To invoke the spirit of an onsen, perhaps?
Omogo Gorge 面河渓
Today our plan is to visit Iwaya-ji, a Henro Trail temple (no.45), but first we drive to Omogo-kei or Omogo Gorge. The gorge is very fine and it is an access point for climbing mountains. Consequently, it provides a walk as well as spectacular cliffs, a rushing river and deep pools a wonderful shade of blue. At this time of year, the leaves are turning to add more majesty to the scene. A sight well worth seeing.
We eat a picnic lunch on the white rocks, rounded and smoothed by rushing water, but it is overcast and cold. We can see a pale disk of sun overhead, but it is too feeble to break through the gloom.
The Trail to Iwaya-ji
Leaving the gorge, we arrive at Furu-Iwaya (古岩屋), park at the free car-park in front of Kokuminshukusha ‘Furu-Iwayaso’ to walk to Iwaya-ji along ‘Shikoku no michi’. We start walking through woods along a narrow stream and soon come across, under the towering cliffs, an abandoned shrine, collapsing and creeper covered. Here an intrepid Henro pilgrim has pitched a tent.
A little further on, we find a small temple building and, behind it, in a cave in the cliff face is a statue of Fudo Myo-o. A notice tells us it is carved from a single piece of wood, but you can’t get close enough to check.
Pushing on up the trail, eventually we come across a sign post indicating that Iwaya-ji is 2.9 km back along the way we have come. We have missed a turning somewhere. It is by now 3pm and to reach the temple and then get back to the car it will be well dark. Not a good prospect.
So, we return to the car and drive to the main entrance to the temple. From this small car park, it is a 20-minute walk which, in the event, turns out to be straight up.
At the top, the temple is nestled under the cliff face. This is reminiscent of Rakanji in Kunisaki Hanto. Both being worth a visit even if you have become a little blasé about temples.
We find the end of the mountain trail we should have emerged from and the old wooden gate we would have entered through. There are serious Henro pilgrims here, dressed in white, with conical rattan hats, chanting in small groups.
Down again at the small car park among a group of farm houses, we note an elderly lady lighting a fire outside. This, we realize, will be for warming the bath inside the house. Now that is traditional.
We wind back along an empty road of sweeping curves to our michi no eki Tenku no sato San san where we will spend the night.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.