I reached temple 88 at 11:15 in the morning. I had been fantasizing what it could be like in my head. Perhaps a finish line of sorts, with people standing on the side of the road to cheer you. However, as a month later said matter-of-factly, “It’s not a race.” It was quiet, and somber. No tour buses arrived while I was there; that was part of it, just a few small groups of people who had come by car, had their picture taken with the status of Kukai, and moved on.
I sat on a bench in the share before the taishido and meditated for a while. An old lady asked where I was from and how the pilgrimage was going for me. I told her I was about to head back to number one to close the loop. She opened her wallet and handed me a thousand yen bill for “drink money”.
Her husband sat down with me and we talked for a whole. Their son, who apparently was the same age as me, had been living in London and just passed away last Christmas. They were on the trail to send his spirit off. I thought about the woman giving me the money and the twinge in my heart deepened. The small group the couple was with moved on and we said farewell.
Henro is often like this. You learned something private about a person very quickly and then they’re gone, like a butterfly on the wind.