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Kotohira and Kompira San

Bridges over the river passing through Kotohira

From the first few temples, we traveled a few kilometres south to Kotohira a small town where there is a famous Shinto shrine, Kompira San, to Amaterasu the Goddess of the Sun on a hill overlooking the town with a thousand steps up to it. There are very few foreign tourists in Shikoku and almost none traveling in Japan in small Kei vans gypsy camping, so its a real form of fringe intrepid travel.

Distant and nearby images of the covered walking bridge

The parking bay where we were politely accosted by a posse of cops

Arriving at nightfall we drove up a small side road parking in a vacant space near a house, whose occupants unlike most Japanese people who are very friendly and courteous and greet you courteously with mutual konichiwa's, instead stared at us like alien species and having made a brief attempt to get rid of us by telling us the entire huge space was needed for the one or two cars on this isolated cul-de-sac to do sweeping u-turns went inside and phoned the cops and before we had had a chance to feed ourselves there were a bunch of flashing lights and two car loads of plain clothes detectives and uniformed police politely and apologetically trying to check our passports and when they finally checked with Narita immigration that we were legitimate, asked us to move a metre or two closer to the verge and let our erstwhile neighbours know there was little else they could do, to strident voices of protest from the femme fatale of the piece, who was still peering out at us balefully and furtively at six in the morning as we cheerily honked our good byes as we left.

The next morning we proceeded to visit Kompira San. Parking in Kotohira proved very difficult, because it is a heavily visited tourist town with little parking space even for the residents, but we have found in every Japanese town so far that you can always find a 'free' park, even under the most tightly regulated conditions by a fractal search for an ambiguous space in a residential street not too far from the place you want to visit.

The river by where we parked the van

A sedan chair for those too weak to ascend by foot

The thousand odd steps (1368) proved pretty grueling in the sweltering conditions and I had to coax Christine up the last few flights, but the view for the top was truly awesome reaching all the way to the coast and the bridges we had crossed and sweeping across the cities of the North to the rice fields and hills of the interior. The Shinto priests were performing an intriguing set of rituals as we arrived adding an auspicious presence to the whole process.

The beginning of the 1368 steps

The shrine gate

First plateau on the way up

Further shrines you pass through on the way up

Views back to the coast from the summit.

The bridge we crossed in the distance

The main shrine area

The main Shinto shrine

The Shinto priests performing a ritual

A family who have requested a service being escorted by the priest up the covered walkway

Kompira San was originally a temple to mariners, but became an official Shinto shrine in the Meiji restoration, however it still has adjacent shrines with a unique collection of mariners artifacts.

Shrine to mariners including a unique solar-powered vessel

The valley to the south

Two claps for good luck before the temple steps

A Shingon pilgrim begging for alms

The tourist commercial district at the foot of the shrine

Images from the Kotohira matsuri

A very bent over lady tending her garden by our discrete residential park

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