Ojis, great and small, we loved them all!! And we stopped at all of them too. Honoring each one, pausing for our own little ceremonies - a mix of the local custom of double claps and bows and our own - incense, stones, flowers... Each day was so simple, so filled with meaning and joy in these little rituals and discoveries, in taking the time. In being truly present in the moment, - in a sort of amplified now. Nothing else mattered. There was no other greater reality than the one that we were in. Were it not for having to make time to our next destination to stop for the night we would have loved to linger even longer at each one. .
On most days on the trail we would cross maybe 4 or 5 people in total. Sometimes fewer. It felt like such a privilege to always be the only ones at each oji. And in the stretches between, often for hours on end, alone in the woods in this divine setting. The immersion was deep. The immensity of this divine natural landscape offset by these surreally beautiful, often times very simple, shrines in the midst. Footsteps in a magical fairy-tale land. .
On the second night at our home stay we briefly met the only other westerners of the entire Kumano trip and were surprised to hear that they had covered double our route in a single day. At first wondering how this was possible. It is a rather strenuous trail. And then we learned that they had not stopped at a single oji, but blazed straight through, more concerned with the physical feat and making time. To each his own but what a shame that seems. It occurs to me as I write this, how often we perhaps do this, myself included, in a less obvious way in our daily lives.
Oji are subsidiary shrines of the Kumano Grand Shrines that line the Kumano Kodo to protect and guide pilgrims. These shrines house the “child deities” of Kumano, and serve as places of both worship and rest. .
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