As I ventured out of doors, I heard loud, confident click-clacking in the back of me — two girls in the similar outfit that I used to be dressed in. They have been sisters from Singapore and moved like gazelles in their getas. I wobbled in the back of them, and then just about misplaced my footing as I took in the scene close to the lantern-lit Otani River winding thru the town. It was once a veritable thoroughfare of yukatas and getas, in an array of colours, on guests younger and outdated, shuffling, striding and almost skipping thru the night time.
People come from in every single place Asia and past to soak in Kinosaki’s seven onsen, or public sizzling spring baths, and just about everybody does it strolling round in a gown all day. The town is one large inn. The ryokan you keep in is your own room and the streets are like the inn’s corridors. It’s all very romantic till it hails and rains.
I had come to Kinosaki, on the western coast of Honshu, Japan’s largest island, despite the fact that, no longer for dressing up, however on a type of pilgrimage. As a Japanese pal put it to me in an electronic mail, “Don’t they have that Buddha that’s only unveiled to the public every 33 years?”
The morning when I’d arrived, I took the Kinosaki Ropeway (a cable automobile) top up Mount Taishi to the Onsenji temple, house to the 1,300-year-old Kannon Buddha, the Goddess of Mercy. She has 11 faces, 10 in a crown to indicate her knowledge, and was once carved from the best of a magical tree that produced 3 Buddhas, of which she is the simplest authentic one left. This April started her unveiling, which is able to closing for 3 years, till she is going again into hiding for some other 30 years.
Midway up the ropeway, hail had began coming down, and I rushed within the temple. There, with the lend a hand of a translator, I spoke with Ogawa Yusho, the resident monk, who was once born in the temple and is now elevating his circle of relatives there. He’d grown up listening to the legend of Dochi Shonin, a clergyman who got here to this very spot in 738 and prayed for 1,000 days for the well being of the folks right here — and on the 1,000th day, an onsen sprung from the floor. It is claimed to be Mandara-yu, the oldest of the seven on Kinosaki’s onsen circuit.