This weekend, I took the JR Train to Marugame. I went to Zentsuji temple, which has a lot of special features. For 500 yen ($5) you can go to a special hallway downstars in total, total darkness. It's even better if you close your eyes to avoid any ambient light. Touch the left side wall with your left hand, and silently repeat the chant that they tell you before you go inside. It is a bit disorienting to be in total darkness, which adds to the spirituality of the experience. I felt that I was outside of my body while doing the chant. Eventually, the hallway leads to an inner sanctum, where you can pray. For anyone who is interested in Buddhism, I suggest it. After you come up from the passageway exit-side, leave your shoes where you left them before, and take some of the leather slippers for walking around. Directly outside, you can see what is photographed here, and much more.
There was another outdoor temple, whose name I cannot remember. So I'll just tell you a story about it. It's up in the mountains, so you have to walk up and up countless steps. Maybe about 500 or so, winding through trails and trees. The birds were calling. As we walked up, a Buddhist priest was on the way down. As we passed, he simply said, "good day" and we said "good day" and each kept walking. There was nothing particularly special about that moment, and yet there was. For the rest of the day, everyone we passed said good day. Before that moment, everyone had walked silently. After walking to the top, seeing the incense pot and offering some prayers, we walked down as well. Then I went to Marugame Castle.
The view from the top of Marugame Castle's grounds is definitely worth it around sunset time. Toward the end of the day, we slogged up the steep slope to get to the top. The castle itself is closed until the end of February, but there is a great 360-degree view. A man was jogging up the slope as I stood there and the breeze swept by. Anyway, the important this is: what would life be without dinner?
So I went on to Ikkaku, the well-known chicken restaurant. (This character on a lit blue slab is their sign.) I have to say, it fully met my expectations. As we walked in, the greeter bowed, and led us directly to a table. There are two choice, either hina-dori (young chicken) which is soft and easy to eat, or the oya-dori, which is much more chewy, but in many people's view has more flavor. I got the oya-dori and chowed right into it. Hold the bone with a napkin and use chopsticks to help yourself eating it right off the bone. I also ordered a rice dish that came with cubes of chiken in it, as well as a side of soup. (I think that was the tori-meshi, from memory.) The restaurant's reputation holds: it was absolutely delicious, and wonderful way to end the night.