Koya-san is a magical place.
My walking mentor — John McBride — walked Shikoku when he was 18 (nearly 30 years ago) as well. He stole some money from a temple (he was doing it with no cash). Felt so guilty he went back a few days later and confessed. The priest made him clean the temple for a week and taught him how to beg for food in the traditional pilgrim way: standing out in front of houses and announcing your presence.
He completed the entire pilgrimage that way. This last December we did 10 days of Shikoku and went back to the same temple — the priest was still alive! In his 90s. He didn't remember John, but John had a photo of the two from 30 years prior. Incredible to see him be able to trace back and close that loop.
Amazing little moments abound on walks like these.
Every time I traveled in the past, I felt extremely self conscious. Like I was but a consumer, experiencing only the most superficial things, greedily taking what a place has to offer without giving anything back. So now I've been using all of my vacation days to go to the same country (Japan), slowly learning the language and culture, making long term friends, frequenting the same small local shops (staff recognize some me at a few places now), etc. It's been a very rewarding experience so far - it feels much deeper than any of the tourism I did in the past. I'll probably move there at some point.
Not really a point to my post, maybe some people would find going to the same place over and over again terribly boring - but thought I'd share.
Japan has Nakasendo, Tokaido, the Shikoku pilgrimage, salt roads, Basho's backroads to the north, the paths of Dewasanzan, etc etc etc. It's nearly infinite. I figured if I spend ten years walking Kumano I might have the slightly chance of possibly understanding a small piece of it.
Third time around I will have to walk there.