Sep 30, 2009

Day 11 - An early end to the day

The weather worsened, wind and rain increasing. In the upper half of the picture you can see the rain drops hitting the road. I had some plastic bags wrapped around my backpack and then taped together. My Ohenro bag was in a plastic bag that was folded over and taped. Even so, everything got a bit wet around the edges.
At one point we walked up a hill and through a v-shaped cut at the top. The sides of the V protected us from both the wind and the rain. However, when reached the end of the cut, we could see that we had to cross a bridge over a river and the road was at least 20 meters above the river's surface, maybe even more. I was walking on the left side of the road and, since there were sidewalks on both sides of the bridge, I kept going straight. Surprise! As I stepped out of the shelter of the cut, it felt like someone punched me, or maybe I had been hit by a car. I was knocked sideways and, when I had recovered my balance, I found myself in the middle of the road. Luckily there were no cars at that moment. I hurried back onto the sidewalk, but found that since the wind was coming from my left, I could not stay on the sidewalk, being constantly pushed back into the road by the gale. Finally, Ian and I crossed the road so that we had a railing on our right. We were then able to proceed by letting the wind push us against the rail and sort of sliding ahead. The bridge was only about 100 meters long, but I was exhausted when I reach shelter on the other side.

By noon time we were nearing our lodging, after walking only 14 kilometers. I was tired and wet. Since we were the only guests that night, they let us each have a separate room. When I got my pack unloaded and the stuff put out to dry, I took off my clothes and changed in the yukata (light robe) that is always provided in this sort of place. When I removed my stockings, I discovered that the blisters on my left foot were huge, so after a both, I broke them with a needle and retaped them. In addition to the rotten weather and the blisters and a sunburn on my hands, I had not felt good all day. I thought it might have something to do with the fact that it was Friday, the 13th. However, when I starting thinking about this, I realized that there had been a lot of good, too. The coffee shop and been a real treat. The short walk and private rooms were a bonus. Also, this place, the Michishio Lodge, was normally frequented by surfers so they had a piece of equipment that I had never seen before, but it was really useful. It was a shoe dryer. There was a rack to put the shoes on and a fan and heater blew hot air into the inside of the shoes to dry them. We were there long enough to dry both our shoes.

I spent most of the afternoon laying around in my room watching an old Ingrid Bergman movie on TV. In the evening I had a vegetarian meal (no fish) and Ian and I ate in his room. The next morning we had breakfast in mine.

The following pictures show the beach near the lodge. You can see how bad the weather was. We were both very happy to be warm and dry in our own rooms, rather than out hiking through the storm. The last two pictures were taken out the window of Ian's room.

Sep 26, 2009

Day 11 - Coffee break

The rain was going down fairly heavily at times and both Ian and I were commenting that we would like a cup of coffee and a chance to get indoors. As we came up a long hill in preparation for entering a dreaded tunnel (Tunnels were a problem because they seldom had sidewalks and we had to walk along with almost no space between the traffic and the wall.), we discovered this coffee shop and both decided that it was time for a rest, but most of all a cup of coffee.

Inside this smiling woman invited us to sit at the counter, rather than a table. Once she realized that we could speak Japanese, she started an almost continuous stream of dialog, or maybe I should say monolog. I have posted these pictures before, along with some comments which I will reproduce here.

The woman who ran the place was great. We order coffee and she said we had to have the 'Morning Set', coffee, 3 cm thick toast, fried egg, and salad for 500 yen. She gave us a large dish of homemade marmalade. When we finished, we asked for a second cup of coffee, and while we drank she told us that Donald Keene had been there twice. He is friends with the potter.

Then she said that the marmalade had been made from buntan, a citrus for which the area is famous. She then said that the area was also known for kintan, a fruit like a mikan. We indicated that we had never heard of it, so she each of us a large glass of juice made from it.

Then her husband,the cook, gave us large pieces of homemade rye bread.

Finally we had to leave and after a round of picture taking we paid our bill - 500 yen each, the rest was settai.

I really enjoyed seeing this sculpture in the yard beside the shop.

Luckily we did not have very far to go on Day 11 so we were able to say in the shop for a long way. We finally left and started walking again. However, the rain soon started coming down in earnest and the wind picked up to a point where I began to wonder if we were going to have a typhoon.

Sep 24, 2009

Day 11 - Starting out in the rain

I did not sleep well. I kept waking up, feeling hot and feverish. When morning finally came, I got up and discovered that Ian had set the room temperature at 25 degrees, because he thought that the laundry that he had done would not dry. The room was hung with clothes. They were everywhere, but they were dry, so I guess it was worth it. It would have been a huge problem if everything had still been wet. There were some other reasons why I had not slept well. The pillows were Japanese style, which means that they were full of sand and every time I moved the sand made a really loud noise. Also there was light coming into the room from outside, lights we could not turn off or block out.

The forecast was for rain all day and it had already started when we went down for breakfast. The owners were very nice. They gave each of us two big rice balls to eat as lunch - apparently they do this for everyone - and then they gave us two mikans (a fruit like a tangerine) each and a towel because it was raining. They were so nice that for the first time I took pictures of them, and they took pictures of us.

We left the lodgings and started on our day's walk. Luckily, considering the weather, it was going to be a short day, less than 15 kilometers. We walked along a road that paralleled a long thin bay that was extremely pretty in the gray light.
In the bay there were little islands and I suspect that the whole place was very good for fishing, if it was not too polluted.
Most of the way, we were in sight of the ocean, but once in a while we had to turn inland and follow a river until we reached a bridge that allowed us to cross over to the other shore. This is Ian in his red Gortex rainsuit. We had just crossed the bridge in the background.

Sep 22, 2009

Day 10 -End of the day

At one of the little roofed rest areas for Pilgrims, we were having a drink and resting, when a Japanese woman walked up and greeted us. She was traveling alone but going in the other direction. We chatted about the usual stuff - how long we had been walking, how far we were planning on going before going home, road conditions, blisters, etc. After a while we went on our separate ways. As I walked, I realized that the woman had illustrated one of the things that I love about Japan - a woman, all alone, has few worries about walking 1400 kilometers, much of it in the mountains and along deserted roads.

After walking a total of 28 kilometers (remember we were carrying about 8 kilograms in our backpacks and Henro bags), we finally reached our lodgings. I do not mind saying it but I was completely bushed. At supper, we talked with a Japanese man who was doing just a few days and was only going to temples that are not numbered. These are called bangai (outside the numbers). He said that he was collecting beads from each of the temples and that he was going to make a bracelet from them when he returned home.

Also I got a phone call from my wife, it was good to hear her voice. Ian was calling home just about every day to speak to his sons and wife. I had decided that the Pilgrimage would be more effective if I had little contact with the world outside, so I was not calling at all. I was right, hearing my wife's voice did change my view of things, but it only held up the process of change that was taking place until the next morning.

Our room was typical of that found in a ryokan, a Japanese style inn. If you opened the sliding doors, you were in the room next door where other people were staying. You have privacy but not much.

On the way to the toilets and the sinks for brushing teeth, etc, there was a very interesting - hum, I wonder what to call it? It was a heart-shaped hole in the wall filled with branches and bamboo and covered with white paper. It added a nice highlight to an otherwise drab hallway.
This is Ian wearing the night clothes that you are always given. The white with blue stripes thing is like a bathrobe. It wraps around your body and is held in place with a long strip of cloth that forms a belt. It goes around your body twice and is tied in the front. The dark top is for warmth, and again is just tied in the front. Notice all the white on Ian's feet. These are bandages covering the various blisters that he has raised.
The next picture is me just before I went to bed. I do not have any white on my feet, not because I did not have blisters, but because I was using skin colored bandages. Also I was only having trouble with my left foot. My right foot was fine, but the ball of my left foot and its little toe both had huge blisters. Also the toenail on my little toe was beginning to look ugly. I used a needle and punched little holes in each blister and then coated it with disinfectant before applying the bandages, so the pain was not too bad. Ian left his alone and I think he had a lot more pain, but ignored it.
As I said, I was pretty out of it, so I decided to go to bed immediately. Ian wanted to do his laundry before retiring. I said that I would pay for it, it he would add my stuff to his. I gave him 300 yen, but when he found the washing machine, it was free. I told him to keep the money anyway. A few minutes later I was sound asleep.

Sep 21, 2009

Day 10 - More walking

This mural was building into the retaining wall beside the road. I thought it was kind of cute.
It was time for a break and both of us wanted to sit down, but there was no place along the side of the road. So, we walked across an empty lot and sat on the sea wall. We each drank a sports drink and had a snack, then as I got up to go, I snapped this picture of Ian.
This was an ongoing construction site and from the looks of things they we going to remove the entire hill. Japan is very hilly, if not to say mountainous, so there is a huge amount of land filling going on. They cut off the tops of hills and dump the dirt in the valleys to make flat land. For years, I have wanted to make a study in which I collected data on land fill and then using the statistics calculate how many years it will be until Japan is completely flat. Considering the amount of land movement going on, I suspect that it would be sooner than we might think.
We crossed a very pleasant river and were getting very close to the town in which we were going to spend the night.

Sep 17, 2009

Day 10 - More beaches

Just before we got to the following beach, we stopped at a roadside rest area. It was full of trash where the truckers just dumped stuff on the street after they ate. Japan needs an effective campaign to convince people not to litter. There are signs and some public pressure but it is not enough.

We found a relatively clean place to sit and have a drink and an energy boosting snack. As we were eating, a young blond Canadian came up the road and stopped to chat while he rested. He was camping out and had very little money. He wanted to know if we knew of a place where he could sleep that night. All he had was a sleeping bag, so it had to be under a roof or shelter of some kind. We, of course, had no idea since we had never been to the area in front of us and we had all passed through the same area behind us. After he left, charging ahead in the same direction that we were going, we started again and when we found the beach in the next pictures, left the road and walked on the beach. It turned out that there was a roofed area that would have been perfect for him (even had a public toilet), but we did not see him again.

The next picture is a little hard to see, but it was a road sign showing the bay with a beautiful sun set (rise?). I have never seen a road sign with a picture on it before, at least not one that hangs over the road, rather than being off to the side.
The southern coast of the island of Shikoku is shaped like a giant W. Muroto is the first point on the east end. The next temple would be right at the tip overlooking the ocean.

Sep 15, 2009

Day 10 - Moving on

Before moving on, I would like to say a little more about the wonderful rest area that we stopped at. The people who ran, as in every rest area, ask people to sign a book with their name, where they come from, their age, and the number of times they have completed the Henro Pilgrimage. When I was guided into the space under the tent, there were a couple of people there already. It turned out that one was older than me, 72 to my 69. However, I was on my first pilgrimage and he was on this 12th. He had started the year that he retired and had done it once a year ever since. Our discussion made the volunteers interested in the age distribution of the people who had stopped there, so one of them looked back through the book. The oldest person, 82 had actually been there earlier that morning. He had completed the circuit almost 50 times. They said that he walked really fast and passed almost everyone. Needless to say, we did not catch up with him. It turned out that I was one of the older people and I believe that I was the oldest to be on a first pilgrimage.

As we left, they gave us a copy of a map showing all the rest areas for the next 100 kilometers or so. It was actually quite useful, since it allowed us to plan our stops rather than just happen on the rest areas.

After we left, we we immediately went through a long tunnel and then down a hill to a beach. We then followed the coast line, passing a series of beautiful little beaches. I will let the pictures speak for themselves and not try to say anything about them. Enjoy.

Sep 14, 2009

Day 10 - In the town of Mugi

To get to Mugi, we had walked about 16 kilometers though a fairly hilly area on the main road. It was not at all scenic for most of the way and it just turned out to be a hard slog. By the time we got to Mugi the stores were open and we decided to stop at a shopping mall called Porto. We had seen signs for it for at least 10 kilometers. One reason for stopping was that Ian needed a battery for his camera and a second was that we were both hungry. The eggs and bread were not the large Japanese style breakfast, with two or three big bowls of rice, that we were growing accustomed to. In spite of all the walking, we both had gained some weight, if the hotel scales were anywhere near accurate.
In Porto, we had coffee, and then udon, noodles in chicken broth, and then more coffee. Ian searched around for a battery but came up empty. Asking around we found that there was a camera store somewhere in town, but no one seemed to know exactly where it was. We left Porto and followed a river for a little ways.
We then cut back into the town and took some back streets, stopping everyone we met to ask about the camera shop.
Just after passing along the above road, we were back on the main road、heading out of town.
Just after I took the above picture of the main road, we met a woman who said that she knew where the camera shop was located. Ian wanted to check it out, but I decided I needed a rest. So while Ian went to find the shop, I continued up the main road for a spot where I could rest. After Ian visited the shop, he was going to walk until he found me resting by the side of the road.
Following the smoothly paved sidewalk, I went around the curve that you can in the distance and stopped. I did not want to go much farther, because I could see a tunnel ahead of me, and we had agreed that I would not pass through the tunnel before meeting up with Ian. As I looked around for a place to sit, a woman came running up to me and asked if I could speak Japanese. When she found I could, she asked me to come with her. I followed her to the tunnel entrance and then we turned off to the right and went about 30 meters up a hill. At the top of the dirt path, we came to a tent with five or six people in it. This was a group of volunteers who were manning a rest area for Henro Pilgrims. They took my backpack, had me sit in a comfortable chair, and then gave me coffee and two different kinds of homemade sweets - a fruit called kinkan (a bit like an orange plum) and a purple cake-like thing made from purple sweet potatoes. Both were delicious. I pointed out that I needed to go back out to the road and find Ian, but they would not let me go. Instead one of the women when out and waited for him on the sidewalk. We waited and waited, but no Ian. Finally someone went and got a car and went searching for Ian. They also started telephoning all around town, including the camera shop, to find out where he had disappeared to. After a long time he showed up. He said that he had gone to the shop where he could not get the correct battery. Then as he started to follow me, he got a terribly upset stomach, so he went all the way back to Porto where he used the public toilets and then started walking again. Once he arrived, they called off the search and gave him coffee and sweets. When he finished, we thanked them profusely and hit the road again.

You can not image how nice people were to us, giving us settai and going way out of their way to help us in ways both large and small. Both Ian and I thought that his was one of the high points of our trip.

Sep 13, 2009

Day 10 - An early morning start

We woke up early the next morning and, after a breakfast consisting of the hard boiled eggs and bread that I had bought the day before, started walking at 6:15. We had to go almost 30 kilometers to get to our lodging for the night.

The road was much the same as yesterday, beaches separated by hilly headlands. At one point we had to walk though a long tunnel. It was pretty scary when large trucks came by because, as you can see, there was no real sidewalk, or as Ian would say 'footpath'.
As always there were places that were extremely picturesque. This flight of stairs led up to a Shinto shrine that I would have loved to investigate, but we did not want to take the time.
Some of the houses were very large and prosperous looking, but the towns were run down with many permanently closed shops.
At one point the Henro Trail left the main road a followed a quiet country lane for a couple of kilometers. Again most of the house looked well cared for.
We entered the town of Mugi and found a small shopping center. The town must love poets because this sign was painted on the most prominent part of the building.

Sep 12, 2009

Day 9 - The end of the day

This is Ian standing in front of the place where we got our books stamped to show that we had been there. I think we spent more time in the temple than just about any other. It was not so much that it was more interesting, it was that we arrived early in the afternoon and did not have any further to walk. It was truly nice not to have that pressure on us, and I found that I envied the few people who were sleeping outdoors. Of course, the whole trip was much rougher for them, and in that sense I did not envy them at all, but they did have more time to spend in temples or other interesting places.
As we came down from the highest point in the temple, I realized that we could see our hotel. It is the building with the curved roof on the center-left.
After we left the temple, we stopped at the souvenir shops, but did not find anything to buy. We knew that we had to buy food for the next day's trip; it was going to be long, 26 kilometers. Also supper time was nearing. The map showed a convenience store a kilometer or so further away from our hotel, so we walked there and bought supplies. I got a lot daifuku (beans and sugur mushed together and surrounded by a dough made from rice) for quick energy, hard boiled eggs, a bar of chocolate, some sweet bread, and sports drinks. There was a restaurant marked on the map that looked interesting. But when we found it, it was out of business and a new non-restaurant have taken up residence.

We headed back to the hotel, stopping in the station building to buy some candy and to look at their souvenir shop. Again, bought nothing. Outside the station, we met a man that we had seen a few times before. He was pulling a fairly large cart that had two wheels that looked like they had been taken from a bicycle. I thought about taking his picture but he was not very friendly, very much folded in on himself, and it just did not seem right.

Even with the candy, we were definitely ready for supper and decided to go back the coffee shop when had been in earlier. When we arrived, she told us that she did not serve food in the evening. After another cup of coffee, she recommended two restaurants. One was just across the street, so we went over, but it was closed - did open for about 90 minutes. That clinched it and we walked the kilometer to the other restaurant, where we had an excellent meal before heading back to our hotel and an early night.
As we returned from supper, we could see the castle silhouetted against the clear blue ski. Again we almost walked up to it, but decided it would be too much. We went straight to our room, where I wrote in my diary, sent the daily blog, showered, and went to bed early - tomorrow was going to be a long day.

The picture below shows a page from my diary with a sketch of the room. The beds were different from any I have ever slept in, except in a cabin in the woods. As you can see, the beds were mattresses that were placed on a knee-high, bare wood, platform. The bath was on the right and the wall across from the platform had a narrow shelf the length of it. This served as both a desk and a place to put things. There was no closet but high on the wall there were many hangers.
Although it was a short distance between sleeping places, we did a lot of extra walking and I was ready for bed. In fact I showered first, and was sound asleep before Ian finished his shower. I slept well and we got up early for a long day on the road. For the next few days, it would be all walking. The next temple was almost 100 kilometers away.

Sep 11, 2009

Day 9 - Even more Temple #23

A day or two ago, I showed you the picture on the right. After taking pictures of the tree on the left, which I also posted, I walked over and looked at the statues. They seemed to be Chinese, but I have no idea who they were.
The next picture show a statue that was on a veranda at the corner of a building. It is an old man holding what appears to be a pipe. I was unable to determine the significance of the covered container in the lower right. Since these temples are all connected with Shingon Buddism, even though a few are official connected to other sects, much of the symbolism is esoteric and is only revealed after long study.

As always I was fascinated by the odd shaped trees.

This little guy was holding up the container for incense in front of the main hall.
This is a very well done statue of Amida, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.