Nov 30, 2009

Day 18 - Leaving the lodge

The lodge we stayed in was the most expensive but also the best of the whole trip. We had two huge rooms plus a large bath. Also as in almost all Japanese style lodges there were two long thing rooms where most places have a coffee table and soft chairs, but here there was nothing. We used the space to store our packs and dry our clothes.

Shortly after we arrived, they announced dinner and we went down to the first floor and ate at tables in a large room with all the other guests. After dinner, I decided that I should put some newspaper in my shoes because they had gotten soaked in the rain. I went to find the man who had met us at the door to get some old newspaper. When I finally located him and asked for the old newspaper, he said that I did not need it because he had already done it. I thanked him and went back to the entrance and found my shoes on a shelf. Sure enough, they were full of crumpled up newspaper and had already dried out some. The service in some hotels and lodges is incredible. And the best part is that you are not expected to leave a tip. In a truly good hotel, the people will refuse a tip if it is offered.

In the morning the rain had stopped, which was lucky because we had to cross the parking lot to another building for breakfast. We got going fairly early and were greeted by a beautiful fog over the landscape.
However, the fog soon burned off and we could see the mountains.
On one of the mountains there was an amazing sight. We were never close enough to get a good picture but you can see it on the left side of the peak in the center of the picture. It is a European style castle. Actually it looked very British, something you might see in England.
A little further down the road we had another surprise - a Chinese restaurant that two pagodas as part of its landscaping. The metal platform is the second floor of a parking lot.
The road curved around the Castle Mount and we got closer but never too close. It remained a distant illusion, like most things in life.

Nov 28, 2009

Day 17 - On into the rain

We saw a sign that was an intriguing problem that we never really solved. The sign says that the space behind it is a special parking lot for "One and a half view". Actually the way it is written here it is "One times one over two times 'view'", which makes it even less understandable.
The rain finally started to come down, and it came down in buckets. We put on our rain clothes and walked for awhile. As we sent up a little hill we found, at the top, a restaurant made of logs and having a large sign that said coffee. We could not resist and went in. Since we were hungry we ordered coffee and curry. The place was fairly empty, just some local women and their kids. However, soon the Henro Pilgrims started coming in to get out of the rain and we found ourselves sitting with many of the people we had been seeing all day. One of the people who came in was the mysterious Spaniard, we had been hearing about. Since Ian wanted to brush up his Spanish, he started a long conversation with him. It turned out that he had heard about the Pilgrimage and decided to do it, even though he had never been in Japan and knew no Japanese at all. He had a map and a dictionary. Both in Spanish because he knew no English. He had no reservations and each day relied on the people he met to find a place for him to stay. He said that so far he had found a place indoors every night but he was expecting to have to stay outside at least a few times. I should mention that he had no sleeping equipment. Actually he had not much more than the clothes he was wearing. He was a true pilgrim.

Finally we decided that we had better get going or we would be late for supper at our lodge, which was going to be the most expensive one on the trip. It was still raining cats and dogs so we changed back into our rain gear on the porch. Ian has a red Gortex rain suit. Mine is green and black. The rectangular blue thing just past Ian is my backpack.
This is a view of the ocean off the same porch.
We were still following the hiking/bicycling road that had been built on the old railroad bed. We were certainly glad each time we reached a tunnel because they were the only places where we could get out of the rain.

Nov 26, 2009

Day 17 - Continuing up the coast

In one of my previous posts, there was a picture of the elevated railroad tracks. They were quite new and we soon discovered that the old line had been turned into a hiking/biking path. It was very pleasant - trees on both sides and an occasional glimpse of the ocean through the trees on the left.

Since we were walking on what had once been train tracks, there were few turns and those that there existed were long and slow.

After a while we came out of the woods and back beside the beach. There were a lot of pilgrims on this stretch and we kept passing them and being passed. Someone would go flying by us, but a hour latter we would find the person resting beside the path. A number of people fell in step with us and joined us for a while. We heard stories about everyone around us and were told that all the pilgrims for kilometers in both directions knew about Ian and I. One intriguing thing was that there were constant stories about a non-English speaking Spaniard who was traveling alone. Ian was quite interested because, back when he thought that we would have spare time, he had packed a Spanish text. He wanted to brush up his Spanish in preparation to attending an academic conference in Spain during the summer of 2009. Of course, he had not opened the book at all, having neither time nor energy for study.
We stopped for lunch and Ian laid down and took a rest.
It is hard to see in the picture but down at the waterline there are hundreds and hundreds of seagulls. I have never seen so many in one place at one time.
At least it was not raining, but it certainly seemed like it might start at any moment.

Nov 25, 2009

Day 17 - Weather turning bad

We continued down the inland side of the beach and there was some beautiful scenery, but the sky was clouding over and a fog was forming over the ocean. Buddhism talks about crossing over to the other shore (becoming enlightened), but with the way the weather was we could not because we couldn't see where it was.
The sand was an interesting dark gray, which suited the day perfectly.
Except for one place where the road cuts across a headland and the last two kilometers, our path followed the beach. Most places we see for a long way in both directions (as in the following picture) but in other places there was a row of trees blocking our view of the water. This was particularly true later in the day.
At one of the small points, there was a park and we decided to stop for a rest. Also it was beginning to rain, just a little - not enough for us to get out our rain clothes, but we thought we should unpack them and put them where we could easily get them. At the park we met a man (shown in the next picture) we had been seeing since morning. We chatted about the weather and our Pilgrimage, and then went our separate ways. Ian and I both had a snack and something to drink, before we started out again.
Another ruined boat - they seemed to be everywhere. Also in the background you can see the railroad tracks. The parallel our trail for most of the day.

Nov 24, 2009

Day 17 - Traversing the dilapidated coastline

Here are a couple more views of the boat that I showed you in my last post. Its state seems very symbolic of the way the whole area was - obvious economic hardship, and still going down. It appeared that it was too late for both the boat and the area.

Just a little further on we came to a port that seemed to have more life, but there were many empty berths and the day's fishing appeared to be over.
As we rounded one of the headlands we discovered this torii and the staircase behind it. I would have loved to climb up to the shrine but we did not feel that we had the time. We had a long way to go before reaching our lodge and it looked like it might start raining.
After taking the last picture, I turned around I shot this view of the area we had just walked through. The port that I showed above is behind the seawall on the left.

Nov 23, 2009

Day 17 - Another morning

After breakfast, we got ready to leave and checked out. When we paid our bill we discovered that the woman in charge had given us each four cups of coffee as settai. We thanked her and started walking. It was hot and humid, especially on the path behind the seawall. However, that soon ended and we walked a path bordering a wide beach. There were numerous small boats pulled up above the high tide line.
Although some seemed to be kept up, none of them seemed to be in much use. We could not discover whether the fishing was seasonal or just bad at present.
At least some people were catching something. Here are cleaned fish drying in the sun. The smell was incredible.
This boat looked like it might have been used recently, maybe to catch the fish that were smelling up the area.
Below is an example of a boat that was a complete wreck. It was actually falling apart. In the background you can see the high seawall. The path was at ground level so there was no breeze at all, making it hot, muggy, and miserable walking.

Nov 22, 2009

Day 16 -

Just a few steps farther along the seawall and we could see into the shrine. Notice the unpainted, dilapidated wooden houses behind the shrine. This part of Japan is really feeling the depression.
At about this point the wall between the path and the water disappeared and we started getting a little breeze. It was hot and muggy so even a whiff of fresh air was welcome. We arrived in a town and one of the first things we noticed was a building with lots of activity. As we got closer, we found that it was a car dealership and a garage. There seemed to be a steady stream of people going in and having work done on their cars. I suspect that people were not buying new cars because of a lack of money, so they had to have more maintenance than in the past. The building was kind of neat as you can see from the picture.
Behind the auto dealer it was only a short distance to the mountains and the built up area petered out quickly.
We reached out hotel by about 3 p.m. During the day we had stopped at a Michi no Eki, a road station to translate literally. They are like the rest stops on a highway - rest rooms, souvenir shop, snacks, and a place to sit. We had had coffee and some ginger cookies, but as soon as we got to the hotel we went to the restaurant and had more coffee. The woman who ran the place gave us each a donut as settai.

Since it was a hotel, we each had our own room, and I was looking forward to a good night's sleep. Also I planned to wash some clothes in the shower. So after the coffee, we went to our rooms and unpacked. Then we met in the restaurant again and watch sumo on TV. I had an excellent meal - chicken and vegetables on a hot metal plate and a separate salad. It was good to have a western style meal. While eating Ian and I, discussed plans for the rest of our pilgrimage. We needed to get to Kochi city and buy train tickets back to Sendai. Also we were not sure what temples we would be able to reach in Kochi, so we investigated the various possibilities. I noted in my diary that I was "running on empty", so I went to bed early and slept well

Nov 21, 2009

Day 16 - Along the shore, again

After getting our luggage and settling our packs on our backs we started out walking along the shore. As you can see, the usual beautiful scenery was still there for us.
At one point we rounded a headland and had this view of the way ahead.
We were walking along a seawall and the inshore side had definitely seen better days. This is a good example of the rundown and often empty buildings that we passed.
This is the seawall and the paved path on the inland side, looking back the way we had come. The temple was somewhere up on the top of the mountain.
I was fascinated by the combination of a derelict house and a well kept up shrine. It somehow exemplified the whole area.

Nov 19, 2009

Day 16 -

The doors to the main hall were open so I was able to see inside. I would have liked to have gone inside to chant the sutra, but although the doors were open, the way inside was blocked. Maybe if we had been there at around dawn or dusk, the local priests would have conducted a service. In any case the interior was very impressive and it was nice to stand looking at it while we chanted.
Having finished our ritual, we headed back toward the stairs and had another view of the small building. I had the impression that it may have been older than the other buildings, but we were unable to find out during our limited stay on the grounds.
At the top of the stairs we again stopped to admine the statue of Kobo Daishi. Notice the motorbike in the background. On the back the yellow box contains dirty towels. I assume that some laundry was making a pick up at the temple, or the worker just stop to make offerings.

On the way up the stairs we had looked straight ahead and to our left because that was where the buildings and statues seemed to be. As we started down, we realized that off the other side was a really impressive statue of a guardian king of the type that is usually on each side of the main gate. Once back down on the administrative level, we discovered a very nice gate that appeared to be the entrance into the priests' quarters.
We walked back down the hill to the gift shop and had more coffee and bought some trinkets to use as presents after we got home. While we sat drinking our coffee, we noticed a sign advertising a taxi company. Since the way down was exactly the same as the way up, we decided to take a cab back to our lodging where we had left our bags. It was an incredible ride - like that street in San Fransisco but it want on and on and on and ....

Nov 18, 2009

Day 16 - At the top of the stairs

At the top of the stairs we discovered the temple proper of to our left. It was a group of beautiful buildings. This is the first one, but it was not the main hall.
This is the main hall. The entrance where we chanted is on the left.
One of the small buildings, which although closed, apparently contained a statue of some sort.
At the point farthest away from the stairs we found a little shelter containing a large group of small statues, all wearing bibs.
As we walked back toward the stairs, I turned around and noticed that one of the buildings had a strange tower rising from it roof.

Nov 17, 2009

Day 16 - Further upward

We took the stairs to the temple (never did get to the shrine). As usual they were long and steep.
Off to the side we could see a group of small statues, all wearing bibs. The row of wooden sticks in the back have the names of people who donated money written on them. People believe that they will get merit towards their next rebirth if they support a temple, so to encourage the practice the temples make the names prominent.
At the top of the stairs I turned around and discovered this view of the grounds below.
At the top of the stairs we were greeted by a life-sized statue of Kobo Daishi. Except for the pants vs. robe thing, Ian's clothing closely resembles that worn by Kobo Daishi. I, of course, was dressed in a similar way to Ian.
Here is another view without Ian blocking your line of sight.