Habits are hard to break, I guess. Despite going to bed late and struggling to get to sleep last night, I still woke up at 6:30am. I stayed in bed for a while, enjoying the luxury of not having much to do.
Finally, after catching up on messages, eating a snack, and dozing a bit, I got ready, packed, and checked out a little before 10am. I immediately went to the train station and bought a ticket to Bando Station. I recalled my first day of the pilgrimage, where I missed the train by five or ten minutes and had to wait over an hour for the next one. Now I knew to take a picture of the train schedule ahead of time.
Again, I woke up several times throughout the night but still felt rested somehow by the time I was ready to get up. To my happy surprise, my ankle was no worse than yesterday, although it wasn’t really any better, either. Still, I could walk on it, and that’s what mattered.
Breakfast was simple but good. They also served us natto, but remembering my experience at Sudachi-kan, I left it unopened.
My plan for the day was to mostly rely on public transportation, both to save time and to save my knees and ankle, so I took my time checking out. I left by about 7:45am. My task as soon as I left the inn was to find the bus stop that would take me to Yamaguchi Naka, the bus stop the ropeway staff had told me about. If I stopped there, it was only about a 3km walk to Temple 22, Byodoji.
I slept heavily but woke up a few times throughout the night. I think I was just a bit anxious about the day to come. The Shikoku Pilgrimage has sections called “henro korogashi”, which translates roughly to “pilgrim falls down.” These sections are the parts of the trail that are difficult, such as steep inclines/mountains, that often cause or tempt henro to give up. Today’s journey would take me through not one but two “henro korogashi.” I did not know if I was physically ready for the challenge. Today would test both my physical fitness (especially my knees, which were still not 100%) and my resolve.
It was an early start for me this morning, as I knew I had to get myself to Kyoto Station and then find out which bus would take me back to Tokushima Cty, then find yet another local bus to take me to the inn I had a room booked at. I didn’t feel like I had enough sleep, though, so it took some effort to begin my day.
I got ready, packed up my things, unmade my bed, and left an osamefuda as thanks, along with the little bell the man had given me on the way to Temple 17. I then checked out and was on my way.
Breakfast at Minshuku Myozai was not until 6:30am, so I was able to get in another half hour of sleep more than usual. I slept heavily, waking up only once in the night before being woken by my alarm.
I woke up to a cold morning around 5am. Breakfast was not until 6am, so I went ahead and turned on the little room heater and enjoyed laying under my blankets for another 15 or 20 minutes. Then I forced myself to get up and get ready for the day.
I didn’t sleep particularly well, waking up a few times throughout the night and finally giving up around 4:30am. I hung around the hotel room for a few hours, finalizing my packing and getting ready for the day. I wasn’t in a rush, as the bus from Yoriinaka to Shosan-Ji bus stop wouldn’t get there til 1pm.
I “slept in” until about 8:30 (boy, does one’s definition of sleeping in change depending on circumstances; back home, on my days off, it was an effort to wake up before 9:30-10:00). I noticed right away that is was actually easy to get out of bed and my knees were feeling quite a bit better. I could only hope that they stayed that way.
I accidentally slept in and was woken up a little after 6am by the elderly man from yesterday for breakfast. I promptly put some clothes over my thermal base layer and hurried to the dining room where I ate another satisfying breakfast. At the end of my meal, the man gave me some packed onigiri and a can of green tea to take with me as osettai. He also wrote out a note for me in Japanese, which I unfortunately can’t read. I’ll have to ask someone to translate it for me later.
I slept well for the most part, but did wake up a few times throughout the night. When I did, I noticed quite a significant pain in my left ankle in addition to the sore spots I already had. I was not impressed.
When I woke up for breakfast, I was in pain and it took effort just to get up and walk across the room. Despite that, I changed clothes and went to the dining room for breakfast. It was cold but warmed up with a pot of tea and miso soup. Again, the food was delicious.
I woke up early to make it to breakfast by 6:30am. I was served a traditional Japanese breakfast, which included stewed and pickled vegetables, scrambled egg with flavoured nori (the roasted seaweed you can find wrapping sushi rolls), miso soup, and of course, rice. I ate most of it, paid for my stay, bid the inn owners goodbye, and then left.
I had considered calling for a taxi to bring me back to Anrakuji, but I was feeling good and made the walk there to find the pilgrim route again. Once I found my way, I made my way to Temple #7, Juurakuji, which was fairly close and didn’t take me long to find.
I slept pretty well considering my bed was hard as a rock. I guess I was just that tired after traveling. Still, I woke up around 6:15am to get ready and went downstairs to the lobby for the complimentary breakfast. Unfortunately, it was crazy busy and the tables were full, so I decided to simply leave and get going rather than wait. I didn’t really want to waste time that I could be spending on the pilgrimage.
This ended up kind of being a mistake.
To say that the days leading up to my departure for Japan were stressful was an understatement. First of all, the shoes I bought specifically for this trip weren’t fitting well, so I had to buy another pair last minute. Second, I got a jury duty summons! I had never in my life been summoned for jury duty, but of course it was going to happen during the biggest trip of my life. I had a week to sort it out before I left home, and luckily, I got the official call that I was excused from jury duty the day before I left. Third, I did a presentation about kimono with a friend of mine just days before my departure. And to top it all off, the day after, I caught a stomach bug (or food poisoning), woke up to promptly vomit on the floor, and had to call in sick for my last shift at work.
So, suffice it to say, I was kinda stressed and not at my happiest when I left home. I’m not going to lie, either, I was also really nervous. This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. I’m used to having everything planned out ahead of time, which is nearly impossible with this sort of trip. Not knowing how I’d manage was really weighing on me.
My name is Marianne and this is my journal about that time I decided to complete the 88 Temple Shikoku Pilgrimage. It was both the most difficult thing I've ever done and the most amazing thing I've ever done. It was truly an experience of a lifetime.