I was happy to wake up and find out the rain had definitely passed. I hoped the weather would finally be good today.
I quickly got ready and checked out by 7am. No one was at the reception desk, so I simply left my key, having already paid when I checked in and not wanting to disturb the owner in case he was still sleeping or busy. I made a quick stop at the nearby Lawson’s and bought a simple cream bun for breakfast and an onigiri for later. I had snacks in my bag already, so I figured it would be enough for the day.
Since the first bus to Cape Ashizuri didn’t leave Nakamura Station until 8:20, I had a leisurely like morning. I went to breakfast, which was a huge buffet spread with both Western and Japanese dishes. I was impressed and glad I had paid for it. But as I took my tray to a seat by a window, I was disappointed to see that it was still raining. Although I was taking the bus to Cape Ashizuri, I had wanted to check out the western side of the peninsula, which I have heard is quite beautiful and is skipped by most henro in favour of a shorter route that requires backtracking along the east coast. I was determined to still walk parts of the trail rather than rely on buses and trains all the time.
I took my time waking up in the morning, but still couldn’t fall back asleep around 7:00am. Waking up at such an hour is still pretty late for a henro. Most are up and out walking by 7:00. Still, breakfast didn’t start til 6:45am and I had decided, after much deliberation, to take the ferry across the harbour, and it wouldn’t leave the nearest port until 10:10am. I had thought of walking around the little bay, but thought the ferry would be fun (and relaxing) to ride.
I woke up a bit later than I wanted but still managed to be out of the hotel at 6:30. I had left my belongings behind, planning to make the climb up to the temple, then return to my hotel to check out and pick up my backpack. Temple 35 was on the side of a mountain, thankfully not at the very highest point, but still required a short climb. The less I had to carry my backpack around, the better.
It was a restless sleep. I had an ambitious day planned – to walk to Tosa City and hopefully manage to get to Temple 35 before getting to my hotel, some 30km distance of walking total – but I had to catch an early morning bus to Temple 32 from the Kochi Station bus terminal. Added to that, the walk involved a short ferry ride, and the ferry departed only once an hour. If I messed things up and got my timing wrong, I would be way behind. Luckily, I managed to book a room at a business hotel, so check-in time mattered less than at a minshuku or ryokan (where you need to arrive by about 5pm at the latest in order to have time to wash and have dinner in time).
I’m not gonna lie, I like Kochi City. It’s a small city by Japanese standards, but it’s nice and there’s enough to keep a tourist entertained for a day or so without being too big or overwhelming. At the same time, it has all the conveniences that come with being in a city, which contrasts with the rather more austere rural areas that make up most of Shikoku (especially Kochi Prefecture).
For the first time in a while, I was woken up by my alarm. I had had difficulty getting to sleep last night even though I was completely exhausted, so I estimated I only managed about 6 hours of sleep. The first thing I noticed was the soreness in my legs. Thankfully, it wasn’t my joints; it was my muscles, which was to be expected. Most henro, by this point, had walked many days and their bodies had adjusted. I had taken a break, so my muscles were still getting used to the exertion of the walk. Oh well.
I woke up early in the morning with a raging migraine. To make matters worse, the walls in my hotel were paper thin and the person in the room next to me had their alarm go off at 6am sharp and they didn’t turn it off, and when they did, they kept hitting snooze for an hour. To say I was unimpressed would be an understatement.
My plan today was to take a bus down the southeast coast to Cape Muroto-Misaki, which is where Temple 24, Hotsumisakiji, is located. Then, I would walk the ~30km to my hotel in the town of Nahari, visiting Temples 25 and 26 on the way. Ideally, I would start very early, but I realized that today was a Sunday, which meant that the earliest bus that left Kannoura Station was not until 7:44am. On every other day of the week, the earliest bus started at 7:14am. Oh well. There was nothing I could do about that.
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.
Sometimes, I enjoy reading and posting on Reddit. When I found myself in Kyoto with not much to keep me occupied, I posted on the Japan Travel subreddit, asking if anyone would like to hang out or see some sights (even though I had already seen the major ones). To my surprise, one person answered and we agreed to meet up at Ginkakuji, or the Silver Pavilion (which isn’t even silver; it was meant to be coated in silver to contrast the nearby Golden Pavilion, Kinkakuji, but due to wars and the original owner’s death, it was continually delayed and then dropped altogether). He mentioned that he was still feeling a little overwhelmed by all there was to see in Japan and would appreciate someone to help him out.
I decided to do some actual sightseeing today rather than just wandering around the neighbourhood my hostel is located in. For today, I decided on Uji, which is a place I had meant to see on my last trip to Japan, but ended up not having the time or energy for it. Uji is located just south of Kyoto and is known for three things: it’s high quality green tea (virtually all the Japanese kinds, including sencha and matcha), Byodoin Temple (which dates back to the Heian Era and is nearly 1000 years old), and for being a significant location in the Tale of Genji, the first known novel (and written by a woman!).
My hostel bed is not the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever slept in in my life. It’s well used and has a depression in the middle of it, and as a result, my back was not terribly happy with me today. So, although my knees fared ok, my back was giving me some pains. However, I’m at least fairly accustomed to back pain, so I did some stretches before leaving the hostel late in the morning. I took a dose of ibuprofen and let it do its work. And for the first time in a while, I left off the compression splints to see how my joints would fare without the extra support. As another traveler in my hostel told me, my muscles should not get used to the extra support; they had to work and get stronger.
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.