The little bus swept along the highway this morning as dark clouds hung low in the sky. Soon came the rain, sweeping against the windscreen as we forced our way into the storm. When we left Honshu we continued over the sea until the dark mountains of Shikoku loomed large, ahead of us. I was starting to consider buying a return ticket and doing something else. But then we dipped into the valley and arrived at Tokushima where the sun was shining but in an ominous way.
I checked straight into my hotel for 2 nights and then took the train to Temple No 1. First stop was the pilgrim outfitters where I was measured for my hakui jacket. Size LL (I’m normally medium) and I chose a budget end staff (kongozue) because the tradition is to leave it at Temple 88 where it is burned, providing you pay the 1000 yen fee. Finally I picked a stamp book (nokyocho). I will collect a stamp at each temple but this is no basic rubber effort. Here we have a page per temple which gets 3 stamps and is then covered in beautiful calligraphy.
Pretty soon afterwards, a few other brand new Shikoku pilgrims introduced themselves, perhaps seeking a role in my blog. Two French ladies (S&E) have just arrived in Japan and hadn’t slept for 3 days. A French Canadian man called Sebastian who was looking for a place to pitch his tent and a young French lady called サラ. None of them spoke a word of Japanese so we switched to English as my French is only suitable for entertainment purposes.
We were all feeling a little self conscious in our brand new gleaming white uniforms like the first day of school and none of us could properly coordinate our temple routine despite my having practiced for the past month. My approach is to do the bow then the cleansing followed by the donation, bow, bell, prayer, bow and name slip. But the others had bought candles and incense and we didn’t know where they fitted in. S&E fell asleep so サラ and I set off for Temple 2. She told me she is terrified of spiders and snakes and could I go first through the long grass?
We completed 3 temples and just four kilometres but it was a fine start and we have a plan to resume tomorrow, at least for those who set their alarms.