2019

Day 5 – Pilgrim accommodation

Last night’s guesthouse, the Farm Morian Loft, was a truly excellent experience. I enjoyed a superb dinner and a massive breakfast. There were just two rooms and a girl called Tam from Singapore was in the other room. She is attempting all 88 temples. She had paid for room only but the owner gave her a free dinner and breakfast. Every passing minute on this pilgrimage fills me with warmth and gratitude for being able to participate.

After the obligatory photos this morning, I set off into the forest while Tam waited for her friend. The trail climbed and fell as it crossed valleys and ridges towards temple 13 while the road twisted and turned somewhere else. The Japanese birds have their own language and they make some strange sounds all around.

I walked with a Japanese pilgrim for a while and we had a simple conversation. He told me he was 71 and had 2 grandchildren etc. It was exactly the same conversation we’d practiced in Japanese class and it made all the effort worthwhile.

I stopped to eat my bento box picnic lunch which included a chocolate bar packed full of nuts, washed down with a cold bottle of Acquarius from a handy vending machine, 160 yen. After that it was a straight walk along a busy road to Temple 13. Despite the traffic, the temple was peaceful and I sat in the shade for an hour. A bus load of Japanese pilgrims arrived and chanted the sutras for that temple, said their prayers and were gone.

Sandrine and Erika have now joined me in the local ryokan. I’m starting to get a feeling for how accommodation works. There are usually several B&Bs near the temple where most pilgrims stay. The cost is 6000 to 7000 yen including dinner and breakfast and they all have a washing machine and soap powder. In theory you don’t need to bring any clothes because they provide a yakata which you wear indoors and outside. There are no Camino style hostels with rows of bunk beds; everyone has their own room which has everything you need except a chair and bed. You sit on the tatami mat and sleep on a futon. Also, there are regular western hotels with beds in the towns.

And there are slippers for every occasion. Indoor slippers, outdoor slippers, bathroom slippers and of course toilet slippers. But you mustn’t wear any slippers on the tatami mats. It’s quite amusing to me but learning about shoes and slippers is one of the most important cultural lessons in Japan. The switch over must occur in the designated area called a genkan. If you’re not in this genkan you will either contaminate your socks or the inside of the house. As you move between the various clean and dirty zones of the house you swap into the appropriate slippers being sure to leave them pointing in the right direction ready for the next person. It goes without saying that the very worst thing you can do is to forget to swap out of your toilet slippers when reentering the clean house. All of this applies not only in your home but anywhere “indoors” in Japan. I remember my first trip to Japan: Japan Airlines swapped me into slippers at the entrance to the plane.

The lovely lady who runs last night’s guesthouse and Tam
My room (sorry for the mess)
On the left: shoes off and slippers on. On the right: slippers off
More mountain trekking today
An impressive pilgrim rest area. Just what you need in a storm

12 comments on “Day 5 – Pilgrim accommodation

  1. You will have to bring back some Jolly Farmer slippers Tim…

  2. Margot Knight

    Hi Tim, how wonderful you are out on the road again !! I am loving your posts. So different and yet so similar to all other pilgrimages? The important things are still important, even when the style varies. The slipper etiquette most amusing. I didn’t get a walk this year sadly. I can’t begin to guess where you will walk next year !!

    • Hi Margot great to hear from you. I agree it’s a world of its own. Sorry you’re stuck indoors

  3. Just wondering Tim, what is with all of the stuffed dolls/people? Is it a festival or just something that the Japanese make for fun. They look brilliant.

    • No idea about the stuffed people but they were all over one village. Perhaps to make the pilgrims smile?

  4. Wow, Tim, looks strenuous! How does the mountain trekking compare to the Pyrenees? So many similarities – and so many differences – to the Camino. I can’t imagine sleeping on a mat on the floor after a long day of hiking! I’m not sure I woild have been able to get off the floor in the A.M.! Sounds like you’re well prepared, and, so far, blister-free. My first stop in every village along the Camino was the pharmacy. Is that a standard pilgrim accommodation along this pilgrimage, as well? Glad there are lots of pilgrims. I remember the #1 complaint you had on the Francigena (or was it the Le Puy?) was the absence of other pilgrims.

    Now I need to go do a currency conversion so I can figure out what all this is costing. 🙂

    • Hi DJ it’s so nice to hear all your thoughts. Crossing the Pyrenees was epic. There is nothing like it. We have lots of steep climbs and descents here and it’s desperately humid which makes it unpleasant. Not the beautiful fresh air in France. And there is nothing like reaching the top of the Pyrenees and having Spain open up in front of you and the beautiful Camino Frances winding its way to Compostela. The Japanese always sleep on futons even st home but they are comfortable because they have several layers and you can fold them out of the way in the morning. Although the VF has many fine qualities it is missing many of the qualities of a pilgrimage such as other pilgrims for most of the way. Here, as on the Camino, there are many pilgrims around the temples, in the accommodation and on the trail. For me, the more the better and the CF has the most pilgrims by far.

  5. Miyuki

    Those stuffed people😂 pretty amazing 😊and slippers etiquettes! You could be more Japanese than me when you returned to the UK.
    I haven’t explored Shikoku properly before (only a quick visits here and there) so I love seeing your pictures!

    • Hi Miyuki ha I doubt it. What do you eat for breakfast now? Rice, seaweed and miso or perhaps a croissant? Tim

  6. Philippa Thomas

    Hi Tim, it looks beautiful, so green, but hilly. Do your feet appreciate those slippers after a long day’s walk? I could have done with some on the Le Puy route that’s for sure!

    • I never appreciate the slippers because they don’t fit and are quite likely to cause an accident. A beer and dinner are better after a long day’s walk. Tim

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