Day 11 – Days of rice and sake

The Pacific Ocean is my view on my left side and the hills of Shikoku on my right side. After yesterday’s deluge everything was back to normal today. 28 degrees and sunny. Not even a hint of rain. The friendly owner of the inn presented me with my clean clothes which he had washed by hand and I settled my bill, 4300 yen. The tide was rising as I left and many little red crabs were scuttling around the area but keeping their distance from the hotel itself.

It was a lovely walk down Route 55 by the coast. Rural Japan. A mixture of rice paddies, orchards and very small businesses, none of whom targeted the walking pilgrim. I passed some more pilgrim rest huts, each more stunning than the previous. I sit down for a few minutes even if I’m not tired just to soak up the Shikoku vibes. Some huts have blankets in sealed bags even though you’re not supposed to sleep in them. Others have reading material. All are spotlessly clean and regularly inspected.

As I’m now well on my way around Shikoku I’m starting to master the map book and benefit from all the information. The pilgrimage route is shown on large scale maps together with the profile so you can see the mountain excursions. The maps also show all the pilgrim accommodation, rest huts and convenience stores. And there is information about the pilgrimage, all in English.

Knowing the location of the convenience stores is vital. Every store is bright, clean and cool. Here we can buy coffee, and there is plenty of choice of food and essentials. For example today at 7-Eleven I bought a ham, egg and salad sandwich and a chocolate chip cookie. But I could equally have fished out some indescribable thing from a vat. While I was eating my sandwich, a man bought a noodle dish and added hot water for a perfect lunch.

Once again today I was constrained by a lack of accommodation and could only walk 21Km. I’m not in a hurry but everyone has their natural pace and optimal distance. My feet are fine and I want to walk a little more. Also if you arrive at your accommodation too early it’s likely the owner will be out tending his fields. Or surfing, which is the local pastime. So tomorrow I plan to finally walk a full day. And it’s another temple free day. And also a convenience store free day, just as I was getting the hang of everything.

I met a Japanese couple in full pilgrimage attire walking towards me. They were making their second pilgrimage and in reverse order which is tricky. Oh how pleased we were to meet on this lonely stretch of road and exchange a few words.