The sun returned but the temperature is a more modest 26 degrees; plenty warm enough. I left the hotel and after a short distance I met Erika waiting at the bus stop. She had been staying in a nearby hotel and is now taking public transport over the longer distances. Sandrine is a day behind and has teamed up with a Canadian woman. I then came upon two caves where Kobo Daishi achieved enlightenment and obviously popped in for a quick look. These are sea caves crawling with red crabs.
Temple 24 was a delight. It is approached by a path which climbs through woodland before suddenly emerging at the entrance to the little cluster of buildings. I was alone and gave the main bell a loud strike to announce my arrival before going through my abbreviated formalities.
Just below the temple is a lighthouse which commands a wide view of the ocean, perched on the very tip of Cape Muroto. From there, the route took me back to sea level and through more villages. The approach to Temple 25 resembled a funicular railway without the railway. Then the serene Temple 26 required another short climb through woods but a long gentle descent on a narrow path among crops. Rural Japan at its finest.
Before I started this pilgrimage, I wondered how I would locate each night’s accommodation. Most places are private houses and not all have a sign. There are no street names or numbers. Sometimes there is a note by the door in Kanji with a telephone number so if that matches, I’m home. Fortunately my map book shows all the accommodation so I can always narrow it down.
Today’s place was more difficult to find because it’s off the main road in Kiragawa Historic Streets. It’s called Kurakukan Sakan and is 120 years old. It’s a magnificent home of several buildings around a central garden and I have a huge set of rooms all to myself. It’s total luxury. Impossible to count all the tatami mats. It’s home to a lovely elderly couple and I’m mentally trawling though months of night classes to communicate. However the lady has promised me bread and coffee for breakfast so that’s a result. Let’s see if I can get a beer with the sashimi.
Dinner was brought to my rooms in the traditional manner. A feast. Here’s an odd thing though. The rice machine was brought in and switched on. I haven’t got to the bottom of the rice business but it seems to be eaten at the end of the meal. Same in the hotel last night. The waitress came to check I’d quite finished before clearing the dishes and then producing a dish of plain white rice. It also seems to be a complete no no to have rice and alcohol on the table at the same time. When the man came with my beer the woman went into apologetic sumimasen mode and tried to put the rice back into the cooker. I pleaded for sanity, citing examples of the best restaurants in New Delhi where rice and beer were tolerated together. They departed, quite bemused by my poor manners. And then I was caught retrieving my washing from the utility room wearing my outdoor slippers. I doubt they’ll accept any more foreigners, it’s just not worth the trouble.