If you struggle to get started in the morning try walking out into Typhoon No 18. Mercifully it is following the same course as No 17, skirting Japan and turning towards Korea. But that still leaves us with two days of driving rain. Somehow Sandrine and I managed 28Km today. We are staying in a ryokan tonight which is still tatami mats and futons but there is some traditional Japanese style about it. Dinner will be served in our rooms and then the futon will be made up. Normally, when we stay in a minshuku, the futon stays in the corner of the room and we have to make it up ourselves. A week or so ago I pulled out the futon to reveal the biggest spider I’ve ever seen.
Last night we stayed in yet another first class minshuku, Micchan. The map book shows it just off the main route but in fact it is in a small fishing village on the coast 150m below. There was a sign outside which said 4.7m above sea level. The elderly lady owner lived alone and her kindness and generosity transformed our stay into one of the endearing memories of this pilgrimage. I wish I could have found out a bit more about her life, how she came to be living in this most remote spot. Perhaps her husband or father was a fisherman? Had she lived in the house all her life?
She hand washed our clothes, cooked us a wonderful dinner of raw and cooked fish and made telephone reservations for our next two nights.
There were two rooms for pilgrims; one on the ground floor and the other upstairs. I thought about it for a moment and choose the upstairs room.
In the morning she kindly drove us back up to the scenic coastal route and there was a fond farewell as the wind and the rain battered us.
We continued on our way. The sports cars and racing motorcycles had gone but the thunder and lightning kept us focused. One more breathtaking view briefly opened up between the trees but the warning in the map book about no food or drink was wrong as a vending machine stood waiting for me. I put a 1000 yen note in and it jumped to attention, lights flashing and ready to serve. I pressed the button for a bottle of Aquarius and the bottle dropped down and my change was dispensed, followed by a cheerful arigatou gozaimasu. It won’t be long before these machines will have face recognition and then we’ll have a more targeted conversation.
A little later we turned a corner to see a large sign saying “coffee” and “open”. In we went. It was a wood turning shop and the owner spoke English, her mother loved coffee and we spent a happy hour with them.
On and on we walked. Lunch in Family Mart convenience store (it has seats so you can eat your purchases). Several road tunnels gave some respite from the weather; one was 996m long. In another tunnel which might have been rather dangerous, workmen were inside replacing broken light bulbs. They had closed one lane which we were able to walk along but then the chief led us past all their equipment and out to safety, waving his flashing wand at all the traffic. I will see if I can buy one in 7Eleven.
Soon afterwards we came to a works depot with a makeshift pilgrim shelter. On the table was a large chilled bottle of Aquarius, some cups and a box of sweets. I suspect a message had been sent from the tunnel to expect us.
It was a day of many kindnesses which make this 88 Temple pilgrimage so special. And there wasn’t even a temple.