For the first time my 5.45 alarm awoke me from a deep sleep and an hour later I had dragged myself almost a kilometre along Route 56 to Family Mart for breakfast. Today was one of those occasional days when I just wasn’t in a walking mood. Ahead of me lay 28Km of hot pilgrim trail from Temple 40 to Tsushima, just over half way to Temple 41.
Another hour passed before I was on my way again. As before, the route offered a choice of a mountain trail or the road and as I was not in the mood for 10Km on a rough trail rising to 502m over the hills I chose the coastal road. I soon caught up with a couple of Japanese pilgrims. The man looked how I felt but the woman was very talkative saying she lives in Hawaii. She asked me if I was climbing the mountain and I assured her I wasn’t but we exchanged notes on the previous two days wild trails.
There were numerous pilgrim rest huts along the coast and I sampled them all. They really are amazing. They are all new and spotless and equipped with a brush and often some blankets for pilgrims sleeping wild. Pilgrims leave encouraging comments in the visitors book. WCs are usually close by and each one is an architectural gem. It adds a lot to the sense of pilgrimage.
I’ve noticed another odd thing about Japan. Every little settlement is equipped with a public address system which extends into the hills. At certain times of the day there is an electronic rendering of Big Ben followed by the news. It’s the sort of thing one used to hear in the Soviet Union except here the quality is better and the voice is Japanese cute. I really don’t know what to make of it.
I tried hard this morning to telephone a ryokan for tonight but no one would have me. Perhaps the word has gone round that I’d been caught in the hall wearing toilet slippers. The first lady said she’d closed. The next claimed to be full, a third spoke in foreign tongues which didn’t sound too promising and a fourth didn’t even bother to answer. So I’m in my third consecutive business hotel but this is a good one.
At the moment I’m in the restaurant but all the menus are a mass of Kanji so I’ve suggested fish (Sakana) and answered a lot of questions from the waitress in the affirmative and we’ll see what comes.
A delicious dinner even though I’ve no idea what fish I ordered. And it’s been cooked. The little green oranges are a specialty of Shikoku and they are just ripening. I see bucket loads for sale on the roadside. They are super delicious.