I only had a very short walk from my hotel over the road to Family Mart for breakfast at 6.30. These convenience stores are open all day and all night. It’s an amazing service but sadly it’s endangered like so much retail. 7-ELEVEN will soon close 1000 stores in Japan. Choosing your convenience store is easy and difficult. Lawsons has the best food but no chairs. Family Mart has chairs and ok food. So for the pilgrim, Family Mart scores highly.
4 temples today. After 56 I headed into the hills and the forests. 57 was nice. Next was 58. Talk about inaccessible! Hundreds of steps and other obstacles. When I climbed the final step and emerged into the temple there was a party going on. Most undignified. I ignored the noise and the barbecue and concentrated on my temple routine. After all who was I to take offense on a Sunday morning?
I should have known it was my party. There was a crowd of volunteers preparing rice cakes and juice from all the Shikoku fruits especially for today’s pilgrims. And I received quite a few little gifts.
A young French man introduced himself as Francois and told me he had completed two Shikoku pilgrimages. He is now just starting one year of voluntary service at this Temple 58. That includes laying out the futons, tending the paddy fields etc. he will also receive training in calligraphy (although it takes 3 years before you’re allowed to issue the stamps) and karate. The head of the temple is a top karate man. Francois told me that there is an increasing number of western people walking the 88 Temple pilgrimage and it is becoming an important source of income for the temples and the accommodation people.
Tomorrow is a round trip to Temple 60. 800m up and down again.