There’s a gap in the map between Temples 64 and 65 of some 50 kilometres with little of interest and normally I’d put in some long days to haul in the distance. However I’m constrained by mountains which come right down to the road I’m walking along. And as is the way on Shikoku, eventually I’ll have to turn into these mountains and cross them to continue my journey. I don’t like to start a big climb in the afternoon so I’m taking a couple of slow days so I can tackle Temple 65 on Thursday morning and then Temple 66 on Friday morning. After that I will drop down to what looks like Shangri-La, a long valley with most of the remaining temples.
But first, this morning I visited Temples 63 and 64. They were as fine as they could be in the urban setting of Saijo but with breakfast waiting at the first Lawson convenience store on the road east, there was no need to prolong the worship.
Henry, a French man I met last night at dinner in the ryokan, was already sitting there with his cafe et croissants. We had a good evening last night and picked up where we left off. He was taking a train to meet someone.
I stopped at another Lawson store mid morning for a coffee when a woman asked me if I was a pilgrim. It’s times like this when I’m so glad to have learnt some Japanese. I’m annoyed with myself for not being better, given the effort I made, but compared to my previous trip to Japan when I had to shrug my shoulders, at least now I can understand what people are saying and say a few words in roughly the right order.
She didn’t ask me about my hobbies or family or even my age. But she looked at my route and said I should visit Mishima Park on the approaches to Temple 65. After saying goodbye she returned and gave me a shiny new 500 yen coin as settai. Pilgrims must accept these gifts because it would offend and upset the donor to be rejected. I decided to keep it with my stamp book as a lasting memento of the kindness and generosity of the people of Shikoku.