What a relief to set off this morning and to close the door forever on that awful Momo-ya ryokan. One other pilgrim was up and away before dawn and the owners had also gone. They had left the raw ingredients of a Japanese breakfast for us but even Blanca, who normally makes a brave effort to live the Japanese dream at 6.30am, drew the line. Unfortunately Family Mart closed their local store a few weeks previously so we set off in a light drizzle towards a distant Lawson instead.
Temple 83 came and went with the rain. I didn’t even take a photo. It has been consumed by the unpleasant urban sprawl of Takamatsu. We continued through the city until we arrived at Ritsurin Garden.
You won’t find a more extreme contrast between the grey and noisy mess of Takamatsu and the green and ordered world of one of Japan’s finest gardens. We crammed both our backpacks into a single locker to save 400 yen and set off on the recommended route around the garden. I’ve been to Ritsurin before so I knew what to expect. Blanca had never been to a Japanese garden and was consequently overwhelmed by the experience. The clever incorporation of the distant mountains into the garden known as shakkei (borrowed landscape) is effective. So are the stunning views which can change as you stroll with every step, known as “ippo ikkei”. There is a giant waterfall which is switched on every morning. The large ponds are alive with giant koi and many bridges of every shape and colour give you a tingle of enjoyment as you walk over them.
The garden was a 100 year project, completed in 1745. There are two historic tea houses and we sat and enjoyed the views with a cup of sencha tea and a sweet.
Four hours later we left the garden and walked across the rest of the city to our 5 star ryokan (compared to last night) called Sasaya, ready for tomorrow’s walk to Temples 84, 85, 86 and 87.