Day 11: The Beginnings of a Team (14 March 2019)

Sometimes we can’t remember when we start a friendship or a relationship. I think that Ayoyama-San and I started one in the onsen at the Sazanka inn. As you know, Japanese people oftentimes partake in a communal hot bath. It is a very nice way to relax before dinner time.

While soaking, Ayoyama-San said, “Gokuraka,” meaning I am in heaven. I could not agree more after these very long walks.

We continued talking at dinner. He is a retired high school teacher of English and former principal. He learned English by watching America westerns starring John Ford, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood. Also, a Department of Defense Dependent School was located nearby. He played after school with Americans. During our walk, we talked about nuances like the difference between a wind and a breeze, among other topics like our families.

It was wonderful to share in the beauty that we saw on our walk. Sunrise at the temple as we began our walk at 6 AM. A fresh river with water so clear that the surface shimmered. We talked with locals who were harvesting seaweed from rivulets formed by the tides. We watched birds stretch their wings – they looked like the eagle on old American coins. We sat on the beach eating our lunches.

We stopped at a temple that is not one of the 88. This temple is dedicated to the fish species, saba, mackerel. I had my book signed because saba whether raw or grilled is my favorite of all.

We agreed to walk together until the end of March when he returns home to his honeydew list. He will complete the journey of the 88 in fall and meet his wife for the walk up Mt Koya, the traditional end point of the pilgrimage.

I am privileged to have met him. We will be sharing many thoughts during our time together. We departed towards the end of this walking segment to meet up at the end of the next day. I was turning left for the Minshuku Yoshida, yes you read it correctly. And would you know it, another guest arrived – Obata-San with whom I walked the day before and shared dinner at Sazanka. The pilgrim’s world is indeed small.

Obata-San, joined me in kampei, cheers at dinner. He is 66. His wife died last year. He is on the pilgrimage in her memory.

Yoshida-San reminded me so much of my grandmother. I told her that because our noses we were so alike that we had to be related. Yoshida is the 12th most common last name in Japan. She prepared a wonderful dinner. The other images were of the inlet in front of her house and her welcoming sign. The black large characters spell out Yoshida – hard to miss when you are a Yoshida.

When I left the next morning, she bowed to me and came outside as I was walking away from her home. She waved until I was gone – just like my grandmother did when I came to visit her. This moment brought tears of reliving a wonderful memory.

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