Day 18: Invoking the Emergency Walking Act (21 March 2019)

Today’s sunrise was bleak. See image of Kochi at sunrise from my hotel room.

Heavy rains again. Aoyama-san’s feet were in bad shape. What to do?

I decided to invoke the emergency provision of the Walking Act of 2019 namely, we can take an alternative form of transportation. Thus, we started off at 8 AM for Temple 31, Chikurinji.

I had to get over my purist tendency for this trip. That is, every step of the way had to be a step on the ground. Mixed in with helping Aoyama-san was my feeling of not facing another 8 hours of walking in the rain. I am sure that another opportunity to do so will arise.

I also must apologize for the snarky remark about the fellow who left Temple 28 in a car. Each one of us is doing the best we can in making this journey. Keep it simple and keep within yourself. This morning was another humbling learning experience.

We arrived at Temple 31 in heavy rains which created its own mood. Shortly thereafter, a couple appeared all dressed in traditional Japanese clothing. They were celebrating graduation from college. I rationalized that if it weren’t for the emergency declaration, we would not arrived in time to see this joyous couple.

Was it raining hard? Check out this pair walking up the stairs to the main temple grounds and the rain spout. Pretty heavy in my opinion.

We left Temple 31 with our cab driver. He asked how many times had we had done o-henro. We said that this was the first time and that this was the first time that we had used cabs during the pilgrimage (well, not quite). Remember the priest calling up the taxi for me at Temple 12? He said, not to worry. The good things that you learned in the pilgrimage will stay with you whether you walk or ride. Thank you very much. He gave me a small frog charm, kaeru, return and have a safe journey. Kukai personified? Enough of this guilt.

Temple 32, Zenjibuji, was covered in fog giving it the backdrop of how heaven is sometimes pictured – in the clouds. The first photo is of the guardian of temple followed by Kukai. The temple also had a separate area of devotion to Tanuki, a raccoon figure which brings good fortune. We have Tanuki in our backyard garden too.

To get to Temple 33, Sekkeiji, we had to take a ferry across an inlet. The ferrymen were really strict. I went up to the second deck and the skipper scolded me for being there. If there was a sign, I missed it. Everything was in kanji. Even on the main deck, the hands pointed at a white line that you dared not cross. The mist was intense. Here is what we saw.

Temples 34 and 35 had their own special milieu. Temple 34 seemed to emphasize its pine trees. This tree had a large branch extended out at least 20 feet. We wondered how long it took form such a spread. As we left, I was amused that even Kukai had special foot coverings for a day like this one.

Our final temple, Kiyotakiji, was up 500 feet on a hill with an ethereal atmosphere. It was covered in a heavy blanket of mist. This view reminds me of scenes portrayed on many Japanese scrolls and shoji screens. One can feel the spiritual here.

After such a hard day riding in different cabs, we checked into our “business hotel.” Clean, comfortable reminding me of what a Motel 6 must have been like. Next door was a Japanese bakery that served pan like pain in French. After ordering, we sat among tables of women of our age or a bit younger. Aoyama-san said that women tend to gather in the afternoon to have a coffee or tea with some pan taking a break from household chores. How about these delights? We had our coffee and pan while planning the next two days of walking and some riding the rails. The next segments are really lengthy and no more near marathons!

He still had chores to do before dinner. Aoyama-san needed some cash so off we went in search of an ATM. We found the .com Bank. On the way, an athletic equipment store magically appeared (thank you Kukai). We outfitted Aoyama-san with a wider in the toe box shoes. He seemed to step more lively after that with a broad smile on his face.

We were in high spirits going to dinner. We went to the izakaya (sounds like a name from the Old Testament) which is a Japanese pub like our sports bar without TV screens. Our chef served up delicious food like grilled garlic (who ordered that?), small swordfish-like sakana (fish), and of course, draft beer and local sake.

Aoyama-san said that locals especially men come to izakaya on Friday’s to celebrate the end of the week (TGIF). Here they call it Hanakin (meaning flowering Friday – Hana for flower and kin as the shortened form of kinyobi, Friday).

The three fellows at the next table were already into Hanakin mode. Ayoyama-san had his tape recorder in hand and we had a raucous time talking with the guys. I picked up about a third of the conversation.

Chaucer had it right in the Canterbury Tales. A pilgrimage is the whole journey.

Tomorrow, the walk to Temple 36, and onto Minshuku Micchan which is on Aoyama-san’s bucket list of things to do on the pilgrimage. I am looking forward to meeting Michiko, the woman owner. Her story was written in Asahi Shinbun, the NYT of Japan. Everyone that we talked with in this area knows about her and her minshuku. Ja mata, ne (until tomorrow).

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