As breakfast ended with a last taste of another homemade umeboshi, our host placed our bill on the table with a small plate containing two go (five) yen coins, one for each of us.
Ayoyama-san explained that the coins were symbolic of wishing that the guest would return one day. I thanked her for the coin and told her that I will be taking it home. She said that I should toss it into the collection box at a temple for good health and fortune. Also, what I will bring home are the good thoughts and feelings from the ohenro. No need to keep the coin as a reminder.
On our walk, Aoyama-san suggested that I put it in the hondo’s collection box at Temple 1 when I complete the journey as a thanks to Kukai. That’s what I’m going to do.
We took the train from Unomachi to Iyo-Ozu. From there, we went to Toyogahashi, the place where a Kukai spent the night under a bridge because no one offered him lodging. You can see Kukai resting on his side at the shrine underneath the current bridge.
In order to save Aoyama-san’s feet for later in the day, we took a cab to central Uchiko. We toured the Meiji area built theater where performances are still held. Uchiko has one of the few long streets in Japan that has historic buildings dating before 1900. We walked up and down that street before embarking on a 12 mile walk to our base camp at the foot of the mountain that we will climb tomorrow. As a footnote, Uchiko has a German restaurant. The German flag was waving by the restaurant’s sign. International cuisine can be found in this small town.
As we branched off the main highway to find our minshuku, we stopped at an auto repair shop to make sure that we were headed in the right direction. After some chit-chat, the owner of the shop invited us in for some coffee and cookies. It was drizzling and cold. We quickly accepted.
In the shop’s office was the young owner, his wife, mother and father. The coffee warmed our spirits. The father was assembling a new bicycle. Aoyama-san asked whether children liked bicycles. He misinterpreted the question and said that he sells very few bicycles because there were fewer children in the area. The local elementary school enrolls 41 students, grades 1-6. We said our good-byes to walk another mile and a half to find our minshuku.
After asking another local, we eventually found it. Here is its exterior with the mountains we will climb peeking out from behind. This minshuku was founded by the wife’s grandfather. Lucky for us that it has stayed in the family. The house was built about 80 years ago. My room was a classic and the dining was exquisite. I took a close-up of the ika sashimi shaped like a flower with tiny chrysanthemum petals in the middle. Her husband buys the fish from a man who goes 25 miles to the markets in Matsuyama. How about this individual hot pot with shrimp, scallops, tofu, mushroom, and greens. This minshuku ronin was really pleased. We told the host how much we loved the dinner.