Shikoku Japan 88 Temples Foot Pilgrimage; Walking from Ainan Town to Tsushima Town
I am becoming like the birds in the trees and the rabbits in the fields, who do not seem to be bothered by the rain or the sun.
They feel at home everywhere, and the weather just comes and goes around them….
Well….. I am not sure that what I said above is fully true, but at least those were the thoughts that went through my mind as we started walking today in the pouring rain.
Years ago, Jules and I went cycling in Ireland.
It rained every day of our trip.
On days when the weather was exceptionally cold and stormy, the locals greeted us as we passed by and said:
“Top of the morning to you Lads! It’s a bit ‘Soft’ today, ain’t it?”
Since then, we joke to each other about ‘Soft’ rainy days, especially when it is raining very heavily.
But for wandering pilgrims like us, the outdoors is our home, and whatever the day brings, we accept with good spirit.
When we left the Sun Pearl hotel, the manager gave us an Osettai of two bags of sweets and Yakult probiotic drinks.
At home, we are such picky eaters, staying away from food that is not organically made, away from refined flour and from all processed food, away from all sugary food, etc.
But here on the pilgrimage, we eat whatever chance brings our way.
When we get tired of eating fish heads and worm-like guppy fish, we are delighted to have a “big toast” in a cafe.
A “big toast” is made from simple white bread, sliced very thick and toasted.
It is served with jam, butter, or if we are especially lucky, cinnamon.
Jules is so happy when he sees that a cafe menu offers Tosuto (Toast), which always make me chuckle….
At home he refuses to buy organic wholegrain home-baked bread in the farmers markets, but here he says:
“Gluten Shmuten, bleached white flour, just give me a big toast with all the gluten and white carbs, anything but eating more fish heads.”
We walked for hours in the rain, until we reached a roadside cafe on top of a hill.
It seemed right to take a break from the weather and rest.
The cafe specialized in huge plates of pasta, but we ordered a pizza to share and iced coffees.
Always order what the place specializes in.
That is my advice to you, although the tiny pizza wth corn, was not bad.
The road we chose to walk on snaked along the coast.
It was very scenic, but I could not take out my camera and take many photos.
It was raining too hard all day.
The fishing villages were colorful, the fishing nets were anchored with floating buoys which created patterns in the sea.
At one point, we walked through a long pedestrians-only tunnel, which had mosaic paintings on the walls of the tunnel.
It felt like walking in a white concrete art gallery.
It was about one kilometer long, well lit and best of all, dry.
We passed by fishing villages that had wooden platforms right on the water, on which they keep their nets and fishing gear.
Jules adds: “Despite the constant rain today, it was easy to see that the coastline here in Ehime Prefecture is very picturesque.
Besides the floating wooden fishermen’s platforms, there were lots of small buildings right on the shoreline which were painted in bright pastel colors, with contrasting roofs.
The effect, especially on this misty day, reminded me so much of Curaçao.”
Jules has made a wonderful recovery and was walking well all day.
At one point, we took shelter in a bus stop to look at our map.
We commented that today, we saw no other pilgrims and in fact, nobody was walking the streets at all.
Just as we said that, we saw a tall and beautiful woman crossed the road towards the bus stop.
She asked us where we were from.
Based on where we are in the world, the person asking or the circumstances, we give different answers to this question.
At times, we say that we are from New Zealand and sometimes we say that we are from the USA.
Since we spend about the same amount of time in each country, and we are also legal residents of both, either answer is true.
This time we said that we are from the USA.
The woman said: “Oh, cool!”
And then we asked her where was she from, and she answered: “New Zealand.”
She was from Hamilton, teaching English in the public school in this rural town.
She said that she has been teaching here for four years and that this was her last year.
Next year she plans to teach in Northern Thailand, also in a rural place.
She told us that she loved traveling in Laos, but that there were no job openings for her there, or she would love to move there to live.
She told us that she had never done the Shikoku pilgrimage, but knows people who did.
We told her we see almost nobody walking, only bus or car Henros, and she said that June is not a month that most people choose to walk, since it it the rainy season.
We got up to continue on our walk, and as she saw us step out into the intensifying rain, she said:
“Are you sure? The bus will be coming any moments now…”
Our socks and shoes were by now completely soaked and everything felt wet.
We walked into puddles that were too large to avoid, and the cars splashed us with water.
We felt good and in high spirits.
Our guesthouse for the night was Miyoshi Ryokan, in the little town of Tsushima.
The Ryokan is old and full of character.
It was also filled with knickknack, sculptures, toys, old puzzles, stuffed animals, ceramics, everything BUT people.
The place in run by the owner who is an old lady, with the help of another old lady who works part time.
We were the only guests for the night.
Our tatami mat room was spacious.
The toilet was at the end of a long hallway, as were the coin-op washer and dryer.
The Ofuru bath and the shower, were down the steep stairs.
We did our laundry as we showered together.
Our Yukatas were clean and well ironed.
The two women were in the next door annex, where the kitchen and the dining rooms were located.
The futons were already laid out on the tatami mats for us, lined with bedsheets made of very large towel fabric.
The shower on the other hand, had no bath towels.
We dried up using our small hand towels.
We called to see if we could borrow more futons from the empty rooms next door, but nobody answered.
We decided to borrow some futons from the other bedrooms to make our beds a bit softer.
We quickly built nice and comfy futon beds, and went to have dinner next door.
A private room with a big table was already set for us.
We were served lobsters baked with Japanese Mayo, home cooked roasted eel caramelized with sweet soy, Edamame, wasabi cubes, sashimi of raw prawns and fish, vinegar salad with seafood, pickles, noodle soup, steamed rice, a salad, and some white boiled fish with a spicy lemon sauce.
It was a lot of food, and I had to leave some of it uneaten, even though it was very good.
When I checked my email, I felt so remote and far from my “normal” life.
The problems and issues that occupy most people’s mind, are so irrelevant to a wandering pilgrim.
In my emails, I read about women who were sharing their stories about diet, self image, self love and body issues.
They wrote about learning to love your body and developing a positive body image.
As a pilgrim, it seems to me that the obsession that most women have with the shape of their bodies, preferring to be taller or to have thinner thighs, a smaller butt, breasts of a certain size, are SO silly….
During the pilgrimage thus far, I’ve learnt to TRULY love and appreciate my body and its powers and strengths.
Our bodies are capable of recovering so fast from heat rashes, blisters and aches.
They are so sweet, and they can carry so much weight and requires so little….
I can honestly and most sincerely advise you to love your body.
It is SO MUCH MORE AWESOME than you currently realize….
Day 35 (June 12th 2016)
Our Location On The Earth:
Overnight at Miyoji Ryokan in Tsushima Town
Active walking 4:38 hours
Active day 6 hours
Walking grand total: 738 km