Shikoku Japan 88 Temples Foot Pilgrimage; Walking From Uchiko City To Oda Town
The weather today alternated between cloudy and sunny, without any rain.
Yesterday, when it rained all day, and we were walking with all of our gear in plastic bags or covered with rain gear, I mentioned to Jules that I felt like an “Alte Zachen.”
“Alte Zachen” is a Yiddish term that means “Old Things.”
In my youth in Israel, a horse drawn cart came to the neighborhood weekly, and the driver used to yell: “Alte Zachen! Alte Zachen!”
If you had an old broken TV, or a blender, an old soda machine, a child’s bed that you no longer needed, or an old piece of furniture, you would call back to the Alte Zachen, and he would come and look at the junk that you wanted to get rid of, and give you a price for it.
It was usually pennies, and often people just gave them the old or broken things for free, because those peddlers seemed down on their luck and in need of help.
On this pilgrimage, when it rains, I feel like an Alte Zachen, with all my gear in plastic bags hanging from me, my water bottle clipped to my side, my camera in one pocket and my iPhone for navigating the route, in the other pocket.
I feel overloaded and much like a peddler, as if I am carrying too much crap.
Today I could not stop laughing.
As we sat on a lonesome bench by the vending machines, behind the rice grinder booth, I was laughing at the humor of it all….
All of our lives both Jules and I have tried so hard to get ahead in life, to earn a good living, to build a lovely life, to renovate nice homes and to educate ourselves, only to end up living like street peddlers, wandering from town to town looking for something to eat, to drink, or for a shaded place to sit and to rest our tired feet.
As I laughed and laughed, hardly able to make coherent sentences to explain to Jules why I was laughing, he started his own laughing fit, saying how insane it is that we feel like homeless peddlers, when we own two lovely homes which sit empty…
We walked in the sun for most of the day, and along the route there were no cafes and hardly any places to eat or drink.
We walked along a big river through scenic villages and saw many fishermen fishing by the banks of the river.
In those villages, they have an annual festival in which they build a very, very long raft from bamboo and a few men row it down the river, carrying onboard children and people of all ages.
In a small shop, we stopped to buy some cold tea, when an old woman came out of the shop.
She got on her scooter, but then she saw us, the overheated Henros, and she gave us the ice cream that she had just bought.
She handed each of us an ice cream.
I refused, saying that my stomach was full, but she insisted again and again and finally Jules took the ice cream that she offered him.
I held my ground in thanking her but refusing the gift.
In a shaded hut that was built for pilgrims, a young Japanese Henro from Akita stopped for a chat while we sat in a small shaded rest area.
He told us that he was walking all of the 88 temples, in the same direction as we are, and that he hoped to finish in 50 days.
He added that it does not look like it is going to happen, since he was already on his 30th day and still had lots of temples to visit and many kilometers to go.
Jules asked him why was he walking the pilgrimage, and he said that two years ago he badly damaged his knee in a motorcycle accident.
He had two operations and a year long recovery before he was able to walk again.
He thought that long distance walking will help him heal completely.
He said that he was doing well, although he still could not run.
We complemented him on how well he was walking – without any discernible limp – and how quickly he had walked so far.
We wished him the best of luck on the balance of his journey, if we do not see him again farther along on the trail.
Jules adds: “Many of the small shops we pass by in our path through dozens of tiny rural villages have virtually no merchandise on hand.
We went into one looking for anything cold to eat or drink, and Tali asked for the package of a few small Yakult bottles she saw on the fridge shelf.
The shopkeeper’s son took it out of the fridge and went to ask for a price, but then returned, apologized and put it back, telling us that it was reserved for another customer, and he could not sell it to us.
Since there was literally nothing else cold that we could buy, we left the shop and continued on our way.”
We walked by many orchards full of fruit trees.
This region grows many Persimmon trees, and we passed by many trees overloaded with fruit, but they were still green and small.
I saw many small lizards with blue tails.
They had such bright tails, that they looked like they had been dipped in metallic and iridescent colored paints.
They ran into the rocks as I passed by them.
Walking felt harder on my feet today, and I felt heavy with my backpack.
I hope that this sensation will pass in the next few days.
The town of Oda is charming.
We met a school teacher who was accompanying young kids as they crossed the road.
They have bright yellow flags on each side of the cross walk.
The kids pick up a yellow flag and wave it at the cars as they cross the road.
On the other side of the crossing, there is another container full of yellow flags, where they then deposit the flags.
It is such a cute system and the kids looked so sincere when each one waves the flags at the cars, as they crossed the road.
The school teacher walked with us towards central Oda, after she left the kids.
She pointed out the the elementary and junior high schools, which were in very beautiful and new buildings, and the high school, which was in an old and ugly concrete building.
When we parted, she waved and waved and bowed to us until we were out of her sight.
Our guesthouse is very old, but with some charming elements.
The wooden building seems to be falling apart slowly, and the owner, who lives with her husband, young children and her aging father, does not seem to even attempt to fix anything.
The floor is beyond crooked and the stairs seem to be held together purely by the mercy of God.
Still, it is our home for tonight and the owner is a sweet woman who agreed to make us an all vegetarian meal.
The food was not great, but I doubt that the fish dishes would have been any better.
We showered and did our laundry, and fell asleep for an hour before dinner.
I think it was the heat of the day, walking on the asphalt road and the unshaded paths, which had exhausted us.
Tomorrow we have a long way to walk to get to Kuma Kogen and to temple 44, Daihōji – The Temple of Great Treasure.
Before I fell asleep that night, I thought back on the day.
I asked myself what is the difference between us and homeless people that we saw on the road?…
After all…..Both of us carry only one backpack with all of our crap in it.
Both of us have only two sets of pants and two shirts, two underwater and two pair of socks….
The only difference is that homeless people feel that they are lacking things, and live in fear of the future and try to get more things, while we feel that we have too much, we do not fear what the future will bring, and we are roaming the streets out of choice, not necessity.
In other words, we have a purpose and are directing our lives, while they feel that they are powerless and at the mercy of a random life…
I was thinking that this situation is very much like a metaphor for the spiritual path.
In reality, we are all holy children of God, of the Divine Mother who had forgotten who we are, and are roaming the paths of life, feeling powerless and homeless.
But we are NOT powerless, but powerful gods, created in the image and likeness of our Creator, as perfect creators…. We just forgot who we really are…
So it is now with Jules and myself….
We are not two homeless wanderers, despite how it might feel at times…
We have lovely homes and a wonderful life, it is just that our minds get so caught up in the game, that we forget that we have a whole different life back in the USA and in NZ…
Remember who you REALLY ARE, beyond the roles you seem to play in each lifetime….
Day 40 (June 17th 2016)
Our Location On The Earth:
Overnight at Fujiya Ryokan in Oda Town
Active walking 5:21 hours
Active day 7 hours
Walking grand total: 847 km