Day 41 – The Chūgoku 33 Temple Kannon Pilgrimage, Japan – Walking From Gotsu to Maji, Yunotsu Onsen, and The Healing Powers of Green Forest Therapy

Day 41 – The Chūgoku 33 Temple Kannon Pilgrimage, Japan – Walking From Gotsu to Maji, Yunotsu Onsen, and The Healing Powers of Green Forest Therapy

The season is getting to be quite hot now, and it feels very good not to be walking with our backpacks stuck to our backs.
It is true that we have to reverse our steps every day, and take the train back to our accommodation, but it is so much nicer to be walking only with tiny daypacks, filled mostly with water and some fruit or nuts as a snack.

The road from Gotsu to Maji follows Highway 9, which at times can be very busy, or without sidewalks, or it can cut into the mountains, through tunnels.

Instead of walking through those tunnels, we often take a much longer route, one that is very quiet and remote and often without a single car on its small, rural roads.

Today we had a choice like that right before a tunnel, so we veered toward the costal villages, knowing that we would be adding at least five kilometers to our walk.
But we also knew it would be a much nicer and more enjoyable walk.

The old road was lovely, until it turned into a closed road.
We tried to walk around it, but came upon a dead end, with a cemetery.
There was no other way but to climb over the road barrier and walk up the very steep mountain path.

It was a winding road, damaged by landslides and road slippage.
Near the top, we came upon the construction crew that was fixing the road.
They looked at us puzzled, as they knew that we had disregarded the “road closed” sign, but I was not about to let anyone stop us on our way.
We were nearly at the top, and already a long way from the possibility of turning back.

I greeted them silently, bowed and walked right through their machinery and the crew, my feet moving steadily as if I owned the land.
They returned our greetings, and did not say another word.

From there, we reached the summit, seeing the forests of trees below us.
The walk down was very beautiful.
The trees shaded us, and it felt cooler and very pleasant to walk in the forest.

I was thinking about the brochures I had seen in Japan, promoting the very true concept of “Green Forest Therapy,” or “A Forest Shower.”
The idea behind it is that people who live and work in cities develop a lot of anxieties and deficiencies, because they do not spend any time in nature.
By going into the forest, they can experience healing, or the therapeutic benefits of listening to birds and insects, smelling the mushrooms and the decomposing fallen leaves, maybe seeing a monkey, looking at the vines climbing on the trees, and remembering our oneness with nature.

For me, this is not a theory, it is a fact.
We climbed many mountains today, but I did not feel tired, because we were surrounded by tall trees that cooled and enriched us.

The road finally took us to Yunotsu Onsen, an old hot spring village in the mountains.
We booked a two night stay in this charming old village, rght after we check out of our onsen hotel in Shimoko.

The entrance to the town runs right by some old pottery kilns.
They were made in the 1700’s of brick and earth, with cascading tile roofs.
The heat that rises up fires the pottery throughout the connected kilns.
It looked amazing.

The village has two old public bathhouses and a few guesthouses.
Some of them looked old and a bit rundown, but the way places look on the outside in Japan is no indication of how lovely they might be on the inside.

We were looking for a cafe or a place to rest our feet.
We came upon a small and bright place that was open.
We sat and had an iced coffee set which came with a piece of cake.

It was nice just to sit and have a break from climbing up and down for hours.
It was our first break of the day.
As we sat there, it occurred to me that this was the place that we had booked and will be staying at, in two days’ time.
We were happy that we had booked this bright looking Ryokan.

The rest of the walk was nice, but we did have to rejoin Route 9, and had times in which we had no sidewalks and the traffic was heavy.
We did not enjoy these sections of the walk, because there was little to photograph and we were just concerned about avoiding the cars by squeezing ourselves to the side of the road.

The trains in this region of Japan do not run frequently, and we were happy to catch the 5 PM train back to our hotel.
We stopped at a tiny shop in Shimoko to buy some bananas and grapefruit for tomorrow’s walk.

When we asked the front desk for our room key, they handed us a handwritten note in English.
It said:
“We know you had asked for a vegetarian dinner, but it is difficult for us tonight.
Tomorrow we will prepare a vegetarian dinner for you.”

This sums up many of our experiences in rural Japanese guesthouses.
It is not what you, as the guest wants to eat, rather it is what the guesthouse had bought and the Kaiseki menu they had planned for the guests.
We thanked them and bowed.
Sometimes you have to learn to accept what comes, to go with the flow, and not to resist too much, or it will just raise up the ugly head of inner anger.

We soaked in the hot springs, had a nice dinner and went to bed early.

Daily Stats:
Steps: 36,227 steps
Distance Walked: 26.5 Kilometers
Active Walking: 6.5 hours
Total Time: 9 hours

Total distance walked on the pilgrimage so far: 861 Kilometers

Temple Visited: None

Accommodation: Onsen Hotel Senjoen, in Shimoko Hamada.
Seaside hot springs hotel with a white sandy beach, a hot spring bath overlooking the sea, comfortable and clean rooms and a good dinner and breakfast.

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