Day 10 – The Road To Enlightenment – Walking The Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage – Asso To Minabe, Wakayama, Japan
We started the day with a good breakfast at our Onsen hotel.
We noticed that all the tables were set for guests, and that the hotel was also full last night.
It was the weekend, and they have also opened the big public baths.
Now we concluded that they gave us a room with a private onsen and closed the big baths, because there were almost no guests the day before.
After checking out, we walked to the train station to take the train back to Asso station, where we had started our Kumano Kodo walk.
At the station, we met the same European man we had met in the forests of the Kumano Kodo.
He told us that he had to rent an apartment in Japan and rearrange his plans, because of the virus.
Today he was heading to Nachi, on a bus.
The local train stopped at every station and it was slow, but it took only two and a half hours to cover the distance we had hiked for six days.
At Asso station, we put on our rain gear and opened our umbrellas.
It rained all day.
Clouds of mosquitoes swarmed the streets.
They must’ve hatched on that warm and rainy day.
The walk was on the side of the road, following the coastline in a northwest direction.
Sometimes we had sidewalks, and sometimes we didn’t.
Sometimes we got splashed by passing cars, and sometimes we didn’t.
Overall, it was not a hard walk.
I put on my earbuds and listened to a book as we walked, because I preferred walking inside my own universe.
The eyes of the people I could see driving by, looking at me over the face-masks that most people were wearing, did not seem happy nor warm.
At lunchtime, we stopped at a big cafe that also serves lunches.
My lunch set was delicious, with an appetizer of a small salad, tofu in olive oil and a lemon yuzu pickled miso.
The main course was kiln baked rice with a slice of baked white fish.
Dessert was one of their famous hot pancakes.
Jules just had the bigger pancake lunch.
The cafe was very comfortable and it gave us an opportunity to dry out.
By the time we left the cafe, the rain had turned into a steady, heavier drizzle.
We passed through the town of Tanabe before we got to Minabe, and it had a very nice feeling, with many temples, small cafés and small shops, all along the Main Street.
While we were walking through, there was pleasant music playing from the town speakers.
When we neared Minabe, a woman pulled her car into a parking lot in front of us.
She approached us and offered us a ride.
She said it was too cold and windy to be walking in the rain.
She asked where we were staying and pointed to her car to take us there.
We explained that we were pilgrims, walking the Saigoku Kannon pilgrimage, that we were not cold nor uncomfortable.
We thanked her sincerely and refused.
When she realized that we were neither lost nor in trouble and did not need her help, she wished us a good afternoon and drove away.
I was so touched by her kindness in these coronavirus times.
She was wearing a face mask, so she was obviously afraid of getting infected, yet she did not think twice of stopping and offering a ride in her car to two very wet foreigners, who could have come from a virus infected country, and could have infected her.
What a kind and sweet spirit she is.
In some places that are now under a lockdown, we had read terrible stories of people reporting their neighbors and one another to the police for breaking the lockdown, or of looting and vigilantes, who harm others because they do not seem to keep the curfew.
Here in Japan, life is not disrupted by lockdowns and shutdowns.
People’s movements are not restricted and there are no restrictions on how many people can dine in a restaurant or shop in a store at any one time.
I truly, truly hope that it will stay this way.
We arrived at our hotel by early evening.
The hotel’s chef was also the man who checked us in.
When we asked about a good place to eat dinner, he discussed a menu with us and offered us a very good price if we were to eat in the hotel.
We got out of our wet clothes, bathed in the hot springs, and went downstairs to have dinner.
He made us a fresh fish Nabė stew with mushrooms, herbs and cabbage, a very good carrot soup, a tempura dish and a baked crab gratin.
The weather is predicted to be rainy for the next few days, and we have scheduled a few long days of walking.
But I hope the rain will hold off until the end of the day…
With love and many blessings,
Steps walked – 23,631
17.5 km. walked
Active walking time – 4 hours
Total walking time today – 5 hours.
Total walking distance on the Saigoku to date – 169.5 km