Day 26 And Day 27 – The Road To Enlightenment – Walking The Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage – A Rest Day, and A Cold And Rainy Walk From Nara To Uji
Sometimes, it feels like we have been running around, reacting to ever changing circumstances, instead of following our plans and trusting that things will unfold in a guided way.
To be fair, some of our hotels have closed down and canceled our bookings, so we have had to make quick changes to our plans.
But our intentions always were and still are to walk the whole pilgrimage on foot.
We just have to adapt to the times and be creative, and use more trains at the end of the day to get to our newly booked accommodations.
We have had two days of cold weather and lots of rain.
It was a good time to take a day off and go over our canceled reservations and make new ones.
It seems like every business is making its own decision as to whether to stay open or close, work short hours, work only on weekends or close only on weekends.
We spent the rainy day in a cafe in Nara, going over our plan and making new reservations.
Nara is not one of the prefectures that is under a shut down request, but many restaurants and cafés have adjusted their hours to close early.
Starbucks Cafés everywhere have removed most of their tables and chairs, to provide six feet of space between guests.
The rain did not stop all day.
We had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant in Nara, which was very good.
They stayed open late and other foreigners came to eat there also.
The next day the rain did not stop.
It was also a very cold day to be outdoors all day.
But we had already finished everything we needed to do on our rest day, so we decided to dress warmly and try to make the walk from Nara to Uji.
We started with a simple breakfast at the Starbucks, of Mochi bread with cheese and seasonal vegetable flat bread.
Then we started walking north out of Nara.
I tried to select secondary roads, avoiding as much as possible the main car roads, where cars can splash us as they pass by.
The walk was not scenic.
We passed the usual urban sprawl, except that instead of heavy industrial factories, most of the factories we passed were processing green tea.
Uji is home to the well-known Japanese Matcha green tea.
Some of those factories smelled SO good…
The aroma of roasted tea was wonderful.
We crossed rivers, creeks, car dealerships, fields and many neighborhoods.
It was charming to walk the small streets, but there were no places for us to drink and rest or to seek shelter from the rain.
We walked without rest until we reached a small town, with beautiful blooming Sakura Cherry trees on the river bank.
The flowers were starting to fall, and we walked on pink carpets of flower petals.
We found on my map an Udon noodle restaurant that was located up the hill.
We did not know if it would be open, but we were hungry and shops were closing down.
Our feet, socks and shoes were cold and soaking wet, and we really needed a break.
We climbed up the hill and felt relieved that they were open.
They were nearly at the end of their working day, but they welcomed us in and made us very good handmade udon noodles and tempura pumpkin, eggplant, sweet potato and shrimp.
We drank many cups of free green tea, and rested until we felt warm again.
Going out into the cold rain was not easy.
We walked some more and then made our way toward the train station.
Our fingers were so wet and cold we could barely bend them.
We were too wet to dine out.
We wanted to get out of our wet clothing and shoes, and take a hot bath.
So instead of dinner, we went to a supermarket near our hotel, and bought some fruit and rice balls.
Our hotel asks all guests to leave their shoes in a locker room at the entrance.
Our shoes were so wet, we stuffed them with newspapers to help them dry by tomorrow.
I collected all our clothes and went to the hot springs bath, where they also have the washing machines and driers.
I did our laundry while I soaked in the hot springs, which meant that I stayed longer than normal, until both the washer and dryer had completed their cycles.
That night, before I fell asleep tired and exhausted, I suddenly remembered a part of a conversation that I had had with a nun at Muroji temple.
She laughed and asked why we had chosen to come to Japan during such difficult times.
We told her that we have been coming to Japan almost every year, for the past twenty years.
I told her that we had initially planned NOT to come to Japan in 2020, because of the Olympics.
We assumed there would be too many people around everywhere.
We thought to skip 2020.
But then we felt guided to come, and we just followed this inner guidance.
She laughed again and said:
“The Buddha chose you!
He postponed the whole Olympics, just so you could come and do this pilgrimage.
It is much better for you to have no tourists around.
Better for your walk!”
With a humble heart,
Tali and Jules
Steps walked – 34,002
26 km. walked
Active walking time – 6 hours
Total walking time today – 7 hours.
Total walking distance on the Saigoku to date – 520 km