Please start at Day One

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Day 12 - Phonecall Home, Taxi Ride

The morning news on the TV at breakfast is dominated by the earthquake and tsunami. I wasn`t sure if it was big enough news that it would have reached the UK but I decided I should probably phone home to confirm that I am ok, and to ask if my partner`s parents - in Tokyo - were ok too. There was a phonebox right outside my ryokan but I hadn`t got round to buying a phonecard yet. Okaasan suggested I leave my rucksack with her, while I went up to Temple 24, the path was short but steep so I agreed. After I had finished at Temple 24 and collected my rucksack from the ryokan I continued towards Temple 25 asking in every shop if they sold phonecards but none did, it was only when I found the second post-office I passed was closed that I realised it was a Saturday. The tsunami warning siren sounded again at about midday.



I finally found a convenience store - about 1km off my route - selling phonecards so bought a couple for ¥1000 each (about eight UK pounds), but the phonebox outside the store could not make international calls. It was about 9am local time - so about midnight back in the UK.  The next five public payphones I passed were all for domestic calls only, it was getting quite late in the day before I finally found an international payphone, and so about 04:30am in the UK when I woke up my partner, but she sounded pleased to hear I was alive, and said people had been asking about me.

After Temple 26 there was another long walk - 28km - to the next temple. When I reached the point where I had originally intended to find a hotel for the night, I had a sit down with my guide book and re-jigged my plan a bit for the next couple of days. I decided to get a bus to a different lodging much further up the road, at the foot of the path to the Temple 27. My feet, ankles and knees were really sore today, and I hadn`t enjoyed the day so much. I started to mentally list everything in my rucksack to find something else I could ditch to make the load lighter, one pair of trousers can go, I can only wear one pair at a time anyway. By taking a bus or train occasionally I can get around the 88 temples at a more leisurely pace, with time for sightseeing and relaxing, and I will be able to spend more time with my partner and her family in Tokyo after the pilgrimage. So far I had been on a bit of a mission, marching from point to point. I still intend to walk around 80% of the route, but will get a train or bus for some of the longer stretches.

After waiting for a bus for about 30 minutes I gave up, and walked a few hundred metres back down the road where I remember I had seen a taxi firm. I knocked on the door and found three men sitting around a table. I know this table also has a name, but I don`t know the name, it is a low square table with a blanket coming out from each side, so each person sitting around it can keep their legs warm under the blanket. I was quoted ¥5000 for a taxi to Tounohama - which is where I wanted to find a lodging before tackling Temple 27 in the morning, this was a little more than I had expected, but I had made my new plan to advance a bit further so agreed, but then one of the men Hamaoka-san, smiled and said "Ok, my car", and took me in his own car, refusing to accept any money from me, saying "O Settai". When we arrived at the first Minshuku it was full up, so he put me back in his car and drove me to a second - also full - and then a third, where he found me a room, and the Okaasan gave him some bottles of drink as his own Settai for helping me.

The layout of this minshuku was confusing. The place where Hamaoka-san had dropped me off was like a cafe/bar and Okaasan told me this is where the evening meal and breakfast would be, then she said she would show me to my room. After taking my boots off to go to the room, I slipped them back on again, and she drove me in her white van for thirty seconds, a couple of blocks away, to what looked like a private house and showed me inside the unlocked building. This is what I imagined to be a more traditional Japanese house layout, there was a large space on the upper floor, with a maze of sliding doors and Okaasan "created" a room for me by a clever combination of opening and closing various sliding doors. There were no solid internal walls, just these sliding doors, which were made of paper in wooden frames.  After she left, I was by myself in this house and I had a bath downstairs, with just an unlocked door and a piece of curtain protecting me from the outside world. I think two weeks ago I might have cared, but I was starting to actually need these baths now, for my aching legs, and so I just relaxed and soaked. I had to find my way back to the dining room for the evening meal, and then return to the house again for bed. This was more simple and rustic than some of the other Ryokan I had stayed in, but the food was excellent and Okaasan was very kind, she reminded me of my Nan, always smiling and pressing drinks or sweets into my hands.

  • Distance walked today = 15.6k
  • Distance walked so far = 246.9km
  • Temples visited today = Temple 24, Hotsumisakiji; Temple 25, Shinshouji; Temple 26, Kongouchouji.
  • Koban visited today = nil
  • Accommodation = Ryokan including two meals ¥6000 Drive In 27, Tonohama, Kochi-ken 〒781-6422
  • Expenditure today = coffee ¥120, drinks and nuts ¥464, three temple stamps ¥900, two telephone card ¥2000
  • Settai = a free car ride - worth ¥5000, various sweets and drinks