Please start at Day One

Monday, 21 March 2011

Day 21 - Beside the Sea

I left the curtains open last night so that I would wake up naturally with the sunlight, which I did, shortly before 6am. I need not have been concerned though, as at 6am precisely a rude loudspeaker somewhere blasted out a deafening tune for 30 seconds. This is just one example of something that had been completely alien to me, but which I have already got used to. Most towns I have stayed in have a loudspeaker PA system that plays a tune, a siren (which I had been mistaking for the tsunami warning everyday since the 11th) or an undecipherable message at 6am, 9am, midday or 5pm ....  My clothes had dried overnight in my room, but my boots - which I had simply stepped out of and left at the front door after I arrived, dripping wet, yesterday afternoon - were still cold and damp when I put my feet in them this morning.

I had some spare time until the bus I intended to take, so I kicked about on the beach and the rocks. Due to my tight schedule, I had previously marched straight past every beach, on a mission to reach the next temple or accommodation. Standing on the sand this morning, watching the waves rolling in from the Pacific, I felt like I was on a proper sea-side holiday, espcially after the Fish 'n' Chips last night. Today was warmer, dryer and sunnier than yesterday.

I wanted to visit the Kaitei (sea bed) Museum, which is a striking red and white building resembling a space-age light-house and is just off the coast, connected by a walkway on platforms. Inside the museum you can go down 7 metres under the sea and look at the sea bed through thick glass windows. Earthquakes and tsunami were at the front of my mind as I nervously crossed the walkway, I did not want to be stuck 7 metres under the sea in a space-age light-house. The attendant at the museum entrance told me that the water had been churned up by yesterday`s strong wind and rain and so visibility was now less than a metre and you couldn`t really see anything. I returned to the beach, with some relief, and explored rock-pools until my bus came.

On the bus, the driver was wearing a smart uniform, including his hat and white gloves. This is another aspect of Japanese life which initially struck me, but is now perfectly normal. All the bus drivers wear their uniforms, including hat and gloves, as do the taxi drivers - who also usually wear shirts and ties, sometimes bow-ties. You would never see that in London.

One of my friends has commented that this Turtle with a Bell on his back at Temple 39 reminded her of the statue on an Elephant with a Castle on his back at 'Elephant & Castle' in London. After Temple 39 I walked to my hotel, which is right next door to Sukumo City Police Station. It is not a small Koban, it is a busy city police station, so I did not venture in to say Hello. Even here in Shikoku, which has not been particularly affected by the tsunami, I have the impression that all the authorities are busy with more important concerns recently.

I phoned my partner this evening, she is still in London and she is very upset by the situation in Japan. She is busy organising fund raising events in London for the tsunami relief effort here in Japan. I am still watching coverage of the devastion on the Japanese news everyday, and starting to feel guilty that I am here in Japan enjoying myself while around me people's homes, schools, businesses and lives have been ruined or lost. Takashima-san discussed this with me, and encouraged me to continue with my trip. He is retired now, but had planned for a while to take 40 to 50 days out with his wife and other friends, to do the pilgrimage. His home prefecture has been affected, he does not yet know the extent but he said there is no point in cutting short his trip and returning home, he is determined to complete the pilgrimage. Everyone in Shikoku is getting on with their lives, I see the hotel and shop employees are going to work as normal, it would be more disrespectful for me to leave Japan now and take away my business from them.  My trip is hardly hedonistic, amidst the news of death and destruction in Japan I need this pilgrimage now more than ever.

  • Distance walked today =  15km
  • Distance walked so far = 417.3km
  • Temples visited today = Temple 39; Enkouji.
  • Koban visited today = nil
  • Accommodation = hotel (no meals) ¥4800, Akizawa Hotel, Sukumo City, Kochi-ken 〒788-0003
  • Expenditure today = bus from Tatsukushi to Sukumo City ¥1400, one Temple Stamp ¥300,  food for evening and next breakfast and lunch ¥2085.
  • Settai = 

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