Please start at Day One

Friday, 25 March 2011

Day 25 - Poncho Pals

There was only one other guest at last night`s Ryokan, an old chap called Fujiisan, who talked and laughed really loudly on his mobile phone in his room in the evening. The internal walls of the ryokan were - literally - paper thin, and you can hear someone turning the pages of a book. I'd had a long difficult day yesterday and craved warmth and peace in the evening so I definitely didn't find his laughter infectious at this time, however I am habitually wrong in my first impressions of people and Fujiisan became my best friend on the pilgrimage. I couldn't get the heater in my room to work last night, asked for his help and he sorted it out for me. We discussed our walking plans over dinner and it transpired that we are both staying it the same ryokan again tonight, so we agreed to walk together today.

We started walking at 0630 hours and it was bitterly cold. Our day's walking gradually took us higher into the mountains and we both walked very fast, to try to keep warm. I have been winter walking in Scotland, no problem, with three jackets, two hats, proper gloves, ice-axe and crampons. I really hadn`t brought that kind of gear with me to Japan. I didn't need an ice-axe and crampons but my hands were aching with the cold today. It started to snow around mid-morning, only lightly at first which was pretty, but then so heavily that we both stopped to put on our ponchos ("kappa" in Japanese, which I think comes from a Portuguese word). The walking was difficult today, the wind was biting, especially in the tunnels, and we walked through some long dark tunnels today, where you could not see either end of the tunnel while you were in the middle. Fujiisan had to get his torch out to light the path - I had posted back my torch as I considered it too heavy.

I found a payphone early enough in the morning still to be able to call home at a respectable time of day, I was really starting to miss my partner so I asked Fujiisan to wait for me for five minutes, but the payphone was 'domestic calls only`. I felt miserable, cold, wet, tired and lonely, and ready to cry. Fujiisan could sense how I was feeling, so he started laughing and pretending to cry, wailing, "I love kanojo" (kanojo - Japanese word for girlfriend), he cheered me up so much. Fujiisan was always smiling and laughing, sometimes I didn`t fully understand what he was saying, or laughing at, but it was difficult not to join in, he kept up my spirits today.

At Temple 44 it stopped snowing suddently and the sun came out for about five minutes, the roofs of the temples started to steam. Fujiisan bought manjou (steamed bean-jam buns) for us to share. Fujiisan had planned a different route for the afternoon's walk from me, but I told him my plan, which was to go to the hotel first and dump our bags so that we could have a lighter walk to Temple 45 before doubling back to the hotel afterwards. He liked my plan, and we reached the hotel in the early afternoon, it is called Furuiwa-yasou which means "Ancient Rock Hotel" named after the rock formations opposite the hotel which are a scenic tourist attraction. We continued walking to Temple 45 Iwayaji, which I think translates as something like Cave Temple. It was a spectacular group of buildings, statues and halls built on and in a mountainside. A pattern has definitely formed where the most difficult temples to reach, are also the most rewarding and scenic. When we returned to the hotel I was still very cold wet and tired and in need of some hot green tea and a bath. Furuiwayaso is an Onsen (spa resort) and the bath was just as spectacular as the rocks outside, the hot water cascaded down a huge natural stone arrangement in to the olympic size bath, there were three of us in the bath, but it could have fitted another ten or more people. After the bath I had ten minutes in a massage chair, in a room which looked out on to the rock formations outside.

  • Distance walked today =  30.5km
  • Distance walked so far = 505.0km
  • Temples visited today = Temple 44; Daihouji (so I am now half-finished, or, I still have halfway to go, depending on your viewpoint), Temple 45; Iwayaji.
  • Koban visited today = nil.
  • Accommodation = Ryokan and two meals ¥6800, Furuiwayasou, Kumakougen Town, Ehime-ken 〒791-1213
  • Expenditure today = two Temple Stamps¥600, can of hot chocolate to warm up my hands ¥120, coin laundry ¥300, massage chair ¥100, can of Asahi Japanese lager ¥450. 
  • Settai = manjou

1 comment:

  1. Stu, I had no idea you were in Japan! I've only just picked up email from that account. I hope you are keeping safe and well.

    Loads of love, Caroline xxx