Please start at Day One

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Day 43 - Leaving Shikoku

As I watched Shikoku getting smaller from the top deck of the ferry, I felt sad to be leaving the island that had been my home for the past six weeks or so. I might never have the chance to return. It was also apparent from a distance just how mountainous the island is.

I followed the same routine as my ferry journey to Shikoku: staying up on the top deck watching the land getting smaller, then feeling cold and going downstairs to sit cross-legged on the carpet with my boots off, writing my journal. It feels more familiar this time. I have just re-read what I wrote on my first few days in Japan and I am amused to read how scared I was of miso, rice and green tea for breakfast. This was not just my first ever pilgrimage, or first ever trip to Shikoku, or even to Japan; I have not travelled much at all prior to this, and especially not to a non-English speaking country. I think I was a nervous traveller, or non-traveller to be more accurate, so now I feel rather proud of myself. A couple of people on the carpet area are sniffing loudly every few seconds. This is something that I still cannot become accustomed to. There is a constant barrage of noise here, from the two sniffers and also from two TV's at each corner of the room, each on a different channel.
I met my partner, Kazu, at Hashimoto Station, as we had planned via email, and we took the train as close to Koyasan  as possible. The penultimate leg of the journey was taken on another impossibly steep cable-car that gave me vertigo. So instead of appreciating the scenery I watched my fellow passengers and noticed that for the first time in six weeks I was no longer the only foreigner. This was the largest concentration of non-Japanese people I had seen since I left the airport. At the top of the cable car, everyone boarded buses for Koyasan, but we stopped for a lunch of Sesame Tofu and Soba noodles before walking the 3km or so into town.

It was a sunny day and an easy walk but Kazu sometimes sounded out of breath as we walked and I figured that I must have become relatively fit since I started the pilgrimage. We entered Koyasan via the main gate Daimon and stopped to take photos before heading towards our Shukubo - temple lodging. Kazu had come straight from Tokyo and wanted to sight-see, take of photos of temples and go inside every food shop or gift shop, but that had been my entire routine for the last six weeks and I just wanted to reach the Shukubo before it became too cold and dark, to relax and catch up, so I had to drag her past every distraction to Sanboin Temple.

We were the only guests at the temple that evening and we were greeted warmly. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that all the food at Koyasan is Shoujin Ryouri - vegetarian food, as eaten by monks/priests. This is what I had expected to find at all the temples in Shikoku and had been shocked by the amount of meat, fish and alcohol consumed. It was too late now, I had stopped being vegetarian somewhere around Kochi and was now enjoying, albeit with a lingering sense of shame, Japanese fish everyday. But for the next couple of days at least I could eat with a clear conscience, and the food was excellent.

We were served dinner by Shun-san, a 17 year old trainee-priest at Sanboin Temple. He is a High School student during the day, but then in the evenings he comes to the temple to work and study as part of his apprenticeship into the priesthood.

1 comment:

  1. I am thankful for your diary. It was helpful for me to understand the range of costs between staying in a ryokan or sleeping for free somewhere. And it encouraged mwe to do ohenry myself 2014.

    Everything will become well, keep on doing your best and leave the universe to do the rest