I slept pretty well at Meitokuji but was up early as usual. On hearing the monk drumming and chanting I was out well before 6 o'clock to watch him in action. He was doing the same thing that he was doing almost 4 years ago when I first stopped at Meitokuji and I thought he would be doing the same thing if I came back in 10 years time. This time the glass panelled doors to the main hall were closed so I couldn't hear his guttural chanting but I could clearly hear the drumming.
Das and I were ready to make a move but before we did, we presented the monk with our osamefuda. I gave him another photograph, a photograph Mt. Fuji along with the 1000 yen osettai I had received from the monk at Kokubunji (#15). The weather from early evening and for most of the night had been extremely wet and had I continued walking yesterday I suspect I would have had a pretty torrid time camping out somewhere or trying to make it to a minshuku along the way. The 1000 yen was a small price to pay and more than that it was osettai from me which was osettai from someone else. Maybe kindness like that has a way of doing the rounds and creating a continuous positive stream of good karma. I left the temple ahead of Das but before I headed away I turned to take a last look at Meitokuji. It definitely felt to me that I would not be treading in my footsetps again and some of the places I was visiting now, I was visiting for the last time. There were many special places that I found between the temples and yesterday it was Cafe Fukunaga and today it was Meitokuji.
It was a beautiful start to the day. The sun was obscured behind a narrow bank of cloud just above the horizon but the sky was a lovely blue and it looked like it would definitely be a good day ahead. I detoured slightly form the ohenro marked trail and headed towards Route 55 and the sea. The sea was nice and calm and there was very little traffic on Route 55 as I started to walk along the road next to the sea. Thanks to Das I had extra foods and that gave me the energy I needed to keep up a good steady pace. Last time I had walked this way the weather had been overcast and there had been a steady stream of traffic, especially heavy trucks for most of the day. This time it couldn't have been more different, the weather was beautiful and for whatever reason, there seemed to be very little traffic.
I was walking ahead of Das but we met up a few times whenever I stopped for a break. The stops were not always to take a rest but sometimes I stopped to enjoy the beautiful sea views or just enjoy the moment. The first stop was a rest hut where I stopped just for about 10 minutes to adjust my pack and chomp on a few mouthfuls of the very tasty granola cereal Das had given me. The next stop was the next rest hut along the coast and I stopped for almost 25 minutes. The final rest stop was a small supermarket where I spent nearly an hour. I got myself some rice balls and fried chicken and some sweet snacks. When Das turned up I got us some ice cream and with the ice cream done I decided to press on. And press on I did because I just kept going for the next 3 hours until I got to Deep Sea World which offered an outdoor foot spa for free. I went in to check that they still offered the free foot spa, explaining that I had used it a little over 3 years ago. I soaked my feet for about 15 minutes and it felt incredibly good. From the foot spa I could see the tall white statue of the young Kukai. I didn't want to spend too long in the foot spa because I was still thinking of pressing on after finishing at Hotsumisakiji (#24) so a quick soak was all I got but it felt great. I gave my osamefuda along with a photograph to the staff at Deep Sea World before I left. I also enquired about how long they would remain open because I was thinking of returning after praying at Hotsumisakiji (#24), cleaning myself up and having a proper soak in the onsen which they also had.
I arrived at the young Kukai statue and headed up the stairs. I thought it was a regular temple but an old woman called out after me and told me I needed to pay an admission fee of 300 yen. I paid and went up. Up close the young Kukai statue is absolutely huge. Behind it is a reclining gold Buddha and under the standing Kukai statue is a special room lined with small Kukai statues. I didn't stay too long and was soon at the cave where Kukai meditated and where he got the inspiration to change his name to Kukai, meaning sky and sea. There was no one inside the cave when I arrived so I went in and prayed a simple prayer of thanks. I gave a photograph to the lady in the stamp office and told her it was a thank for my last visit. I had stopped here on that first occasion because of a Japanese pilgrim who told me about the significance of this place. I had not planned to get the stamp this time so I walked away after giving the woman the photograph but I almost immediately returned and got the stamp. My stamp book I thought would probably not be complete without it. The lady in the stamp office also ended up giving me a small good luck charm with Kukai and his sacred mantra on it.
The next stop was Hotsumisakiji (#24) and I continued around the cape until I got to the start of the mountain trail to the top. I could vaguely recall that it had been hard going last time. The early part was not so bad because it was all just steps, just a seemingly endless supply of them. Then it got a bit rockier and maybe because I was just tired, it seemed to be endless but after about 10 minutes or so I was at the main gate. There was no one except for the man in the stamp office when I arrived. There was a lovely peaceful atmosphere about the place and I was able to do my prayer rituals without any distraction. I got my book stamped and gave the man in the stamp office a photograph and then returned outside to take some photographs. After finishing I returned to the main gate, turned and bowed and descended back down the route I had come up.
The plan regarding where to stay was still very vague but the thoughts were about sleeping out again. On the way up to Hotsumisakiji (#24) I had passed a good sized hut. I got the impression it was more an observation hut but the space was large enough for 2 possibly 3 tents. If Das had wanted to stay there it would be possible but I had no idea if she would make it to Hotsumisakiji (#24). On my own I got the feeling it was a bit isolated and maybe not the the best place to spend the night. My plan as I headed back down the way I come was to return to Deep Sea World and get myself cleaned up and then head towards Shinshoji (#25) and hopefully find somewhere to stay. As I headed down I met Das coming up and I told her about my plan and she seemed keen on the idea and said she would come to the Deep Sea World after finishing at the temple.
It took almost 20 minutes to walk back to the Deep Sea World. The staff explained what I should and should not do. There was an indoor hot bath and an outdoor hot bath. The outdoor one was filled with heated water taken from the deep sea. The staff kindly offered to keep my pack behind the counter and I headed inside to get myself cleaned up ready for a soak in the both hot baths. It felt really good after what had been a long day of walking. The water taken from deep under the sea seemed to be denser or something about it was definitely different. After switching a couple of times between the indoor and outdoor hot baths I headed back inside and got myself dressed. Squeaky clean and dressed in fresh clean clothes again I picked up my pack from the front desk and headed back out.
I checked my messages and found one from Das telling me she was too tired and would try to find a minshuku instead. It was still light but it would get dark soon so I slowly started heading back around the cape with a plan to get closer to Shinshoji (#25). I was comforted by the fact that it was relatively warm compared to other evenings and I remembered Takuya finding somewhere to sleep outside and on that occasion there was a veritable storm blowing for most of the night. As I walked past the cave and the start of the mountain trail there was someone walking towards me on the other side of the road. It wasn't until I got closer that I recognised the person to be Das. She said she had found a cheap place just around the corner. For 3000 yen including breakfast she had been put in a small spill over room and she told me that there was enough space and extra bedding for someone to sleep on the floor. She suggested I enquire about sharing. Das was on her way to a local restaurant to eat so I continued the short distance round and went into the minshuku and said I had just met my friend and would it be possible to stay. I didn't need any food and sleeping on the floor was fine. The lady didn't seem to mind and when I asked how much she had charged Das, she said 3000 and when I asked how much for me, after thinking she said 2000 which was great. I thought it would only be fair to split the difference with Das when she got back.
The woman showed me to the room and it was perfectly fine. Four walls and a ceiling was all I really needed on this journey and there was clean bedding and a washing machine too. My main priority was to wash all my clothes, so the first thing I did was put all my things into the washing machine. The minshuku had wifi so I managed to check and catch up with messages for the first time in several days. When Das turned up after having a nice big meal I told her about the cost and that I would share the difference with her but she said it was no problem. It really was a lucky break to stay in such a cheap place right on the cape. The last time I was in a room not much bigger I was sharing with two snoring men and the cost was 7600 yen. Although having said that the food and the company was great and given the tough walk that day and the raging storm outside it was actually a small price to pay and a price well worth paying for the amazingly tasty food we all ate that day.
It had been another interesting day. I spent the early part of the day just humming tunes to myself and enjoying the sea views. As the day had warmed up and the pack started to take it's toll on my shoulders my thoughts alternated between upbeat and not so upbeat. Past unhappy memories seemed to spring up but maybe part of the practice was to beat them back down and replace them with good thoughts. Rather than just walking along and not really being aware of how I was feeling, this time it definitely felt much more of an inner journey of self reflection. I felt really tired for the first time since starting the pilgrimage and as I tried to type up my notes for the day I was struggling to keep my eyes from closing. I was not going to be typing up too many notes this evening and having decided to abandon the task to tomorrow, I was falling into a deep sleep almost as soon as my head touched the pillow.
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