My hut at Hagimori Zenkonyado although just a simple construction had done it's job very well. After the last train rumbled overhead it didn't take me too long to fall asleep. I slept very well but when I woke up it was only 3 o'clock. Once I woke up, it was almost always impossible for me to go back to sleep so I checked through the photographs I'd got printed yesterday at the Fuji Film shop and placed each one into a separate sleeve. I then just thought about the day ahead and the places I wanted to focus on seeing again. Today I was looking forward to Kokubunji (#29) very much because it was at this temple that I took my what became my favourite ohenro photograph and it was this temple that a local man named Yohei gave me 200 yen to buy a cold drink on what had been a blisteringly hot day. It was the first time I had received osettai while walking alone.
I was getting myself ready to head on when I heard the sound of a scooter outside. I had not expected Hagimori-san to return in the morning but he was outside and it was just 06:30. He asked me to share information about his zenkonyado with as many people as possible. He also showed me a photo on his old style phone of the room at his home which women were permitted to stay in. The room looked very comfortable and included an air-conditioner and he added that a shower was also available. I couldn't understand his enthusiasm but he had provided a good place for those on a budget who needed somewhere to stay. Hagimori-san then gave me a large A3 piece of paper detailing all possible lodging places he and others had put together and with that said goodbye and he left me alone once more.
I would have been gone a hour or so earlier but I finally got myself ready and left around 07:45. The sky looked overcast but I didn't know when it would rain or how heavy it would be but rain it almost certainly looked like it would. My plan was to get through to Zenrakuji (#30) and then head into Kochi City proper and find a hotel or some kind of paid accommodation. It had been a long day yesterday and after stopping today I wanted to get myself cleaned up. I had not been going even an hour when it started to rain. As I neared the Teiyama Tunnel it really started to come down hard but thankfully I was able to make it into the adjoining foot tunnel before I got a real soaking.
I changed into full rain gear and secured my pack as best I could. I already had all the contents of my pack safely inside the plastic bin bags I had picked up yesterday. The rain continued to fall and the only change seemed to be the intensity with which the rain was coming down. For some reason it didn't seem to bother me much at all. I stopped at the first Lawson just after Yasu michi-no-eki for my usual morning treat, a hot coffee and a dorayaki. I then continued walking on towards Dainichiji (#28) stopping only occasionally to take a few photographs.
While I was back at Teiyama Tunnel I had felt my phone vibrating and by the time I had pulled it out of my pocket it had stopped but the number indicated that it had been Hagimori-san. I had called him back but he had not answered. I assumed he was probably keen to ask me if I had left the key behind and since I had left the key behind I didn't think any more of it. Then to my surprise I suddenly noticed a scooter coming towards me and stopping just before I got to it. It was Hagimori-san and he had tracked me down to give me another 2 copies of the A3 sized lodging list he had given me this morning. He really wanted me to get it translated into English he told me again. In fact he had ended up going as far as Dainiichiji (#28) and leaving a copy with the stamp office. I felt sorry that he had been out looking for me in the rain because he looked sodden. I thanked him and told him not too worry. I wanted very much to help him by getting the list translated.
As I neared Dainichi (#28) it started to rain very hard and continued while I was there. I went through my usual routine and then headed to the stamp office and after getting my booked stamped I gave the lady a photograph of a dew covered flower which I had taken just outside the temple grounds during that first pilgrimage. She was unable to recognize it as a flower that grew in the temple grounds so I let her choose another photograph and she picked one showing one of the multi-armed statues I had photographed at Kongofukuji (#38). She also asked me if I knew someone called Hagimori-san and showed me the A3 sized lodging list he had left there probably an hour or so earlier. I said I did and that I had met him on the way so she decided to keep the list herself which meant she could probably share it with other pilgrims.
I packed everything away, said goodbye to the lady in the stamp office and then headed back out of the temple and picked up the trail heading to Kokubunji (#29). During that first trip the wet start had quickly given way to beautiful sunshine but today the sun didn't look like it would be making an appearance at all. The scenery today was a real contrast to the sunny days I had enjoyed walking along the Kochi coast road but the wet weather created for some equally great scenery. There was something nice about the mist covered mountain ranges out on the horizon. By the time I arrived at Kokubunji (#29) it was pouring down with rain again and it was even worse than it had been at Dainichiji (#28).
Kokubunji (#29) really was a beautifully kept temple spread out across wide temple grounds and surrounded by high walls. The view from the main gate down to the main hall was for me one of the best at any temple. The view looking back towards the main gate was equally good and it was this view that I had captured last time. On that occasion, as I looked back towards the main gate, sunlight seemed to be streaming in through the opening and heading out of this opening was a single pilgrim. That scene captured an important part of the pilgrimage, a sense of being freed and being carefree. Today it was pouring down with rain and with the temple relatively free of people it was unlikely to present me with that same scenario again.
On arriving at Kokubunji (#29) I headed straight to the stamp office so I could leave my pack somewhere dry. When I entered I found two non-Japanese pilgrims just sitting there. When I got chatting to them they initially assumed I was the Spanish pilgrim Nico. Word of who is on the trail really spreads quickly along the trail and they had obviously heard about Nico from someone else. I told them Nico and I had missed each other near Shishikui and that he was probably well on his way through Kochi. The two were from Germany and had set themselves a 35 day limit to complete the journey. They had set out the day after me and for the longer stretches along the coast they had managed to hitch hike. I gave them a photograph each and then headed out into the rain to go through my prayer rituals. After finishing my prayer rituals I returned to the stamp office to get my book stamped. The woman doing the stamp whizzed through it in a very business like fashion but unlike last time I just didn't seem to really mind how they did the stamp because whatever they did it seemed to look reasonably nice. Also if they didn't put the stamp in with any sense of care it was maybe just their own lack of passion for their job. I had already selected the photograph I wanted to give at this temple and it was my favourite one.
My thoughts now turned to where I was going to stay. There was still plenty of time to get to Zenrakuji (#30) but I needed to book something because it dawned on me that it was Saturday which would probably mean more people in town. I telephoned 3 or 4 budget priced hotels around the station area and all of them said they were fully booked. Things did not look good but I didn't feel too disheartened, I figured I could just go to a very late opening restaurant and enjoy some good food and take it from there. I said goodbye to the two German pilgrims and headed back out into the rain. The rain if it was bad before seemed to be even worse as I headed back to the main gate.
The last time I left Kokubunji (#29) I had had to ask someone for directions about which way to go. This time there was no friendly Yohei to help me and after heading left out of the temple an not seeing any of the trail markers I backtracked and ended up asking a bus driver. That was a mistake because bus drivers drive big buses that don't always fit on the ohenro trail used by walking pilgrims. He was quick however to help and gave me the directions to the next temple that his bus would probably be taking in a little while. I thanked him and of I went again in the same direction I had backtracked from a few minutes earlier. I had not gone too far before I saw a sign which said 9km to Zenrakuji (#30). If I had followed the ohenro-trail then I should have exited the temple and gone right rather than left and the distance according to the guide book was 6.6km. However, with the hotels all seemingly full and the rain still pouring down, I decided an extra 2-3km was not not such a big deal, so I just headed on.
I finally figured out why my guide book no longer made sense and the reason was simply that I had gone completely of the page. I had followed Route 46 of the page and connected with Route 32 so it wasn't a complete disaster. About 200m to my left on Route 32 was Nankoku Michi-no-eki and had it been a little later I may well have ended up stopping there but I headed in the opposite direction towards the center of Kochi. Just to double check that I was actually going the right way, I stopped at a gas station, showed one of the attendants my guide book and asked him where we were. He pointed his finger to a spot about an inch past the edge of my guide book. Relieved at knowing approximately where I was I thanked him and turned and headed away. Almost immediately I did an about turn, went back to the attendant, pulled back the bin bag wrapped around my ohenro bag and took out a photograph and just gave it to him and then continued on my way.
Getting a little lost every now and again happens sometimes but on a wet miserable day like today it was not really what I wanted to do but I was back on Route 384, on the final stretch to Zenrakuji (#30). My motivation however, to get to Zenrakuji (#30) and then continue on into the city center had by now evaporated. What I needed was a coffee and a dorayaki to put things right and up ahead I spotted a Lawson. As I sat outside enjoying my favourite treat I decided I had enough walking in the rain for one day and what I needed was a place where I could get myself cleaned up. I pulled out my guide book and looked for a place near to Zenrakuji (#30). The only one in the guide book was Rainbow Hokusei so I dialled the number and asked if anything was available. The elderly sounding woman on the other end said yes and told me the cost would be ¥4,500 without meals. That was only a ¥1000 more than the hotel I had planned to stay in so I said I would take it.
I had walked about 25km and much of that had been in the rain and for the very first time I was beginning to feel tired. The pack had behaved itself but I was looking forward to having a shower, a shave and changing into some fresh clothes. I continued on looking for something that looked like a hotel, a minshuku or something resembling paid accommodation. I couldn't find it anywhere near where the guide book indicated so I continued a little further along the road. I stopped and asked someone for directions and he sent me back the way I had come. I retraced my steps but still nothing so I asked another man and he said it was back around the bend in the road where all I had seen was a huge hoarding for Rainbow Hokusei. In fact in the spot where the hoarding was, was a cement factory so I decided to call them again and the poor woman tried her best to direct me but I just couldn't understand. I told her not to worry and that I would figure it out.
After a full day of rain, getting lost twice I thought finding the hotel could be my final ascetic test for the day. As I yoyo-ed up and down the same short stretch I spotted an elderly lady minus an umbrella walking towards me. I was still too far away to see her clearly but I had an inkling she was searching for me so I waved and she waved back. I waved at her again, this time trying to indicate that she should go back but she kept coming and continued walking towards me. As you got close she directed my attention to a car which was now also about to join the search for me. Thankfully she stopped the car before it had headed up the road and told me to get in the back. With my pack strapped to my back I would have had to be some sort of a contortionist to get in the back so I said I would just walk the final 100m now that I knew where it was. When I finally saw Rainbow Hokusei, there was no obvious sign and it looked just like a typical old style Japanese apartment building.
The man in the car turned out to be her son and showed me into what was really just an apartment. It was a typical 1DK – (1 room dining kitchen). The man repeated the price again and said I may have to share with someone if someone else turned up. With the weather the way it was I think they may have been expecting a sudden flood of weather weary pilgrims to descend on them. I didn't like the idea of having to share and it almost crossed my mind that I should head into town but then I remembered, I wanted a hot shower and a change of clothes so I decided to stay put. After showering and sorting out my things I felt like I had made the right choice after all. The only let down was that my old guide book had shown a convenience store after the Lawson I had stopped at for coffee and this was where I had planned to buy some food supplies before getting to the hotel. The Lawson had been the last convenience store and the other one had simply vanished into thin air. Not all was lost however because I still had my extra emergency dorayaki which I had bought earlier in the day.
Before the man left the apartment I had explained my lack of provisions due to the vanishing convenience store. I had also given him an osamefuda and a photograph for his poor mother because I felt responsible for dragging her out into the rain without an umbrella. Providence or just the photograph, a couple of hours later the man returned with some rice balls and a pot of tea. The apartment idea turned out to be really great and even if someone had been billeted with me, it wouldn't have been such a bad thing. The place had turned out to be just right. They laundered all my clothes, I stuffed newspaper into my sodden boots, I was showered, dressed in clean dry clothes and feeling very good again.
Looking back on the day, I had got wet, got cold, got lost, failed to pick up enough food supplies but as I settled down for the evening it felt like it had been a really good day. Dainichiji (#28) and Kokubunji (#29) had both been nice and in spite of the rain the walking a been strangely enjoyable. For some reason, Japanese songs that I used to listen to during my two years in Kagawa almost 25 years earlier kept popping into my head. As a result I had found myself happily humming old tunes for most of the early part of the day. I thought particularly about the many many wasted opportunities and why this had happened. I had been blessed with so many great opportunities, yet some of the most important I had allowed to slip through my fingers. Rather than trying to acquire lots of good habits maybe dealing with the bad habits was the place to start. I wasn't looking to become a Mother Teresea but maybe God could help by building in a little bit more contingency between the exercise of thought, word and deed.
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