After two nights of relatively little sleep I had easily fallen asleep but when I woke up it was still not midnight. I didn't feel cold and I thought maybe I had been wearing too many layers so I removed most of them and tried to get back to sleep. It wasn't working so like the last few nights of sleeping out I spent the next few hours turning this way and that. Eventually I managed to fall asleep and drifted of into a very vivid dream in which I found myself speaking to my father.
My father had passed away in 2001 and except for general references to my family in my prayers, he had not really crossed my mind very much. As a child I remembered my father as an angry man and someone who drank a lot. As a result I didn't always have a good relationship with him and from the age of 13 basically gave up speaking to him. It was only much later after leaving home that I started to think about what kind of a life he had had and it was maybe only after he had passed away that I developed a new found understanding about him.
He arrived in the UK from India with next to no education and spent the rest of his life doing manual work in foundries and factories. Despite his drinking he got up every day for almost 40 years and went to work to provide for an ungrateful family which besides me included my four siblings. Within a year of retiring at 60 he passed away. His passing was probably a direct result of a lifetime of drinking too much but maybe in the end a loss of purpose to keep going on. In the dream my father getting ready to go to work and what shocked me was the pitiful state he was. In real life I never said anything to him but in my dream I found myself urging him to stop working and to look after himself. The dream felt incredibly real and when I woke I found myself crying. During the morning as I made my way towards Kongofukuji (#38) I thought about him and hoped that wherever he was, that he was in a better place.
Kan and I both got up about the same time but like he did back at Shishikui he was packed and ready to leave very quickly. He headed off about 10 minutes before me and his plan was to leave his pack at a minshuku about 8km further on, continue to Kongofukuji (#38) and then return back to the minshuku. It would mean a very very long day for him. As for me, I wanted to get to Kongofukuji (#38) and I was thinking one of several options. What I wanted to do most was spend the night in paid temple lodging or shukubo as it's called. I had done this during my first pilgrimage and it had turned out to be a really good experience. Another option was to retrace my journey 6km back from Kongofukuji (#38) and stay in a free zenkonyado or if this all failed to go to one of the many places around Cape Ashizuri. Whatever happened I was not too worried and quite confident that something would work itself out since something always seems to worked itself out.
I was dressed warmly for the cold start and the first target was the convenience store to get myself something to eat and get some extra supplies for the rest of the day. As I had feared the 3F store was being transformed into a Lawson branded store and like all the others along the way it would also be part of a grand opening on March 20. Until then Lawson would no longer be a convenience store but an inconvenience store. I had my 3 dorayaki and a couple of other snacks so I figured I could survive the return if I was super careful and ate well in a minshuku or shukubo.
An hour or so after setting out it started turning into a really beautifully warm sunny day. I stopped to get get myself an energy drink, eat one of my snacks and remove my extra layers. Traffic was much heavier than I remembered last time but last time the weather had turned quite nasty by the time I arrived near to Kaiyu. That day I had gone inside and spent an hour or so in the onsen before continuing my wind swept and rained soaked journey towards Kongofukuji (#38). Today I wanted to stop at Kaiyu to say hello to the owner and to give him a photograph only. When I got to the front door of the onsen there was a notice saying the place was closed for a few days. I wasn't planning on using the onsen but the fact that it was closed ruled out my plan to return to the free zenkonyado 6km back from Kongofukuji (#38) because I had hoped to get cleaned up before returning to Drive-in Suisha the following day.
Soon after leaving Kaiyu I came across the first of many pilgrims returning from Kongofukuji (#38). The first pilgrim of the day and the only one I would really stop and talk to turned out to be the young 22 year old from England whose name I had seen in the log book back at Ryozenji (#1). I greeted him in English and he responded in a distinctly English accent and added that it was nice to hear some English. What completely stumped me when he told me his name was that the image of what I had expected him to look like based solely on his name didn't fit the person that was standing in from of me. His full name was clearly Muslim in origin but instead of the darker skinned person I had imagined he turned out to be a very Caucasian looking chap. Curious and inquisitive or maybe just plain nosey I discovered this was a result of someone in the family lineage who had been Muslim.
The name maybe didn't match the image of the person I had expected but the mental profile I had built up of him based on the polite thoughtful messages he had been leaving along the way fitted perfectly with the incredibly polite, courteous and very serious young man who I stood talking to. Before he embarked on his little adventure around Shikoku, he told me his only travel experience had been a short visit to France. The start of my Japan experience had also had similar beginnings because before I came to Japan, the furthest I had ever travelled was a one day school trip to France. The next big trip was as a 23 year old and that was the start of a two year adventure working as an English teacher in Kagawa. Before parting company I gave him one of my photographs and he gave me one of his osamefuda.
A little further on along the main road opposite Ohki Beach I found a small cafe and decided to stop for some breakfast. The cafe looked fairly nondescript from the outside but inside it had a very nice old cluttered feel about it. There was a very old elderly couple having breakfast but other than that I had the place all to myself. I set my pack down and sat down by the window table and ordered an onigiri breakfast set and waited to see what would turn up. When it it turned up it consisted of two onigiri, a boiled egg, miso soup, a small salad and a coffee. I enjoyed my little breakfast feast but I could have enjoyed my simple cup of hot coffee and dorayaki just as much because looking out at the beautifully calm blue sea I had a feeling that there was nowhere else I wanted to be at that particular moment. The cafe was run by two old women and before I left I gave them a photograph of Mt. Fuji, quite a contrast to the location they occupied but in every other way, both equally beautiful.
Kobutsu was my next main stop and I remembered it very well from last time because I had arrived absolutely dripping wet and stopped at the only restaurant there before heading on and staying at the shukubo at Kongofukuji (#38). Today it was an easy leisurely stroll into Kobutsu and having already eaten something, I skipped the restaurant, picked up a large bag of small mikan oranges for 200 yen and carried them a little further and sat down on a bench overlooking the sea. The weather today was as good as it was bad the last time I had passed this way and sitting looking back along the coast I could see all the way back towards Ohki Beach. Just behind Ohki Beach I could clearly see the large white accommodation block that was a part of Kaiyu. It looked so far away and it amazed me how far it was possible to walk in a relatively short amount of time without realising how far you had walked.
I had taken my boots of to give my feet a break too and I had gotten through quite a few small mikan oranges by the time I got going again. According to my guidebook I was only about 9km from Kongofukuji (#38) and my thoughts were to get to Kongofukuji (#38), pray, get myself checked into the shukubo and get myself cleaned up. The combination of sleeping out and the warmer weather today was making it an absolute necessity. About 6km from the temple I came across the free zenkonyado and then not too far from Kongofukuji (#38) I finally saw Kan coming towards me. He still had a long way to go so we didn't stop long before we were both walking again.
When I arrived at Kongofukuji (#38) I went to the stamp office to enquire about staying in the shukubo. I told the woman I didn't have a reservation and asked if it would be possible to stay. She replied that today was a holiday and the shukubo was not open for guests. Any hopes of two good meals, a soak in the hot bath and the morning prayer service were well and truly dashed. It was a Friday and there didn't seem to be too many people about so I figured there would be plenty of lodging available a little further around the cape but before worrying about that I needed to pray at the halls. After the vivid dream I had had this morning I decided to dedicate my prayers for my father. I read my sutras slowly and carefully before finishing with my own prayers.
Kongofukuji (#38) was another one of favourite temples and maybe it was the combination of very old and very new that made it so attractive. The most striking feature about it was the scores of statues of sitting deities which surrounded the main hall. I spent quite a lot of time walking around and just looking at them. Today in the brilliant sunshine they looked very different from the first time when it had been pouring with rain. The rain drenched statues had a brilliant sheen about them but today they were cast in shadows but looked just as amazing. After finishing with photographs and looking around I headed back to the stamp office to get my stamp. I gave the woman a photograph and explained I had stayed in the shukubo last time and it was a pity I couldn't stay again. I then exited the main gate, turned, bowed and headed further on around the cape.
I didn't have to go very far before I appeared in the main part of Ashizuri Misaki. I knew there were lots of hotels and minshuku in the area but the Youth Hostel was right there so to the Youth Hostel I went. The lady at the Youth Hostel seemed happy to see me and showed me to a large 10 mat tatami room which I discovered I would have all to myself since no one else was booked to stay today. I had air-conditioning so I opened up my sleeping bag and tent and hung them across the windows to giving them a bit of an airing and remove any moisture or condensation from them. I was going to be living in relative luxury this evening compared to last few nights. My main priority however, was a bath and then getting all my clothes washed and dried. After I had bathed and put my clothes in the wash and I found out about a shop about 300 yards from the Youth Hostel and went and picked up some supplies for the evening and for tomorrow.
A little later with all necessary things done I headed out to have a quick look around. Right beside the Youth Hostel was a Shinto shrine, across the road was a path leading down to the sea to a viewing area and a bit further along I discovered a free footspa with great views of the sea and the sea eroded cave below. A few people came and went but no one used the foot spa. The footspa was a tiered series of of long narrow baths and all you had to do to use it was put your shoes in a coin locker, buy a small towel for 100 yen (optional) and sit yourself down. I soaked my feet for nearly 40 minutes and enjoyed a great view of the sea and the approaching sunset. I left just before the sun was about to set and went outside to get a better look and it was a stunning red sun that set slowly behind a mountain ridge. I wanted to stay out longer but feeling tired I returned to the Youth Hostel and arranged my things so I could pack them away easily the following morning.
It had been another great ohenro day and the vivid dream about my father had made for an interesting start. I didn't know what if anything it meant but maybe there was a message there for me. Best of all were those fleeting moments when all I had to do was do nothing but sit and absorb the natural beauty around me. Resting on a bench overlooking Kobutsu and the wide expanse of sea below was one of those moments when I thought about how lucky I was for being able to do what it was I was doing. After several nights of little or no sleep I was too tired to think about anything in particular and it wasn't long before I was fast asleep.
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