The decision to stay at Hotel Flex turned out to be a very good one. It proved itself to be really good value and for 3500 yen it afforded me a good night's sleep and the chance to wash and dry everything out. After updating my notes I'd fallen asleep very quickly and woke up at 03:40 feeling pretty good. Around 5 o'clock I got up and started packing everything away and had another hot shower before dressing and leaving the hotel at 06:20. I left a photograph and my osamefuda along with my room key at the reception. As usual, I also left the room nice and tidy.
It was still a little dark when I stepped out into the street. The sky was very overcast and I could see a lot of mist across the mountain ranges. The forecast I'd seen on the TV just moments earlier had mentioned only cloudy weather followed by sunshine later, so I kept my fingers crossed that it would pan out like that over the course of the rest of the day. My first point of call was the Sunkust on Route 56. Yesterday on the way back from having dinner with Mr K I had stopped there and noticed that they also had the type of photocopier that produced photographs. I got my usual treat, hot coffee and dorayaki and after enjoying that I spent the other 1000 yen osettai I had received printing some more photographs. One of the photographs I gave to one of staff as I headed back outside.
The plan today was to take it nice and easy and get as far as Kanjizaiji (#40) and stay in the tsuyado. Another overseas pilgrim who had stayed there last year had written very positively about it. The only problem I could imagine was that I might get to the temple too early and be told I couldn't stay or that a female ohenro-san had requested it. I'd heard that mixed lodging there was not allowed. If things didn't work out, then my Plan B was to walk another 10km to a zenkonyado where I had stayed during my first pilgrimage. I didn't really fancy the extra 10km because my right leg was still a little sore so there was also a Plan C which would have involved camping somewhere.
The weather early morning remained overcast and a little cold but walking along seemed to keep me warm. I had decided to stick to Route 56 rather than take the mountain trails and this was due to worries that whatever the problem with my right leg was, if it flared up while I was traversing the mountain trail it could make things unnecessarily more difficult. Route 56 also meant I didn't need to think very much and all I needed to do was put one foot in front of the other and just keep going. After an hour of gently bumbling along humming old tunes I came to the first rest hut and took a quick 10 minute break. I was then soon back to humming old classics from my teenage years until I spotted what looked like Ipponmatsu. Ipponmatsu was made up of one large shop and behind it was the large hot spa complex. I had read that it was possible to camp under the eaves here and looking around it looked like it would be a great place to arrive early evening, enjoy a good soak and then camp outside.
I had time on my side today because of the relatively short distance I was going to go and I figured a good hot soak would be a rather nice way to kill an hour or so. Sadly when I got closer I saw that the spa was was open from 11:00 to 21:00. The time was only 09:30 and I decided I wasn't going to wait 90 minutes just to have a soak. I commiserated with myself by gobbling down a swiss roll which I bought at the shop and it took a leisurely 20 minutes for it to vanish before I continued on my way again. The only thing missing with the swiss roll was a coffee and I soon fixed that problem when I spotted a Lawson further up ahead.
The shop assistant was very friendly and polite when she served me the coffee so after drinking it in front of the shop, I headed back in to give her a photograph. She seemed really delighted to get something and I felt good that a simple photograph had generated such a warm reaction. I then continued on my way all the way to Johen Park. I found a great little spot over looking Route 56 below and the cloudy mist covered mountain range in the distance. Things had warmed after the sun came out so I took of my boots and spent a leisurely hour talking to my friend Sanae in Kagawa and telling her about the interesting encounters so far. After concluding my rather long break I continued on at as leisurely a pace as I could muster.
Earlier in the morning I had left Kochi and crossed into Ehime. The scenery and landscape seemed to change as I approached the end of Kochi and the beginning of Ehime. Ehime in contrast to Kochi looked really well kept and more well to do. This had definitely become much more apparent when I'd passed through the bigger towns in Ehime during my first pilgrimage. Ehime also had a much more agricultural type of landscape type and what I remembered most from my first pilgrimage was that Ehime was a very pretty place. Kochi however, like Tokushima had their own unique attractions and feel good points. The mountain top temples of Tokushima were wonderful and the Skyline routes through Kochi and the coast roads had ensured a permanent smile even if it wasn't always on my face. During the first pilgrimage I had teamed up with a couple of Japanese pilgrims I had met at Drive-in Suisha and we had remained together until Matsuyama City. What I recall about that period was the unusually fast pace and the constant rush. Today I was being overtaken by snails and it just felt incredibly good dawdling along humming old tunes. Any thoughts I had revolved mostly around plans for the future and contingency arrangements if the tsuyado at Kanjizaiji (#40) fell through.
The other thing that was very different today was the almost total absence of contact with other pilgrims. The road route I was on was longer so I just figured everyone had taken the mountain trail and got ahead while I was busy dawdling along trying to kill time. I met a husband and wife pair who were doing the pilgrimage in reverse. As they neared I pull out a couple of candies and handed them to the wife and after the briefest of exchanges I was back to dawdling again. A few kilometers short of Kanjizaji (#40) I saw a man coming towards me and he seemed to be ferreting about in his wallet and I was genuinely hoping he wasn't got to give me some money but sure enough he stopped and gave me 400 yen telling me it was osettai. I took the money and as quickly as I could pulled out the photographs and tried to give him one. He was having none of it and was soon on his way again. I just stood there for a while watching him walking away, he stopped and looked back but continued on.
400 yen was nice and up ahead I saw a Lawson. Coffee and dorayaki would have been nice but this stop was not for my usual treat, I used the money to print out 13 more photographs. One of them ended up with the young woman working in the shop and like the woman in the Lawson shop an hour or so earlier, she too seemed happily bemused and delighted as I said this is for you and turned and walked out of the shop. Across the road I spotted a Daiso (a 100 yen store) so I popped in to pick up more clear sleeves for the photographs. I bought 3 packets, enough sleeves for 210 photographs. Before leaving the Daiso I gave a photograph to the lady who had helped me locate the clear sleeves. 210 new clear sleeves seemed like a lot but I had a distinct feeling that I was going to be giving away lot more photographs to people in Ehime and Kagawa. From the outset, I had decided that this pilgrimage was going to be my way of saying thank you to the many many people I knew I was going to meet or come across. The photographs were turning out to be the ideal vehicle for expressing my thanks in a simple and unobtrusive way.
Back on Route 56 I continued my slow shuffle until quite unexpectedly and far sooner than I could have imagined I saw a road sign indicating that Kanjizaiji (#40) was 800m to my right. I remembered hurrying along at breakneck speed beside a river path during the first pilgrimage and I was still waiting for that river path to turn up. It was only after I had turned right and gone a couple of hundred yards that I spotted the river path which actually ran parallel to Route 56. There were days when temples or places to stay would seem far away but today everything seemed to be just literally around the corner and it wasn't even 2 o'clock yet. I got to the temple gate and spent some time slotting the newly printed photographs into the new clear plastic sleeves I had picked. I was rather too efficient and was all done in about 10 minutes and with spots of rain starting to fall I figured I might as well head on in and do what I had to do. I took my time praying at both the halls, reading the sutras slowly and carefully, and concentrating much more than usual on what I was doing. Having done that I headed back into the main hall and the stamp office which was located just to the right of the space reserved for prayers.
Behind the counter was a very young looking monk and while he took my stamp book I turned away and starting getting my photographs ready. When I turned I expected him to have finished stamping but instead I watched him very carefully place each stamp on the page and then beautifully finish everything of with carefully crafted strokes of his brush. Just watching him do that was a real joy. That done I then asked if it would be possible to stay at the temple tsuyado. The response was an immediate yes or in fact an immediate reaching over for the guest book into which he asked me to write my name, telephone number and address. Having done that I now wanted to give him a photograph he really liked so I presented all 80 or so photographs that I had and watched him slowly look through them. I found the one with the two columns of monks at Koyasan and I picked it out and showed him. To his evident delight he instantly recognized one of the monks at the head of the procession as his own personal teacher. The Koyasan monk community was probably not that big but this was the second young monk who had recognized someone in that photograph, a photograph I had taken more than 3 and a half years earlier.
The young monk at Kanjizaiji (#40) had just finished his studies at Koyasan a year earlier and had returned Kanjizaiji (#40) where his father was head monk. With small talk over he accompanied me back towards and the main gate and just to the left to a small wooden building which turned out to the be the tsuyado. He explained some of the rules and then left me to settle myself in. The tsuyado was a very new wooden construction and inside the fairly small space were two small mezzanine spaces on either side plus the floor space below. I imagined it could easily accommodate 5 or 6 people if necessary. I dragged my pack up the steep ladder and arranged a few things in what was going to be my space just in case someone else decided to stay too. I then armed myself with both my DSLR and digital compact and headed back out to take some photographs.
Until yesterday I had been using only my digital compact and the DSLR with a fixed 50mm lenses on it had been nothing more than dead-weight. Yesterday however, when I tried to take some photographs at Enkoji (#39) with my digital compact it started complaining that the battery needed charging so I had ended up snapping a few shots with the DSLR and noticed a massive difference in quality. For Kanjizaiji (#40) I ended up snapping away with the DSLR and around the daishi hall I discovered paving stones with the names of every one of the 88 temples etched into them. I ended up taking a photograph of each one of them plus the name Koyasan and Okunoin which was at the front of the daishi hall. A few photographs more and then I returned to the tsuyado
The temple seemed unusually quiet like the rest of the day had been and it felt really nice. The only sound I could make out was the occasional whistling cries of some kites. I had seen a kite with a long twig in it's beak fly up into a tree top and assumed it was a pair of kites crying out instructions to each other while they worked on building a nest. That or they were just squabbling over what type of nest to construct. It was still not 4 o'clock but I was definitely done with dawdling for the day plus the pain in my leg had returned. I had asked the young monk if there were any shops nearby and he had told me that if I exited the main gate and went right, that about 2km further on there were many shops. I took the umbrella from the tsuyado and went in search of the shops. I knew there was a very large home center type of place because I had stopped there during the first pilgrimage. Rather than the 2km the young monk had said, it turned out to be only 1km and I was soon at a super center called A-Max. The first item I bought was some Tiger Balm for my painful leg and then it was to the food section which had a huge selection of foods. I picked up plenty of supplies for the evening and for the following morning and then headed back again. After applying the Tiger Balm to my leg I ate most of what I had bought leaving just a little something for breakfast the next morning. I had acquired a small stash of snacks from the many convenience store I had stopped at during my dawdling this morning and afternoon so I had plenty to eat the next day.
I inflated my sleeping mat and got into my sleeping bag to work on my notes for the day. The upshot of my slow day today was that I would have to do a rather long 40km day tomorrow to get to where I was going to be sleeping tomorrow evening. I had messaged Jun at Zenkonyado Aloe and he had got back to me and confirmed that I could stay. My leg was the main worry but after a day of walking at a very leisurely pace I hoped it had been sufficiently rested for the long haul tomorrow. It had been a really lovely day as I left Kochi behind and entered the third of the four prefectures, Ehime. It was one of those days for feeling grateful and thankful, and as I slowly drifted of to sleep I hoped that Ehime would continue to bring more of what I had experienced today.