The cumulative effect of not sleeping enough over the past few days ensured that I fell asleep very quickly but as was now all too common, an hour later I was wide awake and feeling unusually hot. In fact, so much so, that I had to remove a few layers before trying to get back to sleep again. Sleep as usual would refused to come so I got up to go out to the rest room and on the way back stopped to enjoy the incredibly quiet surroundings of the temple grounds and a beautifully clear night sky full of hundreds of stars. The clear night sky was at least a positive sign that the following day would dawn bright and clear.
My attempts to get any more sleep having failed miserably, I finally got up at 04:30 and started getting my things together. An hour later it looked like I had everything back in it's place again so I selected a photograph and wrote out my osamefuda and pinned both to the wall by the door. There had been only one other osamefuda in the tsuyado and it belonged to a Roger from Barcelona who had stayed a couple of weeks earlier. Before leaving the tsuyado and the temple altogether I walked over to the main hall to pray. I then returned to the tsuyado, did one last check to make sure I had not left anything and then headed back out the main gate, turned, bowed and continued in the direction of the supermarket I had visited yesterday.
The clear sky suggested it would be sunny day today but at this early hour I found it necessary to put on my gloves to avoid the early morning chill. It was just after 6 o'clock when I left and I very slowly headed away hoping the pain in my leg was not going to scupper my plan of getting to Uwajima Zenkonyado. My leg was still hurting a little but it felt better than yesterday and all I could hope for was that it didn't get worse during the day.
Just after passing the supermarket I spotted a sign for a Sunkust convenience store and that meant my first coffee break. I had already eaten an onigiri back at the tsuyado so coffee was all I wanted. I could also see a Lawson a little further on but today it was going to be a Sunkust coffee to start my day. I wouldn't claim to be the 100 yen convenience store coffee aficionado but Sunkust coffee did have a richer strong taste.
After the coffee I finally felt ready to make a start. My first target was near the zenkonyado I had stopped at the first time I had done the pilgrimage and it was about 9km further on. With my leg still hurting a little and occasionally quite a lot I kept a slow but steady pace and just kept going. Along the way I stopped only once to greet another ohenro-san, the same ohenro-san I had taken the short ferry trip with towards Sekkeiji (#33). He was busy chatting to an old woman tending to her garden.
From her garden she had a truly wonderful sea view. I commented on the view and about about the strangely long narrow bank of fog that stretched from the sea all the way inland. She agreed, adding that it was rare phenomena. I didn't stop very long and before leaving I took out a photograph of some plum blossoms and gave it to the woman. The ohenro-san who I assumed I had already given a photograph put out his hand requesting one too so I gave him one and then continued steadily all the way to Uchimi Village. I stopped in a large covered bus stop with a long bench and took my first break of the day.
It had turned into a very nice morning. The temperature were still a little on the chilly side but the gloves had come off and the the extra jacket was no longer necessary either. I took myy boots off, ate a dorayaki, drank a little cold tea and took 2 pain killers to try and dull the pain in my leg. After a 20 minute break I got going again. After passing through the Uchimi Tunnel the next planned stop was Sunokawa Onsen where I was thinking of stopping for a quick dip. When I got close to Sunokawa Onsen I discovered the same situation that I had found when I had got to Ipponmatsu Onsen yesterday - opening time was 11 o'clock. I continued on to a small shop, got a hot snack and an energy drink and took another short break. The temperature had definitely climbed some more so I removed my light fleece and was now down to a short sleeve sports shirt and my white ohenro jacket.
After getting back out on the road again I kept up a gentle steady pace for the next 2 hours only stopping a few times along the way to give photographs to people. The first was to a woman assisting a road repair crew. She was positioned a few hundred meters before the place where the road repairs were being made and her job was to hold up a flag which instructed approaching traffic to slow down. I stopped beside her and without interrupting her work too much I handed her a photograph and continued on my way. After taking a very quick water break in a very pretty port side area I continued on again. A fruit seller from across the road called out and held up a mikan. I crossed over and he was busy gathering together several more but I told him one would be enough. After giving him a photograph I continued on my way with the two mikan he had given me. A little further on I met an old lady pushing her trolley seat and even before I reached her I had fished out a photograph and when I got closer I just greeted her, gave her the photograph and continued on my way. Today was clearly an osettai giving more than an osettai receiving day.
After crossing through the Arashisaka Tunnel I decided to take what I expected would be my only extended break for the day. It was almost midday and if my calculations were correct I had covered about 20km of the 40km I needed to walk. Just after the Arashisaka Tunnel I had found 3 different huts situated around a small fish pond. I found a bench, took off my boots, rolled up my trousers and ate a few of my snacks. As I was resting the ohenro-san who I had met earlier in the morning turned up and sat on the bench next to mine. As the pair of us sat there a woman suddenly appeared holding 2 paper cups and a flask of what turned out to be hot water. She poured some of the hot water into a paper cup and handed it to me along with a satchet of instant coffee, milk, sugar plus a small plastic spoon. She the same for the other ohenro-san. From the conversation she had with the other ohenro-san she was a sightseeing tourist just travelling through the area. Before she headed away I gave her photograph of Mt. Fuji.
With break over I got going and again. I had stuck to Route 56 since early morning but the scenery had changed constantly between sea views, views of open agricultural fields and sometimes small villages. I stopped at a Circle K convenience store to use the rest room and left the store with an ice cream and one less photograph which I gave to the shop staff. I was making slow steady progress and a few hours later I approached the start of the Matsuo Tunnel. At 1710m long it was just a bit longer than the Shin-izuta Tunnel (1620m) before Drive-in Suisha.
Traffic was not particularly heavy and strange as it seemed I was quite happy to be inside the tunnel. It had turned into a very warm day but the tunnel felt nice and cool. It took me 22 minutes to make my way through the tunnel and once through the tunnel I emerged on the other side into Uwajima proper. The first thing I noticed was a car showroom selling super cars of the Ferrari and Lamborghini kind. A bit further on an old man working in his field greeted me from across the road with a smile and a wave. I waved back and continued walking but then decided to wait for a break in the traffic before crossing over to his side of the road, walking back towards him and giving him a photograph. I had definitely been giving out a lot of photographs but it seemed like a nice thing to do.
Up ahead I saw a Lawson so I stopped to look at my guide book to see how far I still had to go. It looked like I was not too far from my destination. I flicked over the page of my guide book and slotted it back into the zip lock plastic bag. What I didn't realise was that there was another Lawson and Joyful restaurant combination marked on the following page and the gap between the first pair and the second was about 3km. My reference point had mistakenly jumped to the second pairing, placing me about 3km ahead of where I actually was. Naturally the map directions no longer made any sense to me and I just couldn't figure out why. All I could do was follow the stickers and as I continued on I started to recognize places I had seen during my first pilgrimage and then finally realised exactly where I was in relation to the guide book. The slight frustration of not knowing why I had not been making better progress was tempered by the sight of elementary school children making their way home. Some stopped to greet me and one particularly playful boy wanted to give me a high five which, given that he only came up just above my waist was more a low five for me and a high five for him.
As I neared Uwajima Castle everything became much clearer and the markers were perfectly in synch with what I was seeing in my guidebook. I got to Uwajima Zenkonyado with time to kill. What I really wanted to do was find a hot spa or bath house but there were none marked in the guidebook so I just headed towards Uwajima Station in the hope of finding some place to sit down. In the end I just headed into the station and sat in the waiting area.
I'd avoided the center of Kochi City and for the first time in a very long time I felt I was back in an urban area again. Seeing a steady stream of weary looking office workers reminded me of the thousands of weary looking office workers I often saw back in Tokyo. It was an everyday reality that existed beyond the pilgrimage but it was not a reality I wanted to think about too much just yet. A more pressing issue was the sate of my leg, it had started to hurt again and it seemed to hurt more when I was not walking than when I was walking.
It was coming up to 6 o'clock so I headed back towards Uwajima Zenkonyado and Jun the owner arrived precisely at the time he said he would, greeted me and showed me inside. I wasn't sure if I smelled like a fermented fish or not but I apologised and asked if there was a bath house in the area. Jun said there was one a very short walk away and offered to drop me off a little while later. The house was really great but Jun explained that he had chosen not to publicize the fact that he managed a zenkonyado too much. We spent the next 2 hours just chatting about ohenro, his own experiences of ohenro, meditation, his interest in Buddhism and most interesting, his views on the sorts of things that can happen when individuals like him open a zenkonyado.
What he said about setting up a zenkonyado turned out to be a very interesting and thought provoking conversation. Outwardly, setting up a zenkonyado could be interpreted as a very altruistic form of osettai because it helped the walking pilgrims but he said that it could lead to unintended consequences for other people and also for the person who set up the zenkonyado. If a zenkonyado became really popular it could lead to a loss of income for commercial operators. It could lead to resentment and over time to the closure of one or more of the commercial places. On top of this, for the zenkonyado owner, what started out as a relatively simple activity could turn into a much more arduous task of looking after a steady stream of pilgrims which may not have been the intention in the first place.
The idea that doing something that was outwardly good and done with good intent, could nevertheless result in unintended negative consequences was very interesting. I listened carefully and didn't really say too much but I certainly began to understand how different zenkonyado owners were thinking about what they were doing. Hagimori-san had been the first one to talk about how some zenkonyado impacted local businesses and how this was not always a good thing. He had spoken completely in Japanese and was extremely passionate about the matter whereas Jun had spoken mostly in English and in a quieter more considered way. Both had very fair points to make. As a walking pilgrim, I had only thought of the positives but after listening to Jun, it was true that even things done with best of intentions could lead to problems.
Jun left just before 9 o'clock after explaining where everything was. He had offered to drop me of at the public bath but told me to use the shower at the house instead. He also very kindly suggested that I could stay a further day if my leg continued to hurt and to make use of the frozen gel packs that were in the freezer. I thanked Jun for everything and told him I would make up my mind about whether to stay another day to the following morning.
It had been one of those special kind of ohenro days for me because of all the many small, simple but significant little things that had happend throughout the day. I had spent virtually the whole day alone but had come into contact with many people. I had thought about serious things as well as all kinds of silliness that occasionally left me laughing out loud to myself. The strange bank of sea fog during the early morning , the beautiful blue waters, seeing so many pretty butterflies, all these seemingly simple little things had kept me in good spirits and to top it all, I had found a warm and hospitable place in Uwajima Zenkonyado.
It was almost 11 o'clock when I finally got into my very comfortable looking futon and it wasn't long before I was fast asleep. Another day was over.