With our planned excursions to sakura-viewing locales foiled, we needed to fill our second scheduled day in Kochi with other activities. It was a rain-filled day, so museum visits seemed appropriate.
That morning, we headed off by commuter train to the nearby town of Ino, home of the Japanese Paper Museum. As far back as the early 1980s, I had taken papermaking courses and, later on, I had built several accordion books for my Walk Project using Japanese washi designed for inkjet printing. In fact, the paper I used was manufactured by Awagami Paper, located just outside Tokushima, right here on Shikoku. So the museum was very much a worthwhile visit, with enough English translation to adequately explain the Tosa paper making process. The visit included a hands-on paper making exercise. Both Gail and I walked away with handsome sets of postcard-sized paper…made by us.
The whims of nature threw a huge curve ball in the direction of my careful planning.
I had plotted our entire trip around Japan’s cherry blossom season. I had studied past years’ reports for the best time to see the sakura in full bloom. Flights were arranged so we would arrive here, in Kochi, exactly as the blossoms were at their peak. Plans were in place to take a train from here – the last place we could catch a train before the Henro-michi took us off into the wilderness – to cherry blossom hotspots like Tokushima and Matsayuma, or nearby Kagamino Park.
Today’s leisurely walk would take us to through the agricultural heartland of Kochi Prefecture. We were on our way to Kochi City for two day’s rest in one of Shikoku’s larger urban centers. Along the way, we will visit three more temples on the Henro-michi.
First comes Dianichiji, Temple 28, a modest complex brought to life on this early April morning by a burst of cherry blossoms.
Our route meanders through water-laden fields as workers busily go about planting a new crop of rice. Abutting the rice fields are row upon row of plastic greenhouses. Onions appear to be the crop of choice right now and the their pungent aroma envelopes us. There’s evidence of other crops as well. Through open doors of small warehouses and garages we notice red peppers, eggplants and and cucumbers being sorted and crated.
Gail and I are back to the coastline as we leave Aki. But not before passing some Rube Goldberg contraption of a type that only the Japanese could conceive. Four yellow orbs are suspended from a shiny stainless steel trunk. On the hour, chirpy music emanates from the device and each of the orbs opens to reveal….monkeys.
It’s a good introduction to the odd life that exists on that line straddling ocean and community. Everything suggests threat, from the pounding waves, to the ominous concrete barrier lining the coast, to the half-life of residences, shops and debris in the shadows of those protective walls. (more…)
Misono, our frenetic host, was out the door before her guests had finished breakfast. She had a community volunteer flower-planting party to command.
Minshuku Misono was part of the recently-established network of HenroHouse lodgings dotting the 88-temple Henro route. It’s a convenient way to book rooms in advance, using the HenroHouse English-friendly website. I hope it blossoms into a vast network of minshukus and ryokans all along the Henri route.
Not long after leaving Minshuku Misono, we run into our hostess on the main street of Nahari, hard at work directing other volunteers in their effort to beautify the thoroughfare. We say our farewells again.
On our second day of walking, we leave Fuji Business Hotel and Muroto City behind as we make our way along the coastline of Kochi Prefecture. We also leave yesterday’s stormy, wet and cold. Sure, it is cooler than we would wish but the bright overcast is a welcome reprieve.
Soon, we are climbing once more to yet another temple perched high on a hill. It’s a 200-meter climb along the rough trail leading to Konongōchōji, Temple 26. Just enough to build up a sweat. The temple complex is similar to most other hilltop temples, which is to say a suitably welcome reward after a challenging climb. Hardship yields to a sense of peace up here, perhaps the whole point of the pilgrimage promise.
The day started off well enough. It was a pleasant sunny morning as we departed Tokushima on the first of three trains and one bus. They would take us to the foot of a trail leading 200 meters up through dense forest to Hotsumisakiji, Temple 24 on the Henro pilgrimage route.
By the time we disembarked the second train at Kaifu, the weather had turned. Rain pelted as we made our way across the platform to catch the third train, the festive Asa Seaside Railway bound for Kannoura. Festive because the interior was decorated for the coming cherry blossom season with silk flowers on the walls and strings of flickering colored lights overhead.