Today’s walk starts with great promise. After a fine Japanese breakfast, our obliging hostess at Minshuku Micchan loads us into her diminutive car and drives us up the steep winding road to its junction with Highway 47. We don our backpacks and say our goodbyes in a halting mishmash of English, Japanese and hand gestures.
The road is still shrouded in mist, the remnants of yesterday’s rain showers. But the fog soon lifts, revealing a deep blue sky and outstanding views over the Pacific Ocean. It’s not long before we strip down to T-shirts on this hot, humid and now sunny stretch of pavement. It’s a beautiful day for a 30-kilometre walk. (more…)
We knew this before setting off from Haruna Spa. Comfortable beds, refreshing hot baths, filling meals are all fine reasons to spend the night here. But it is off the henro path and, at the outset, adds two kilometres to this day’s trek. We had originally planned to stay the night at Tosa City, five kilometres further on. But no rooms were available so we had to choose the spa as an earlier stop. That’s an extra seven kilometres, stretching today’s walk into the thirty-kilometre range.
When we do reach Tosa City, another reality sets in. The usually reliable trail signage is now vague or non-existent. We soon lose the path as we make our way through town to Kiyotakji, Temple 35. More time, more footsteps are added to this day’s ever-lengthening journey.
After a modest climb, Kiyotakji rewards us with its fine setting of temple structures tightly clustered around the rocky terrain. It’s another wet day but, up here, the morning fog adds a layer of mystery to the scene. A large bronze statue of Kōbō Daishi looms, enshrouded by mist. A tracery of flimsy limbs laden with soft pink cherry blossoms cross the light grey backdrop of trees and temples. (more…)
Kochi was hard to leave behind on this wet, dreary day as we make our way past Temple 31 – Chikurinji – on our way out of town. Just two days ago, we climbed treed slopes to this temple under a blazing sun. Today, the restaurant and overlook at its crest are mired in a grey mist, barely visible. Further on, the equally grey concrete structure of an under-construction highway imposes itself on the quiet landscape of low-hung hills, reflecting its menacing bulk in the glassy surfaces of age-old rice paddies.
As gloomy as the trek may seem, it is brought to life by vivid, saturated colours accented by mysterious clouds of mist rising from the forested hills. Cherry blossoms are now at their best, in full bloom, bright and cheery as we pass under their bows. (more…)
It’s been some time since my last post from Japan. Much has happened since then.
Gail and I successfully completed our planned walk across Shikoku, as well as a tour by train to various Japan cities: Beppu, Nagasaki, Fukuoka, Hiroshima and Tokyo. And now we’re back in Winnipeg.
While we were enjoying our long days of walking and exploring Japan’s great cities, posts to WalkClickMake suffered. That will be remedied in the coming weeks. So stay tuned for more posts on our journey beyond Kochi City.
Meanwhile, here is a picture of Gail and me, taken by Simon, our German walking companion. We are standing in a square fronting the Ōzu train station, which marked the end of our Henro-michi pilgrimage adventure on the island of Shikoku, at least for this trip. From here we travelled by train to the port city of Yawatahama and then, by ferry, to Kyushu, Japan’s third largest island.
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.