Shikoku: Temples

April 17, 2017

A slight drizzle accompanies our way out of Sukumo. Light enough to pack our rain coats away, letting the cool dew dampen our clothes and drip off the brows of our conical hats.

We head inland, away from the sea and up into the hills, following small roads and forest trails, cutting our way through dense fog. Out of the hazy white emerge splashes of vibrant colour. Wild rhododendron hang above us. Flourishes of red, yellow, white blossoms line our path. We pass through small hill villages and orchards of buntan, a large bright yellow citrus fruit, similar-looking to grapefruit. The pungent scent of Japanese onions comes and goes like the mist. (more…)

Shikoku: In Praise of Mos

April 16, 2017

If yesterday’s walk was 6 kilometre’s too long – due to a lack of available lodgings along the way – today’s walk would be that much shorter. Just a 19-kilometre stroll to our pre-booked hotel in Sukumo.

Gail and I survived Shimuzugawa-sō, our strange bunkhouse-in-the-woods. In fact, we slept well that night and ate a hearty breakfast this morning. Our smiling, elderly host makes a daylight appearance and waves good-bye as we head down the road on this overcast, misty morning.

Mid-morning, we arrive at Enkōji, Temple 39 on the Henro-michi. The temple was founded in 724 and restored by Kōbō Daishi in 795. Nestled on the pleasant grounds of Enkōji is the typical bell tower, where pilgrims ring a gong to announce their arrival to Kōbō Daishi. In this case, the massive bronze gong has its own story. (more…)

Shikoku: Osettai

April 15, 2017

The hosts at Seiryu, our well-worn lodging in Tosa-Shimizu, sent us off for the day with a wonderful Japanese breakfast. A good thing considering this will be a long 39-kilometre day of walking.

We will be traversing a particularly remote part of Shikoku. Accommodations are both rare and well-booked. Tonight’s accommodation took perseverance to secure and required the assistance of an English-speaking women at the tourist information centre, way back in Kochi City.

We watched intently and hopefully as she phoned various minshuku and ryokan lodgings near our preferred destination, Mihari Village. We listened to the lengthy, rapid fire Japanese conversations, not knowing what was being said until, ultimately, she would disconnect and, with a sad shake of her head, say “so sorry…” It took several calls, several long discussions before the host at Shimuzugawa-sō found room for us. (more…)

Shikoku: Kongōfukuji

April 14, 2017

We leave Kaiyu Inn rather late, tempted by pancakes, waylaid by conversation. But this is a beautiful, sun-filled day that inspires a lazy attitude to our pilgrim mission. Within minutes we pass alongside the sweeping white sands of Ōki No Hama Beach. Behind us, the pristine white mass of Kaiyu Inn hangs above the turquoise Pacific, slowly disappearing as we make our way down the long arc of sand.

Is it already time for lunch?

By mid-afternoon, we reach our long-awaited destination, Kongōfukuji. This is Temple 38 on our pilgrimage route. It has taken three days and 90-kilometres of trekking to make our way here from Temple 37. On the 88 temple Henro-michi, this is the longest stretch between any two temples.

But the journey is worth it. Here, at the remote tip of Cape Ashizuri lies one of the most beautiful temple complexes. (more…)

Shikoku: Kaiyu

April 13, 2017

This looked to be an unusual day.

For a change, the sky is clear as we make our way out of Nakamura. The Henro-michi takes us along the banks of the ever-broadening Shimanto River to its mouth at the Pacific Ocean. From here, the path heads inland, following Highway 321 as it cuts through forest hills, through a long, dark tunnel and finally deposits us along the shoreline of the Pacific.

The sunny, scenic 25-kilometre walk warrants any number of gushing words. But, this day, it is our destination that ultimately captivates Gail and me.

The tall white mass of Kaiyu Inn rises high above the coastal highway, sharply cutting into a deep blue sky. The building’s mid-century modern architectural lineage becomes apparent as we approach.  (more…)

Shikoku: Off the Trail in Nakamura

April 12, 2017

We call them rest days and today is one of those days. Here in the quiet, small city of Nakamura, we plan to do nothing more than see a few sights and, of course, eat.

Nakamura is the perfect place to take a holiday from our daily walking ritual. It’s a small community, just shy of 35,000 souls. So small, I assume, that in 2005 it was merged with another small community, Nishitosa, becoming Shimanto City.

The old town of Nakamura lies sandwiched between two branches of the mighty Shimanto River, Japan’s last free-flowing river. It takes about ten minutes to walk the width of downtown from one river bank to the other and 30 minutes to walk its length. (more…)

Shikoku: Angry Seas

April 11, 2017

It rained all night. Waking up this morning, looking out over the forlorn landscape and watching more rain pelting down on the road we would follow, there seemed little hope for a pleasurable walk.

We sat down for our Japanese breakfast in the dining room of Kobushi-no-sato, a feast designed to take our minds off the weather. While we grilled fish over the open flame of a tabletop brazier, nature was relenting…somewhat. By the time we had suited up in our foul-weather garb and exited the comfortable confines of our inn, there was barely a drizzle. (more…)