cherry blossoms

Shikoku: A Walk to the Spa

April 9, 2017

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…)

Shikoku: Minshuku Micchan

April 8, 2017

It would be a hard day.

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…)

Shikoku: The Walk Continues

April 7, 2017

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…)