Well, this one’s coming to you from a dark bench at a michi-no-eki (“road station”) called Tano-eki-ya that — so far (the night is young) — is my favourite of the trip.
It’s right on the main street of the coastal Kochi town of Nahari/Tano, but it’s a sleepy town and no trucks are rattling past. There is an elevated railway line not many metres above my head, but this is the boonies and the trains are rare.
The good points: dark, my tent is set up under cover right on the “porch”, there’s a Lawson’s Station konbini 50m away, toilets are close and clean (already washed today’s shirt, socks and unmentionables), and there’s this bench, with a power outlet right next to it.
I can’t tell you how rare and delightful a discovery that is. All this beauty, insight and art from the oriental road requires a certain amount of elec-trickery to make it to your device of choice.
Oh, and get this: A couple of hours ago, just after I arrived, a slightly off-kilter young bloke appeared out of the dark and rain and asked in Japanese if I was doing the henro. When I confirmed this, he started shaking with excitement.
When I told him I was doing it gyaku-uchi, he just about fainted onto the pebblecrete. Reverse-pilgrims are considered lucky by some of these superstitious Shikokuans. I think he thought he’d struck karmic pay-dirt.
Then he handed me a bag containing a bottle of Coke, a can of beer and two convenience-store hard-boiled eggs. Shazaaam: an o-settai bonanza. I gave him my name and country and he seemed well-pleased with the exchange. So was I — my first can was almost empty.
I made myself wait till I started on it though, as beer at day’s end is blogging death of late. I’ve attempted a post a few times; last night I deleted the whole thing in frustration once the exhaustion kicked in.
But here goes… (sip).
Well, I’m sorta-kinda on the home stretch. Today, possibly my shortest/laziest on the trip, saw me scaling another one of those “difficult places”, the steep and protracted road-climb to Temple # 27, Konomineji:
That bastard nearly finished me off. It was raining too, and I was in a foul mood when I arrived. Fortunately the temple setting was spectacular, dwarfed beneath a stand of monumental cedars, but I must have looked wretched, as one of the old-lady staff came out with a cup of hot black coffee.
I realised I was borderline hypothermic (it doesn’t take much) and ended up on the tatami mats under my sleeping bag in the most luxurious pilgrim digs I’ve seen. Would’ve been nice to stay, but I was too buzzed on the coffee, and after a short nap I descended, paused to chat with a French woman and an English-Australian who were staying in a family inn down there before doing the steep climb tomorrow.
I bitched and whined for a while and filled them with trepidation, then, my work done, I ate the mikans and banana they gave me (western women get showered with o-settai), and started off, only to be almost immediately diverted by a spectacular torii (red shrine gate) on a massive beach boulder, waves breaking at its base, and I lost another half-hour there doing pictures…
I’ve been enjoying myself mostly, and today was the best yet (despite the climb-bitch, but at least that had a tangible object) in terms of mental stability. Most days I can blow an hour, two, three, in awful inward stuff I won’t go into, till I even have to tell myself out loud what an idiot I am and that I need to change channels.
But apart from that I wouldn’t be anywhere else, and am actually dreading finishing. Hence the slowness, though being a bit rundown probably contributes. I’ve lost a few toenails but am otherwise physically fine, and still get excited as I approach a temple, wondering how cool it’ll be, and what angle I’ll take.
It seems an eternity ago that I was seeing signs like this as I drifted down the western side of the isle:
A few days ago I was there. It was hot and the sun was bright; everything seemed ugly and drab. The bleak river I followed coming in lacked only a few floating bodies. I stayed one night in a hotel and couldn’t get out of town fast enough the next morning. Funny, I enjoyed Kochi when I was here in ’08.
Well, I was going to go on at you a lot more about recent stuff, but I ended up having a lot more edited pictures ready than I can cram into one post, so I’m gonna cut straight to a selection of shots now, and follow up with another batch in a couple of days.
There’s a bit of everything here, mostly from the last few days.
And this sequence speaks for itself. A rare friendly kitty in sleepy Iwamatsu (“Stone Pine”). I’d slept under their bridge the night before:
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote