[You might have received this post in your inbox erroneously titled “Day 39”. I just realised I’d lost a day! It happens on the blurry path to wisdom!]
A LAWSON’S STATION KONBINI, KAINAN, TOKUSHIMA PREFECTURE ~
Morning, all. As threatened, here’s another batch of shots from the last week or so, mostly of scenes and subjects encountered between temples.
I enjoy both my subject areas, the temples themselves and the stretches of road and path linking them, for different reasons.
The temple one is far more challenging. My aim is to capture a sense of the place that is different from the others, and respond to it artistically in the conditions in which I find it. Believe me, with 88 of them to deal with, that can get pretty tough!
As someone who doesn’t believe in anything, I’m obviously not reacting to the places in any spiritual sense. I’m interested in them as places, and judge them on aesthetic grounds, how they relate to their environment, their architecture and landscaping, historical elements etc.
Avoiding repeating myself is a challenge! I could take essentially the same shot 88 times of the hondo seen through the temple gate, or pilgrims lining up to pray etc. I do some of that, but I tend to look for smaller-scale details.
Chance plays a big part as well. I might be tearing my vestigial hair out, trying to find a new angle on a “boring” temple, and suddenly a bunch of goofy bus henro will arrive and change the whole vibe.
Light is the other big factor. I despise harsh midday sun for most of my photography, but lately that’s all I get, unless I fluke an arrival early or late in the day. So I have to make do. Sometimes I’m stuck at a temple for an hour or more.
Some temples are just instantly magnificent, the type they show in tourist brochures. But you want to avoid taking that brochure shot. A few are dull, or neglected, or offer nothing. Catch them in bad midday sun and you just want to give up and go home.
So my other broad “theme”, the in-between sections, is far more relaxed. If the light’s crap, I might just forget the shot altogether. If I’m in the mood, I might dump the pack and wait. These random encounters are what keep any long walk interesting, and make the photography for me on this trip a joy.
I always walk with one camera in my hand. I rotate the three throughout the day, and adjust my mind’s eye to match the lens and field of view, etc, of the one I’m holding. If I see something way inappropriate for the camera in hand, I might drop the pack and dig out a better choice.
Which brings me to these ones. But first a bit of a recap.
WHERE I AM
Approaching Temple #23, which I’ll reach at last today if I ever finish this post, and my recharging, and my second coffee, and my fourth donut, and get back on Rt 55:
As you can see, I’m back in Tokushima Prefecture, where this whole thing began. Now note that 70-odd km stretch between #24 and #23. It’s one of the longest on the henro, and it coincides with my sloppiest, most languid and laidback walking on the walk — in a good way!
It will have taken me the better part of three days’ walking to get there, even with a reasonable 18 miles on the first day. But that’s cool. As I approach the conclusion I’ve been slowing down, immersing myself in time-wasting photo sprees, sitting and chewing the fat with other pilgrims I meet.
It’s been great.
I’m actually worried about finishing, weird after almost quitting a few times earlier on. But after #23, the temples are pretty closely spaced, and near the start/end you can knock off five or six in a day.
This latest stretch has been frustrating at times. After rounding the tip of Cape Muroto, the coastal road was eerily quiet, with traffic on Saturday so sparse I wondered if everyone else in the world had been vaporised. (Mixed feelings.)
Henro shelters, water sources, and above all vending machines and convenience stores are thinner on the ground than just about anywhere else on the circuit. The sun was baking hot, with little shade on offer.
But the coastline, beyond the concrete wall and tetrapods anyway, is lovely…
..and yesterday I passed a couple of the best beaches I’ve seen in all of Japan.
I had a swim in the ocean, and had a nice encounter with my first fellow Australian walker, Merinda from Melbourne, who’s just done long walks on the Camino and the Appalachian Trail and is finishing an epic journey with the Shikoku pilgrimage.
We also met a local couple, Prince (Japanese) and Diana, from New Zealand, who’s lived here for 25 years or so. As happens a lot lately, another hour of walking time was thrown away as we chatted, and once again I found myself walking a dark and lonesome road in search of somewhere to throw down.
I’ve noticed that there are certain subjects I love, the ones that make me pull off the lens cap no matter how many times I’ve shot them before.
Offhand here are the ones adding spice to this trip. You’ll have noticed examples of several on my henro posts. I’m hoping that when I put together a collection of shots from the trip, these will break up the temple pictures and add some thematic consistency:
- Election posters
- Praying mantises
- Bad English
- Vending machines
- Convenience stores
- Stray cats
- Trail signs & markers
- Poetic anti-smoking messages — emblazoned on outdoor “stand ashtrays” (!)
- Clean-up-your-dog’s-shit signs
- Roadside henro portraits (planning a post featuring them soon)
Many of these are obsessions I nurtured even before Shikoku. The cat one is my favourite. I seem to have a knack for finding them. I’ve probably “lost” a couple of hours of walking time in the last few days hanging out with initially wary gangs of these charismatic guys:
Alright, that’s enough from me. Talk to you soon, and thanks for reading!
On the second night of the “Blood Moon” I reached the most famous beach in Kochi, Katsurahama. That was a great evening. Tons of locals were out to view the moon over the water, and I enjoyed the spectacle of some local teens trying to drown themselves under breaking waves.
The only sad note was that thousands of fundamentalist christians didn’t vanish heavenward in any Rapture, nor did the Mormons evaporate into the apocalyptic sky as many had apparently expected:
A CRITTER GALLERY
The usual suspects, a menagerie of roadside fellow travellers:
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote