There were some things about getting home that were a definite improvement on Japan…
..but overall, this was the toughest time I’ve ever had leaving a country.
Yup, back in Brisbane, as of Friday, and I’m just about recovered from the jetlag, lack of sleep on the plane (aisle seat + apparently weak-bladdered co-passengers = much annoyance) and I suppose the accumulated effects of all that walking.
I’m still a little rundown, my walking speed has plummeted, and I’m pretty damned down over the end of another adventure. But all of those negatives are tempered by being home with my folks in a good place, and the satisfaction of getting so much done in those 88 days, including:
- My Daisetsuzan traverse in Hokkaido
- Climbs of Iwaki-San and Hakkoda-San, beautiful old volcanoes in northern Tohoku
- My first ascent of Yatsu-ga-Take, despite the cruddy weather
- A three-day return to the South Alps starting with Kita-Dake, Japan’s second-highest peak
- Lots of walking in and around the old capitals & temple heartlands of Kyoto & Nara
- Temple-rich Koya-San in Wakayama Prefecture, site of the tomb of Kukai (renamed Kobo Daishi after death), the monk-saint-folk hero in whose shadow the Shikoku pilgrimage developed over a thousand years or so
- Two multi-day segments of the Kumanokodo, the ancient pilgrim-route network in Wakayama Prefecture: the Kohechi & the Nakahechi
- My 47-day gyaku-uchi (reverse order) circuit of the thousand-year-old Shikoku 88-Temple Pilgrimage, a long-held ambition
- A 70+ km crossing to the Honshu “mainland” via the Shimanamikaido, a bicycle- (and walking) friendly series of islands and bridges traversing the Inland Sea
- My first visits to the famous old writer’s town of Onomichi and Hiroshima, which was, ironically, one of the most peaceful and calming corners of Japan I’ve found
- Lots of time to (re-) explore Tokyo
- A photographic journey of my own devising which though challenging was even more rewarding and soul-soothing than I’d hoped
- A lot of great (if often not exactly high-end) food
- A ton of hot-spring baths, surely near the top of Japan’s greatest gifts to the traveller
- At least 10 nights in capsule hotels, where I rarely slept well but always enjoyed the security and privacy of my plastic pod, which would be no surprise to former girlfriends
- 23 — TWENTY THREE! — encounters with praying mantises, my second-favourite insect after dragonflies
I’m gonna be hitting you all with a lot of posts about the Henro (pilgrimage) over the next several weeks, plus others about other places and topics including those mentioned above.
I also owe you some reflections on the big walk, and perhaps even some history, since I got started with so little preparation, and found blogging-on-the-go so demanding, that I never really had time to go into the whys and whens and whos.
Meanwhile, I have resumed work on the virtual mountain of images I made over there, with the goal of putting a collection together that I can share, hopefully on paper, celebrating (and occasionally, no doubt, critiquing) that 88-to-one circle.
I’m hoping all that hard work, plus the depressing thought that I need “real” employment to pay for all this, will stave off the demon dogs of post-adventure depression.
Will keep you posted.
Meanwhile, here’s a summary of what I did since my last post. Talk to you again soon!
~ GOAT, Brisbane, Australia
* * * * *
After leaving my friends at their Matsuyama guesthouse…
..I was back on the street…
..and then the trains, and then in Imabari, Shikoku, through which I’d walked weeks earlier.
Located the start of the Shimanamikaido and met a cyclist called Mike, from San Diego, almost at once. He was on his way back across the Kaido. Like me, he was soon to depart Japan for an uncertain future in the West; like me, he was painfully reluctant to leave:
He left me behind after a chat, and I enjoyed the afternoon autumn sunshine and the spectacular Inland Sea below and all around:
Who should I find as I slunk around in the dark that night, looking for a campsite, but Mike, who’d already located a recharging point and a place to fit a tent (or two) reasonably safe from road noise and bright lights, which we agreed was the big challenge of camping out in Japan.
..we said goodbye again, and I had a good day of bridge-walking and island-hopping…
..culminating in a walk to the northern shore of Omishima, a hot-spring bath, and my final night tenting at a deserted michi-no-eki (“road station”).
I thought about spending another night on the road…
..but started feeling the pangs of pre-departure anxiety and instead sped it up for several fast hours of road-stomping across the final bridge, onto a ferry and into a hotel room in Onomichi, Honshu.
Half a day there looking at (more damned) temples and photographing the local cats…
..and I got a local train the 70km or so to Hiroshima, where I enjoyed a magnificently clear and calm evening strolling and taking pictures around Ground Zero:
Next afternoon it was onto a shinkansen…
..with a beer or two and a window seat for the lightning-fast trip back to Tokyo.
I lost all sense of purpose and urgency back on familiar turf, but I needed the rest and the luxury of no specific objectives.
Inevitably, I gravitated back to Kichijoji…
..and then did come up with a goal, which was to photograph some more stray cats, one of my favourite subjects, in a couple of Tokyo parks:
I also caught up at last with Andrew, an old friend from my earliest days of Tokyo teaching.
We returned to Tokorozawa’s Hyakumi (“One Hundred Flavours”), the modest-but-bustling (and smoke-filled — ahh, Japan) old izakaya we teachers used to make pests of ourselves at, back when we worked just down the road:
I soon realised that salty pub food and five draught beers nowadays hit me with a force I seldom encountered in my relative youth.
Especially when I stupidly agreed to accompany Andrew the next morning on a trek into the mountains of Chichibu to do some research into the local wolf cult (seriously) for Andrew’s blog.
I was feeling seedy indeed and fortunately Andrew was easily persuaded to take the bus all the way from the final train station to Mitsumine Shrine:
My final morning was spent hunting pussies in Ueno Park…
Then it was out to Narita and a seven-hour leg to Cairns, a five-hour layover (joy!) and the home stretch to Brisbane.
My father had rebuilt the kitchen cabinets and benches ruined in that flood earlier in the year, and it was a pleasure indeed to be back in my nice apartment and a large and comfortable bed.
Had a family get-together on Saturday, and I’ve also revisited my magpie tribe in the local park. I was worried they might have forgotten me, foolishly. Magpies never forget.
Meanwhile, the tribe seems to have grown while I was away. I must have had fifty of them all over and around me this morning, plus a few wary crows.
Nobody’s table manners have improved in my absence, either!
Alright, gotta split! I feel like peanut-butter ice-cream. Don’t you?
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote