Estimated distance walked this day: 10 kms
Cumulative distance walked: 125 kms
From our inn at the base of the mountain of Temple 21, we needed to hike out to get to greater civilization, and the next temple, Byodoji. It was a brilliantly clear, cold morning. Our route followed a familiar pattern of first road, then a narrow lane through terraced fields and orchards, to forest path. This morning’s route was only half as steep, so it did not take long for the pattern to reverse and go from forest to farms to road. We made it to Byodoji by mid-morning. A young priest was attempting to rake the garden gravel, while his two children tried to ride the rake, goof around, and generally hinder his work. But he was jovial, and patient with their play. I suspect by her age, it was probably his wife in the nokyo office, stamping our books and drawing the name of the temple on the page.
Then it was a flat course past forest products’ plants, to the Aratano railway station. We ate our bento lunches, waiting for the little train to appear. It was not a long ride to Hiwasa, and our next temple, Yakuoji. This temple has a commanding view of the harbor on which Hiwasa sits. The pagoda, a relatively recent replacement of the older one that burnt down, looks like an enormous white milk bottle. We paid an additional ¥100 fee to go inside, which had artwork about the inevitability of death and unpleasant nature of hell. Also, the awesomeness of the Buddha. I am not fond of this level of religious teaching: you’re going to die, be good so you don’t go to hell, and praise our savior. I know it works for billions, but it is not my style. We stepped out of the milk bottle to get an even more commanding view of the sea, which might have been worth the extra fee, since the art didn’t do it for me.
I had called ahead for lodging, and had a little trouble finding a place. One of our problems is that we are not carrying a guide to accommodations, so all we have is a list of places to stay, their phone numbers, and locations. We call places more or less randomly off of the list. The place that we finally got was, as Ann put it, a flop house. It was a room set aside by religious folks, providing food and shelter for free to indigent pilgrims. I have no qualms describing it as being pretty awful.
We met, however, staying there, a nice young woman, Aiya, who was doing the pilgrimage entirely on foot, and without paying for accommodations. We found out that she had spent the previous night at the drafty Aratano train station where we had eaten our lunch, shivering in her sleeping bag. I thought how one of my own daughters might be tempted into a similar adventure, and asked if she had had a bath recently. “Just the footbath” — a free service for weary pilgrims to soak their feet. “You must come with us to the hot springs”, I told her in Japanese, and told her that of course we’d pay.
After our free meal of dubious quality, we set out for the onzen, a few blocks away. Aiya floated in the water, aiming the soles of her feet right on the jets. After the bath, we got dressed to walk back to the “flop house”, and I regret to say I forgot my hat in my locker. My beloved brown broad-brimmed hat.
Back in our room, it was freezing. Did I mention that our lodging had no heat? It had been sunny and clear during the day, but clear meant no insulating cloud cover at night. I huddled in my futon, fully-dressed with my fleece vest and wool sweater. I pulled the sweater hood over my head, and even wore my mittens. I still froze, waking every hour on the drafty floor. I was so glad when morning came! We assembled a breakfast from foods from the convi – I got a yogurt, the first dairy product of the trip – and skeddadled out of town.