Estimated distance walked this day: 18 kms
Cumulative distance walked: 184 kms
It was one of those days where we must have gotten a somewhat of a late start, easier to do in a hotel, than an inn, where they eject you on to the street by 7:30, if not earlier. By the time we caught the wanman train out to Gomen, and then walked to the bus station, we had missed the bus that would take us out to to Temple 32, Zenjibuji. The next bus was — gulp — two hours later.
I went into the bus station, and asked how long it would take to walk. About an hour, the bus station attendant thought. OK, we’ll walk.
It was a warm, sunny day, and we set out south. This whole section was going to mostly be off our map book, so it was a little nerve-racking in terms of navigation. However, I believed that if we just stayed on the numbered route going south, eventually we’d intersect with Route 14, and we’d be able to find it.
We walked and walked. The urban scene petered out into some mix of suburbia, hodgepodge of rice paddies and vegetable fields, and light industrial and warehousing, along a busy road. Walked and walked. Walked and walked. Finally, we reached Route 14, and I had to breathe a sigh of relief, because at least Route 14 was on my map, and we’d be able to find the temple.
The morning had melted away in the now hot mid-day sun, and I was happy to stumble upon an Italian restaurant. We came in, and they immediately served a large glass of ice water, which is a contrast to the usual thimble that they usually serve. We then proceeded to order a pizza set, where we got a couple of cheese pizzas with fresh basil, green salads, and a soft drinks — we both choose ice tea — for some reasonable price. When they brought out the two pizzas, I thought, no way am I going to eat this whole pizza by myself. Yet, somehow, the entire pizza disappeared. Plus, more ice water. No complaints.
We set back out on to the highway refreshed, and walked and walked…we could see up on the hill a cemetery, and often this is a sign that a temple is nearby. Ann speculated that our temple was somewhere up on that hill. But we saw no henro trail signs, so we walked under the hill instead, through a tunnel.
When we came out the other side, I knew that there had to be some way up the hill, but how? While I was in the process of tracking down some poor, unfortunate young lady and asking her for directions, Ann was able to pick up the henro trail marker. I thanked the person that I had stopped for at least trying to help, and took up the proper path.
From there, it was not long before we hit a steep climb, and it was up, up, up that hill that we had just been under. We finally made it to the top, which had a spectacular view of the port. The temple had a number of cool Jizo statues. This temple was a place to pray for the safety of seafarers and fisherfolk.
Because our walk out there had taken so long, Ann warned me that we could not linger, so we set down the hill again. Then, it was another very long, unattractive walk along 50,000 rows of plastic greenhouses — a good 3.5 kms of this, and little else. The hot sun beat down on our heads. Ann later apparently confessed that she was thinking about trading a lifetime of being in a wheelchair for not having to walk another step.
Finally, after another couple of kms of walking, we found our way to the free Tanizaki pedestrian ferry boat. Based on the schedule, if we had not been able to catch this boat, then we’d be hosed trying to get to Temple 33 before it closed. But, we made it with time to spare. I sat down gratefully at the small terminal, and drank a soda from the neighboring vending machine. It was cooling down and starting to cloud over. A couple more pilgrims gathered as we waited for the boat, along with a few teens on their bicycles. I chatted with the other pilgrims, who were the typical types we see: retired men in their 60s, walking alone. One of them had done the pilgrimage before, and offered to lead us directly from the ferry terminal on the other side to Sekkeiji, Temple 33, about a km and a half from the shore. Since I had done so much navigation earlier in the day, it was a relief to have someone else do the leading.
Once we made the crossing, this senior pilgrim lead us all briskly along the roadside, until we arrived at the temple. It is one of the few Zen temples on the route, but nothing about it stood out to me as being particularly Zen. I remember the temple complex being simple and somewhat worn, which is fine with me. I don’t need my temples nice and shiny.
The day was now done, and we were toast, too. We caught a bus, which took a long time to return to central Kochi. Not only did it take a good hour, through rush hour traffic to return, it didn’t quite take us as far as the area near the station, where we had our hotel. Instead, it dumped us in the shopping area to the south. We were walking in the general direction of our hotel, when I spotted an okonimiyakiya. I love okonimiyaki, which is a speciality of the Kansai area, where I used to live. While I’ve heard it described as Japanese pizza, really, okonimiyaki is like a big savory pancake stuffed with vegetables and meats.
Well, it was our day to eat round things. We both got an okonimiyaki. There was a kerfuffle with the waitress, and finally the cook came out, a stocky young woman who seemed to be able to deal with two gaijin more handily. After some conferring, I got one that was stuffed I think with pork, and deliciously, with cheese, as well as some vegetables. Ann got one stuffed with seafood. I know we both drank a goodly sized draft beer, too, a piece. We then toddled back to the hotel, quite satisfied.