Estimated distance walked this day: 5 kms
Cumulative distance walked: 223 kms
This was a big travel day. We did not do that much walking, but used train and bus to cover over 120 kms of distance.
We caught an early train out of Susaki, and headed south. We got off the train at Kubokawa, and walked to Iwamotoji. One of the things I remember best of this temple is that they have community members contribute to how the temple looks. For example, as you climb the stairs to get to the temple gates, they have little wooden plaques painted by local children. And the ceiling in the main hall has little squares painted clearly by many different people. Some of the paintings are religious in nature (mandalas, saints), but others are of plants and animals, famous people — I guess whatever people wanted to see. The main hall also had seating for the public, and I had the opportunity to sit there in meditation, too.
After we were done there, we walked back to the train station and continued south, until we went as far south as you could on the train — to Nakamura. We then walked to the Nakamura tourist information office, where they booked us a hotel for our final destination of the day, and also provided us with lots of useful help. In the same complex as the tourist information office was a farmers’ market and a little restaurant, so we also ate lunch there. We then caught the bus to take us to Cape Ashizuri.
The bus ride was more or less normal to Tosa-Shimizu. The younger driver got off, and an older guy took over the driving. From Tosa-Shimizu, the road narrowed to a one-lane, two-way winding road, with more or less a sheer cliff going up on one side, and a scary plunge into the ocean on the other. Since so many of the roads in Japan are one or one-and-a-half lanes and take two-way traffic, it’s interesting to me to see how these are negotiated. In this case, it appeared that the bus pretty much had the right-of-way, forcing other vehicles to back out until they reached a place where the road was wide enough for the bus to pass. When there was a semi-truck coming the other way, there were a few seconds of seeming negotiation, and the bus backed down until the semi could continue on.
By the time we reached the Cape, while I had enjoyed the views out of the bus window, I was a little car-sick, and happy to disembark. We dumped our stuff at the Hatto Hotel, and trotted off to find Kongofukuji, Temple 38.
Since the tour bus pilgrims also spent the day in travel down to the Cape, they were also trying to reach the temple before the day’s end, too. Bus after bus were unloading in the parking lot across from the temple. When we entered the temple grounds, they were jammed with pilgrims. Different groups were chanting and praying at the different halls. As Ann and I walked behind one, and looked at the many statues of Buddhist saints and boddhisatvas, you could hear the voices and the drumming, while the slanting afternoon sun filtered through the trees, creating an other-worldly atmosphere.
After visiting the temple, we walked out to the viewpoint, where one tour guide was pointing to where things were in different directions, including “Guam” and “Hawaii”. It really did feel like we were standing on the edge of the vast Pacific Ocean. We walked out to the lighthouse. Then we escaped the crowds by walking down to the shore: first to a rock adjoining the land that was marked off with a Shinto torii gate as being holy, and then down to the sand. There was a hole in the rock, and the sea rushed through it to the beach, and out again, over and over.
We came back up to Hotel Hotto, where we had an extensive sashimi dinner. The food there was magnificent, and as you can imagine, the fish was amazingly fresh. The owner made a fancy table setting with the fish head and tail stuck into an enormous froth of grated daikon, such that it looked like the fish was jumping out of the sea foam. Considering that we had sea view rooms, a private bath, and this dinner (plus the standard Japanese breakfast), the price of ~$70 per person was pretty cheap, I thought. We watched the sun set over the water. We didn’t walk a lot of miles that day, but it was a satisfying one nonetheless.