Temple 39

Estimated distance walked this day:  6 kms

Cumulative distance walked: 229 kms

After getting up, we walked around some more along the coast, and then caught the first bus out. This bus was driven by a young woman — a generation ago, there would have been no female bus drivers. And as it was, I was thinking that she probably got the least popular run of driving Sunday morning. In her crisp uniform (no people love uniforms more than the Japanese) she was no less a professional driver. She did light taps of the horn as she went around those blind curves on our one-lane, two-way road, which was just fine with me. That road is incredibly scenic, but dang, it’s amazing that apparently people drive it every day (including all those pilgrim tour buses) and yet no one seems to get killed.

I made a stop to the Japanese equivalent of Frys, to get something for my camera, in the suburban sprawl outside of Nakamura, while Ann continued riding the bus into town. She waited for me to do my shopping and walk in. I made a stop at a used clothing store, and bought a beautiful purple and white traditional kimono jacket there for about $10. After I met up with Ann, we walked out to the farmers’ market near the tourist information center. We had a climb later in the day, and we wanted supplies for a picnic lunch. The tourist information center told us that the inn that we wanted near the temple was full, so I had them call the other one, which had a vacancy.

We then got on the wanman train, and rode out to Enkōji. We easily found the inn, but is not surprising mid-day at a Japanese inn, it was locked up tight. So we just dropped our heavy backpacks discretely behind something, so we could just walk with our sutra bags. The climb up was not as bad as Ann feared — I think the whole climb to Temple 12 was rather scarring — and we made it to the top rather handily. Like many temples up on a large hill, once we got there, there were still more steps, and more steps up. There’s a legend about a sea turtle living at the temple, which is clearly legend, because no sea turtle could have managed all those stairs. After spending time at the temple, we headed back down. It was now after 4:00 PM, the usual time that inns start receiving guests. We walked around, and finally found the guest entrance, and the doors were open.

Usually at this point, we enter an inn, and are greeted by our hosts, who typically show us to our rooms, perhaps give us a pot of green tea and a restorative snack (typically oranges or crackers), and are offered a hot bath. Instead, other than the open door, there was no sign of anyone. We looked around, and saw how dirty and old the interior was, with cobwebs dating back to the previous emperor. I walked around looking for the owner, and saw a communal bath that could have really used a dose of Clorox and some elbow grease. I called out, “Sumimasen! Sumimasen!” but got no reply. So, I gave a call to the owner. We sat in the lobby, and I could hear the phone trilling in another part of the building. It rang and rang, and finally, after about twelve rings, it was answered. The innkeeper sounded like she was 103 years old. She told me that she was not ready to receive us yet. Since there were no other guests apparent, and she had all day to prepare for us, this seemed to be a bad sign. Even previous inns that might have been a little old and worn, had staff ready to greet us and offer hospitality. Ann and I gave each other looks, and I said that there was a hotel in Sukumo, about 10 miles down the road. I called the hotel, and sure enough, there was a vacancy. I snapped off my phone, and we set out to the train station. Because we were out in the sticks, the next wanman train wasn’t due for another hour and a half. So we walked back out to the main road, and waited for a local bus instead, which was coming in less than an hour. Not much better, but a little.

The bus finally arrived, and we piled on. As we drew into town, I told the driver which hotel we were looking for, and he dropped us off closer than if we had taken the train. The hotel was pretty stark and utilitarian, but it was clean, and even better, it had wifi. Woo-hoo! Not only wifi in the Nakamura train station, at our hotel, too! We asked the front desk staff for suggestions for a restaurant, and they recommended one down the road a ways. We started walking there, but before we even walked a block, we stumbled on a Pakistani restaurant. How some Pakistanis should find themselves in Sukumo (not exactly the most cosmopolitan corner of Shikoku) to open a restaurant, with halal meat no less, I can not fathom. I like Japanese food, but we had been eating Japanese food three times a day for more than a couple of weeks, and it was really fun to have something else. We had chicken in a spinach sauce and lamb in a tomato-based curry sauce, over rice, with nan and a couple of mugs of draft beer. I told the waiter (in English!) that we wanted it spicy, not Japanese spicy, but really spicy, and it came to us sort of medium-mild, but this was still spicier than I might have expected.

So — it was a long day, with a lot of travel, plus a reasonable hike up to a temple and back, plus the unexpected bonus of wifi and curries at the end. No complaints, no complaints at all.

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