Please start at Day One

Friday, 18 March 2011

Day 18 - Japanese Schoolchildren, Temple Lodgings

I woke up quite grumpy this morning, Okaasan seemed grumpy with me too. I was disappointed with the ryokan, which was really just a spare room in someone`s house.  The bath and toilet were outside, the room was cold with broken window panes that rattled in the wind. I was kept awake most of the night, sometimes listening to their crying baby, and other times laughing at some comedy snoring that I was sure someone was doing on purpose. At breakfast I could not eat the raw egg, I had tried this previously and admitted defeat, and I could not eat the fish this morning, because it had eyes, watching me.

After a couple of hours of walking in a grumpy mood this morning, I had to enter a really cold dark long tunnel, but about halfway through I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, literally and metaphorically as I could see Hisami-san`s silhouette up ahead and hastened my step to catch up with him. Hisami-san told me to call him Sammy, and Suzuki-san still didn`t talk much, but kept on chanting. Sammy cheered me up with some Japanese proverbs which were difficult to translate, except for 剣禅一如 Ken Zen Ichi Nyo "The Sword and Zen are One." 
I left Sammy and Suzuki-san walking, and I took a train to the next temple, where I was also planning to lodge for the night. I arrived too early, so headed for a park marked on my guide book map. The path to the park leads round a high school playing field and girls were in pairs practising baseball hitting, one of them saw me walking past and shouted out "Konnichiwa" and they all stopped what they were doing, turned and bowed to me. A little further on the boys - in smart baseball uniforms - were doing some stretches after running round the field, one of them shouted out "Hello" and again they all started waving and bowing, of course I returned the greetings and bows. I think I would be scared to walking past a school playing field in London if the children started shouting out towards me. In the park, which was sheltered from the wind and felt very summery, a random stranger approached me with a bottle of chilled tea as O Settai.

At Temple 37 this evening the lodgings are very comfortable. A tatami room with green tea set on a low table, futon hidden away, and sliding doors and windows are all now comfortingly familiar to me. At dinner the message hadn`t quite got through again about the vegetarian thing. I apologised and they took away the chicken, and although I was not brave enough for the raw fish, the grilled fish looked really good so I kept that, and enjoyed it. I have decided to that I can take a little break from being veggie while I am Japan, it would be a shame to come here and not eat some fish. I would miss out on the whole the Japanese experience.

At the long dinner table - seating about 10 of us - a man surprised me by asking, in soft well spoken English, for my name. Takashima-san explained that he worked for multinational companies so has learnt to speak English, and he said his friends had many questions for me. He obliged by translating their questions and my answers. It was relaxing to chat in English, this trip is a fantastic opportunity for me to practise my Japanese, but it is draining after a while, like an eight hour Japanese lesson everyday and my head starts to spin. Takashima-san's friends seemed surprised that I am Buddhist, most Japanese people I have spoken to assume that I am Christian simply because I am English.

  • Distance walked today = 16.9k
  • Distance walked so far = 360.8km
  • Temples visited today = Temple 37; Iwamotoji.
  • Koban visited today = nil
  • Accommodation = Temple lodging and 2 meals ¥6500, Iwamotoji Shukubo, Kubokawa, Shimanto City, Kochi-ken 〒786-0004
  • Expenditure today = Train from Susaki to Kubokawa near Temple 37 ¥540, one temple stamp ¥300,  can of coffee ¥100, gifts from temple gift shop ¥1000, laundry ¥300.
  • Settai = bottle of chilled tea from complete stranger

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