I was feeling much better after a night’s sleep and began the day with a large breakfast that was included as part of my accommodation:
There was a ham salad, mackerel, spinach, whitebait, miso soup, rice, pickles, tuna flakes (instead of the usual bonito flakes) and under the wooden lid was a mini hot pot with tofu, cabbage and leek. There had also been a raw egg which you are supposed to whisk up and pour over your rice, but I really don’t do raw egg, or even slightly undercooked egg – if truth be told. I like my eggs to be cooked to the buggery and knowing that most foreigners don’t do raw eggs, the waitress asked me if I’d like my egg cooked. I asked for it to be scrambled and out it came back a couple of minutes later with a side of tomato sauce. Oh, there was also coffee and a glass of buntan juice (which google tells me is pomelo in English ). If I had to describe it, it’s a little like a sweet grapefruit and is one of the main fruits harvested in Shikoku.
I left the hotel around 7:30am and headed towards Konomineji temple, which was, you guessed it, on top of a mountain. I’d read that there was a shop near the beginning of the road to the temple that you could leave your backpack at instead of carrying it up and back down again, so I set off for the shop, passing a slightly weirdly sexualised people mover on the way:
There were still a few cherry blossom trees in bloom here and there up on the mountains, although it was really the last couple of the days of the season.
I found the shop and set my backpack down with a couple of others (after removing my mini backpack that held my valuables and what I needed for the temple) and set off on the 9km round trip.
The road was quite steep and as I continued to climb there were sections of the trail that diverted off the road and were actually a more direct, albeit slower route because it was exceptionally steep
I really wanted to stick to the walking path as much as possible so I took those sections on the way up whenever I could.
But I really didn’t fancy coming back down that way, so I made an early decision to come back down the road. On the way up I also overtook a couple of the ladies that had stayed at the same lodgings as me on the first night. They commented that I was smart for leaving my backpack at the bottom of the hill and we had a little bit of a chat about the trail and I found out they were travelling using a combination of trains, buses and a bit of walking.
Konomineji was actually one of my favourite temples after I finally arrived, sweating and panting.
It was one of those well-maintained, beautifully manicured temples that had a lovely view. Although I hate to say it, most of the really nice temples are on top of the highest hills (I wonder if that is by design to encourage people to go??)
The garden was artfully planted up the side of the steep mountain:
There was even a koi pond with several large specimens:
I admired the view of the cherry blossoms and ocean as I headed back down to collect my backpack, passing several people who were on their way up, including a very curious gentleman who was wheeling a suitcase up the road (I’m hoping he drove his car and wasn’t walking the trail…)
I bought some bread (not melon this time, but custard) and a sudachi drink from the shop and sat down outside with my backpack. I watched several bus loads of ‘pilgrims’ pull up and use the toilet facilities outside. The road to the temple was steep and very narrow in places, so they were splitting the people into groups and driving them up to the temple in 8-seater mini-vans. I have to say that I felt a sense of pride in doing the pilgrimage the ‘right’ way, but I also swore vociferously at each van that passed me on the road to & from the temple.
I had seen on the map that there was a section labelled 防波堤歩道 which I’m not exactly what to call in English, but it’s essentially a walking path on a low-ish concrete wall that is designed to break the waves and stop erosion.
In this case it wasn’t actually a ‘walking path’ because cars kept coming along it and ruining my zen, but the view was still pretty spectacular.
As I came to the end of the wall, there was a park with seating and a gentleman called me over and said that he was sketching the pilgrims and could I wait a few minutes while he sketched me. I decided it was a good spot as any to take a break and have a drink so he set about his sketching. I wouldn’t call him Picasso and his conversation topics were slightly weird (Is Australia involved in the Syria situation?), but he gave me a copy of the sketch to keep so all was good.
I had booked into Hotel Tamai near Aki station. There were only two other places in town to stay and I didn’t fancy either of them. Hotel Tamai was one of those big, glossy small-town hotels that had seen better days in the 1980’s. The first floor was actually a pachinko parlour but because of its weird shape, I’d been able to pick it out on the horizon for several hours so it gave me something to aim towards.
It was 2:30 when I arrived and I apologised for being early and fortunately they let me have my room straight away and all was good. Just FYI, Japan is one country where they tend to be picky about check-in times and if check-in is 3pm, then you generally won’t be allowed in the room until 3pm. Fortunately, your pilgrim gear tends to get you some slack, so if your room is ready and you’re not too early, you’ll be ok.
I put my clothes onto wash in the coin laundry in the carpark of the hotel and then headed out to find a chemist to get some cream (I had a weird rash on the bottom of my feet) and some sports drinks. It was the first largish town I had been at for several days so it was a good chance to stock up on supplies. Breakfast was included, but dinner wasn’t so I decided to grab a hot bento box at Hokka Hokka Tei, which is known for its cheap and hefty bento boxes and is very popular with students.
I bought a deluxe fried chicken bento for 420 yen (about $6). You can also see an egg roll, pasta, potato croquette, meat balls and chikuwa in there. They are freshly made while you wait.
There was a public bath at the hotel, but there was a large bath in my room so I decided just to eat and chill in my room for the evening.