It was the morning of Saturday 15th April, 4 days since I’d left my suitcase behind in Kochi and headed out on the pilgrim trail. I had a long day of walking (30km) and one temple on my schedule for the day so I had an early start for breakfast at 6:30am.
The view from the top floor restaurant was quite good, although that was simply because it was the tallest building in town (and the designated tsunami evacuation centre)
Breakfast was a serve-yourself buffet and was probably the most mediocre breakfast of my entire journey (although that may be because I didn’t really know what to have other than a boiled egg and rice.)
I set off at 7am and after walking through town and feeling very self-conscious, as I usually did in places with lots of people, the path brought me down to the fishing port and their ginormous tsunami wall:
The sign on the wall actually says that it is the highest wall in Japan and is 16m tall. The boats at the base were fairly large fishing boats and they looked like toys.
The pilgrim trail for most of the day actually turned out to be one long-ass bicycle path. It started out like this:
But became this with some delightful cherry blossoms in sections:
There were also some beaches with their volcanic black sand:
On the map there was a very curious marking of a pilgrim rest area with a person’s name next to it. I assumed it was that person’s house, but it actually turned out to be one of the scariest things I saw on my journey.
It was a hut full of mannequins and dolls and every single free surface in it was covered in origami or quotes and things.
I’m sure the lady who kindly set it up meant well, but I couldn’t bring myself to go inside, even though there was a sign outside saying , ‘Welcome pilgrims!’
I was actually desperate for a toilet (which kind of turned into a theme for the entire trip) and fortunately found one not to further ahead, except the squat factor wasn’t the most disturbing thing about it (live caterpillar anyone?):
Yes, I even take photos in toilets for your viewing pleasure.
I was glad that the path kept me off the main road, but there were sections of it that could be closed if the waves were high or if there was a typhoon approaching. There were gates across these parts so they could be closed off:
And if you were feeling particularly pilgrimmy, I even came across a zenkonyado on the side of the bike path.
A zenkonyado is a place that pilgrims can stay at for free and they are dotted through the pilgrim trail and kept open by volunteers. Personally, I don’t really do camping or relying on the good will of others, so I chose to take the comfortable accommodation option, but I realise that for a lot of people, roughing it really is part of the pilgrimage.
The path felt really endless this day and I was very glad to find a rest stop that residents of a aged care facility had set up further along the path. They had a cold water and tea dispenser and a place to sit down.
The elderly residents had also made little charms for the pilgrims to take so I took one as well. There was a book for people to write their words of thanks in. It seemed as though there was a pilgrim passing through every couple of days.
Ahead of that, there was a short tunnel, which was slightly creepy and was actually my first tunnel of the journey:
And then I emerged in a little village with one of the most triangularly-shaped houses I had seen:
I stopped at a michinoeki for lunch, which literally translates as a ‘road station’ and is like a drive-in, I guess, selling local produce and obento and typically has a restaurant or two. It was quite crowded, being a Saturday lunch time and I caused a bit of a stir walking in in my pilgrim outfit. I bought some rice balls and a drink and headed out the back so I wouldn’t get stared at/talked about so much, and watched some students playing beach volleyball. It was actually quite hot – around 25 degrees and the constant sun and heat was sapping my energy.
The temple was still 8km away by this point and I had walked 30km since my last temple:
My hotel was still 12km away but I had to visit Dainichiji first.
Dainichiji was quite a subdued temple in a residential area. I was actually starting to come into the outskirts of Kochi city and you could see the housing density build up. It was also 3pm and school was out, so I was surrounded by a bevy of school kids on their bicycles.
I seem to get more lost in cities as well and almost like clockwork, I got confused after leaving Dainichiji. It was actually due to the fact that I was purposely leaving the pilgrim path in order to get to my hotel for the night so I didn’t have any signage to help.
I passed the quite large Niyodo river:
and made it to my lodging, Hotel Daiwa at around 4pm.
Hotel Daiwa was one of only a handful of places that I actually had to phone and book as they had no online booking system. It was right next to the station and train tracks, which probably wasn’t the best in hindsight as the diesel cars chuffing past was quite noisy.
I put my clothes onto wash and went to a nearby convenience store to grab dinner and breakfast as I planning on leaving early the next morning.
I also bought some instant coffee sachets because this girl needs her coffee in the morning and green tea just doesn’t cut it.
And of course, what was my breakfast of choice?
It started raining while I was out buying my dinner and I was hoping it would fine up by morning and fortunately it did. The real rain was yet to come!