Breakfast was a Western/Japanese buffet. I’m always at a bit of loss as to what to put on my plate and usually end up with a weird collection of salad, fish, rice, pickles, egg and croissants. As evidenced by my photo:
I really like these divided plates that they have for buffets in Japan. They allow you to have lots of completely different things without the flavours getting all mixed up like they would on a normal plate. I was also super happy for the coffee, fruit and yoghurt. Mornings really need to start with coffee.
Today’s trail was going to take me along the not well-traversed western side of the peninsula and I’d read that the 2.5km section of walking trail is best avoided if the weather isn’t good. The weather was looking pretty damn fine with a picture-perfect blue sky
but I wasn’t excited by the prospect of another scary trail so I had planned on taking the longer path along the road. Fortunately they had recently opened up a new tunnel that wasn’t on my pilgrim map and I had the privilege of traversing its pristine interior.
It was one of the cleanest, nicest tunnels I passed through and had been made with a lovely wide footpath.
I think only about 2 cars passed me during the time I was walking through the tunnel which was nice and confirmed my thoughts that going up the west side had been a great decision. From the plaques on either end I could see that it had taken a year to dig the tunnel
The trail took me through several small fishing villages during the day. As I approached each village I would get a strong scent of cooking fish before I even saw the buildings and there would always be one or two buildings billowing smoke. It didn’t dawn on me until I actually walked right past one of these buildings that they would be smoke houses for the bonito.
Outside were racks and racks of fish ready to go into the smoker where they’d be smoked into a solid lump and then shaved to make the ubiquitous bonito shavings that form the basis of all Japanese cooking.
I always enjoy seeing these touches of daily life.
It was also on this day that I had the privilege of seeing the best (most touching?) thing on my pilgrimage to date. After passing through one of the villages, Nakanohama, which was about 8km down the trail from my lodgings, I could see a big blue bridge a little up the side of the mountain and as the path climbed I assumed that I would be crossing the bridge.
Except before you get to the bridge the path crosses the road and cuts down the side of the guard rail. You head through a grassy, bushy area where you are greeted with a pair of pruning shears with a sign:
Which kindly asks anyone passing through to cut the weeds as osettai for the pilgrims and then to return the shears for the next person to use.
Oh Japan, you make me smile.
Incidentally Nakanohama is a little bit famous as being the birthplace of John Mung (John Manjiro/John Nakahama), a Japanese sailor who was shipwrecked and picked up by an American ship and was taken to America. He learned English and apparently introduced a lot of information back to Japan about warships and sailing and is a well-known person in Japanese history (not that I knew of him before I passed through the town!) There’s a museum you can go to and along the sea wall near the harbour is a mural painted with scenes from his life.
After leaving Nakanohama there was another long section of off-road walking track that I had heard was ok, but I was still apprehensive about. It turned out to be the most pleasant walking trail I had walked on for the entire length of Kochi prefecture and it gave me back some confidence and lifted my spirits. It was quiet and peaceful and I was so glad I had taken it and not stayed on the road. I was 47km from my next temple…
When the trail headed into another small town, I decided to stop at a Lawson convenience store and grab some melon bread and a coffee and I saw a guy on a bicycle who turned out to be the guy from the B&B I had stayed at the night before last. He said hello and I asked what he was doing there. He said he always rode his bicycle to town to do shopping and I couldn’t wrap my head around how he would travel so far on a bicycle (I was nearly 40kms from the B&B) but it turns out that the geography of the peninsula means that you could cut through the middle quite easily and it’s actually very close. I was nearly finished my snack when suddenly the Dutch couple came around the corner and I thought it was definitely the convenience store of reunions! Not long after, one of their other Dutch acquaintances arrived and we all had a good chat and took some photos together. Actually it was really bizarre to run into everyone at the same time.
I asked where they were staying that night and it turned out that we were all staying at the same place – Hotel Orange. Of course, being Dutch, they said they couldn’t stay anywhere else! Well, to be fair, there weren’t many options and it was the only place with the word ‘hotel’ in the name.
I headed off before they did and said that I’d probably see them that night. My next stop was a road station a further 8kms down the road. I set off at a break-neck pace (not wanting to have to walk with anyone) and managed to reach the road station just as it was really starting to rain. I got a can of coffee and waited for the rain to stop, expecting them to catch up to me but I never saw them and as soon as the rain stopped, I headed off again.
The trail headed back down to the ocean and as the hotel was only a couple of kilometres down the road, I decided to kill some time on the beach because it was still well before 3pm. I ended up Skyping M again and spent about 30mins sitting on some rocks and watching the waves roll in.
My accommodation for the evening was initially a little scary. It reminded me of an eerie government holiday home from the 60’s and was a couple of buildings that had been joined together. I passed some very sad-looking single rooms on my was to what turned out to be a suite and I was feeling super lucky.
My booking had said that it was a shared a bathroom, but the room I was shown to ended up being quite luxurious and had its own bath and toilet.
What happened was that they were expecting a foreign couple that didn’t speak Japanese and when I turned up, he thought I was part of the couple so showed me to a double room. We realised what had happened when I asked about dinner and he said that the booking had been without dinner but I said that I’d booked it with dinner. I knew the Dutch couple were trying to save money and so had booked without dinner. Anyway it got sorted and he told me dinner was at 6pm.
I washed my clothes, had a shower and waited for dinner. I heard the Dutch couple thumping around next door when they arrived (I didn’t actually see them until morning.)My futon hadn’t been laid out and I really wanted to lie down. I had a look in the cupboard to see if there were sheets and things, but there were only futons so I thought I’d wait and see what happened.
It began raining very heavily and turned cold and I was wondering if my clothes would dry so I turned on the air-con to high while I went and had dinner in the common room.
Dinner was actually really nice and very filling. There was the standard bonito tataki, sashimi, tempura and a large beef hot pot, along with other bits and pieces.
The gentleman who served me brought out some artfully cut up buntan, orange and juice, saying it was from their garden. He was really shy and kind. He was really appreciative when I said the dinner was delicious. I hadn’t actually been expecting much as I knew the room rate was very cheap.
When I returned to my room after dinner, the magical Japanese thing happened and my futon had been laid out for me.
During dinner there had been another single girl sitting next to me, who had the look of a pilgrim about her, but we didn’t talk until breakfast.
I went to sleep thinking that it was my third last night on this section of my pilgrimage and hoping that the weather would fine up before morning.