November 14, 2006
Well things can change quickly here in Japan… Around day 6 or 7 of my walk, they all kind of blended together, I pulled a tendon or ligament on the front of my left ankle as I was descending down one of the steep trails from temple 12. Over the next few days of walking it didn’t get any better as I was taping it up, which didn’t seem to be doing much good. Of course the heavy backpack also exacerbated the situation. I didn’t have a very large range of motion without a fair amount of pain, actually flat grades and “up” slopes were OK but going down even a mild grade was quite painful as the ankle had to extend out more. I was actually in very good condition otherwise as I was been recovering quite well after a long day of walking with a good night of sleep.
Now as all good little engineers were taught in Engineering Economics 201 there is a simple little formula called the Benefit to Cost ratio (B/C), and whenever this goes below 1.0 (where the cost is greater than the derived benefit) for a given period of time then it is no longer in the best interest of those involved to invest in or continue with the project. My B/C ratio was hoverinig around 0.65 for quite a few days and not improving, not good. And I didn’t see it getting much better without taking some time off to let my ankle heal. So after 200 miles and 27 temples I’ve decided to call it good for this time.
So now this puts an interesting spin on all my other plans here. I really don’t have enough money to live in Tokyo or anywhere else in Japan for 3 plus months as my first paycheck probably wouldn’t come until late January or early February from teaching, so guess what….. I’m going to come back home.
So no worries mate, the key is to have plans and goals but no real expectations becaues you never know what may happen along path.
So as the sun sets on Shikoku Island I log another short chapter in the life of a Gaijin (foreigner) in japan and I should be back in time for my big 50th birthday bash next month.
Till Next Time,
October 23, 2006
To sound like a broken record…. another long day on the road from Temple 26 to 27. I have been traveling on and off with two other Henro’s, Hiro & Kamemoto, we are about at the same speed give or take. Hiro-san speaks very good English while kamemoto-san knows a little bit but he mostly speaks Japanese to me and I speak English back to him and we actually understand each other pretty well, of course our conversations are mostly about body pain and how far it is the next temple, which is a universal language.
I’ll try to get a better picture of the lads from the front in the next day or two. Hiro is from Kyoto and Kamemoto is from Fukuoka, which is on Kyushu Island.
This is the suffer-fest part of the walk as the last 4 hours of each day is nothing but aching feet, backs & other bodily appendages. Today we did about 18 miles where the last 3 miles was 1.5 miles up to Temple 27 (1300 elev) and 1.5 miles back down again to sea level.
I have been staying about every 3rd day in a Minshiku (kind of Inn) such as I am tonight, I really needed a good shower and soft futon to sleep on. For about $60 you get a room with dinner and breakfast. It’s all good.
So I would say there are several general categories of Henro’s out on the trail. The first group are people who drive their personnel cars around to each temple. Next group is the little old ladies, usually a group of 3 or 4, that take a taxi around to each temple. Next comes the tour bus groups and they obviously the biggest organized groups you see at the temples. After those comes the walkers, where there are two classes. The first group is the ones who travel light with just a small pack with two or three changes of clothes and they stay at Inns every night and may or may not do a lot of mileage each day as opposed to the group I fall into, which is the hard core walkers who free camp at least 50% or more and are carrying all their gear on their backs and tend to put in mostly long hard days. There are also a few odd categories such as people who ride their bikes and a group I ran into today who are walking the whole way with a professional guide and have a support vehicle lugging their gear for them, which provides drinks and food along the road as they are walking. I talked to one of the ladies in this group today and she said that their guide was a somewhat famous Henro that had been featured on the National Television station NHK.
Here are a few images from the past couple of days;
Till next time,
October 23, 2006
End of another long day on the road as I have made it around to Temple 23, which is the last temple before leaving Tokushima Prefecture. This temple is also the first temple that is near the Pacific Ocean and it was a beautiful site to see as I rounded a corner with less than 30 minutes to go before getting to the Temple.
Tonight I am staying in a old converted bus that a local restaurant lets walking Henro stay in for free. They also gave us a huge free dinner as well. I say we, because there will be 6 of us sleeping in the old bus tonight and there will be little room for anything other than futons & sleeping bags. I have met 3 of the others before while walking and that would be; Kamemoto-san, Showgo-san, HIro-san and I’m sure I will know the rest before the walk is over.
The bus thing is part of what they call Osettai, which is the custom of giving free gifts to Henros as they are walking along as it brings good luck to the giver as well as the receiver. So far I have been given cold drinks, a little money, candy and actually two free nights lodgings. There is the one tonight and one about two days ago. As I was walking down from Temple 12 a taxi pulled over, which had 4 older ladies also doing the temples and they gave me some snacks and the taxi driver gave me his card and said something I didn’t quite understand but something about Temple 16, so I thanked them and went on my way. I actually made it to temple 17 that day and as I was sitting in the temple courtyard trying to figure out where I would spend the night another gentleman sitting nearby asked me where I was from in Japanese and then said something I didn’t understand and then he said “free stay Sakai Taxi”. So this Sakai Taxi was the same taxi company that had passed me earlier in the day and what the taxi drive, who was actually the owner, was telling me he had a place at his business where he let Henros stay for free. So I pulled out the business card and showed it to him and he said “Yes, That’s It” more or less. So I walked the 1.5 miles back into town and found the taxi company and sure enough he had pretty decent place over the taxi garage where me and another Henro stayed that night.
Here are some more scenes along the way between temples 12 & 23:
I’ll try to get more pictures loaded up into Flickr next time I find a McDonalds as I have quite a few more of interest
So this is the end of the first week on the road and hit a bit of a milestone today as I just went over 100 miles. The next few days will be along he coast line and there won’t be any temples for a couple of days. The weather remains very nice with high temperatures in the upper 70’s and not much humidity and hopefully this will continue for awhile. It hasn’t always been easy to find the time to write in the blog as either I’m to tired or don’t have a very good place to get setup. I have been able to “free camp” as they say for the last 3 nights and if I can put in a long day tomorrow I guess there is a place about 20 miles away that will let walking Henros stay for free as well.
Till next time,
October 13, 2006
This is the beginning of the third day of the trek and I have covered the first 10 temples. So far most of the path has been along what you might call small rural roadways that pass through rice fields and other small agricultural farms. Half of the first day was spent gettng from Osaka to Tokushima by bus as I didn’t arrive into Bando the small city where I started the walk until well after noon so I only got to 3 temples that first day. So yesterday was the first full day out walking and I covered about 12 miles give or take.
The weather has been good, two nights ago it rained in the night and I thought I might have to be walking in the rain but yesterday was just cloudy and a little bit humid. Today I have awaken to what appears to be clear skies and it should be a good day, though a little warm in the afternoon maybe. Here are a few images of the trek so far.
Fast forward 7 hours. I started this walk today at about 8:30am and arrived at temple 11 at around 11:30. The walk from temple 11 to 12 is only about 5.5miles but starts at elevation 100 and fnishes at temple 12 at just over 2600 feet. Now that may not sould like much but there were at least two accents over mountain passes that were at about 1600 feet then down to 500 feet and back up again so in all I would put the vertical climbing on the day well over 4000 feet. And my 25 pound backpack feels more like 100 pounds. The trek from 11 to 12 is all mountain single track trail and heavily wooded and I arrived at temple 12 around 3:30 and very tired.
So far I haven’t seen a lot of other walking Henro’s on the road but quite a few people who are driving to each temple and a couple of tour buses. But Just as I was covering the last 200 meters before tempe 12 I caught up to a young girl (early 20’s) that was walking alone, we exchanged hello’s (kanichiwa) and I said muzukashi ne (difficult yes) as we were both obviously very tired from all the climbing.
Once at the temple most everyone goes through the little ceromony of saying the heart sutra and some henro’s get their book signed. It all takes only about 10-15 minutes and your ready to move on to the next temple. This was the last temple for me for the day and my guide book said that there were accomodation at temple 12 but this was not true so I wasn’t quite sure where I would be staying as there wasn’t any place to camp nearby. The girl I saw earlier could see my situation and asked if she could help by calling a hotel down the valley and make a reservation for me. She already had a reservation at another hotel somewhat nearby but and it was alreasy full and still an hour walk away. So she also called a taxi and we split the cost of the taxi and she went part way and then I went on to my hotel. This was a really nice hotel with a onsen (hot bath) and dinner and breakfast were included but it was pretty expensive and I can’t be doing that very often or I will be coming home on the next bus in about 3 weeks time as I am on the beer budget travel package.
Till next time,
October 3, 2006
So I say goodbye to all the Barnstormers at the HEA barn and the adventure begins.