It feels good to be on the Road, the one with a capital “R”.
My first steps as a pilgrim made me remember a lot about the Camino in 2013. This morning I still couldn’t realize what was really going on. At the same time, however, I started to switch my mind mind from giving importance to silly things to focusing exclusively on the path ahead of me.
For the first time since I landed, I felt calm and relaxed, like when you finally get home after a tiresome day. This particular day, though, was just about to begin.
Before leaving the ryokan, I managed to book today’s room via one of the cooks. Thanks to my friend Natsumi, who provided me with the “killer sentence”, it was a piece of cake. It was nice to have solved this issue already before 8.00 AM, after yesterday’s drama.
The breakfast was as glorious as the previous dinner. There was rice and fish and a soup with mussels, a big omelette and other stuff. I thought it was too much but, as it turned out, it’s never too much when it comes to food.
Arrived after just a few steps at the first temple, it took me a few minutes to understand what to do. I washed my hands and mouth, rang a bell, shadowed a group of pilgrims who were chanting a sutra and eventually got my first stamp.
I am still unable to keep up with the real buddhist way of worshipping Kōbō Daishi and the other different deities. I would probably need few more days of observation of the other pilgrims.
After that, I visited other six temples. Tonight I’m staying at the the last one of them: Jūraku-ji, the number 7.
Even though I didn’t walk too much, around 18 Km, and I took frequent brakes in order to avoid stressing my feet and muscles, I still feel tired.
While tomorrow should be similar to today in terms of physical endurance needed, on Monday I will face the first real test of this pilgrimage: a steep ascent and descent from temple 11 to temple 12. The elevation change will be a +600 m, with some up and downs. It won’t be pleasant, I’m sure about it.
The good news is that finally I’m on the way, and I already witnessed how friendly and generous the people from Shikoku are. I got juices, sweets and other things as osettai.
One of the men who talked to me asked if I was a “walking priest”. When I said no, he corrected me saying that by walking the o-henro I will be considered similar to a priest. Soon after that, he handed me a canned coffee as a gift. Osettai.
Throughout my life I’ve been called several names, but this for sure is the first time that somebody says that I’m a priest, and of a religion I know very little about nonetheless.
It was also the first time I saw a “100%” coffee beverage in a can. Weird.
For lunch I had some amazing home-made udon noodles, from a lady and her husband who cook in their kitchen for the pilgrims who want a meal. It tasted completely different from yesterday’s udori-don that I took at sort of canteen/restaurant. The lady spoke English, moreover, so that I could consciously choose what I wanted this time.
On a different topic, mosquitoes and other insects have started to feast on my flesh already. I’m sure it won’t get any better in the next days. The scratching is real.
It’s 20.47 now, and considering I woke up around 4.00, I will call it a day, publish this article and go to sleep. The sooner I get into the pilgrim habits, the better I will keep up with the walkimg every day.
Stay tuned, and make sure you share this story with somebody who loves either travelling or the Far East.