Shikoku Day Eight: Reconvening
The Volume of a Zenkanyado
The zenkanyado provided a warmer night than most had been, but sleep did not come easily. Through the nasal passage of the Buddhist laying to my left came sounds that could disturb a DJ at rave. The snoring was so loud I was waiting for the moment where he would shock himself awake from the noise. That instance might have given me a chance to get some rest before he fell unconscious again, but it did not come.
This provided more time for me to read, but irritated me further that the only times I seemed able to find time for the things I wanted were in instances of frustration. The words of a good book can still be enjoyable, but sleep deprivation is hardly the best amplifier for a quality message.
When morning came Muriyama-San, a.k.a. DJ Nostrils, was back to the joyous creature as he’d originally been. He was energetic, smiling, play fighting, laughing, and giving us directions to his own temple back in Yokohama. A good night of sleep will put someone in that mood. I returned his smiles, but I suspect anyone could see they were ingenuous. His magnetic personality came thanks to the sleep that he had cost me, and I felt more repelled from him at the time.
Connor and I got moving after eating and backtracked slightly so we could see Byōdōji (22) in the daylight. We did not stay long as we wanted to be sure to make progress early. We only planned to walk from Byōdōji to Yakuōji (23) in Minami Town where we were planning to meet Miles. It was not a short walk, but one that could be done without much strain.
There were a couple routes to take, one along the roadway and the other more scenic. Connor decided to travel along the ocean and go swimming. The roadway was only three kilometers shorter, but I did not need to think long. I was going the shorter route. There was a definite appeal to walking alone again and I wanted to get to an Onsen I saw listed on the map by the Yakuōji.
Back on my Own
There was a decent walk before we split up and it may have been the most pleasant of time we spent together, but I can only speak for myself. We spoke about our lives, aspirations, struggles, and joys. Where I struggle in large groups I thrive in one-on-one interaction. I love a penetrating, intellectual conversation. Maybe that goes a bit far in describing what transpired between Connor and I, but I felt improved by the moment and am grateful to him for it. I can only hope he gained something from it as well.
We reached the point where our paths split and planned to meet again at the train station. The road way proved to be what was expected; a main road passing through and between moderately populated towns areas resulting in consistent levels of traffic. Consistent in the way that nobody needs to slow down for the car in front of them, but there was never much time between obnoxious engines roaring by in the form of a motorcycle, 18-wheeler, or one of the car engines that seems specifically crafted to make noise.
The consistency of their passing was an irritating occurrence but the road, after all, was not made with feet in mind. There were two restaurants marked on this road in the guidebook but they had both been closed down. One was now overrun with monkeys, which provided some entertainment, but I would have rather had food. After passing the second of the restaurants, the irritation of the engine noise became appreciated as a distraction from the irritation of my hunger. The town was only about four kilometers away now, so there was no real cause for concern. But, as each bend in the road revealed only more road and no place for food, my hunger pains became merciless stabbings to the stomach.
One bend eventually did reveal a convenience store. I bought a lunch box of sushi and sat down in the parking lot stuffing my face full of raw fish. I was aware it wasn’t the best look on me, but I was far from caring at this point and I assumed the henro vest did enough to provide an explanation.
After the convenience store I moved on to Yakuōji. It was a considerable climb up the stairs of the temple but was worth the effort for the view over Minami Town, which felt like watchtower, a perfect perch for a guardian protecting his village. To the right was another climb of stairs leading to a massive red pagoda larger than any I’d seen at other temples. The pagoda could be seen from all over town letting the villagers know that their guardian was always on duty.
A Disappointing Onsen
From the temple I went direct to the nearby Onsen. This was admittedly a significant disappointment compared to the last but, in fairness, the bar was set high. There seemed to be more showers than there was space in the lone tub to accommodate visitors. In my favor was the scarcity of visitors at this Onsen. Apparently, word was already out on their limited services. There was not even an outdoor area. Typically, an Onsen of any quality will have an outdoor area with a few treatments as well, even if it is small. The liberation of nudity is hardly acknowledgeable if it can’t be done in open air.
After two days of taunting desire with frustrated reads, this was a day I was determined to do some reading and writing on my own terms. So, after visiting the Onsen, around four o’clock, I began looking for a place to setup camp for the night. It was an early turn in by recent standards, but a preferred hour. My search brought me to the train station where I knew I’d probably be seeing both Connor and Miles if I hung around.
There were many henro here. It took the form of an unofficial henro rest stop as there were free footbaths and plenty of sitting space with overhead coverage in the case of rain. There were grassed areas as well that I decided were ideal to set up my tent. I didn’t feel it was necessary to set up just yet, so I went across the street to where there were some tables outside a 7-11 and sat down to log some of the events of the day.
O-Settai of the Day and Meeting Miles
I soon gained the company of a stray cat and, soon after, Connor who had seen me from afar. We spoke of our plans for the night. He was again more motivated to find a roof to sleep under. The sound of a small motor introduced itself from the parking lot when an older man pulled his seated scooter up by our table and handed us each an ice cream. For most o-settai I’d been receiving I needed to manufacture a reaction of surprise to hide signs I might expect to receive gifts, but there was genuine surprise this time. His abrupt appearance and his nod as he backed away left nothing to be said aside from what we said about most o-settai, “that was awesome.”
We went to the train station to wait for Miles, and he soon arrived. He’d been lucky enough to meet someone he could stay with during his overnight in nowhere and his dramatically lowered pace gave him the good luck of seeing Kei again, who was now apparently traveling with a girl he’d met. Miles and Connor wanted to go to the local grocery store to find some food and then search for a rumored zenkanyado. I had enough walking for the day and told them I was staying right there and setting up my tent.
They would need to pass by here in the morning, so we parted ways with expectations to meet the next day. I set up my tent and crawled inside to enjoy some reading and a pleasant night. I would like to say I was finally able to get some quality reading done on my own terms, but I’d hardly turned a page before I fell unconscious.