Friday, June 12, 2009


Hello again. I`m still walking and my feet are starting to hurt but that`s probably because i`ve now walked over 320km in less than two weeks. Who`s idea was this anyway?

Me and Muto left the bar on Sunday morning where he`d spent the previous night and walked 15km that day through lots of little surf towns on the coast. At one large beach town called Shishikuri we stopped on the beach and watched the surfers trying to catch waves. I went for a swim which looked a bit silly as there were hundreds of surfers in black wetsuits and me in blue shorts and a pasty white t-shirt sun tan. I turned heads.

Shishikuri was also home to a cool coffee shop where me and Muto checked emails and drank ice tea. On the way out we befriended two Japanese hippies, one had long hair and a Jamaican hat, and both had big bongo drums from west Africa. They tried, in vain, to teach me and Muto to play while cars drove past and people came and went for coffee. We definitely turned heads there but thankfully i was fully clothed at this point.

That night we stayed in a shed next to a temple called Meitokuji in the fishing village of Kan-noura. The shed was another one of Muto`s free accommodation deals and the temple was run by a big bald man and his slightly aggressive dog called Benkay. The temple was very serene and sleeping on rugs made the shed comfy enough for sleeping, especially when Muto insists that you drink beer before hand. At 5am the next morning the big bald Buddhist monk man started his morning prayers which was a very long chant accompanied with some extra loud drumming on a huge drum in the temple.

I walked 29km that day down the coast with the hazy sun above, the sea to the left, the hills and trees to the right and the black road stretching out in front. At a small town at lunch Muto told me he would stay there for the rest of the day and told me to keep going if i wanted. He had Buddhist stuff to be doing which consisted of praying to people. The old way of doing the pilgrimage on foot hundreds of years ago wasn`t so easy. There weren`t roads or convenience stores or shops and guest houses then so people needed food and money. To get the food and money they would pray at people`s doors and the good people of Shikoku would give them gifts. One day last summer Muto knocked on 3000 doors in one town and came away with 30,000 yen and enough food for a week. He taught me a load of stuff about Japan and Buddhism and Shikoku and hopefully i`ll see him again before i leave Japan. He also gave me the phone number and address of his guitar-playing Grandmother who lives in north Shikoku near the temple trail and told me to visit her. I wonder if she drinks and smokes as much as him.

Day eleven was a long 32km walk along busy roads, quiet forest hills, three more of the 88 temples, farm land and villages with old women sat on benches in the shade nattering and chatting. That night i got to Nahari and found a guesthouse that was shut and walked across the river to the town of Tano where i found a guesthouse that gave me free sushi.

Wednesday was a quick 20km to a town called Aki. It was a wet day and started with a long climb to a temple that was covered in cloud and mist. On the way up i met Massa, a animal drug salesman from a town near Tokyo. He cycled the 850km to the start of the Shikoku hike, was in the process of walking the entire route and then wanted to cycle home. Hearing this somehow made me feel more tired. Me and Massa spent the rest of the day together talking and walking next to the sea as the rain continued to fall until we arrived in Aki and spent the night in a pink hotel that was stuck in a plastic 1980`s time warp.

In the morning Massa had left early and so i wandered through more fishing villages full of old people and sunshine. At one point a car stopped and a man jumped out and gave me two peaches. I didn`t even knock on his door and pray for him. After seeing another of the 88 temples i arrived on the edge of Kochi city where i got desperately lost trying to find a place to sleep and found and guesthouse that didn`t want guests. The owner pointed me down the street to a small hotel where i spent the night.

And so today i walked to another two of the 88 temples. I stopped at a shop for an ice cream and watched a man drive into the car park with two small poodles on his lap which seemed like an interesting driving position. He said hello and i said good morning and started walking again. Two minutes later the same car pulled to a stop just in front of me and the man with the poodles gave me a can of ice coffee. I didn`t have the heart (or the language skills) to tell him that i have an intense dislike for coffee and instead wandered on down the street looking for a homeless looking hobo to give it to. I realised that i was the most homeless looking hobo on the street what with sleeping in sheds and drinking beer every night of the week and carrying my life in one bag. I tried to offload the coffee to a nice old man who was sat under the shade of a tree but he wasn`t interested. Neither was a woman and her small daughter but a old woman who worked at the temple that i finally arrived at accepted after i insisted.

Now i`m in central Kochi which is a dinky little city but the biggest place i`ve been to since i left Tokushima 13 days ago. I`ve noticed that after 13 days of continuous walking i`m starting to look enviously at motorised transport. Buses, cars, trains, trams, bicycles, wheelchairs. They all look so damn fast. I`m not sure how much longer i`ll last. Perhaps i need more free accommodation, peaches and coffee.

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