I rested pretty late into the morning on Tuesday, July 23, in order to let my toe heal as much as possible. I have used more bandaids, gauze, and athletic tape in the last two weeks than I have in all of my life leading up to this point. Misono told me there was free housing in a tsuyado at Temple 28, which typically means a small, enclosed room with access to water and electricity. I hadn’t tried that form of stay yet, so my plan for the day was to get from Tano town to the eastern part of Kochi City to see Temple 28 and inquire about staying. Misono made a reservation at a henro house for Feliz, so that was my fallback plan if the tsuyado was unavailable.
Needing to still take it easy on my toe, I took the train from nearby Misono’s home about 15 km to Aki city after I found a cool cave on Google Maps. The cave was a few km from the train station, which felt doable. I switched to my tennis shoes instead of my hiking shoes, which meant my pack got a couple pounds heavier but my feet were more comfortable. I’m not sure the trade off was worth it. Misono and Feliz left at 6 a.m. this morning, so I didn’t order breakfast because I didn’t want Misono to have to wake up that much earlier. She left me a onigiri (rice ball), with seaweed on the inside, and a small piece of something that resembled raisin bread. I ate the bread for breakfast and packed the rice ball away for an afternoon snack. Near the cave I found an udon shop, and without much for breakfast, decided I’d stop and grab a bite to eat. I ordered udon, a tempura shrimp, and some kind of onion and potato pancake with shrimp and green onions on top. The udon was served warm, which I prefer to the cold udon I had the other day, but the onion and potato cake stole the show. It was perfectly fried, so the onions took on a sweetness similar to onion rings. I topped the udon with a ton of green onions and pieces of tempura breading, which added a lovely contrast in texture. The wonderful gal that took my order insisted I pour a bunch of soy sauce on the noodles, which ended up making a very nice broth. I’m still bad at eating udon with chopsticks.
The cave was only a few hundred meters from the restaurant and I found I had the place to myself. There were a few signs telling me to watch for snakes, but I didn’t see any. I still haven’t seen a mamushi, which is a poisonous pitviper snake found on Shikoku island. The venom in its bite liquifies muscle tissue, which would be one hell of a weight loss plan if I didn’t need to continue walking for the next few weeks. Inside the cave, a small stream ran alongside one half of the cave, while a narrow, slick, walkway ran adjacent to it. It was raining in the cave due to the humidity and the lower temperature. The view in the cave and at the end of it were breathtaking.
After the cave I boarded the train again, this time to the train station nearest Temple 28. It was a couple mile walk to Temple 28, which eventually climbed a steep incline. And I got rained on. On the way up the slick slope, my right shin started hurting again, probably from walking gingerly from trying to walk on my exploded toe.
I found a little henro hut at the temple and waited out the rain and caught my breath. A car henro walked up the tall flight of stairs and leaned over on his knees very winded at the water fountain, which is my signature move, and we shared a laugh when he spotted me watching him. I washed my hands, drank the fountain water, and then climbed some tall steps to ring the bell to announce myself. Having reached my final temple for the day with an hour to spare, I took my time reciting the heart sutra and soaking in the beautiful temple grounds. I then walked to the temple office, which was through a beautiful Japanese garden. Temple 28: Dainichiji is the third temple already named Dainichiji on my voyage. They need to hire someone over here to work on their brand and marketing to avoid confusion. Around the year 806, Kobi Daishi (later known as Kukai) visited this temple and reportedly carved a statue from a camphor tree using his fingernails. I have no idea how hard the wood from a camphor tree is, but this seems like a bit of a stretch.
At the temple office, in my broken limited Japanese, I asked the lady giving me the stamp for “tsuyado“, to which she had a puzzled look on her face. I then pulled out my phone and we stumbled through a conversation automatically interpreted through the dark wizardry of Google Translate. She simply crossed her arms and made an “X” several times, and said, “No.” in English. She didn’t elaborate, but I have read that many more temples are not allowing gaijin to stay at free temple lodgings, apparently from abuse in the past. That’s disappointing, but more importantly, meant that I now had to scramble and walk somewhere else to find lodging.
I worked my way down the huge hill and walked a couple kilometers to the place where Feliz would be staying. After ringing the doorbell to a few wrong houses and being met with puzzled surprise by the owners of these residences, I eventually found the correct henro house.
The owner of the henro house held up her arms and made an “X”, and then our Google Translate conversation indicated that she had no occupancy. She was a sweetheart of a lady and made a few phone calls and found me another place to stay, but said it was too far to walk. She said if we hurried she would drive me there. She ran around the house and got her SUV and brought it to the front door, where I was still shocked and trying to process everything and how much further it meant I would need to walk the next day. She drove me in the wrong direction for about 15 km, but on the way said she would pick me up at 8:30 the next morning, after all of the guests at her house left. What a wonderful lady! She took me to a friend’s house and showed me around since no one was there. She told me it would only be 2,000 yen ($20 USD or so), which was half what I was expecting to pay at her home. Her kindness was unbelievable to go out of her way to make sure I was taken care of when she likely wouldn’t be getting any of the money from my stay and her act of kindness. There were no vending machines, restaurants, or convenience stores within walking distance of this very remote place, but I remembered I still had the rice ball that Misono left for me that morning while I was still sleeping. Japanese women are so amazing. I passed out pretty early after stacking three futons on top of each other.
That night, Feliz messaged me and told me that Misono arranged for her and I to stay at a guest house the next night in Kochi City and would pick us up the following morning to go make washi (Japanese paper) in a nearby village. Now, my plans for the next day were solidified: visit temples 29 and 30 and get to the guest house.
Turns out I sleep a little easier knowing I have a firm commitment for the next night’s accommodations.