[The Shikoku Pilgrimage] Day 0: Arrival

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To say that the days leading up to my departure for Japan were stressful was an understatement. First of all, the shoes I bought specifically for this trip weren’t fitting well, so I had to buy another pair last minute. Second, I got a jury duty summons! I had never in my life been summoned for jury duty, but of course it was going to happen during the biggest trip of my life. I had a week to sort it out before I left home, and luckily, I got the official call that I was excused from jury duty the day before I left. Third, I did a presentation on kimono with a friend of mine just days before my departure. And to top it all off, the day after, I caught a stomach bug, woke up to promptly vomit on the floor, and had to call in sick for my last shift at work.

So, suffice it to say, I was kinda stressed and not at my happiest when I left home. I’m not going to lie, either, I was also really nervous. This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. I’m used to having everything planned out ahead of time, which is nearly impossible with this sort of trip. Not knowing how I’d manage was really weighing on me.
I drove home on February 28 with my cat, Guss, in tow. Fortunately, the weather held up (although, Sudbury got a huge snow storm the night after) and the drive was pleasant. I made it home in time to rest a bit, hang out with my friend, Maxine, for snack/dinner, and then went back home to finish organizing my bags. I said goodbye to Guss, who will be staying with my parents while I’m gone, and my parents took me to the airport.

Everything past that was pretty uneventful. My flight was at 1:20am, so the airport was pretty empty and going through security was a breeze. The flight to Hong Kong was long as ever, and I dream of the day I can afford business class at least for these long haul flights. It also did not help that there were a few crying babies on board, too. Not that I blame them, but I was worried I’d develop a migraine, as I had forgotten my Tylenol in my checked-in bag. Fortunately, I did not need any.

Unfortunately, while I hadn’t vomited since the initial sick day and I had always avoided diarrhea (thankfully), my stomach still could not handle a lot of food. Every time I’d eat more than several bites of food, my stomach would start churning. This made it really difficult to enjoy my food. I don’t even like airplane food that muc to begin with.

We landed in Hong Kong around 5:30am, and my flight to Osaka left at 8am. Again, uneventful flight, although by this time, I was feeling pretty greasy and smelly. I felt a bit bad for the guy sitting next to me on the plane, although he slept through most of the flight, so that was encouraging.

Kansai International Airport was the same as I remembered it from last year. I picked up the iPhone I had rented from Global Advanced Communications (the company I always use for pocket Wifi; I decided on a phone this time to be able to phone in lodging reservations). I’m usually an Android user, but the Android rental was much more expensive, so I went with the iPhone. I feel like a dirty traitor (not really, but my Apple-loving friends are probably shaming me, haha).

After sorting that all out, I knew I had to get myself to Tokushima on Shikoku Island. I knew I’d be taking a bus out of it rather than the train. I have to admit, I had never taken a bus that wasn’t a local city bus in all the times I’d been to Japan. It was kind of a nice change, actually, and it helped that my stop (Tokushima Station ) was the last one, so I couldn’t miss it even if I tried.

I quickly found my hotel and checked in. I forgot how little English is spoken in Shikoku, even in major cities. I’m going to have to get very comfortable with speaking (very poor and broken) Japanese to get by, as well as doing epic gesturing in random directions. Oh well.

My first goal upon getting into my room was showering. I felt so greasy and smelly that I almost instantly jumped into the shower. And scrubbed myself from head to toe. I relaxed for a bit and then went out to grab some dinner. I was tempted to go to an actual restaurant but I knew my stomach probably would not handle it well. I had bought some medicine at the airport but I didn’t know how effective it would be seeing as I can’t even read the ingredients list. I brought the food back to my hotel room and decided to use the coin laundry near the lobby to wash my clothes that smelled of sweat.

My first test of the pilgrimage was tonight. I wanted to ensure I ha a place to stay tomorrow, so I figured I’d stay at a minshuku (small, family-owned inn) before Temple #6, Anraku-Ji. Surprise, surprise, the owner of the inn spoke no English, so we somehow managed to get through a very awkward , stilted conversation in Japanese ( at least, I hope it was a successful reservation). We’ll see what happens tomorrow! For now, to get organized and get some much-needed rest!

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