[The Shikoku Pilgrimage – Break] Day 11: Renewed Interest

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My hostel bed is not the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever slept in in my life. It’s well used and has a depression in the middle of it, and as a result, my back was not terribly happy with me today. So, although my knees fared ok, my back was giving me some pains. However, I’m at least fairly accustomed to back pain, so I did some stretches before leaving the hostel late in the morning. I took a dose of ibuprofen and let it do its work. And for the first time in a while, I left off the compression splints to see how my joints would fare without the extra support. As another traveler in my hostel told me, my muscles should not get used to the extra support; they had to work and get stronger.

Again, I took my time getting up and getting ready for the day. I took a few minutes to look through my stamp book from the pilgrimage, admiring the beautiful calligraphy. When I reached the blank pages for temples 20 and 21, I suddenly felt the urge to go back to Shikoku. I wanted to fill those pages. I wanted to return to the countryside and hike up mountains again. I wanted to meet with other henro. But I knew I had to listen to my body, as well, and knew my knees were not quite ready for that physical challenge yet. “Just a few more days,” I told myself.

A part of me thought of making the trip to Uji today but by the time I left the hostel, it was nearly 11am and I wanted to eat something first. I still had three more days in Kyoto, so I figured I could go tomorrow. So today, I took it easy, and for once, this should be a short post!

I ate a quick breakfast from the nearby 7-11, then literally just wandered around the area. I bought some more things, mostly souvenirs for people back home. I also wandered through Nishiki Market to try some of the food for sale there. I bought a couple of skewered meat and BBQ eel, but wasn’t entirely convinced they were hot enough to be out of the food “danger zone”. For what it was worth, though, they were good. I just hoped they wouldn’t make me sick.

After walking around a few blocks, I eventually wound up back on Teramachi Street. I stopped at a little restaurant for lunch and ordered katsudon with a soft boiled egg.

With not much else to do and still feeling a little tired, I headed back to the hostel and hung out in the common room. Another man from Texas came in and asked about hot water. I showed him the kettle in the kitchenette and then started up a conversation with him – the usual questions, like how long he’ll be in Japan for, where he’s been, where he’s going next, etc. He asked me what my plans for Japan were and I told him about the pilgrimage and how I was taking a break from it.

All of a sudden, he became excited and said he was planning on walking the pilgrimage, as well. He had two nights booked in Kyoto, then he would be moving on to Shikoku. He asked me many logistical questions, and I was only too happy to help however I could. We were both so surprised at the coincidence. Not many people know about the pilgrimage outside of Japan, so it was nice to have some camaraderie out here in Kyoto.  Again, my desire to get back on the pilgrim trail returned.

Some other travelers staying at the hostel joined us not long after and we talked about general things in Japan. I contemplated what to do in the evening, but some dark clouds on the horizon convinced me to stay in and just relax. I picked up some quick food from the nearby 7-11, ate in the hostel common room again, then retired for the night.

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