[The Shikoku Pilgrimage] Day 20: Taking in Kochi City

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I’m not gonna lie, I like Kochi City. It’s a small city by Japanese standards, but it’s nice and there’s enough to keep a tourist entertained for a day or so without being too big or overwhelming At the same time, it has all the conveniences that come with being in a city, which contrasts with the rather more austere rural areas that make up most of Shikoku.

I took my time waking up, as I didn’t have a ton of ground to cover today, anyway. The muscle I strained in my back last night was as bit sore but not too bad. I would have to get rid of more weight in my backpack if I was to continue walking with it. Back pain was no stranger to me, unfortunately, and I suspected something like this would happen during the pilgrimage, given the physical demands of the journey. I took some ibuprofen and slowly got ready for the day.

I took the train to Kochi Station. Having been to Kochi before, I knew there was a tourist information office there, so I headed there immediately. I bought a MyYu Bus pass, which would give me access to Mt. Godaisan, where Temple 31, Chikurin-Ji was located, and because I wasn’t from Japan, I was able to purchase it for half price. Yay! I asked if there was a bus that would take me to Temple 32, and the helpful tourist info office staffer provided me with the necessary information.

I hadn’t had breakfast yet, though, so I headed to a cafe in the train station. I bought some toast with mayo, lettuce, and a on on it and a “Ryoma Cappuccino”, which was basically a cappuccino with Ryoma Sakamoto’s face on it. It was more expensive than getting a combo set, but I really wanted it. It didn’t taste any different than any other cappuccino I’ve had, but it was fun. As for the toast, as usual, the bacon was barely cooked. I will never understand why Japanese people prefer their meat almost raw. When I get home, I will probably buy myself some bacon and cook it until it’s almost burnt – the way bacon was meant to be eaten.

Anyway, I digress.

I checked the bus schedule and found out the next bus wasn’t for another hour. I mentally kicked myself for not simply waiting to eat, but there was nothing I could do at this point. I had forgotten how infrequent buses were in Shikoku. So, with nothing else to do, I went into yet another Cafe, ordered some tea, and sat down, typing up blog posts, using the nearby 7-Elven’s free wifi to upload them.

Ten minutes before the bus was due to arrive, I left for the bus stop, boarded with a bunch of other tourists, and got off at Mt. Godaisan. Unfortunately, I got off at the park and had to walk down some stone steps to Chikurin-Ji, and ended up entering through the back entrance. To my surprise, despite the huge amount of tourists on the My Yu Bus, Chikurin-Ji was practically empty and very quiet. It was nice being on its grounds again. It was exactly how I had remembered it, although, it seemed to have more English signs around. This has actually been a general trend on Shikoku, as far as I can tell. When I visited Shikoku three years ago, there was hardly any English to be found anywhere.

I wandered around the grounds, taking my time before getting my book stamped. After, I wandered out the exit, trying to find the My Yu Bus stop, but ended up at a small restaurant/ice cream stand. I purchased a black sesame ice cream cone and enjoyed it, and the staff there told me where the bus stop was in halting English. She also gave me a little cell phone charm as a gift, even though I wasn’t wearing anything related to the pilgrimage. I thanked her.

Unfortunately, again, the sparse public transportation left much to be desired. The next bus back to Kochi Station was not for another hour or so. I sat down on the bench, enjoying the shade and my ice cream, then played on my phone. I was tempted to visit the Makino Botanical Gardens located right across from Chikurin-Ji, but I had already been there and the cherry blossoms were not in bloom yet. If I missed the next bus, I risked not making it to the next temple in time.

When the bus arrived, I boarded and got off at the Harimaya-bashi bus terminal. But trying to find the bus that would take me to Temple 32, Zenjibu-Ji, was near impossible. Eventually, I was directed to the ticket offices little ways down the road and the staff there provided me with a useful timetable. At that point, though, I was tired and hungry, and I still had to figure out a way to get rom Kochi Station to Temple 33 tomorrow. So, I figured I’d stop henro-ing for today and go to Temple 32 in the morning, then walk to Temple 33 (which also included taking a ferry, free for henro, and I kind of wanted to take a ferry).

I knew from my last visit to Kochi that I wasn’t far from the famous Hirome Market, where I could buy Kochi’s local specialty, katsuo no tataki (raw tuna seared on the outside and eaten with small slices of raw garlic and green onion, ideally washed down with some cold beer). Still, being only about 3:30pm, it was still a touch early for dinner, so I wandered around the shopping arcades for a bit.

A little after 4pm, I went into Hirome Market and found the restaurant that sold katsuo no tataki. Just before I entered the line, a man bumped shoulders with me. To my surprise, it was the jovial, joking man from Yuan! I asked where his daughter was, and he pointed her out, sitting at a table across the room. After getting my meal and a beer, I joined them. They were flying back to Tokyo tonight and had gone as far as Temple 33 today. He asked me how far I had gotten, and I told him only Temple 31. He laughed at me, and I blushed a bit and said I had been tired today and took today as a holiday. We took some pictures, then they had to leave to catch their flight back home. We shook hands and wished each other well.

While I was sad to see them go, I was also really happy to have met up with them again. Ichi-go, ichi-e.

I finished up my meal and beer, then headed out. I accidentally went a bit too far west and ended up at Kochi Castle. I snapped some pictures but didn’t go all the way up to it, as I had been there before. Still, it was a nice, familiar sight, and like I mentioned before, I like Japanese castles. Kochi is only one of twelve original castles left in Japan, so despite being small, it is special.

My original plan had been to return to Kochi Station, then take the train back to the hostel. However, on doing some Google making, I found out that the distance between the hotel and Kochi Station were roughly the same. I figured I might as well just walk the rest of the distance, which I did. I enjoyed the walk, free from the weight of my backpack. 

When I got back to the hostel, I threw most of my clothes into the laundry, as my pants had gotten a bit muddy yesterday and I had been too tired to do laundry last night (coupled with my back pain). I went through my things in my backpack, trying to see if I could reduce its weight at all, but there wasn’t much I could toss. Oh well. Then I made plans for tomorrow, booking myself a room at a business hotel in Tosa. Again, no English but the lady on the other end of the line made sure to speak slowly and clearly for me, which was nice.

In the end, I hadn’t really made any progress today, but I was glad I had essentially taken the day off. My back was feeling much better and I had gotten to see some friends one more time before they had to return home. I also was able to catch up on some much-needed sleep (early mornings are not my forte). All in all, I felt I had made a good decision. As much as I would have liked to stay longer and take it easy for another day, I knew I should move on.

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