[The Shikoku Pilgrimage] Day 24: Decisions, Decisions

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Since the first bus to Cape Ashizuri didn’t leave Nakamura Station until 8:20, I had a leisurely like morning. I went to breakfast, which was a huge buffet spread with both Western and Japanese dishes. I was impressed and glad I had paid for it. But as I took my tray to a seat by a window, I was disappointed to see that it was still raining. Although I was taking the bus to Cape Ashizuri, I had wanted to check out the western side of the peninsula, which I have heard is quite beautiful and is skipped by most henro in favour of a shorter route that requires backtracking along the east coast.I was determined to still walk parts of the trail rather than rely on buses and trains all the time.

After eating breakfast, I returned to my room to finish packing up, then went to check out and get to Nakamura Station.

I boarded the bus with a few other henro. I spotted the guide from yesterday and we greeted each other. He had his big white henro poncho on again to ward off the rain. I still hadn’t used my poncho, as the rain I had encountered so far wasn’t heavy and my coat and pack rain cover seemed to hold up fine in the drizzle.

I was tempted to doze on the bus but the scenery was quite pretty. It was an almost 2 hour bus ride from start to finish, and we arrived at Cape Ashizuri a little after 10am. Temple 38, Kongofukuji, was right next to the bus stop and the actual cape itself. I went in and did my usual rounds. The temple was busy for a rainy day, though I suppose being right at a popular tourist spot doesn’t help. Still, the temple grounds were huge, even having a pond at its center, and was very beautiful. I particularly enjoyed the dozens of statues behind the main hall.

I got my book stamped and headed out to Cape Ashizuri itself. It is the southernmost tip of the island of Shikoku, so I was interested in it. It’s gardens are filled with camellia trees, but since it is past their peak blooming time, the ground was littered with whole camellia blossoms. The paths were slick with rain water and I had to be careful with my steps. Again, my shoes didn’t have good traction on wet surfaces. I even slid at least a foot at one point.

In any case, I checked out the grounds, the lighthouse, the observation point, and the John Manjiro statue (a famous figure in Japanese history; just Google him). Because of the chill in the air and the rain, though, I didn’t linger in any one spot.

A little after 11am, I decided it was time to go. I had booked a hotel in Tosa-Shimizu City, and that was some 16-18km away. It would have been shorter if I took some of the dirt paths instead of the winding roads, but I wasn’t sure how safe or difficult the trails would be after over 24 hours of rain. I also wasn’t looking forward to sloshing through mud. So, I was a good girl and took the roads. I knew my parents would be happy with that decision.

The roads were narrow in places, but fortunately, there were very few cars. The thick canopy of trees mostly obscured views of the coast, but once in a while, I would get a peek at the crashing waves and the rugged cliffs and the green mountains. I was tempted to put on some music, but since the road was narrow and winding, I needed to listen for cars so I knew when to hug the side of the road and stop to allow them to pass. This was fine, though, because I simply listened to the waves and the birds.

I eventually made it to Tosa-Shimizu City around 3:45pm after stopping twice along the way to rest and once to hop into a store to ask if I could use their restroom (after many kilometres of walking through, well, hardly anything). My feet were sore, but I was still happy I had made it. I hadn’t even taken any pain medications today (although, my back wasn’t entirely happy), so I took that as a sign that my body was healing.

I checked into the business hotel, which unfortunately had seen better days and smelled of stale cigarette smoke. Still, the bedsheets were at least clean and the bed was comfortable. To my happy surprise, there was a Lawson’s just down the road, which wasn’t marked in my guidebook.

Next, I had to figure out how I was going to get to temple 39, Enkoji. There were many options. There were five main routes from Temple 38 to 39, and from Tosa-Shimizu, three. When I looked at a potential route through Google Street View, I found more mountains and farms. Another route had nothing on it – no places to stay, no stores, no rest huts, etc. The final route took me back to the east coast.  Should I go back to the east coast and take the shorter route? Or continue on the western side of the peninsula? Do I walk the distance or take a bus or do a mix of both? Decisions, decisions…

I sat on it a while and headed to Lawson’s to grab something to eat. I didn’t buy too much this time because I had to pass by it in the morning, anyway, and it was open 24 hours a day. Still, I did buy a couple of energy bars as snacks in case I forgot to buy them in the morning, when my brain doesn’t function very well. I brought my feast back to my room and ate.

After much deliberation, I decided to continue a bit further down the coast, then take a bus to Sukumo City, where Temple 39 was located. I booked myself into a minshuku near the bus stop and got ready for bed.

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