[The Shikoku Pilgrimage] Day 25: The White Butterflies

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I was happy to wake up and find out the rain had definitely passed. I hoped the weather would finally be good today.

I quickly got ready and checked out by 7am. No one was at the reception desk, so I simply left my key, having already paid when I checked in and not wanting to disturb the owner in case he was still sleeping or busy. I made a quick stop at the nearby Lawson’s and bought a simple cream bun for breakfast and an onigiri for later. I had snacks in my bag already, so I figured it would be enough for the day.

My left leg was a touch sore, so I started off my day with a slow pace. I had the whole day to walk only 20km to the minshuku I had reserved at, so I decided a leisurely pace, at least to start off with, would be fine. If I found myself running short on time later, I could always speed up. Even still, itdidn’t take me long to get to the other end of Tosa-Shimizu City. By 8:30, the scenery changed from concrete buildings to farms and mountains as the road took me a bit inland.

There were extremely few henro route markers, evidence of how rarely used this route is. As I mentioned before, most henro backtrack along the east side of the cape, then cross over west to Temple 39. The route I had chosen was the longest by quite a bit, so very few henro walked it. However, I had read that the route was quite beautiful, so the masochist in me decided to try it. There was a bus route here that would take me to Sukumo City if I needed it, which was reassuring. Also, the henro route followed Route 321, the main road through this area, so it was pretty simple and difficult to get lost.

And it really was beautiful. A little after 9am, the road returned to the rugged coastline, and I spotted a white wooden bench with an image of a henro on it. Perfect! I put down my backpack gratefully, took some pictures, and sat down to rest my feet for a bit. Jagged rocks stuck out from the water and the blue sea turned white as the waves crashed into them. It was wonderful simply sitting there, watching and listening to the waves.

After about ten minutes, I headed out again. Not long after, I came across Ashizuri Port and made use of their toilet facilities. There was a tourist station and restaurant there, but I didn’t go in, not really feeling the inclination or need to. However, I learned from yesterday to use bathrooms when I saw them because in this area o Shikoku, you never know when your next opportunity will arise.

With that done, I continued on. The road turned inland, and a man pulled over in his car to hand me a package of ginger candy as osettai. I was caught by surprise and forgot to hand him an osamefuda. He drove off before I could call back to him. Still, I was grateful for the treats, and I thought of how my mom really would have liked them.

As I kept going, the inland road brought me to a cute little farming village nestled in-between the mountains. Everything felt quite peaceful and beautiful, and I thought to myself how lucky I was to be experiencing this. Even though I had spent most of yesterday alone and all of today the same, I felt quite happy and completely at peace.

Next rest stop was at the Mejika no Sato michi-no-Eki, or roadside station, which are useful for walking henro because one can usually find a place to rest, food, drinks, toilets, and/or information. Again, I didn’t go into the main building, feeling I had what I needed for the day, but I did stop at the little rest hut there. It was small but it was a place to sit and have a little snack. I took the opportunity to take off my shoes and air out my feet a little.

After about five minutes, the man parked closest to the rest hut came in and offered me a small package of chocolate pretzel sticks as osettai. This time, I was ready and immediately gave him an osamefuda. He seemed to appreciate it and noted I was from Canada (as you write where you’re from on the slip). He chatted with me a bit but I could only get the gist of what he was saying, so the conversation was really short. Still, when I left the rest hut, he waved enthusiastically at me from his van. I had to smile and wave back, happy that he seemed to be encouraging me.

I walked past more beautiful coastal views, enjoying them and taking lots of pictures. Approaching the next rest stop, I noted bunches of bright yellow flowers. A white butterfly fluttered past me to get to the flowers, and it stuck around for a while. I kept seeing it just ahead of me.

There is a wonderful story on my mom’s side of the family. My Lolo (“grandfather” in Tagalog) died when I was still fairly young. However, the day after he died,a few of my aunts saw a white butterfly, which is quite rare. A white butterfly was also seen at his funeral. It is believed that a white butterfly is my Lolo’s spirit offering comfort or support. I wondered if this butterfly was my Lolo’s spirit offering me encouragement. I had never met him but have been told many stories of how kind he was.

I stopped at the next rest hut near a bus stop. It was a little after noon, so I figured it was time for lunch. I again took of my shoes to let my feet air out and pulled out the onigiri I had bought in the morning and ate it. As I sat and observed my surroundings, I noted that there were actually two white butterflies, fluttering around each other and the yellow flowers around the rest hut. Perhaps, then, it was both my Lolo and Lola, the latter of whom I also never met before she died while I was in university. I was comforted by this.

I was making good time and had only 6km to go til I reached the inn and I had the whole afternoon to do it. At this rate, I would be too early. I took the time to tape some sore spots on my left foot, fearing more blisters. I also contemplated tomorrow’s plan and decided tomorrow would be a bus day. I had already lost time y taking this longer route, and I would have to make up for it, even though I felt physically able to walk.

I left the rest hut a little after 12:30pm.The road took me through three tunnels in quick succession, but it had a good sidewalk, so I didn’t feel like I was in any danger. In the third tunnel, I crossed paths with the only henro I had seen so far today, an older man who stopped to chat. Again, no English, but we exchanged some greetings, wished each other well, and moved on with him going in the opposite direction. A few seconds after we parted ways, I thought of giving him some of the ginger candies I had received earlier in the day, but he was already a bit too far away and it was difficult to hear in the tunnel, especially with cars going by.

I reached the turnoff to get to my inn by about 2pm,which was still too early to check in. I knew there was a lighthouse nearby, so Iheaded up the overpass to reach it.The little area featured a rest hut, a restroom, a shrine, and the lighthouse. The rest hut also seemed to home a small colony of feral cats. There were blankets and a cardboard box set out for them, as well as a bag of cat food strung up to the wall of the hut, and some old dishes, presumably for food and/or water. I tried to approach a couple of them but they seemed skittish and anxious, so I backed off immediately and simply watched them.

I wanted to check out the lighthouse, ascended a set of stairs, but found myself at a little shrine. I stopped for some pictures but then headed back down, as trees obscured the view of the ocean. I figured, then, that the lighthouse was at the other end of a little narrow path. However, even though the path was flanked by trees, the winds were still strong and there weren’t an railings to keep one from falling over and into the ocean. So, I returned to the rest hut and took off my shoes and stretched out on a bunch, using my backpack as a headrest.

I spent the time playing on my phone, reading my guidebook to go over plans, fed the cats at one point, and just sat and relaxed in general. I thought how much more enjoyable walking was when one didn’t have to hobble and limp. My ankle was still feeling good, so I figured I could now lift my 15-20km/day limit. My feet were tire and my hip was sore, but I could walk through that sort of pain. When the wind died down , I visited the lighthouse, although it was surrounded by thick trees, so one couldn’t see out to the water from there.

Just as the clock struck 4pm, I decided it was time to find my inn. I backtracked a little on a road to the sign pointing the way, but I got lost in-between all the little houses that were clustered together. I had to ask an elderly man for directions and he kindly brought me to Kanaesaki Ryokan myself. He tried chatting with me, but he spoke quickly and with a thick slur (like a lot of old men do) so I couldn’t really make heads or tails of what he was saying, unfortunately.

He introduced me to the inn owner and before he left, I thanked him and gave him an osamefuda. He really hadn’t had to escort me to the inn, but he did it anyway.

As I was escorted to my room, another henro popped his head out of his room. He recognized me from the bus we had taken to Cape Ashizui two days ago, and I had recognized his walking taff with it’s orange cover. I was happy to see a familiar face (and a friendly one, too).

I washed up, then headed to dinner. There was a third henro also staying at the inn, and we sat around the same table to eat. The man from the bus was from Tokkyo and could speak a bit of English. The third henro, however, only spoke Japanese. As a result, I had someone I could converse with on a basic level, which was a nice change of pace. The two men asked the proprietress about visiting Tsukiyama shrine nearby, and I listened in and caught the gist of it. I told them of my plan to take a bus tomorrow to Temples 39 and 40. The other henro weren’t sure where they would stop tomorrow. They did assure me, however, that I would have time to see Tsukimiya Shrine first efore catching a bus to Sukumo City.

After dinner, I returned to my room to relax and planned for the next day. As much as I wanted to walk some of eate trail, especially at the border between Kochi and Ehime Prefectures, I needed to make up for lost time. Public transportation it would be, then, at least til Uwajima City. With that in mind, I set up my bed and tucked myself in to sleep.

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