This night was more bearable. I still spent time sleeping on my arms, but it was more out of habit than necessity. Rain fell during the night, bringing back memories of childhood camping with huge leaks in our tent. The rain’s tapping on the tent tightened my nerves. If there were anything that could be done wrong in setup to ensure a leak, my carelessness would have been sure to find it. I lay awake waiting for the signs of a leak, but threat turned to solace and the taps lulled me to sleep.
I woke up dry and the rain had stopped. We didn’t take as long to get moving as the day before, probably because we didn’t have the same comforts available to us. It was a quick walk to Tatsueji (19) and it seemed many henro were staying nearby because it didn’t take long for more to arrive, including Ricardo and Catherine. I introduced them to Connor and Miles.
While they became acquainted, I circled the temple and took some pictures. When I came back, Miles and Connor had been anticipating my return and approached me the moment I was in sight.
“We have something for you,” Connor said.
“This feels like a trap.” My suspicions were soon relieved when I saw the tour group we’d run into at the last temple.
“They felt bad that you were they only one that didn’t get a bell.” Miles handed me my own bell with a charm resembling snow shoes. . . I still don’t know exactly what they are. I went to thank them. The leader of the group greeted me along with the woman that had given us the gifts the day before. She still did not speak. Whether her silence was voluntary or not, it didn’t matter, her kindness and generosity still spoke volumes.
We spoke with them and told them where we were from, but they were more interested in giving than talking. They were like a mobile gift shop, replete with bells and other trinkets. They gave me one more gift, another bell with a small, smooth purple gem, which I decided to save for Cindy.
We made our way back onto the road after grabbing some fruit for the day. This time the path was mainly on a country road that ran beside rice fields, through forests, and towards the hills. We walked for about 7 kilometers before stopping at another convenience store.
Miles had contacted a friend from home and had them order a new tent for him. They had it shipped to this convenience store so Miles could pick it up on his way by. Yes, you can have mail shipped for pickup at convenience stores in Japan. I never understood why you would want to do it, but it was helpful now. I helped him explain to the store clerk what he was looking for and, although I struggled, he eventually got the idea and went in the back to see if it had arrived. It hadn’t. The package was scheduled to arrive the next day at 3:00PM.
Kakurinji (20) was another seven kilometers away and Miles wasn’t interested in walking the 14k there and back to get his tent. He decided to spend the night in the area where, as far as we could see, there was very little aside from rice fields. We spent the next hour eating fruit and discussing where and how Miles would meet with us again. I gave Miles my Japanese book so he could practice while he waited for the next 24 hours.
There was another uphill climb to Kakurinji, nothing in comparison to what had already been done going up to Shōsanji, but a challenge none the less. My bag was lighter than Connor’s, and I’ve been gifted with some length in my legs, so I was able to cover ground faster than him. We took frequent, short rests on the way up and arrived at Kakurinji within an hour.
It was just in time for Connor to get his stamp. This was the first time I actually got to witness the input of the stamp at the temple, and it was far more interesting than I’d anticipated. Each temple gives a few small stamps along with their unique calligraphy on their own page of the stamp book. An image of one of the temple stamps can be seen here. As you can see, the title of ‘stamp’ does not accurately describe what you receive. I began to regret not buying a stamp book.
We explored the temple grounds and made our way back down the mountain after refueling with a quick snack. Not too far from Kakurinji was an Elementary school that had been shut down. We planned on staying there for the night and were anxious to see what our accommodations would be like. The area was set up conveniently for a henro with running water and electricity still flowing into the outdoor outlets. There were three separate buildings, two looked like the main school buildings, and the third was a gymnasium that appeared maintained for future use. We found a window open in one of the old school building and couldn’t resist going inside.
The area was set up conveniently for a henro with running water and electricity still flowing into the outdoor outlets. We set up camp by one of the entrances where there was some coverage from the rain. One other henro, Kino, who was doing the trail on his motorcycle, spent the night at the school as well.
Kino, like most of people we encountered, displayed generosity in excess giving us some detergent to wash our cloths, clips to hang them by, eggs to add to the food we already had. He also suggested what he believed was the best way of eating the eggs by cracking a raw egg on a nearby ledge and dropping it into his mouth with some soy sauce. He mixed the solution using his mouth as a blender, and swallowed. Connor and I elected to fry them with the portable cooker he’d brought.
Connor cleaned our clothes while I cooked and we spent the remainder of the night relaxing and chatting about the pleasures of the trail. I revealed to him the guilt I was feeling in wanting to be alone again and apologized for my consistent lack of response whenever he spoke while we were walking. In turn, he assured my apologies were unnecessary. He too had come to Shikoku expecting to spend a lot of time alone but found more comfort with company than I did. Furthermore, he assured me, even with nobody around, he would still be talking.
It was reassuring to know that my anxieties of the past two days were mostly brought about because of an erred interpretation of the situation. Miles and Connor took no issue with my wanting to walk faster or be alone, nor did they find my silence offensive. When writing them out, it seems ridiculous to imagine anyone would find offense in such things. By speaking frankly with Connor we were able to come to a better understanding of each other. This was a huge help in making the rest of our time together more manageable.
We fell asleep by about 8:30 or 9. With artificial light being sparse, our days usually came to a close as the sun went down. I will always be fond of the way things functioned on the sun’s schedule in Shikoku, the rhythm of life running in tune with the pace of the day. There was no concern for when or how something should be done. When it was dark, I slept. When day came, I woke up. During the day, I walked. It was a joy in simplicity, like a secret much of the modern world, with their bright lights, bright screens, and constant noise, could never be privileged to. It’s enough to make me wonder why I ever came back.