Shikoku Day Twelve: Rain and Shine

The rain had stopped for a while during the night but was strong again by morning. Knowing the rain was waiting for me made it harder to wake up. Laying with my hands behind my hand and my bag as a pillow I took my time getting up, but the weather made no signs of change. I clothed myself slowly, as a man that has nowhere he wants to go, giving everything more consideration than it required.

I was already in Muroto City, but there was still at least 20 kilometers to go before I got near the lodgings. I set out with my rain gear on, but with fewer layers beneath. Passing through town, most of the houses looked empty. I saw no lights on and no people moving in the streets save for one other henro. The community may have been hiding from the weather but, either way, I was grateful for the quiet.

I was back to enduring the tap on my sugegasa. But, there were worse things to endure. The rain had it’s own kind of rhythm, even if it was frantic and unorganized. It fed to a similar rhythm in the movement of my feet. I walked faster now than the start of any other day. There wasn’t much reason to accelerate my speed, but, if I needed to be out in the rain it I might as well make use of the time.

Behind me was a woman who did as much to influence my pace as the rain, if not more. A short henro, but she had little to carry and utilized the lack of weight with an increase in speed. Whether it was in competitive spirit or friendly motivation, we stayed near each other for some time never speaking. First me in front, then her in front, then me again. I made a significant distance between us when I came to a small roofed hut by the road. I sat down to take a rest from the rain. When she reached the hut she too stopped. Standing in the rain, she looked at me, and then at the space on the bench beside me. She took one step towards the hut, I was just about to say hello and ask her name, then she turned back to the road and took off at her regular speed.

I considered giving chase, but I took my time. I knew I would see her again, and I did, but not till much later in the day. I was getting close to the tip of the cape and after another twenty minutes of walking the rain had stopped. I came to a large henro shelter with benches, nearby toilets, and a roof – never before did I look at having a roof as being such an admirable quality in a structure. In the hut was a large whiteboard and markers. It seemed like it was recently build because there were few things written on the board, and they were all dated in 2015 or late 2014. Most of the writing was in Japanese until I saw, in large printed letters, “Where is Matt?”

This brought a smile to my face during what had largely been a melancholy morning with the rain. I knew it was from Connor and Miles and wondered how long ago they’d written it. I knew they wouldn’t see it, but I had to write a response. Below their words I wrote, “Here I am!”

Not long after the rain dissipated the sun returned to provide crippling levels of brightness. I arrived at the tip of the cape and sat down watching tourists enjoy the scenery while I enjoyed another yuzu fruit. It was a beautiful scene, a rocky beach with boulders of varying shapes, sizes, colors, and forms, but I found more value in the sustenance.

The sun had returned to it’s typically brutal levels of heat. I changed into more appropriate clothes and started a to walk along the coast. The walk into the city provided a less scenic walk and was much longer than I’d anticipated. Passing through by industrial ports with boats that all looked identical. There were no people. This area looked as deserted as the town I passed through and the morning, and the tedious length of concrete docks was nearly as debilitating as the rain had been.

It was a welcome relief when I started seeing signs of businesses, convenience stores, and restaurants. I knew I was getting close to my lodgings. Finding the Ryōkan I booked was another problem entirely. I spent an extra hour walking up and down the streets before finally asking people for help. But, that didn’t help much either. I walked down one street and asked a clerk at a convenience store. She pointed me back in the direction I’d come from. When I went back I asked another person walking in the street who pointed me back in the direction of the convenience store. Apparently, it was somewhere between the two and only after another 20 minutes of walking in circles I asked someone else who walked with me 20 feet down the street to a building I’d passed three or four times in total.

There were no signs out front, just an open door and I walked in hesitantly, worried of trespassing. The woman who helped me stepped into the door, shouted , and walked away. Help popped up immediately. A woman rushed to the door and helped me with my things. I warned about the weight of my bag but she shrugged my warnings away and picked it up anyway. The weight in her arms helped her realize her error and she only moved it a few feet to prop it up against a wall.

She signed me in and brought me upstairs to my room. Every step creaked with age. Walking on the second floor, I felt certain I would fall through to the first. At some points, I could actually feel the floor sinking down below me. All considered, the room was comfortable and cool. My main concern at the time was getting out of the heat, and that was accomplished.

I went out to find dinner and a sushi restaurant provided that in perfect form. Their options were limited, but the salmon and tuna was so fresh and left me with few concerns over the variety. By seven o’clock, the small town was already shutting things down. Restaurants and stores were closing and lights were going out all up and down the streets.

I returned to the Ryōkan and searched through the bookshelf that was in my room. The majority of the books were Japanese style manga; not something I usually have any interest in. But, I grabbed one and I lay down to practice my Japanese reading skills. I surprised myself getting through about ten pages of the book with decent comprehension – but the pictures obviously helped. I changed to something a little more stimulating in the English language. This was the best portion of reading I’d had since I came to Shikoku. It was satisfying to have the opportunity. Before I went to sleep, I was able to do more reading than I had in all my time on the island before then. I was growing more comfortable with the idea of slowing down.

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