Sunday, October 8, 2017

Iwamotoji - Irino Matsubara

Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage, day 18.
Temples: None.
Distance: 36.0km (522.4km), time spent: 9:20.
Weather: Overcast and misty, then sunny, hotter and hotter.


The walk between temple #37, Iwamotoji, and temple #38, Kongōfukuji, is one of the longest distances between two temples on the pilgrimage, if not the longest, at 86.2km. Essentially a three day temple drought, though strong walkers will make it in two. How I will divide up the walk only the future knows, I have no plan for how far I will go today, I really yearn to make use of my tent now actually.

Misty mystic forests on the walk out from Shimanto Town.

Tomohiro-san visits my ryokan in the morning while I eat breakfast, where he invites me to his home after I finish the pilgrimage. I am humbled at such friendliness, now I just have to make room for that in my plans. I really hope I will make it. When I finish the walk returning to Ryōzenji, making it my kechigan temple, I also has to visit Kōyasan before returning to Tokyo for my flight home. I also make a quick return to Iwamotoji before I start walking today.

Sunrays through the trees at the Ichinose trail.

A 'dancing' snake on the Ichinose trail.

Low clouds lies draped across the town and landscape in the morning, but my mood is high after Tomohiros act of hospitality. On the other side, the low clouds and mist only makes the trees and forests next to the path (or road) more fairytale like. Johan and Kaja is walking ahead of me on the road out of Shimanto-chō, I soon catches up with them. We walk through another path that provides a break from the hard paved road called the Ichinose Trail. With prayer flags hanging between trees, and a snake that lifts its upper part and head in a dancing motion next to the path. The hut at the end becomes a converging point for several henros, as Koboyashi is already there when we arrive and Tomohiri arrives just before we leave.

Walking next to the Iyoki River on the Shikoku-no-michi route, now also the henro-michi route.

From the hut there is a long walk at the bottom of a valley down to the ocean. Saga is another nice henro hut, with Kōbō Daishi watching over the visitors, next to an onsen (this is a popular spot to stop for the night). I buy a blue icecream with a taste of seasalt at the bathhouse. After the henro hut, the guidebook and the waymarks diverge again. If I use the guidebook I would be walking on the busy road, if I use the waymarks I would be walking on the less trafficked Shikoku-no-michi route instead. I do something in between, first following the road, then deciding it is boring and so changes to the more peaceful and quiet road. Johan and Kaja is now trailing behind.

Kumai tunnel. Kobayashi-san stepping out into the light after walking through the tunnel. The light at the end of the tunnel?

Like it or not, but tunnels are something you have to get used to when walking the Shikoku pilgrimage. They are usually not fun to walk through at all, with blaring cars passing by, sometimes too fast or too close for your comfort also. The Kumai tunnel however is 100 years old or older, with no lights in it. No cars drives through that one, so it is also quiet, all I can hear is the patter of my own feet. I can finally whistle my favorite tunnel tune without being interrupted by noisy cars, El Condor Pasa by Simon & Garfunkel. Pitch black in the middle, with light only visible from the start and end of the tunnel. Kobayashi-san walking out into the light in front of me, looking shimmering in the light, as if disappearing. The light at the end of the tunnel?

View of the Tosa Saga Port.

I know Johan and Kaja will be staying at a place in Tosa-Saga, as will Tomohiro-san. I will leave them behind now, as I have left the clouds behind. Over me there is a baking sun, the rest of my walk today will be very hot. Blue sky and sea is yet again appearing on my left hand side, another beautiful walk along the coast. Next to the sea is a lovely park, Saga-kōen, with several nice lookout points. At a resthut later an older female henro sits relaxed, smoke fumes drifting away and dissolving, behind her lies a cyclist flat out on the ground. It is hot.

A nice park and garden near the Saga-kōen train station.

Maybe I should have taken the route going around the Cape Ino-misaki, but I do not, getting a bottle of cold water as osettai from a man at Nada Port. On the map I read Matsumotoji Ruin, so I am instantly drawn towards it, but the path up to it looks too overgrown, both by spiders and vegetation. Near the place where I know Kobayashi is going to, I look up at a shrine, inciting the interest of a local woman who run inside to fetch a bag of tangerines that she gives me as osettai. If I am not warm due to the weather, I am now, due to the hospitality provided by the locals.

Fascinated by these trees next to the road and path, sort of ghost trees, what lies hidden beneath that panoply?

The henro hut named Ōgata had been in my mind as a possible place to stay the night, but although it is nice, it feels a little cramped and it stays at a parking lot very close to the road. I walk further, but another thought has in the last hour ever so slowly seeped into my subconscious. At Irino Matsubara, or the Irino Pine Coast, I find the first perfect place for setting up my tent on the whole walk so far. At this beautiful beach and pine forest park there is a campsite, quiet and secluded, but now my mind is at a loss. Some few kilometers away is another onsen, and after the hot walk the thought of slipping down into a hot bath has entered my mind and festered itself there (weirdly enough). I have given my feet a battering today, so the thought of setting up my tent here and then go to the onsen and back again does not entice me.

Sun through the trees at Irino Matsubara.

At the onsen hotel, the Nest West Garden Tosa, there is a wedding reception and I see the chances of getting a room dwindle. However, they have a room for me, but no dinner. Still busy with the wedding, the staff are helpful and accommodating towards me. Slipping down into the hot water in the bath overlooking the sea (though there are trees blocking the full view) is absolutely wonderful, you can say that I am giving my body and feet a heat massage. I end up returning to the onsen for a second time during the evening.

Nest West Garden Tosa in the evening light, the building containing the onsen to the left.

Having dinner at Pokopem in Tosa Irino together with some surfers from Osaka.

en strek i regningen
At first is the fact that I cannot get a dinner a minor setback, but it turns out to be a lucky shot. In search for a place to eat, by recommendation of the staff, I have to walk through the dark to the village or small town nearby, Tosa-Irino. It is kind of a tiny adventure in itself. There, I find a great place, Pokopem. A charming local place, with the only problem being that I of course does not understand the menu. Sitting next to me is however a group of surfers from Osaka, and they are willingly helping me translate the menu and order, as well as giving me some of their own food for me to taste. A great evening.

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