Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tosa Shimizu - Mihara

Shikoku 88 Temples Pilgrimage, day 21.
Temples: None.
Distance: 31.6km (619.6km), time spent: 9:19.
Weather: Nice.

I was kind of excited about this day, did not know what it would bring. Little hope of meeting other henros, that was for sure, though I had a small hope that I would be seeing some again at my destination of the day. From my guesthouse in Tosa Shimizu, the final part of my plan of the walk to the next temple, I will walk to Mihara on the road going over the Imanoyama mountain (marked as route c in the English guidebook). First thing in the morning though, is another breakfast, which always brings with it the wonder of what the different things I will find on the plates will be. It is always a surprise what I find on the small plates.

A curious trio. Kōbō Daishi, Kujira (whale) Daishi and Godzilla Daishi.

This morning is like yesterday also beautiful, and like yesterday, the landlady is also waving me goodbye. Then the water-crisis occurs. It will be a hot day again and likely I will need a lot of water, which feels exactly what my camelbak is thinking. On the walk around the bay after Tosa Shimizu, I notices that the side of my backpack is completely wet. The camelbak is leaking and has spilled water all over the place, no worries for my stuff though, as it is packed in water-resistant bags. Near the memorial outside the John Mung Museum, I empty out the rest of the water in the camelbak. Later, I throw it away in what looks like a place for garbage. Not sure though, as there are no garbage bins found in Japan (more on that later).

Purple flowers found along the route.

Now, there are actually six routes to choose from to get to Enkōji from Kongōfukuji. Which makes a difficult choice for the purist right? It is simpler when you only have one route to choose from. I did choose my route based on the simple fact that it was the route going highest up of the six alternatives, always drawn towards the mountains. Of course, the long alternative going past the Tsukiyama Jinja was also tempting. Some part of me was dreaming of camping at the outer tip of Kashiwajima, experiencing the Daruma (Omega) evening sun.

Memorial outside the John Mung Museum.

Sun over Tosa Shimizu.

From where the route I have chosen breaks off from the other routes, it is all roadwalk to Mihara, about 23km of it. It goes up into the mountains next to the Masuno river. No food or water it says in the guidebook, but I do walk past some wending machines at the early start of the walk. A car also stops by with two women inside, handing me a sports drink (Pocari Sweat) for the walk over the mountain. Shortly after, an older man is running to hand me some candy. Osettai.

On the road up into the mountains over towards Mihara.

The road soon passes out of civilization, but not of existence, ascending up into the mountains with several fields of abundant cosmos flowers next to the road. Looking up in the direction I am heading, all I can see is a line of verdant hills and mountains, and the road I am walking on winding upwards between them. A few scattered small farms and buildings appears at the beginning, then none. And thankfully, there are no cars on the road. No waymarkers also, not since I left the other route.

Small gaps in the trees reveals the Masuno river flowing below.

Given the absence of cars, the walk is quiet and I feel comfortable on my way. With the exception of the section where the route follows the old road instead of the new one, the old road has been lost to vegetation and patterns made out of sticky threads. I am happy when I have returned to the new road. At the beginning of the walk, I had the Masuno river to my right, now for the rest of the walk up to the highest point, it will be at my left. For most of the walk, I cannot see it, obscured by the trees, but sometimes the valley floor opens up and I can see blue water, cascades and stones flowing by beneath me.

The Fujito Yorodori torii, leading down to a shrine at the bottom of the valley.

Further up a red torii and some pillars in the ground stands at the entrance of a path leading down from the road. I am curious of what it leads to and leaving my backpack behind, I start following the path going downwards, flanked by ropes. The path and the ropes leads me further and further down, all the way down the riverbottom. Here there are cliffs on both sides of the river, with some cascades and a waterfall taking a plunge into a pool. On the other side of the river lies a small shrine. A rope hangs down over the cliffs leading down to the pool, I wonder why it is there, but I do not take the chance of hoisting myself down on it.

Down at the riverbottom, the Masuno river.

Fujito Yorodori shrine.

The place is to my understanding called Fujito Yorodori, and is home to the folktale of Ofuji ga Todoro. Ofuji was a young woman who liked to go to the deep (Todoro) for swimming. One day she was washing her hair, she lost a lock of her hair. Then a white snake appeared and took her lock of hair in its mouth and swam away. This interested her so much, so she threw away one more lock of her hair. The snake appeared again, took her hair and swam away. This she repeated several times, but in the evening she did not come home. When the family looked for her, they could not find her. The only thing they found, was her comb beside the deep. They believed she was carried away by Ryujin, which is a water dragon, so they built the shrine and torii to enshrine Ofuji and Ryujin.

Looking down the valley from the road.

Shortly after reaching the highest point of the passage over towards Mihara at about 660m, which lies beneath Mount Imanoyama, views open up to the inland landscape. From here, the route goes steeply down on hairpin bends in the road. I eat lunch just sitting down in one of the bends in the road, feeling kind of safe. During the whole walk, only two cars has passed me by. Me and a man on a motorbike are saluting each other as we pass by. A mukade is feeling its way across the tarmac, I let it be (a mukade is a poisonous centipede, you do not want to be bit by one).

View of the inland from below Imanoyama.

A mukade, which is a poisonous centipede, crawling its way.

In Mihara, I stop by the local store, only for a young man to intercept me before I get to buy anything, paying for it as osettai. I have booked a room at Shimizugawa-sō, which lies a little bit outside of the village. Normally, I do not like to talk in a very negative way about places I stay, but this is the first time I felt inclined to do so. The place is a little bit rundown, is dusty and filthy, but I can live with that. What is bad is the stale smell of urine greeting me at the entrance of the place. My room is somewhat ok though.

Sunrays through the trees above a small creek, on the way down from the mountain.

Annoyingly, another blister has emerged. I know the culprit, the rainy days earlier. Still cannot find my needles and threads, and the host at this place disappeared as soon as he gave me the dinner, so I have to hobble back up to the village store again. The store does not have either needles or threads, instead I find a small store that has all sorts of things, where the shopkeeper kindly gives me what I need for free. I pass by the local liqueur store for some beers, returning to the inn a long time after it got dark. No one else there but me. I have seen no signs of any other henros all day.

A shrine 'hidden' in the hills just behind Mihara village.

Whatever the state of the place is, I get some rest drinking my few beers. The host eventually returns and is helpfully aiding me with booking a place for tomorrow. Even though he is friendly, I cannot really say I will recommend this place. The walk over the mountain from Tosa Shimizu was however nice. Now, where are all the others? Where are Johan, Kaja, Kobayashi, Uieda, Tomohiro, Otsu, Naomi, Koh, Julien, Tomoyoshi, Laura, Ingrid, Oseta, and the others I have met?

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