After a lazy lie-in, I collected my freshly washed clothes that had been left at my door and went downstairs for a cooked breakfast thanks to the lovely Tanaka family. I’d been there long enough for the two- year-old boy to be familiar enough with me to practice his fighting moves on but the two girls still stared at me, quite mystified. I also met grandmother Tanaka, who has done the pilgrimage twice, and when I eventually took my leave, was presented with a bag full of sweets.
My aim for the day was just to cruise along at an easy pace, see how many temples I could get to in the area, then get to Kochi city and stay the night there. I’m happy to say I achieved all this.
The Tanaka’s house us actually a bit out of Kochi and from there I wandered through rural settings as I got around the temples. It was a pleasure to be off the main roads foruch of the day and ride through roads between fields or through windy, narrow village streets with houses that are built right up to the streets. No one is in too much of a rush and one farmer had time to have the briefest of
conversations about the weather as I rode past (it was good today). I didn’t see any young farmers but I saw plenty well past retirement age including a short, bow-legged hunched-over octogenarian lady pushing a wheelbarrow twice her size down the street.
As ever, a few of the temples were up hills but the gradients remained in the realm of common sense. Kochi is built between mountains and a sizeable bay with a couple of wide rivers flowing through and not unattractive but the farming and port areas are more functional than beautiful.
To get to one temple, I rode across a couple of wide rivers and up a hill to a park overlooking the town and stopped for a bite to eat before descending a little to the temple where, after praying, a monk showed me to where the book signing place was. As we were discussing the weather (good today, likely to rain early next week but still warm), we passed a newly-married couple having a photo shoot so as they seemed to be pausing between takes, I barged in and took a photo. I’m sure offering them congratulations makes up for the slight interruption.
I had a play with my brakes this morning and have managed to tighten them up so descending was fairly okay again and got out to a temple on the coast which also had a small climb. This temple had fresh flowers out in front of many of the statues and what was possibly a cherry tree starting to bloom. I’m never really sure whether a tree is a cherry, plum or peach. I’ll need to take tree spotting classes.
From there, I rode along the coast and then along a road which followed the river and had a sea wall along its side. To cross the river, I had to wait for a free ferry so I was happy to sit on the river wall and watch the shipping go past. When the ferry arrived, there were a handful of locals on bicycles and a couple of old ladies waiting to cross. The whole thing felt like stepping back to another time and continued on the other side with kids riding around on bikes together in groups. I’d forgotten that we don’t see that any more. One boy called out hello in his best English when he saw me go past and at the temple another couple of boys were checking my bike out. In another place I might worry that they were going to tamper with it but I don’t think that would even enter anyone’s heads here.
It was time to call it a day so I rode into town to find accommodation for the night. Kochi itself has a city feel to it with some wide, busy streets running through the middle, trams, a large Louis Vuitton shop and is apparently populated almost entirely by schoolchildren. There are bicycles everywhere in town and I was happy to see they were being ridden all over the place in a way that would make pedestrians and motorists in an English-speaking country apopletic with rage. No one here seemed to mind.
I’ve got three reasonably near temples to get to tomorrow and then I start on the way to Shikoku’s southermost point, Cape Ashizuri.