Although I’m not half way through the temples yet, I’m more than half way in terms of distance and I’ve entered my third prefecture, Ehime, with just Kagawa prefecture to follow.
I forgot to mention in my post this morning that I bumped into my ‘walking’ friends again. They were surprised to see me as it was quite a distance from the previous temple and they gave me another gift – a can of coffee. I seem to be working my way through all the brands of canned coffee. I finally found out what my new friends are doing. They are travelling by local bus and then walking to the temples from the bus stop. It seems a good compromise to me.
After leaving temple 38, I opted again to avoid the main road. Route 7 is a windy, provincial road that follows the coast, descending into each bay and climbing back out of it. It was also almost completely empty. I saw perhaps three or four cars. In other words, it was ideal for cycling, as long as you don’t mind a bit of climbing. It was also a day that could almost be called hot and I was pretty content with my lot by the time I was approaching temple 40. I saw my friends again and they weren’t so surprised this time. We’re becoming quite used to meeting up.
As I arrived at the temple, there was a pilgrim standing in front begging for alms. This was the first time I had seen this and then for a bigger surprise, he started chatting to me in pretty good English. His name was Shigeki but, because he grew up in a Catholic family, he also has the name Michael. He quit his job last year and started being a pilgrim on March 8 – just over a year ago. He’s currently on his seventh circuit of the pilgrim route. He’s done it four times clockwise, twice anticlockwise and now he’s going clockwise again. He seems to think this might be his last one before he returns to his family in Nagoya but I’m not sure I believe him. He seems pretty happy with his itinerant lifestyle.
While I was talking to him, I also recieved another couple of presents. At the previous temple, an old lady from a bus party had come over a bit I’ll during the group’s prayer. A bloke who I think was the group’s spiritual leader and another lady were looking after her but I wandered off to a vending machine and got her a bottle of cold tea while they were busy with her. I didn’t think much more of it except to reflect on what a good bloke I am while I was riding away from the temple. However, at temple 40, that group was still there when I arrived and the old lady came over and thanked me and gave me a nice small silk bag and soon after, the spiritual leader gave me some prayer beads that he had made himself and they showed me how to use them. The beads are quite flash and have a couple of different characters on each one which altogether have one of the important prayers written on them.
Finally, when I had my book signed, the monk had also been warned I was coming and gave me lengthy instructions on how to get to a hut to stay in up the road. It’s next to an onsen, so I’ve been relaxing in hot water and now feel clean and relaxed. I feel warm too, but not for long as I fear it’s going to be a cold night. With luck I’ll get enough rest and have a good ride tomorrow. Tomorrow should be my last day of temples that are so far apart.