Day 9/10 - Takamatsu
30.03.2012 - 31.03.2012 15 °C
Day 1: Temple 79, 82, 81, 80
Today was probably the hardest day so far, probably even harder than the first day. Temple 79 was not very hard to get to... until we had to go up to temples 81 and 82. We were walking up the steep hills with our bikes under the scorching sun until we stopped to ask a old man for directions. He said going to 81 and 82 would be a 5-hour hike, so it would be best if we left our bikes, climb up to the temples, and come back down to retrieve it.
The man asked us why we decided to do this pilgrimage. We replied that this was for the experience after seeing Meagan's host mother doing it via tour bus. He smiled and said he asked many foreigners the same question, but none of them had a reason to do it. He told us that the pilgrimage will build and mold our character through all the obstacles we face and the people we meet. How much would this pilgrimage change my views of the world?
Assuming it would take 5 hours for the old man, we thought us youngsters would take less time. We were so wrong, (or do I mean wong?) The hill led to a flight of stairs. We walked up the stairs. Just when we thought we finished, there was another flight, and another, and another, and another... it felt like forever. Step after step, I felt like I was dragging 1000 pounds of weight in each leg. But we finally made it to the half point (which actually turned out to NOT be the half way point...) where two kind henros invited us to sit with them. We stayed and ate our apples and oranges before going up some more.
After going up all these stairs, we had to walk another 3.5k uphill to reach to temple 82. We took a break at the oden shop, where we ate fishcakes, eggs, and yukon. We also bought ice cream and shared while we hiked to temple 81. That was another 5k up and down the mountain. As we ate our melting icecream we bumped into another foreign henro from Berkley. We wished eachother luck and continued our seperate ways. By the time we got to temple 81, we were already tired and wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.
It was already 3:30 and with only an hour and half left until 5:00, we tried to get down the mountain ASAP to get the stamp from temple 80. We started walking faster, which soon became pure running up and down the mountain. I shouted the entire way, determined to get to the next temple. We finally got down the mountain with 35 minutes to get to temple 80. And yet again, we managed to get to temple 80 at 4:50 and sucessfully got the stamp. Sweating and panting, one of the monks in the temple offered us chocolate as o-settai.
We took a mini break outside as the closed temple, watching the monks drive home after work. It was time to head over to Takamatsu, where we would stay with Yoshi-san's family. Oh, just another 10k bike ride to the Tokushima station after spending 5 hours in the mountain. No biggie.
At Yoshi-san's place, we met his wonderful wife, Aya-san, and their two adorable children. Yoshi-san drove us to an onsen. It was my first time, so it was definately an interesting experience. Everyone was bare naked. The young ones, the old ones, the babies, errbody was nakie! And you have to clean yourself very well in the shower to get into the onsen, which is like a very fancy hot tub, and long hair must be tied up. It felt very weird, but nonetheless, it was very relaxing and warm. Why don't they have these in America?
Afterwards, we went back to Yoshi-san's house and had delicious dinner with the family. Saba sushi, salad, vegetable, yakitori, and rice. Before bed, I finally used some of Michel's muscle pain patches, which made me feel like an old granny. It had a slight cool and burning sensation, but when I took it off the next morning, it felt good. Sankyuuuu, Mitchel for the muscle patches!
Day 2: Temple 83, 84, 85, 86
For breakfast, Yoshi-san took us to a self-serving udon place. Basically, they give you a bowl of udon noodles, you pick the desired toppings, and finally pour in the soup. It was an interesting experience because you get to customize your own udon bowl, sit down with a whole bunch of strangers, and slurp your noodles as loud as you want. In America, if you slurp your noodles loudly, it's considered rude. But in Japan, slurping your noodle brings out the true taste, so you'll be missing out if you don't slurp. Basically - everyone slurps their noodles; if you don't, then you're weird. Yoshi-san complimented on how fast we ate our udon (despite us finishing our small size well after he finished his large). He said other foreigners he's hosted were a lot slower.
With a full belly, Yoshi-san drove us to temple 83, then to the train station, where we took the train/bus to temple 84. Yoshi-san and his family picked us up at the bus stop and drove us to another udon place for lunch. This time, we had a family-sized udon, which is a very large tub filled with udon noodles. I've never seen so much udon in my entire life. Takamatsu is definately the palace of udon.
Yoshi-san offered to drive us to temple 83 and 84 since it was up the mountain. Afterwards, we went to Aya-san's boss's summer house to prepare a Nabe dinner (he asked her to prepare dinner for some special guests from France that were filming a documentary on the pilgrimage, so we just tagged along for a grand dinner). I learned the Nabe takes so much time to prepare, but definately a worthy dinner. We went to the onsen before dinnertime, but this time, it costed 800 yen per person! So expensive... our wallets took a big hit.
When the boss and guests came, we started dinner. So much delicious food! Sashimi, snails, curry chicken, sweet potatoes, pasta salad, nabe, and of course, udon (all paid for by the boss but made by Yoshi-san and Aya-san). I've never had so much udon in my entire life. 3 times a day. I think I've had enough of Takamatsu's famous udon.
Afterwards, we went back to Yoshi-san's apartment, where he helped us with the bus routes and accomodations. While Meagan and Yoshi-san was planning, Aya-san and I prepared tomorrow's lunch. Aya-san taught me how to make onigiri! She also prepared tea and gave us sausages for the trip.
We are very lucky to be able to stay with Yoshi-san and his family these past two nights. They have been so kind and always willing to help us! He took us to so many cool places in Japan - from self-serving udon restaurants to relaxing onsens. They helped us so much in directions and places to stay during the pilgrimage. We really don't think we can finish this without their help.
1) Never eat udon 3 times a day (even if it tastes so damn good!)
2) Self serving udon places are the best! And they are so cheap! About 200-400 yen per person!
3) Public bathhouses are great, but be prepared to get naked in front of everyone.
4) No matter how much you complain, it won't change anything. So it'll probably be better if you just shut up and finish it.
5) Hard work pays off.