Japan 88 Temple Pilgrimage. The Return of Mika:

Day 13 April 2019:  

Joined Sumiko, a friendly guest who spoke good English, for breakfast before heading out along the bay. After a few hours of road walking along the water, in the distance  a European backpacker appeared coming in my direction. “She must be walking the pilgrimage in the other direction,” I thought.  

Then she started waving both arms peering in my direction. What the heck!?!? Then I realized it was Mika. After a 9 day absence from the pilgrimage, she took the overnight bus and surprised me. How wonderful to be reunited and it certainly makes things interesting as I now have a guide and translator once again.  The cool morning evolved into a hot humid afternoon so we stopped for break with a Chinese American bicyclist and a married Japanese couple that I was at Rest Stop by Temple 33 with.  

Then a woman stopped her car and gave us each a konatsu, a Japanese orangelike citrus fruit. We stopped later at a rest stop and had ham and cheese sandwiches. Not very Japanese but anything is delicious on pilgrimage after walking all morning. In the mall we sat and watched bonito (tuna) being cooked over a fire.  

Mika receiving Osettai of konatsu
Bonito (tuna) cooking

Just before Nakatosa we stopped at nice henro rest stop for a coke. Very cozy. Then walked on final 45 minutes to Nakatosa and our Ryokan Otani Ryokan with its double hot bath. Afterwards we walked out and ate at a local place, an izakaya, a small family run home cooking style restaurant, with delicious sashimi and an unusual preparation of wild grass.  

small family run Izakaya (bar/restaurant)

Very friendly owner who gave me a bowl of ice cream as a gift; Osettai. Meandering back to our Ryokan, we ran into a young baseball player with his Dad. 28K  

Japan is a place of great contrasts. One minute I am thinking how strange and unusual it is and the next moment I am swinging a baseball bat with a Little Leaguer.  

Typical breakfast; rice, miso soup, pickled veggies, hot spring or raw egg, seaweed.

Day 14:  

Since we had a relatively short walk today, we enjoyed our first morning back together with a leisurely breakfast. The walk was a bit hilly and more on road than trail.  With 5K remaining, we stopped in Niida, at a Japanese couple’s house. Toshiyuki, 77, and his wife Kyoko, had walked the pilgrimage many times. They rented this summer house to offer Osettai to pilgrims; tea, drinks, and snacks.  

Toshiyuki and his wife Kyoko with Mika. Providing snacks and tea Osettai.

They showed us their stamp book which had multiple stamps per page. Toshiyuki explained in Japanese, with Mika translating, that ohenros use the same stamp book and overlay stamps rather than get a new book for each pilgrimage.  

Their very interesting Nokyocho stampbook. I did not realize until now that pilgrims (ohenros) use their original book and restamp the same pages each time they visit a repeat Temple. Cool.

Then a final walk to Temple 37 where I met Randy, a friendly American from Louisville, who is revisiting his favorite Temples after a pilgrimage from years ago. Beautiful Main Temple with 675 colorful pictures adorning the ceiling.  

Temple 37 with its uniquely beautiful ceiling
Close up of Temple 37 ceiling

After going through our ritual at the temple; bowing to the gods at the gate, rinsing our mouths and washing our hands, bonging the bell, saying our prayers, getting our stamp, and bowing again to the gods upon departure, we walked to Mima Ryokan where we had a record 13 Tatami mats. That is how the Japanese measure traditional rooms, by the number of mats. 7 or 8 is a decent size, making this room spacious, and it is more upscale than we are used to. The hot bath area was one of the nicer ones as well. After soaking for a good half hour in the soothing hot waters, we sat out on our balcony, lounging in our Yukatas (robes) (slight variation from a kimono) sipping our earthy green tea.  

One of the nicer hot bath setups

 Day 15:  

Departed at 7:20, enjoying a pleasant walk with a mix of road and forest.  

We came to a roadside stand, where an older man offered Osettai of tea, snacks, and Ramen Noodles. I wasn’t overly hungry after the usual ample breakfast, but here in Japan, I am learning what seems to be an obvious truth, that it is important to accept these gifts with humility and gratitude as perhaps it is important to support the giver of Osettai.  

Osettai snacks

These generous, kind, acts of Osettai are humbling and somehow impacting me. I have been exposed to much giving on other pilgrimages, especially the Camino de Santiago, where beds and meals are commonly offered on a donation basis, but this is different. The givers of Osettai do not ask for or want anything in return. The spirit of this pilgrimage and Osettai is to give. We in the west are taught the same thing that “it is better to give than to receive” but I am sensing this is different. Often, I have given, because it makes me feel good about myself. I suppose that is ok. Occasionally, one gives without thinking. That I think is a state of mind to seek and to sustain.  

Enjoying the Ramen Noodles Osettai

Later on as the day grew hot, we stopped in the shade of a bus stop joining a friendly couple and of course the woman offered me a fermented plum, which isn’t my favorite, but I accepted it gratefully and somehow this piece of fermented fruit was enjoyable. Maybe my tastes are changing or perhaps it is my perspective.  

How about a fermented plum…

We continued on and after a long 35K day, made it to our Minshuku, once again rejuvenating our tired bodies with a hot bath and a delicious Japanese dinner; fried pork and rice, and bonito (tuna) marinated in green and white onion sauce. And potato salad which popular here, surprisingly to me.  

Temple 37
Bonito tuna sashimi. fabulous

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Happy to answer any questions and help in any way.