Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December 10, 2009: Sagawa Art Museum in Biwa-ko

I must say the exhibit of the tea house under water was amazing. The use of water trickling down slowly into a shallow pond over a large area of a semi-circle built with heavy concrete with the ability to tell the time of day like a sundial was surreal. My only wish: that it was deep enough, and filled with hot spring water so that I could take a bath there. The exhibit also feels like a maze, because to get to the next room you have to bend over a bit to pass through a small door in the wall that reminds one of Alice in Wonderland.

When you exit through the other side, it’s a whole different world. For one it is dark with no sun, but the dim lighting allows you to see your footing as you climb a small set of stairs to a room with a wooden table, eight chairs, wooden planks from Australia that are said to be better than Japanese tatami mats because they do not soak up moisture, and smooth, grey concrete walls that were made by using symmetrical slabs of concrete and stacking them on top of each other. The only thing not symmetrical in this room is the table that looks like the biggest tree in the forest was murdered and the fattest slice was taken from its middle. The edges were not straightened like a normal wooden table. Instead the curvy, uneven shape was probably barely sanded so that your kimono wouldn’t get caught in the sharp edges when it was time to take your leave. Here we sat and I imagined we all were sitting in kimonos in a tea ceremony.

There is one tea house completely under water. Darkness overtakes the vision. The truth is only revealed on the tips of ones toes: a narrow but long slit in the wall reveals the surface level of the water and it is from here that a shy ray of light enters through. The angle is ingenious and it meets several clear rectangular prisms all neatly lined up together that reveal a small rainbow of colors. The color shines through and against the rice paper of the sliding door and this is how this tea house gets its barely adequate source of light.

Then there’s the tea house. Tatami mats cover the floor; the alcove seems modern yet ancient at the very same time. The sliding screen doors close and all eight people who decided to undertake this guided tour sit in utter silence and admiration as the dim lighting that fights for recognition seeps through slowly through the rice paper. Sitting on the tatami mat, in front of the alcove and facing the opposite direction is a barrage of black, cold waves. The current sweeps them in all directions and as they part and collide, their growling turns into high but broad bellowing wails. This is the effect created by the blocks of black rock that sit on the outer perimeter of the tatami mats that were carefully arranged.

My biggest question though: who had the time, energy, and money to build all of this luxury? Just to display it to the handful of people a day who make it out to this middle-of-nowhere, famous, yet not so famous museum.

Definitely worth going.

December 3, 2009: Illumination in Kobe, Let the City Glow!

For 2 weeks they set the city ablaze with beautiful lights.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

December 3, 2009: Christmas is the Special Time of Year, in which Dolphins get Fed by Santa Claus.

This weekend I went to the aquarium in Osaka. Sometime before the age of 10, I went to the aquarium in Brooklyn, I think, but barely remember anything. So I was excited to go see some big fish in small tanks. How big can the tanks be in a country that is as big as the state of California, anyway?

Well, I found out that they were not very big at all. A whole world of sea life was swimming in tanks that seemed as cramped as a NYC studio is to one human being. But somehow it seemed rather peaceful. As long as the fish was able to swim around the furniture that is the rest of the fish, he was content. Differences in size didn’t seem to matter as well. As fish made their rounds about the tank, huge whale sharks and awkward sunfish, as well as catfish, x-rays, and bottom feeders all shared the same space without even as much as a shove or a sigh. But, then again, what do I know, I can’t speak fish.

It was mesmerizing to watch the fish swim round and round. I was sitting in front of each tank for as much as 10 minutes at a time watching the funny looking fish make their rounds. We spent about three hours in there! My friends and I saw a big nosed fish and jokingly called it a French person. To the fish with weird antennas or camera looking probes on their forehead, we called them CIA spies. There were tanks filled with crabs, others with octopuses, and a whole area just for the different kinds of jellyfish. I saw my very first sea turtle in person and fell in love with it. I wish I lived in Hawaii and could hang out with them everyday. I also have never seen a puffer fish get mad and puff out, and that was pretty exciting. My favorite player, although, was the most awkward fish: the sunfish. It looks like a regular flat-bodied fish, but instead, the part where the rest of the body and tail is supposed to be just awkwardly stops short and it looks as if it has a flat butt.

I was surprised when I saw Santa Claus at the aquarium. Dressed in your typical Santa suit with the hat and big bag of toys (but here they were most likely just crinkled newspapers to give it that full, but empty look), Santa was there with a tank of oxygen on his back and flippers on his feet in the Dolphin tank. This country is obviously blindly obsessed with Christmas. I say blindly because they ignore the meaning that comes with the holiday, but then again so do I. Materialism is an epidemic, that’s a whole new other topic.

After the aquarium, I bought some Turkish ice cream. I never had Turkish ice cream, and the Turkish guy who sold it to me made it a show by teasing me with ice cream that defies gravity. Eventually I won, but not without realizing that although it looked very different from gelato or regular Hagen Daaz, it tasted the same. Luckily, I love me my chocolate ice cream.

Then we went on “One of the Biggest Ferris Wheels in the World.” Now what does that mean? It can’t be one of the biggest, there’s only one that is the biggest. Anyway, ignoring the ambiguity, we still took a spin to see the city from above as the sky was changing color and it was beautiful. Then we decided to go to Kobe and see some illumination!

Monday, December 21, 2009

December 1, 2009: The International Manga Museum in Kyoto

I really didn’t want to go to this museum, had no interest at all really. The only reason why I went was because it was the cheapest museum on a list that my Japanese Civilization teacher gave us. She instructed us to go to one of the museums on the list for two hours, take notes, and somehow incorporate the experience in an essay for the final that we would take weeks later.

I should have gone to the Ainu Museum. I had intentions to, just no time in the end.

Well, this excursion wasn’t all bad. And I am sure the anime ‘otakus’ would love to hear about what I have to say. When you first walk into the museum, there is a whole section of anime from around the world and a timeline of Japanese anime, all pictures no writing except for the general dates. But, the pictures are self-explanatory, that’s anime for you all right. I walked through the timeline and realized that the characters in anime from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s to the 60’s and up until the present got more realistic and probably sexier. It went from short midget people with powers and lightening bolts shooting out of their palms, and characters with too much muscle and awkward face proportions to skinny nerds with big glasses, and girls with big boobs in red spandex suits that were too revealing for my taste. I must say they also did something to their hair. It went from bald and little detail on the hair, to spikier, bigger hair. Is there some correlation in the way the characters in the anime look to the way that the actual Japanese people look in society nowadays? Take nowadays for example: just looking at a glance, out of the guys who are in their teens, 20’s and maybe early 30’s, I’d say about 70% perm their hair to make it curly or spiky. Girls, starting from the age of 5 wear short skirts and heels.

Anyway, flipping through Spanish anime, I was a bit more shocked. If the anime is for kids, then they must be traumatized. The Spanish anime was just as bad if not worse. Themes include: a half-naked woman who looked like she was a cocaine addict, a guy, holding a gun, who abused her not just once but many times, and it was all in black in white. And this was all in just one book. Need I say more?

Anyway, the rest of the museum was just filled with Japanese anime, written all in Japanese, as well as a bit of history of Japanese anime. I had to say that my favorite room was the room with the history written all over the walls. It was a timeline starting with the very beginning, the four strip comics in newspapers. The dynamic in this room was actually more interesting than anything else. Half of the room was set up to display the history, the other half filled with tables and chairs so that people could bring their favorite anime off of the bookshelf and read it. The history was written in Japanese and English. But, the people that were actually paying attention and reading the history: the foreigners! Not just any lonesome, otaku foreigner, but loads of them that travelled in packs as a guided tour. They were mostly men and some women, but all in their late 20’s and above. The ones sitting in the other half of the room, totally oblivious to the history: the Japanese. They were women, mostly in their 20’s, and some Japanese guys. Under a stack of their favorite anime, it seems like the Japanese people use this place as a library more than anything else.

In front of a museum is a lawn. A plot of fake grass made of black rubber painted green, you can actually see Japanese people sitting here and enjoying their manga. Even though it was winter and a bit chilly, there were about 10 people all together, all Japanese, sitting on the fake lawn, immersed in an imaginary world that must be much like this one.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November 5, 2009: At War with Myself

Nijo Castle of Kyoto

A view from above of the grounds of Nijo Castle

At times I get surges, I feel the passion to become a doctor reignite inside of me. I feel like I can accomplish anything. But it is temporary and I cannot control it. These surges take over at any time they please, any moment, whether it is while I am in bed with a cold, or biking to school. But then the fiery passion fades, ever so slowly it does so. I feel teased, but have no one to blame but myself.

I’ve wanted to be a doctor since 10 years old. Although I feared I might contract every kind of disease out there, I was attracted to the descriptions of the ailments; there was an intense appeal that I found in reading the symptoms. The knowledge felt like liquefied gold that was being poured onto my maturing brain.

When you are little, it seems like anything is possible. Growing up, that mentality of mine was certainly encouraged and I was told to pursue what I wanted to do in life; as long as it fit in the small to zero budget my family and I had of course. It’s really all up to me. As I applied to colleges, I felt like that dream solidified, but my college education has done nothing but dissolve my dream into a fine powder, and the elements that built the foundation of this dream is slowly blowing away with the eastern winds. Maybe going to an ivy league was a mistake. Maybe I could have been more successful had I gone to a state school. Maybe my whole wave of thinking is distorted. Maybe I should have chosen a different career. Maybe I should have majored in writing, or math, or Japanese. Maybe I should have never dreamed big in the first place.

Since I was little, as shy I was at first, it was easy for me to make friends, but just as easy to lose them. Moving to a different town changes everything. In college, the friends I have made, although I’ve want to keep forever, friendship, like any relationship, is a two way street, and if both don’t make equal efforts, there is no friendship. With this in mind, I feel that I have lost many a friendships, the world forcing me to conclude that friends are never forever. I yearn for a friend I can share everything with, and though I thought I have found a few, with distance, of course situations change. Maybe my whole idea of friend is all wrong. Maybe I expect too much from the people I care about. Maybe I expect a friend to be more like a sister than a friend. Maybe I think they are more valuable than they are worth. In college, I have had friends that were on the same track as me, they wanted to be a doctor, came from better High Schools than me, but have already quit on that dream. I stand alone fighting for my dream, hesitating to continue onwards because I have so many other interests that get in the way. College provides too many opportunities. Or is it that I feel that if I follow my dream, I’ll loose all the ones I love, whether it is because of distance or lack of authenticity? I guess, then, this would make my friendships superficial and the superficial friendships/relationships with people that can’t stand to those mere obstacles are then not worth my energy.

I am at a constant war with myself. I came to Japan to take a break from my serious studies, to think about my future. I welcome the turmoil that comes because without this turmoil, I would not think about my future, but yet I still am undecided. I want to go to medical school, but I also want to go to graduate school for psychology. I have developed a keen interest in psychology, but don’t know if that transference of interest is just a lazy attempt that I have created to avoid medical school; Or if it is just a cause of me wanting to follow a friend who has a similar interest. I want to give up my dream. I want to throw it all away but I just can’t watch it burn away. I can’t throw all the trouble and ache I have endured for this dream just like that. I’m stuck at a fork in the road. If I am willing to throw away this dream, then I might as well just go into law or anything I want. What do I want?

October 30, 2009

Battle of Genji and Heike

Pond of Blood where they washed their swords.

Temple 84

My stone from the Ryugado Cave is mounted proudly at Temple 84

Temple 84

Now to climb that.

Temple 85

The small town of Shido.

Temple 86

Temple 84, Yashimaji
It was too much of a struggle to wake up at 5am that morning. I woke at 6am and took the 6:30am train from Takamastu to the town next door, Yashima. I got there around 7am and started walking the henro trail. All was good until I reach the view of Yashima; a mountain that pulls out of the country and surrounds its tip with water to make it some sort of island, it certainly had an interesting shape. The peak is not your usual pointy top, but it was rounded and almost seemed as if during its creation the wind blew it out of shape to give it a unique cap. With no coin lockers at the station, I had no choice but to carry my heavy backpack (with warm clothes that were unnecessary because of the unusually continuing warm weather that made fall feel like summer).

Going up the mountain to Temple 84 was more than just a nuisance because there was no straight road that went to the top. Instead the cement road scribbled its way to the top, all the while maintaining a steep incline. When I finally reached the top, I walked around to see the cement drawing of the battle between the Genji and Heike and the pond of blood where they washed the blood off their swords; long ago this mountain was their battle grounds. I was also able to see beautiful views from atop the mountain of the ocean between Shikoku and Honshu as well as the connecting bridges between the two lands.

When I reached this temple, they told me the next one was only a 2 hour walk away, and the priests gave me directions to the short cut/ohenro road. They told me to be careful because the way down was very steep. Since it was so difficult getting up, I thought going down would be a piece of cake and was looking forward to the descent. But the way down was dangerous indeed. It was slippery and the incline was so steep. There were few trees in the path to hold on to, and I couldn’t help but run and hop/jump during my way down. I felt as if someone was pushing me down the entire time. Maybe it was the weight of my backpack, or maybe it was an invisible force that wanted me gone, whatever it was I was surprised I didn’t twist my ankle on the terrible rocky ground below my feet. There was little soil and some man-made stairs that seemed to be in urgent need of repair, and most of the time there were big jagged rocks that made walking down a struggle. But when I reached the end, I was relieved with a banquet of fruit that the nearby house left out for ohenros to eat as they please: a basket of oranges (mikan) was breakfast for me. I ate about 8 oranges and stuffed 3 into my pocket and was on my way.

Temple 85
As I walked along my merry way, soaking up the beauty of Shikoku’s nature, I felt like I was walking through a ghost town. Most of my walks through the small towns of Japan all seem to have this in common: there are houses, some very nice ones, but no people walking around the town, and no sign of life in the houses. It’s so quiet; all but the occasional passage of cars, you would think it was an abandoned city.

I crossed a bride to get to the town and following the ohenro road I saw a welcoming store-looking place with a small pond in front of it. The autumn trees in the background of the pond made it look pretty and so I thought I might sit a while next to it and enjoy the weather and view. Out of a white van came a man who saw me diverting from the ohenro road and seemed to be in a fury. He asked me in Japanese, in an angry voice, “Where do you think you’re going?” I was shocked that such a stranger would have the nerve, I felt like I was trespassing on private property, but it was just open road I was walking on. I told him I was walking over there to see the view and pointed toward the pond. He wouldn’t even let me finish my sentence and asked if I was Japanese. And I said I came from America. I think this got him even angrier and he directed me to a red arrow on a signpost and told me to follow it. I already saw this arrow, and already knew where I was going, I wasn’t lost, but I he was insisted I was lost and needed direction. I gave him a dirty look and said “I know, I know.” To this he just laughed a bit of insanity. Maybe he thought he was being a Good Samaritan but I wasn’t convinced. Maybe he was crazy, maybe he just hated Americans. I know there are some Japanese people that have had bad experiences with Americans and feel like they have to be on their toes when they encounter one. But that’s a bit racist, a bit discriminatory, don’t you think? One bad apple spoils the bunch, and the world thinks that every Middle Eastern man is a terrorist under cover. What has this world come to?!

Anyway, I was forced to continue without rest, but luckily I found a small stand in the road with two women that were covered in shade. One woman gave me a snack, green mochi with red bean inside that she just handmade, and told me to continue on the road where I would be given tea by another kind woman. Well I continued and found a nice bench to sit on. Outside on the bench was the woman’s husband, reading a novel, inside the wooden house was the wife. When he saw me he yelled to his wife for some tea, and she invited me inside her home. I was greeted by a luxurious French carpet, and some exquisite wooden Indonesian sculptures. It was a comfy place. Here I ate the mochi I was given, drank some tea, ate some fig sorbet (her recipe: peel a fresh fig, put it in the freezer and when you want to eat it, heat it in the microwave for 20 seconds, and wa-la! You can eat a fig any time of the season, even when they aren’t in season), oranges, puffed mochi, coffee, and I waited for the bread that she just freshly baked with homemade apple-jam. I was so full and happy. Her husband seemed to have a bit of a mental disability, but they were such kind people. The wife’s eyes twinkled with life and happiness as she listened to my stories, and I felt like if ohenro’s stopped coming by she would just wither away. Her energy was devoted to those making the pilgrimage but this also seemed to be the source of her energy and will to live. She told me the name of her place is called Jinan and even gave me a homemade gift to bring back home to my grandma. The gift she gave me was a prince and princess doll set that the Japanese mount on a shelf during New Years. Before I was on my way she gave me 2 more homemade mochi’s from the other woman’s stand and wished me luck.

Going to Temple 85 was also another ascent. Climbing 1868 steps the day before, and going to Temple 84 was challenging enough. I was already tired just by looking at the incline upwards. My legs felt weary, but I pushed through, and when I reached the top, they told me Temple 86 is just 2 more hours away. It is at this temple (or was it at Temple 84?) that I left the stone that my cave tour guide gave me as a souvenir atop the red/orange tori that had many round stones lined up upon it that was within the temple grounds. It was too heavy for me to continue carrying, and I didn’t think I would bring it home to NY anyway. I left my mark and felt proud.

In the small town of Shido: Temple 86
I started walking down the decline to the next town to get to Temple 86. The decline was rough on my knees, and my legs really started to hurt. For a while I was limping, and thought that maybe running would relieve the pain. I was wrong and my left knee continued to feel like it would snap out of its socket at any moment. Ohenros drove by in cars and motorcycles. One car-driving ohenro stopped on the road and gave me 2 oranges. Another guy driving a car stopped and gave me a whole bag of snacks, taking just one out of the whole bag for himself. I barely had time to properly say thank you, when these people drove off and disappeared.

Walking to temple 86, I walked by houses, the river, then by a highway, getting lost amidst the acres of farming land of rice and veggies. Walking, I felt at peace. Even though my bag was heavy and my legs and shoulders were weary of travel, I felt at peace, and wished I could start over from day 1. If I had to do it all over again, I would walk the entire way.

I walked around Temple 86 and saw tons of ohenros, dressed in the same fashion as me, all praying in unison in front of the sacred temple. Their voices remain full of energy, I wondered how they got there. Did they take a bus?
I got on a direct bus that would take a little more than 3 hours but would get me directly home to Kyoto. At the bus I made sure I was at the right place and asked the only person who was there. Here I met a potato farmer. Although he is from this small town and has lived here his whole life, he’s a huge Yankee fan. I guess that was enough for him. He gave me his phone number, without a name, and told me to call him if I was ever in town again and he would bring a whole basket of potatoes to me.

October 29, 2009

Temple 68

Temple 69

Temple 75 grounds

The grounds of Temple 75 is huge!

In the basement, following the path of darkness this is what I found.

Temple 75

Konpira: the famous vendors with their white umbrellas.

Atop Konpira-san.

I made it up 1368 steps!

Kanon: Temple 68 and 69
Out of the 88 temples in Shikoku, these are the only 2 that are right next to each other. It’s nice because you get to knock two out of the way in one shot. The two temple grounds are so merged it’s hard to distinguish the two separately from memory. I remember getting a bit lost walking to this place and I tried to walk the ohenro path, which was the long way (but good thing I didn’t because I would have lost more time and the trains don’t run too often), but someone directed me through the shortcut.
It was through this blasphemous short cut that I was traumatized. It was a warm sunny day and on my way to the temple, I bumped into a Japanese woman. Red heels, black stockings, a short black skirt, and a tight black t-shirt, I took one look at her face and realized it was a man. This man stopped me for a conversation, saying that today he felt like dressing up as a woman. And I said “I see.” The conversation should not have gone further but he asked me if I thought it was weird and then told me if I had time he would show me around the town. I told him I was going to the temples (thus my ohenro attire) and he said he should come with me. He then lifted his skirt and showed me his bright red panties and pulled out his penis and told me he’s small. How the conversation made this strange sharp perverted turn is a mystery to me. There were dogs that lived in a house right next to the road where we were standing, and as if they sensed this grotesque scene about to come a few milliseconds before it occurred, possibly by the smell in the air, no sooner all 5 of them came out barking madly. As soon as I was flashed, as if on cue from the bark of the dogs, I automatically turned around and started walking towards the temple but I had to pass these ferocious looking dogs. I prayed my ohenro outfit would grant me some respect, some comfort to the dogs. The expression on my face asked them to spare me, and as I tiptoed by the dogs, surprisingly they didn’t budge. Thankfully, they let me pass. I guess my pure goodness shined through. What smart doggies! After that I didn’t look back and have no idea what might have happened behind me.

I was starving when I reached this place, because I didn’t eat anything in the morning, and so before I left the temple, I had some lunch (udon). Some old guy asked me about my journey, his interest peaking when I told him I was from America, and he insisted he take a picture of me in front of the Temple with his camera to place on his blog. After eating udon next to a group of 5 Japanese ohenro enjoying the same lunch, they gave me a snack to take with me on my way (gift=osettai). I was grateful and ate it on the way back to the train station.

Zentsuji: Temple 75
I heard this was a huge temple and so I decided I had to go to this temple. I spent about 2 hours here because they had some kind of museum that I don’t think was open to the public yet, but because the doors slid open when I approached them, I couldn’t resist walking in. Inside was a bunch of wooden sculptures of many different types of gods. They all looked very new and neat and uniform, as if all made by one person at one time, and I took a picture of the majority of them. It seems like the temple grounds was preparing itself for a matsuri/festival that night or the next day and flags of different colors were being hung.
I paid 500 yen to transverse the temple basement in darkness. On the walls were pictures of mandalas (gods of all kinds). You pass through this basement by using your left hand and pressing it against the wall for guidance. The purpose: it is as if the mandalas and Buddhist gods are providing you guidance on your way. Close to the end you get to a room with a voice recording and a room with some cement statue Buddhas and altar with a money collection box in front of it. I used my cell phone as a flashlight to see the pictures of the mandalas because I was curious.

I gave myself plenty of time to walk back to the train station. As I was hungering for some fruit, on my way back I walked into a supermarket. Because I was in my ohenro attire, every one in the supermarket stared at me, as if henros don’t walk into supermarkets. I love figs and so I was eyeing the beautiful figs that were 6 for 300 yen. That was cheap! But if I bought that many I didn’t have enough space in my backpack to keep them and I couldn’t eat them all at once because I might very well get diarrhea. So sadly I put them down and walked out of the store. No sooner was I on my way when a woman from in her car called out “おねえちゃん” (sister) and handed me 3 figs. She watched me eye the figs in the store, and so just gave them to me. I was so happy and grateful that as soon as I washed them at the train station I gobbled them all down. Delicious!

When I got to the train station, I accidently almost got on the wrong train and therefore missed my train that was waiting across the platform. I was just going to take the train to the next stop. I decided to hop in a cab because the next train would take 1.5 hours, and by then I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the next town. I paid 2000 yen ($20) to get to the next town, which took less than 10 minutes.

Kotohira: Konpira, 1368 steps + 500 steps = 1868 steps
My grandmother told me a few weeks before I planned this trip to Shikoku thoroughly that long ago she and my mom and the family went to Konpira. I asked her what it was, but since we didn’t have much time left to talk on the phone, she said that if I asked someone I would be able to figure it out. I decided to go here to experience what my grandma did way back when.

I was kind of pissed that I was rushing myself through this trip and paying too much money with cabs and the like. So I rushed up the 1368 steps. There was a lot of people walking up the steps, most (even the young people) with walking sticks so they can get that Buddhist touch, I guess. You would imagine these steps to just continue on and on forever, just going straight up, like in some movie, but the start of these steps is not as prominent as you would think (I was kind of wondering where Konpira’s steps would start as I was already advancing up), and though it sounds like an achievement, walking up is not as glorious or strenuous as you would think or others might tell you. There are about maybe 50 steps or so at a time (I counted at one point) that you climb, and then a small cement road in between the next set of steps. I felt like the purpose of the breaks in between was to lessen the blow. But, I wanted the full on challenge, and was ready for it, and was disappointed when I reached the top/end so soon. I expected too much (damn you, guide book). Some people however, really think that these stairs are a challenge and pay 6500 yen ($65) to get carried up in a palanquin. (What fat, bent out of shape American would do that?) Anyway, as you climb the stairs there are tourist shops that continue on the ascent filled with food and overpriced presents. On the way there are museums, temples, statues, a café, and 5 white umbrellas selling supposedly what they have been selling for generations (some hard yellow candy). These 5 umbrellas represent the 5 families that were given the privilege long ago to sell their goods in that location.

When you reach the top, there is a huge temple and a beautiful view of the city of Kotohira. It was cloudy on the day I went, so it was hard to see the islands in the distance. Because I was so unsatisfied with the 1368 steps, I decided to climb the extra 500 steps to get to the top of the mountain and see the view from there. Comparing 500 to 1368 steps seems like nothing, but the climb is so difficult. It’s because you already climbed 1368 steps that makes the next ascent hard. When I reached the top, there was an orange shrine and again the cloudy view of the city. There was also an interesting view of the side of the mountain, with its rocky jaggedness. Going to the top wasn’t worth it because there was really nothing much, but it tired me out and ate away at the energy I needed to get rid of so I felt at peace once again.

Because the next day I wanted to climb the mountains to Temple 86, which was 5km from the train station I looked in my ohenro book and inquired about a place in a town an hour away from where I currently was. I wanted to get to the temple first thing in the morning and thought my best bet was to wake as early as possible and take my time walking there from my lodging. When I called the place I introduced myself as a student from America studying in Japan and doing this pilgrimage. Maybe that was my mistake. I told the woman I was going to get there a bit late, by 8pm, and asked if that was ok. Maybe it was that when temples close at 5pm, so do the accommodations that are suggested in the ohenro manual. Whatever it was, she told me to find another place to stay for the night. How rude! So I was not able to stay in the same town as my next destination, but was forced to stay for one night in a city about 20 minutes away by train. I made a reservation with the cheapest place (5400 yen, $54), but thought even that was a bit pricey for my budget.

When I reached the big city of Takamatsu, in the train station I found out that the hotel I made a reservation for that night was pretty far (I would have to take the street car). Because the train station has so many signs that provided me with telephone numbers of cheaper places, that were closer, I struggled to find a place close by that was cheap and had room for me. I found a place that was 4500 yen, but when I walked to the place, right next door to it was a business hotel that was cheaper (3800 yen). I didn’t make a reservation, but didn’t need it, and she gave me a dirty room that smelled like cigarettes for the night. I was upset, but too tired to complain. I walked around the city, had some tempura with zaru udon (noodles) for the night that satisfied my hungry, travel weary soul and fell fast asleep.