I took it easy in the morning and rescheduled my trip once again. As luck would have it, I got the first rapid out of town, so at least I got to skip a couple of stops close to the city. I got to the platform thirty minutes early, as I needed to get a seat, preferably a good seat.
Before long, I was falling asleep, but during the times I was awake I saw beautiful mountains, streams, and bridges, and I felt pained to be missing so much of it snoozing. The area felt alive – the rice stalks were still green, and the train went right through people’s backyards. Despite my complaints about the lack of inexpensive express service in this particular region, travelling this way is a great way to see to see the country. The concurrent Shinkansen routes tend to spend more time inside mountains than on them or in the valleys around them.
On this train, I happened to see a man wearing a “Tiny Tin in the Congo” [sic] t-shirt. Oh, boy. The shirt had a particular illustration I can’t find online – Tintin was in the middle, surrounded by a score of identical, monkey-like blackfaces.
Didn’t that man realize that, on our shores, wearing that shirt would get the shit kicked out of him? How anyone could sport so racist a fashion statement anywhere in the 21st-century world is beyond me.
To balance the ledger, I also met a woman who had sat next to me, and she opened things up by sharing a snack with me. She was from Hiroshima, and visiting a friend in Himeji – and like me, she was using a Seishun Juhachi Kippu. Just like me, she had used it to travel during the holidays, and now we were using up the last part of it on its last weekend of validity. Poor girl – going to Himeji and back on the same day! That’s nearly eight hours on the train. “Kore wa Shinkansen ja arimasen,” I said. “Hai, soo des,” she chortled. Her English and my Japanese were competitive, but we did have something resembling a conversation.
At Okayama, I got on the Marine Liner, and I finally got to see the Great Seto crossing during the day. It was a terrific sight, but taking photos was difficult because you had to time the shutter with the gaps between the girders. Still, I think I got a few decent ones, though.
Temple 77: A steam locomotive on display near Tadotsu Station provided a place to stash my belongings – they fit nicely and inconspicuously underneath its rear bogies. I inspected the cab and the complexity of the piping astonished me. It looked truly beastly. These trains did not operate at the push of a button like the modern “sophisticated” ones do.
The temple was about ten minutes from the station by foot. There, a pilgrim asked if I wanted him to take my picture – I thought he was asking if I could take his! He asked where I was from and how I was getting around.
After I got my book stamped, I overheard the clerks saying something about foreigners – whenever I hear “gaijin” or “gaikokujin,” the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
Temple 78: I got on an express train again to backtrack to Utazu, and getting off there I got to see them split the train so that some cars would go to Okayama and some to Takamatsu.
After I put my things in a coin locker, a child shouted “Gaikokujin!” and I replied with an eye-rolling, sardonic “Hai!” I wasn’t offended, but I reflected that Utazu must be a small city, despite the presence of coin lockers in their train station.
I also had to take back all the kind things I said about signage in Kagawa when we were going to Temple 66. There were perhaps a dozen or more temples in the area, only one was the one I wanted, but it wasn’t labelled as being particularly distinct from any of the other temples. Fortunately, I was able to check the kanji and find the right one. It could have been a twenty-minute walk from the station, though it took longer because the signage was poor and I got going the wrong way when I got off the main road in the temples’ vicinity.
I ended up having to rush this temple a little bit, but I got to see an impressive underground room filled with little golden statuettes. It’s also a well-situated temple – it’s on a hillside and has a great view of the city.
Temple 79: I got off at Yasoba “Station” (it was hilariously small) and set off for 79. I was able to stash my things in a little thicket along a street. (Someone was using a hedge trimmer there when I came back; a few pilgrims laughed good-naturedly as I tried to “inconspicuously” grab my bag.)
The temple is very close to the station, but the temple and a shrine cohabit the same location, and from the outside the shrine looks more prominent, so I thought that the temple must be in a different place, and so I kept on walking. I went up and around a hill, and eventually came to a large nursing home. I went inside for directions. I reflected that I could have been the only foreigner to darken its doors in a very long time. The nurses at the reception counter were very friendly and helpful, and with some bemusing difficulty (and a topographic map book they had on hand) I figured out that I had actually walked right past the temple, and so off I went.
Temple 80: I arrived at Kokubu Station at 4:39, but this was still plenty of time to get to the temple, which is also close to its station. The temple is pretty, and it’s in the edge of a wooded area. It’s situated at the base of a trail leading to Temples 81 and 82.
There were renovations going on, so the main hall and the temple office were now in the same room – I was getting my book signed while white-cloaked bus tour pilgrims were all around me chanting the sutras. It was somewhat amusing.
I was so tired after 80 that when I got back on the train, I fell asleep right away. I woke up in Takamatsu, a full ten minutes after we had pulled in! I rushed through the turnstiles to grab a snack, and then ran back to catch a local train bound for Tokushima. It’s a good thing I woke up – not only could I have missed the local, but I could have woken up who knows where.
It was very cold on this train – the air conditioning was being run at an unnecessary intensity. I had my coat on, and I saw a businessman putting his suit coat back on, too.
I got to Yoshinari a little after 8:00pm, and I came out to find that the back tire of my bike had completely deflated. Nothing like dragging your bike back home with your things after a long trip. So that would have to be fixed.
But, overall, I’d say it was a successful trip. Hiroshima, Miyajima, plus six temples from the pilgrimage. Not bad for a weekend.
Only one question remains: Did I get my money’s worth with the S18K? (This is going to be tricky to calculate, as any out-of-the-turnstiles stopovers increase the fare I would have ordinarily paid.)
Day One, August 4th
1. Tokyo to Okazaki
Day Two, August 5th
1. Okazaki to Ogaki
2. Ogaki to Shin-Imamiya
Day Three, August 6th
1. Shin-Imamiya to Kyoto
2. Kyoto to Takamatsu
3. Takamatsu to Yoshinari
Day Four, August 24th (This is the day I didn’t have my ticket stamped.)
1. Yoshinari to Hiwasa
2. Hiwasa to Aratano
3. Aratano to Tatsue
Day Five, September 5th
1. Yoshinari to Zoda
2. Zoda to Shido
3. Shido to Takamatsu
4. Takamatsu to Okayama
5. Okayama to Hiroshima
Day Six, September 7th
1. Hiroshima to Tadotsu
2. Tadotsu to Utazu
3. Utazu to Yasoba
4. Yasoba to Kokubu
5. Kokubu to Takamatsu
6. Takamatsu to Yoshinari
Cost of travel with regular ticketing: ¥30440 (plus the odd express surcharge here and there)
Cost of travel with S18K: ¥11500 (again plus the odd surcharge)
Distance travelled: 1,702.9km (about the distance from Halifax to Toronto)
Update: Huh! There’s also a series of special multi-day tickets just for Shikoku! This is definitely something new to consider...