For our last week of travels, Joanne joined us! She couldn't have had more perfect timing. As we were nearing the end of our trip, I was becoming a bit melancholy, knowing that our time in Japan was almost up. It was wonderful to get some fresh enthusiasm pumping through our little Daihatsu. And it was simply surreal... picking Joanne up from the airport in Takamatsu and going for a week-long drive with her through the mountains of Japan!
We started the day by exploring a really BIG temple, #75 of the 88-track. Shikoku is home to Japan's most well-known pilgrimage, an 88-temple circuit that runs (mostly) around the perimeter of the island. Pilgrims (henro in Japanese) have been completing this 1400km circuit for over 1000 years. For me, this was an incredibly meaningful portion of the trip. It was pilgrim season while we were there, due to the (mostly) ideal weather, and everywhere we went, we saw pilgrims walking along the roads, whether it be in the heat or the pouring rain. We were actually really surprised by how many we saw. They are very recognizable as they always have the same "accessories." I was extremely impressed by their commitment to walk this path. We saw many elderly people doing the walk, in addition to father/son and husband/wife pairs. We even saw one couple who were walking the whole route with their husky. I found it very touching. Especially to see the older folks.
Here's Joanne and I doing our own pilgrim impersonation.
Unfortunately, our visit to this temple was less than pleasant. It was a MASSIVE complex swarming with people. Not exactly a peaceful stop. And on top of that, we were followed -and pestered- by a drunk Japanese man who was a little too excited to be meeting 3 Canadians. He kept trying to give us money so that we could send his wife some Canadian omiyage (souvenirs). And he also was getting a little too friendly with my shoulder... Joanne and I managed to escape, leaving Jeff to fend him off.
Oh, yes, but we did enjoy watching the funny turtles.
After this, we headed to the ocean. Witness two retards getting excited over the sight of salt water:
And witness Jeff in yet another tree he probably shouldn't be climbing...
We ended the day by visiting temple #88, the last one of the circuit. The difference between this one and the one we had seen earlier in the day was like night and day. This one was in a much more rural setting, and the whole atmosphere was very quiet, serene, and sacred. Jeff and Joanne walked around the grounds taking pictures of interesting statues and architecture, while I stood mesmerized by the chanting of two pilgrims. It was the first time in Japan that I had witnessed the Japanese being outwardly spiritual, but in a private setting, with no monk or priest or whatever leading them. It made me crave to see more of this side of the Japanese, the side that is more open in spirit.
After another udon stop, we found a "campground" to spend the night in. A word about camping in Japan. If you want camping in the Canadian sense, avoid what the Japanese refer to as "auto camp." It's really not cool. You drive into a sterile area that has been stripped of all its trees, park your car, and pitch your tent in your cordoned off area. And you pay too much. Why? Cause of the facilities. Beautiful, polished wood, super clean facilities, so the yuppie Japanese couple in their sparkly Beamer can enjoy their rented cottage in a spotless setting. Blech. Needless to say, we were slightly amused, but mostly unimpressed.
All I want is a hole in which to empty my ass, and a flat surface on which to lay my ass! Thank you very much.