First Steps on the Shikoku 88 …… 🇯🇵

First Re-Packing – City to Hiking – getting this lot ( top of Pic ) into the 5 packing cubes and then into the Red Backpack – and it can’t weigh any more than 10 Kilos plus water !! – 😮 .

Then the trip really starts .

Just getting to Haneda airport via Metro & Monorail- To then see THE BEST name for an airline on the runway next to us. One for you Deb D’ 🤣

First task is to get used to the local customs , news , traditional dress and saké Both Breakfast & Dinner deal me a 20 pot mesé that’s always Fishy , Soupy , Veggie, Noodely ,Eggy , Gloopy , Spicy , Pastey , Chewy mmmmmm . 😬

Lulled into a false sense of security- the walk starts Sunny & Civilised …… BUT ….

……. until I realise 2 things :- that the temples – even those not at altitude are almost always raised . :- The steps within the temple courtyards are always good however the long approach to every one is through forest on steep trails or stone and wooden log steps that are often crumbling .

90% of the “OHenro” – (Pilgrims) you see are NOT walking : – Car , coach , bike prevail – and the footpaths reflect this benign neglect.

But when you get up there !! ….. always a wow factor , – the temples , statues , gardens , ponds and of course the Pilgrims in white clothing , handwritten verses on their shirts , conical hats with the Sanskrit 4 phrases of enlightenment …….

Each one is different , ranging in size from elaborate chapel to walled village .

You get the idea of size of just one temple from this map of the Kompira Shrine – 1368 steps up and 1368 steps down . Oh yes .

First signs of Cherry Blossom 🌸 add to each ascent .

You sound the huge brass bell , wash hands , light candles and incense , contribute coins , pray or acknowledge the deity in your own way , sound a smaller bell .

Around you sutras are intoned by the more traditional ohenro.

It works 👌………… Magnificently.

Take it slowly , there are always hidden surprises – after all it’s been an effort to get here . Now head for a highlight of each visit – the signing of your temple book . Similar in meaning to the stamps proving my progress in my Spanish Camino Credencialé but WAY more elaborate. Hand painted into my temple book are the Noukyosho temple stamps overwritten with beautiful calligraphy- a treasured record of each visit on the Shikoku 88.

…….. I’m learning a lot as I go – helped by the impressive language skills of Sister Kate …… I’m still at the “Thanks , Hello and 2 beers please” stage . 😆

Until next post …….. 👋

🇯🇵 Opposites 😸

It’s a tough call to find a suitable word that could span a city that has so many opposites. This is 48 hours in a city that’s open 48 hours a day 😮🇯🇵💪.

Shibuya : The worlds busiest crossroads:-

Where with drone tech’ you can play spot the English tourist 😁

From the top of this building ………

And this is a quiet day !

From this to ……… calm

Within 5 Mins on the Metro ……… To Tokyo’s version of Camden only quieter , Quirky Pavement Cafés , Vintage clothes shops……

…… and then a short step back to the madness – ramping up the blinding colour , noise and just plain singular weirdness of ” Harajuku ” area with the Harajuku girls and boys ( same gear naturally ) – befriended by Katie Perry , Madonna and Gwen Stefani

The entrance , the people , the focused concentration of life & commerce ….. exhausting and compelling equally.

And …. ( breathe out ) …… another short Metro ride with a reasonable metaphor for life 😉

…… swings again to the polar opposite ……

The peace of Koishikawa Korakuen Park ….. where the very first signs of 🌸Sokura !!🌸 ….. 🌳 cherry blossom are showing and across other public parks this puzzlingly leads to rare public displays of mass enthusiasm, Vast picnics , groups of friends in the parks and mandatory drinking of Jim Bean bourbon from 3 litre plastic containers. ……..

And ……… as if the implied theme here is that Tokyo is a roller coaster of a city – they oblige my metaphor with building one ! – bottom left photo on top of buildings !! 😮

On the way to watch baseball a National Japanese Obsession – and the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants win at home against the Chiba Lotte Marines 👏

Where they gained 2 new fans !!

Before you have time to understand the rules of Baseball and have learnt the Japanese for beer 🍺- ( Biru ) and Hot Dogs 🌭 ( Hotta Dogga) …. I kid you not 🤣……. it’s quite a simple language really .

It’s just time left to experience Tokyo Port and a Dinner cruise ……..

Again my 10 word / 1000 gesture linguistic skills appear to bridge the minor cultural chasms 🤪

And ……. so to bed ….. tomorrow the real business of this trip starts . Packing my to backpack 🎒 and the internal ✈️ flight to Shikoku Island . The start of the Japanese Camino in Takamatsu – to start the hike across the Shikoku 88 temple trail .

Until then ………. 👋

巡礼者が返す Junrei-sha ga kaesu

It’s been a while – 👋

I’m heading to Shikoku to link my last Camino to one a little further afield.

Following a chance Camino conversation with this guy last July – in the picturesque river side town of Molinaseca ……

I find myself en route to here !!! 😳

– as much as I would like to complete the entire 88 temples of this pilgrimage route – that’s a 1400km 55 day commitment!

And so with my intrepid 👍 sister we have selected some of the more challenging parts . Our theme is easy to identify ……

………… whenever there’s a Oka or a 小さな山 Chīsana yama – (hill or small mountain) – 😆 …… simply anything in green in the above route profile – we walk it – and speed through the flat bits in between – sounds like a plan !!!

Until then – tbe omens are good as it appears to be blossom time in Wetherspoons T5 Heathrow 🤪🍷

Sayōnara ! ✈️🇯🇵