My journey comes to a close. In a week I will prepare to go to the airport and board my plane home. A thought I have pushed away for a while and that makes me sad. Nearly two months and I am probably more in love with this country than I have ever been. Despite the difficulties and annoying bits I see and have always seen.
I still stand by my decision, that I would not be able to live in Japan and I salute my good friend Eva doing so, having to overcome quite a few hurdles in her day to day life.
It is the small things, that I will miss.
Yesterday I saw a rather interesting little beast in the middle of the street and as it was a side street, I had to stop and take a picture, and another one because the light was not favorable, and just to be sure another one from another angle.
When I looked up, I realized, that I had stopped traffic (you just do not hear electric cars with the noise of cicadas in the background) In Berlin … well you can imagine. But here the young woman smiled at me, obviously amused about the strange gaijin with a backpack and the gear that identified me as a pilgrim and started the car again.
So yesterday rainy season officially stopped (yes, in Japan the end of the rainy reason is officially being announced) and I knew that heat would be my problem. I started early, using the shade of the woods as heat and sun protection, but by 2 p.m. I had left the protective green and hiked into the city. Japan’s cities mainly consist of concrete, there are hardly any trees and the heat seems to double.
I literally stopped at every vending machine on my way and drank about 3.5 liter of water without needing a loo once…
Wherever I saw a place to rest I did and finally arrived at my hostel 12h after departure, 30km and some ongoing uphill and downhill parts.
What came next was a revelation and left me with a decent futskayoi (hangover) today.
The hostel SoraUmi (空海 air and ocean) is a new building with a modern take of the old wood constructions. High ceiling, open kitchen, hammocks, nice rooms, and a dog. A Dachshund or Dackel in German, who did not stop barking when I came. Normally dogs and I get along well, but this was a bit of a bumpy start. Even if you do not speak or understand Japanese have a look at the YouTube video, the pictures are strong and clear and really catch the feel of the place.
The owner is a young man, who is not typically Japanese. He has travelled Japan extensively, done all kinds of things and was a guide for Shikoku Pilgrims, which gave him the idea to create a place where, after a long walk or journey you can let go of your tiredness and refresh for the next day. Over the years he became a monk and is so far the most outstanding example of ikigai for me.
Having dinner at his place is not an option, it is part of you being there and I have to say it definitely is a “must”. I had amazing food along the journey, but what he offered was the best I had so far. Small changes to traditional dishes made all the difference. If he’d opened a restaurant in Berlin he would be famous in no time.
I was the only guest besides his mother, who was there for a visit and we talked and ate and talked and drank and ate some more and drank some more. You have to know that in Japan the host pours drinks as long as you empty your glass or bamboo tumbler in this case. Being German, I cannot let things go to waste and totally forgot about it and suddenly it was 22:30, I was tipsy and had had the most rewarding evening. Even doggy decided to like me and would sneak up beside me on a chair in the hope of getting some of the delicious food.
Talking of food. While we talked about my journey and the places I appreciated a lot I mentioned temple 40 (the other cooking monk) and he knew instantly who I was talking about and showed me a picture. The two seem to be good pals and he sent him a picture of me asking whether he remembered me.
After all the world of the Ohenro is a small and wonderful one.