Thursday, May 26, 2011

Riding with the Daishi: The Shikoku Pilgrimage - Kochi

四国巡礼 - 高知県

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I awoke early in the morning and immediately continued with the temples. My plan was to knock out most of the Kochi temples and move on. I had actually toured this area on my motorcycle about 3 and a half years ago, and visited a few of the big temples at that time. But first, I had to check out Cape Muroto.

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This is apparently the first place to do research on deep sea water. This is also the first place I have heard of deep sea water research. You can check into a therapy resort, where you'll pay astronomical piles of cash to soak in water from thousands of miles below the earth's surface or something. I dunno. But I did soak my feet in the free foot bath.

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Back to following the path of Daishi. Speaking of Daishi, this is the cave where he meditated at the age of 19. At that time, the word of Buddha, manifested as a bright light, entered his mouth. No homo.

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The coastal temples are nice, and some of them are way up a mountainside. Suckers walking this route be warned. I met a couple who was actually running the route. 60-70km a day. I wish I had taken a photo of their legs, cause them gams were massive.

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Even though I planned on burning through town, that in no way reflects my opinion of Kochi. It's a cool town with some nice stuff to do. All of which I did last time I was here. Ah... memories of drinking with homeless dudes and being inducted into religious cults.

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I missed a Japanese sake festival in Tosa by 1 day. Bummer.

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This temple smelled like flowers. It was nice.

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Yeah, not much to say about this day, I was in full stamp-rally-mode.

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Deja-vu, as these were the ones I came to last time.

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Katsuo from Kochi is considered the best in Japan. It's good stuff, though honestly anything from anywhere in Japan tastes the same wherever you are. Preparation is 90%, and usually local spots from "famous" food zones go half-assed in this area. They also tend to sell their primo catch to Tokyo or Kyoto.

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Kochi kitty!

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One of the temples north of the city center is at the base of a hang gliding takeoff point. Rad!

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5pm hit and it was time to find my campsite for the night. I checked the map, and it looked like there was a park near the next temple, a bit of a trek south. Of course, I got sidetracked by a ramen discovery, which you can read about at my ramen site. Then I got sidetracked by something else altogether. You thought my navi troubles were over?

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After the sun went down, the clouds multiplied and it started raining. I pulled over to some sort of rest stop slash grocery store and asked where the hell I was. I told a local that I was looking for a place to camp. Dude said I was out of my mind, as a typhoon was coming. In retrospect, the storm wasn't that bad, certainly not a typhoon, but it was enough to want a roof over my head. There was a rider's house (hotel for motorcycle riders) not far from where I was. I put the address in the navi and followed the route.

Fuck you navi!

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I got punked. You see, the place was about 15km away. I could have gone up the main road 10km, then down a smaller, but definitely normal road for another 5km. But navi decided that I should take the mountain pass. Beware of falling rocks. It was an absolute mess. That and the navi didn't even take me to the right place. It took me near the rider's house, but not to. Suddenly, in the middle of the dark, in the middle of nowhere, my bike lost all rear traction. I'd busted a hole in the tire. Turning the navi off, I managed to find the spot on my own. Oh, they were totally booked, but I could pitch my tent on their gravel for $6. Dammit!

On the bright side, I saw a ton of animals on that mountain road. 3 rabbits, 2 tanuki, 2 Japanese weasels, and a couple foxes.

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Feeling distraught, I wandered to the first group of dudes I could find to ask if they had a puncture repair kit. These dudes were actually The Dudes, at least that is what it said on the back of their leather jackets. A custom motorcycle club from Tokyo, they were down in Shikoku to ride and surf... and drink. Sitting next to their chopped Harleys, we got good and drunk on shochu and whiskey.

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Japanese people, in general, are terrified of moths and butterflies. And they think caterpillars will give you cancer or something. Seriously, ask a Japanese person and prove me wrong.

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The Dudes not only hooked me up with booze and food, but with a spot in their room. Things are looking up for this henro.

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Rad bikes. Though they didn't have any repair kits, I found a cute girl from Ibaraki with one.

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Yeah, it's meant for a bicycle or 50cc scooter, but it's enough to get me to a gas station. Before I could thank her, she was gone. Godspeed cute girl from Ibaraki.

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Here's a perk about the gas station I went to. This Golden Retriever totally humped my leg for the duration of my visit. This is the countryside, so it was probably this dog's first time seeing a foreigner. "Chance! I'm gonna hump me that giant white version of a person!"

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The storm cleared, air was added to my tire, and it was back to work.

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Today's travels would take me around the southern cape, along unspoilt Japanese coastlines.

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Breakfast at a local confectionery shop, followed by excellent riding towards the south.

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Remember that park I wanted to camp at originally? It was totally awesome and had plenty of covered areas. And it was only about 5 minutes south of where I stopped to ask for directions the night before. Oh well, I got to meet The Dudes, with promises of riding in Tokyo and drinking in local Ikebukuro dives.

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Raddest playground ever. Check out this next... attraction?

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What is this? The giant red thing, which I dub "the ankle smasher" rolls around the ring, bashing the shit out of anyone not fast enough. That's some Spartacus style fun there. Playgrounds in Japan aren't regulated like they are back in California, where if the wood chips under the swings aren't up to code, the whole mess is demolished. In Japan they just make crazy fun stuff and let the kids weed themselves out. The way it should be.

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More katsuo.

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And then I made it to the southern tip.

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Though I certainly wouldn't suggest people visit all 88 temples for no reason, there are a few that I was really impressed by. Kongofukuji is one of those. It's lush and tropical, as the wind patterns bring tropical breezes (and lots of rain) to this part of Japan.

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I was only able to visit a couple temples this day, because of the distance between them and my late start. But luckily, the next temple on my list was near a rider's house that I stayed at last time. I called them up to ask if they had a room, and dude remembered me. Awesome. But what's more awesome is the place's kitchen curtain. See for yourself.

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The internet is no help. Please please please someone explain this to me, and tell me where I can learn more.

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Dinner.

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This family's car was pimped out pilgrim style. Best part though...

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... dude's walking stick was pretty ill.

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I met this guy my first day. He rented a scooter for a week and was doing the circuit. You can rent a scooter for about $80 a week in Tokushima, near the start of the path. A bit slower on the long stretches, but I'm sure he only spent a pittance on gas.

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Bus groups are common, especially now that it is a national holiday week. You can join one of these, and a week tour with everything taken care of will run you about $4000.

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Kochi's leg of the temple circuit is representative of discipline. I guess my discipline was tested by the motorcycle problems, but honestly I've had much worse. I think if you actually walked this portion, with a 2 or 3 day hike between some of the temples, your patience would be tried.

Next stop, Ehime!

6 comments:

AdelaideBen said...

some really nice pics there.... and as always an interesting read!

Ming said...

its fun reading about the ever evolving relationship between you and navi...but isn't there something like "lead me astray once shame on you; lead me astray twice+flat tire, shame on..." mothes and butterflies are demons in both japanese and chinese legends...maybe you should be afraid of them too ;P

Al said...

Keep up the good work! I live vicariously through your posts now that I'm out of the country. There really aren't any real adventures outside of Japan.

Oh, and next time get a photo of the Ibaraki hottie.

rory said...

back in hawaii, my parents always told me the big black moths were an omen of impending death/someone deceased coming back to visit. i always loved seeing them though, and liked to think they were the latter. i would always talk to them.
sorry, i can't help on the obakasans. shame, would like to know what happened to boy...

Unknown said...

Hey
Where can you rent a scooter for 80$ a week..?
If u have details, please mail me at gal.shachar@gmail.com

Brian MacDuckston said...

Maybe try 819 for rentals:

https://www.rental819.com/english/