Day two was so much better than day one. And that was mainly because I had a lot more interaction with people. I seemed to keep running into the same people over and over. If someone was at a temple as I was arriving, I would generally see them at the next temple too, the same with people who were arriving as I was leaving. So we would all say ‘hello’ and give a few words of encouragement. Even the bus henro, because sometimes it would take the same amount of time to walk between the two temples as it would take to drive.
This was also the first day that I realised my guide-book (Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide, 1600 yen on Amazon.co.jp), despite being an excellent book, was occasionally lacking in accuracy. The road maps in some areas don’t show all the details, so it can get a little confusing (like trying to find your hotel). However, in terms of the route, there are stickers and path markers everywhere marking the path, so I never got lost. (And some really cute stickers! I wish I could have bought some for myself)
Before starting out I practically had no plans as to how many days I would do, and where I would stay, etc. I wasn’t even sure how far I could walk in one day. Everything I had read recommended doing between 20 and 30 km a day, but I didn’t know if I was physically fit enough. After day 2 I pretty much decided that 25 km was probably the max I could handle, but that was mainly because doing the trip in November only gave you limited daylight hours to walk. The sun would just be rising as I left, and would set about 430, so it was getting dark around 4.
Choosing where to stay was the next factor that I had to plan for. I went to the Information Centre in Tokushima and asked for some recommendations on accommodations, and the girl there said that staying in Shukubo (Temple lodgings) would probably get me through Tokushima alright. I didn’t actually, but at temple 7 I saw my first Shukubo. Next time I will probably give it a try. Ringing up the night before and booking accommodation worked fine for me, but I don’t think it would be such a good idea during peak seasons.
Also saw a few interesting and random things on day two. Temple 8 was my first ‘what the?’ moment. The gate for the temple was about 500m away from the actual temple, which was a bit unusual. It was sort of sitting alone in the middle of nowhere. Also saw a house like that, just surrounded by rice fields. I guess they have space for that in Tokushima.
The last leg of the journey was really interesting, and the longest of the day. Basically you had to cross from one side of the plain to the other, so you could actually see the prior temple from close to temple 11. The plain is intersected by the Yoshino river, which is the widest river in Shikoku I believe. It wasn’t all flowing water, and even had rice fields in the middle of it, but it took something like an hour to cross! On the other side was where I met my volunteer guide, and he walked with me for about an hour and a half explaining things to me. It was nice to have someone to chat to.
He was a little confused as to why I didn’t stay closer to temple 11 that night, but I was happy with my decision to stay in town. If it started raining the next day I wasn’t going to attempt to climb to temple 12. The trail to temple 12 was steep in parts, and I was only wearing trail runners, so I didn’t want to risk climbing in the rain. Also, since I was close by to a convenience store, I could buy myself some lunch to take up the mountain with me. Most days I would have great breakfasts and dinners, but for lunches I mostly relied on calorie mate, chocolate and mandarins. Not the best, but it worked for me.
The one thing I regret about day 2 is not buying a staff near temple 10. In terms of pilgrim attire I wasn’t all ‘decked out’. I only had a hakui (white vest), bag, nameslips, stampbook, incense and candles. I didn’t buy a staff initially, but thinking of day three’s hike I decided I should get one at temple 11. Little did I know that there were no shops nearby temple 11. I still managed to survive though.