Saturday, May 2, 2015

Day 29 -- Last few kilometers and a retrospective.

I took this same selfie on Day 1. This is temple #1.
So as it turns out I only had about 20 more kilometers to go today. The rest of the day was spent selling my bike and waiting for my bus back to Nagoya. The only bus available was a night bus, which is nice because it was cheap, but not nice because I have such a hard time sleeping in vehicles. Whatever though.

Anyway, speaking of cost, it looks like all in all, it cost less than ¥400,000. That’s including the train ride to Shikoku and the bus ride back, and also all of the money I spent in Shikoku including the bike. All in all, I’m kinda really impressed with how little I spent. I feel like if I had walked the whole way it would have been more expensive. I found myself spending about ¥10,000 per day on food and lodging, and if I were walking I think I’d probably hit the 50 day mark easy.

Am I glad I did the pilgrimage? Absolutely. Am I glad it’s over? …Maybe?

It definitely was a tough experience, even on a bicycle, but there’s this overwhelming feeling that I don’t have anything more to do with myself. For the past month I’ve been getting up at the crack of dawn, eating breakfast, and then putting in a good 6-8 hours of physical activity. I was usually so tired I’d go to bed around 8 or 9 in the evening, and the cycle repeated the next day. And now… I guess I have free time. I dunno, it’s just a change.

One thing that I am glad about is that I had the opportunity to travel. That’s one thing that I’ve missed over the past three years or so. My work schedule was such that I never really had time for travel but once or twice a year, and usually I didn’t take those opportunities because I was trying to save money and/or I just needed the time to myself to rest. Taking a whole month off to go around and see new places was definitely awesome.

It was also great because it afforded me the opportunity to practice my Japanese. I’m not going to say I got better at Japanese as a result of this experience, but I definitely got more confident, which is just as good. One of my weaknesses in language learning is that the fear that I’ll make a mistake stops me from making an effort to communicate in the first place. It was nice to take the plunge into a situation where I’m forced to sink or swim.

My favorite part of the pilgrimage… It’s tough to pick one. My number one experience was probably the time I got to spend in Matsuyama. Both the castle and the city were huge and beautiful. The people were real friendly and there were lots of parks and recreational areas to hang out in. A close second was the feeling at the beginning of the trip when I realized that I could actually participate in the conversations that were happening at dinnertime in the ryokan.

I also am super psyched about my Nōkyōchō, the book they put stamps and draw intricate sanskrit calligraphy in at each temple. I’m going to keep it forever.

Am I glad about the decisions I made? The bike, overall, was a great idea. But it did close off certain routes to me, especially when it came to mountainous terrain. I’m glad I walked half the pilgrimage so I had the experience of both mountain walking and bike riding.

Would I recommend it to people? Sure. I’d recommend being able to speak at least a little Japanese. I talked to some foreigners along the way and the ones who spoke no Japanese (most of them) said that the trip got a little lonely being unable to communicate with anyone for weeks on end. I can understand that. I’m not exactly the most social person in the world but even I appreciated the opportunities to exchange superficial conversation with strangers every once in a while.

I’d also recommend doing some training beforehand. I just kinda started cold—I had no idea what walking 30k per day actually meant. If I had known that, maybe I would have used a bike from the very beginning. But then again I wouldn’t have had the same experience, so whatever.

Anyway, that’s it, I suppose. My experience on the Shikoku pilgrimage.