Day Six: Kuma Kogen to Matsuyama (halfway)

Absolutely perfect weather, easy hiking, and a spotlessly clean room awaiting me at the end of the journey … makes for a delightful day but a boring blog post. Really quite little to report from the trail, just a serene trek down the mountain. My day ended with a communal meal with other pilgrims; one…

Day Five: Kuma Kogen to Kuma Kogan

Today I’m doing a circular route, returning to the same hotel for another night. Which has the awesome benefit that I can leave a bunch of my things in the room, so my pack is super light. I got a late start this morning, unfortunate because I had the longest and hilliest hike to date:…

Day Four: Tobe Town to Kuma Kogen

Today was the day that I was most worried about. Off-road hiking for the first time and 800 meter ascent. The day started off with another lovely, thoughtful hand-drawn map from my favorite henro so far, Eiko. She laughed at my stupid attempts at humor, and was so patient with my pathetic Japanese skills. It…

Day Three: Uchiko to Tobe Town

Unlike every other pilgrim I meet, I’m bad at keeping track of my distances. In part because everything is tracked in kilometers, which I can’t “feel” in the same way as I can miles. And maybe also because tracking the distances requires adding up a lot of numbers on the map in my head, and…

The Day Two: Matsuyama to Uchiko

Day Two started in Matsuyama with a tram ride and a train to take me to the start of my pilgrimage, a small village called Uchiko. I’ll walk back to Matsuyama, taking a more meandering route up through the mountains. The train (a single car, actually) filled up with about 75 middle school students on…

Day One: Tokyo to Matsuyama

Phew boy! What a day. Hiked 30km, 90 heat, swarms of sand flies. hahahaha just kidding. I RODE A CHAIR LIFT. I toured a castle. I ate a delicious set lunch. This pilgrimage thing isn’t so hard after all!

Preparation: How much is enough?

On my pilgrimage, I’ll need to hike anywhere from 7-12 miles a day, with an elevation gain of about 2500 feet. Yikes. Back when I had to had to do homework, there was two kinds of homework. There was homework with an endpoint: math problems,  chemistry worksheets. And then there was the endless kind: essay…

Japanese Maps

You guys! These maps! I’m totally not kidding with these maps. These maps are from David Moreton’s Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide, the only English-language guidebook that I’m aware of. That is, if you consider these maps “English-language.” I ordered the guidebook a few months ago, and when it arrived, I confess that I was a bit … overwhelmed. And,…

Pilgrimage Packing List

Outdoor gear and clothing … ugh. I get that gear is important. But I’m not the kind of person who wears high tech, breathable fabrics, or god forbid, a Buff. I wear cardigans. I wear vintage clothes. Dressed up in outdoorsy clothes, I feel like an idiot, a fraud. It feels like playing dress-up for…

Why Shikoku?

In previous posts, I’ve 1) lamented the fact that I’ve never done a “outdoorsy/physical” challenge, and 2) fessed up that I plan to hike the Shikoku pilgrimage in Japan someday. (A quick recap: it’s a 1200 kilometer, Shingon Buddhist pilgrimage around the smallest of Japan’s four main islands with stops at 88 temples of significance.) But with so many…

The physical challenge

Recently I lamented the divide between indoorsy and outdoorsy people. I’d like to be more outdoorsy. But I feel like the outdoorsy world is so geared to outdoorsy people. I can’t figure out what kind of gear I really need, or whether a particular hike will be pleasantly challenging or a sweaty nightmare where I’m terrified that I…