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…

Indoorsy people, Outdoorsy people

If you’ll forgive the generalization, there are indoorsy people and outdoorsy people. People like me, who read books and do crossword puzzles, and knit. And then there are people who ski, and hike, and who seem to genuinely enjoy running. As a committed indoorsy person, I’ve long felt conflicted about the outdoors. I enjoy a simple…

A language-learner’s lament

Last time I tried to learn a language, we used card catalogs in the library, phones had a cord, and Kurt Cobain was alive. To study Spanish almost required taking a class (though I suppose learning by book or cassette tape were options). My classroom learning in the early nineties was mostly worksheets, and lots of…

A 168-hour tour

With flights only scheduled once a week, we were stuck on Rotuma for a full seven days, so a place to stay was rather important. I tried to arrange for lodging before we arrived, I really did. Lonely Planet chipperly suggested: “Contact the Fiji Visitor Bureau in either Nadi or Suva for updated information and…