Saturday, June 18, 2011

Shikoku Is Fun

Of all the things that can be written about the henro trail, i should point out that it is just a fun place to be.

Have you ever seen a piranha feeding frenzy? Believe it or not, you can see them quite frequently on Shikoku. As you're walking along the trail, stop by any elementary school when the kids are out in the playground during a break. Stop at the fence and greet one of the kids. Ask her if she's a high school student, and when she says "Huh????" apologize, say you got it wrong, and ask if she's a junior high school student. Before you know it, there will be a few dozen other kids swarming the fence to hear what you're saying, all talking at the same time, all laughing, all trying to communicate with this strange foreigner that showed up at the gate. It's fun at its best.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to put on a rain suit and walk through your local car wash? Admittedly the vast majority of rain storms on Shikoku don't come up to that level, but it seems like i get one each time i go over. The rains come down horizontally, the winds are so strong that your umbrella snaps in half, as you walk you don't look for somewhere to hide because you can't believe you're eyes and that you're actually walking in the equivalent of your car wash, and by the time it's over your (waterproof) boots are full of water. It's a shock as the weather starts to worsen, but it's fun at its best once you throw in the towel, stop fighting it, and just enjoy the experience.

Want to test your personal limits? On the first day of my walk this year, quite by chance we were invited to come back the next day to watch a fire ceremony at one of the mountain temples. When we accepted, someone drove down to our lodging, picked us up, and drove us back to the temple. Then, not only did we get to watch and take pictures of the whole ceremony, but we were allowed to walk across the once burning logs as well. Part of my brain still asks "how can you walk barefoot across logs that just seconds ago were engulfed in flames?" while the other part of my brain just smiles and says "of course you can, you can do anything you set your mind to." What an amazing experience.

Do you like games? Try the new game 'Name That Fish.' I don't care how much fish you eat at home, or how well you think you know your fish, when on Shikoku you will be served fish that you've never seen before, or prepared in ways that you didn't think of before. If you stay in the minshuku and ryokan along the trail, fish plays a major role in the dinners and breakfasts that you are served each day. They come in all varieties, all sizes, and are prepared in so many varied ways that i wonder if they just make up new methods to play with the foreigner's head. They are boiled, broiled, sauteed, fried, deep fried, raw, diced, sliced, chunked, whole, headless, headed, headed with the eyeballs angled so that they are staring at you, big, huge, small, minuscule, fat, skinny, medium, white meat, dark meat, in soy sauce, thick dark syrupy sauce, white sauce, clear sauce, vinegary sauce, sweet sauce, raw, right out of the water, and pickled for days. And on and on ... I don't think it is possible to say you've "seen it all."

As i said, Shikoku is just a fun place to spend your spring.


Jacqueline said...

I can't wait for next March and all of those smiling faces on Shikoku.

Anonymous said...

Great to see you posting again, though understood why you wouldn't be..immersed in Shikoku and the trail. Gees the walking on the hot coals experience must have been a real buzz.