The day started great but got hard quickly. The place I am staying woke me up at 6 am and prepared breakfast for me. I paid for dinner and breakfast as it was part of the price. I took some pictures of my hosts then began the hike. There was a fork in the road, one with a hike the other on the road. I small the small sign point up for the pilgrimage so I went up the path. It was a wrong choice. The trail was straight up and nothing paved. I took my time but it still hurt. My legs were burning. I had to stop a number of times since it was just too much. There were points where I was using my hands to climb up higher. It would have been easy but with the hike the previous day, it was just painful. I got to the top and it was all down hill from there and all the way to Temple 13. The tough stuff was done and it would be smooth sailing all the way through.
The views were spectacular and I took far too many pictures. Soon I was joined by an older gentleman. He gave me the traditional “Konichiwa” and then started to talk to me. He couldn’t speak English but just would say a few words but not much else. He couldn’t make sentences or anything like that but he could talk. He would join me the entire way from near Temple 12 to Temple 13. His name was Mr. Watanabe. He is 71 years old and is a former doctor (internal medicine as he tried to explain). He has a daughter who is 40 and has a grandson as well. He would point out different flowers and say the name in japanese. A lot of the time I couldn’t understand so I would pull out my phase book or something and he would point. Through this process of figuring out meaning i learned he loved to play tennis, and likes to watch Baseball. His favourite team is the Hanshin Tigers, whom I saw the last time I was in Japan. His wife passed away fairly recently. In tribute he is doing the walk in her honour. He is walking alone but as I noticed he would talk to anyone along the way. I would stop with him and he would explain who I was since I heard “Dallaso” “Canada Jin Des” “Ago Sansei” mixed in while the local person would look at me and say Ahhhh or Ohhhhh. He talked a lot about how the younger generation isn’t into farming and how it is a shame (he did this by pointing to the plants and saying younger no grow food bad). He asked about my family and my brother and things. I tried to explain but I think he got it. As we moved on, this would also be included to his conversation with the people we met along the way. He talked to everyone.
We walked together as the trail down the mountain turned into a high way. Soon a van stopped in front of us. Out jumped the two older couple who had hosted me the night before. The whipped out oranges and a type of bread. I was surprised and shocked they did this. I was surprised they were so kind. I was in awe again.
We walked more as he talked and I kept saying “hai” and also tried to look like I couldn’t understand if I couldn’t fully then he would grab my phrase book and look for words and such. Through all this we learned more about each other. There were places where there would be forks in the road and we were unsure where to go and he would ask the locals and then talk to them. Again he would explain who I was and what I was doing.
We got to an Udong (thick noodles in miso) restaurant where we sat. I got some free wifi so I uploaded some pictures, sent some messages. The entire time he was talking to the owners and all the customers. Again I heard “Dallas” “Canada” “Hong Kong” “Sansei” and so on. I went to pay and that caused a bit of a battle since he had done so much to help me point the way.
I met two girls also from Canada and he kind of “handed me off.” One girl could speak both languages so I went with them. He carried on since he was going a different way.
The whole walk with him will be with me always because of so many things. The kindness he showed. Understanding him without a fully common language. Just wow.