Oniko's Travel Diary:
The Saigoku Pilgrimage

(July 20-August 16, 1999)

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July 26, 1999
I took the stuff to the post office, where they assured me it would be cheaper to mail everything home in one big box using EMS (the Japanese equivalent to UPS)... my plan had been to pack it in four separate small boxes and send it regular surface mail. I suspect my plan would have been cheaper; the EMS box cost me about $220 to send!! To be fair, they were only trying to help... but next time I send things MY way.
With that, I needed to pick up more money before I moved on, as I suspected I would be leaving Kyoto after visiting the four temples I wanted to reach; naturally, things didn't work quite that way.
Anyway, after getting cash, I headed straight to Rokkaku temple, since I basically found it last night. There I bought the nokyocho for the Saigoku route, which is a book in which you collect the official stamps that prove you've visited the various temples and/or shrines on a given route. Instead of being a book of blank pages (like most nokyocho), this one has the pages numbered by the temple order on the route, and has a short description of each... definitely helpful, as there are about four I'm still not sure about, location wise.
After that I walked over to Teramachi street (lit: temple-town street), and located the Kodo temple... which is NOT on the tourist maps I was given. I'm guessing they don't want too many tourists there. After I did my thing there, I walked back to the post office I'd passed on the way, got a box, and seriously downsized what I was still carrying; too damn heavy. This left me with a half-full box that I could either stuff with newspaper or fill with something else. So I hung onto it until I was done walking back down Teramachi, as it's a covered shopping street (and well named, too; I counted at least six shrines and temples buried inbetween the shops).
I bought some discount videotapes to fill out the box, then continued forward towards the next temple with the intention of finding food (I hadn't eaten yet) and a post office. I found the first -- I had a sandwich at Mosburger -- but I discovered that there were only mailboxes in the area I had wandered into. Tired of walking with my arms full, I took the subway to Kyoto station to check the large area map there... figuring there had to be a post office somewhere near the city's center.
Looking at the map I discovered two things: there was no convienent post office near Kyoto station, and one of the temples I couldn't locate earlier was in walking distance of the station (and also not on the tourist map I had been given). So off I walked to the post office in the direction I needed to go. I had to get help to find it, but a local store owner had a local kid she'd just sold some candy walk me to it... and it was MUCH CHEAPER to mail the stuff regular surface mail. Live and learn.
From there I got lost again, looking for the Imagumano temple -- the one I'd just discovered. I decided I should just visit the two I knew the locations of well first, then search out the new one... it was already past four o'clock, so I knew I was staying in Kyoto another night. Oy.
Did I say I knew the locations of the next two? Scratch that -- I didn't find the next, Rokuhara, until just around five. I knew it was five, because they were closing the temple for the night. Luckily, the idea of ME being a pilgrim struck them as so weird that they let me in and notorized my book. Then they pointed to the quickist route to the next temple, Kiyomizu, and told me I had till six before that temple closed... so I booked.
Kiyomizu Temple is fantastically large, covering one side of a hill overlooking Kyoto; so, therefore, it's also a giant tourist attraction. I haven't ever seen so many foreigners in Japan in one place before... except right here, back in 1990. It turns out that this temple is yet another area I was shuttled to as a student back then; but this time I had a chance to look around. I managed to get my book stamped, but the gentleman closed up right after; once again, I had just barely made it.
After being shooed away as the temple closed I located a convenient phone booth and turned into Global Roaming Man! I checked and sent email, and updated a web page, then pulled some info I needed on my Citibank card; I now have a list of banks that should support my atm card... I'll test this later. I then walked to the gates of Imagumano so I would know where it was. Then it was time to find a place to sleep, preferably nearby... but where? It was now officially late -- past eight -- and dark, so my efforts were not working out. A VERY nice lady with a dog helped... all the hotels were far away from the temple, but she very patiently walked me to two Ryokans, one of which had a room; only $40! So I'm crashed, cleaned, and tired. Night.

Onwards to July 27, 1999

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