Oniko's Travel Diary:
The Saigoku Pilgrimage

(July 20-August 16, 1999)

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July 29, 1999
Japan's weather is very deceptive to people from California. I've brought a jacket, but it's been tied around my waist the whole trip. Last night it rained; today it's overcast; and to my experience in California, I'd expect a cold, blustery day. And yet the semis are singing...
"Semi" is the Japanese name for the bug known in America as the cicada. This is a big, flat fly -- on average about an inch and a half from front to back. They appear in Japan each summer countrywide as far as I know, and have a unique habit. When they get too hot, they find a convenient tree, pole, or wall, gather into a group of between five and a few hundred, and start fanning each other with their wings. This produces a sort of continuous humming cricket-like noise, that becomes very familiar after just a short time in Japan. When the semis sing, it's already becoming hot as hell. So I'm in for another sweaty fun day.
Oh, one other thing as long as I'm wandering mentally. I noticed signs of this disease last year, but this year it's epidemic; at least two out of five people are carriers now, and I've even wondered if I wouldn't eventually catch it. These poor, annoying people often stop in mid-step, then push rudely in front of you on their way to find some form of sheltered, quiet spot, grasping their heads in both hands and mumbling quietly. This dread illness now even has a distinct name... "Do Co Mo". What am I talking about?
Do Co Mo is an advertising slogan that means "DO [company name] COmmunications for the MObile network." What this actually comes down to is a fantastically tight-knit network of cell phone towers throughout the country, and cell-phones about the size of a twinky for a starting price of only $50. These are all the rage with teenagers right now -- most seem to be carrying them -- and the newest series of fashion accessories are small toys, dolls, and beads meant to hang from your phone's strap to help personalize it.
These phones have become so common, that people are warned by tour guides to set their phones to vibrate mode during shows and tours so as not to disturb the other patrons. In fact, one enterprising gentleman created a new form of fraud using his cell phone. He would go to restaurants and bars, eat or drink his fill, then pretend to get a call on his cell phone. Holding it to one ear and covering the other as if he couldn't hear his phone well, he would casually wander outside, all the time saying "Moshi, Moshi?" ["Hello, Hello?"]... then, unlike the average customer, he simply never went back into the bar or restaurant. It's a new kind of dine and dash; and I don't believe he's actually been caught yet.
So much for this morning's notes... my present plan is to go back to Ishiyama, catch the bus to Iwama temple, then head over to Uji where there are supposed to be two more temples, one in walking distance, and one a good hike. I'll try to get a hotel there, and, if I have time, reach the closer temple. So we'll see how THIS plan works out, eh?

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Onwards to July 30, 1999

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