Oniko's Travel Diary:
The Saigoku Pilgrimage

(July 20-August 16, 1999)

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August 3, 1999
Sometimes you try for the long shot, and get nothing but air... today was an air ball.
I woke up feeling sorta off; physically fine, mind you... but just not really focusing as well on what I was going to do today, for some reason. I packed my small bag with a book to read and my camera, and headed out. I picked up cash at my bank, then went to Kyoto station and caught a JR rail line to Omi Imatsu, the place my information says I can catch a boat to Chikubu Shima from. I grab a snack at the station, and was off.
The train took me through the mountains back to Otsu, where I'd stayed at the Youth Hostel, then turned North to follow the coastline of the Lake. This is a big lake; there were times I couldn't see the other side. The train ahd a plethoria of people, including a family speaking German, carrying fun in the sun beach type stuff... they all emptied from the train three stops before mine, at a place with an obvious waterslide amusement park. At my stop, I was among six people who stepped from the train. That should have been a signal.
The harbor was just a couple of blocks from the station, and quiet. Downstairs, the ticket booths had signs over their openings... inside, the ticket sellers were eating either a late breakfast or an early lunch (it was about eleven). I looked down the short pier; no boats were there, so they must have been out. I looked at the time tables; they were in Japanese (go figure). The best I could tell, something should arrive in half-an-hour or so. So I figured I'd walk around the area a little.
There wasn't much to see, since I wasn't going to wander very far; I found a Seicomart -- yet another convenience chain store -- looked around it a while, and got a drink and a rice snack. Then I walked back.
On the way back, I found I was behind a couple who had just arrived and were walking to the boat station also. When they got there, they got into an involved talk with the station master, and, though I didn't follow it all, it became clear the boat wasn't due back anytime soon. They headed upstairs to the small coffee house to wait and look at the lake; and, after I'd finished my snack, I did too.
There I met a nice lady, her young son, and their dog, and we talked for about an hour about comics and monsters and pilgrimages; and I discovered that my having managed fifteen temples in just over a week and a half was nothing short of astounding... most people take a month to get that many. Of course, I had to point out, I'm not having to work or go to school; but still, I was moving fast even for that.
Unfortunately, in the course of the conversation, an ugly truth became obvious: the boat simply was not coming today, for what reason I still don't know. As it was now going on one o'clock, I opted for plan 'B'; I said my goodbyes, and went back to the station to head to Matsunoo temple while it was still reasonable early. I hopped on what I thought was the right train, got two stations away from the station I needed to switch trains at, and got stuck. The train I was on stopped there, and stayed; for nearly an hour, it stayed there. And then it finally started to move again... back the way I'd come from.
I hopped off at the next station and waited for the next train to go through... another fifteen minutes. It was headed in the right direction, but it confused me enough that I stepped out at the next station again to double-check the destination of the train; and while I did that, it left in the direction I wanted to head. The confusion was this... the train was headed for a place called Nagakama, which I thought was just the next station; an understandable mistake, as the next station was called -NagakaRA.- So I was stuck without a train two stations from where I wanted to be, and I had an hour before a train in either direction would show up. Since that would certainly be too late to get to the temple, I wasn't sure what to do at that point. But with an hour to consider, I figured I'd look around Nagakara a little.
"A little" was the right way to describe it; Nagakara was basically a small spread out community on a delta of lake Biwako with nothing of note within walking distance except a clinic of some sort, closed businesses (three of them), and a failed attempt at a new suburban neighborhood (there's real competition right now among real estate agencies to get the few consumers who can still afford a home in the present economy). All told, I still had forty minutes to waste after I looked over Nagakara.
I decided I'd take whichever train came first. If it went towards Kyoto, then I'd head to Kyoto. If it went the other way, I'd ride it to the station I need to switch trains at, just so I could say I saw it and to confirm that I could reach it from here. In time, the train came; it was headed away from Kyoto, so onwards I went.
It stopped one station away, then sat for fifteen minutes. Then headed back... on a different set of rails.
I ended up seven stations further around the northern end of Biwako before it stopped again; and this time, I got off. As it pulled out, headed back the way I just came from, I had to note painfully that it now had posted as it's destination the same station I'd set out to reach to begin with... but it was getting far too late for me to care. I checked the stations time tables, and found there was a train from where I was -- at this point I forget where I was -- back to Kyoto. So I bought a new book (I had finished the one I brought) and more food, eventually hopped on the right train, and was back in Kyoto by seven o'clock. Other than buying a book on Japanese parapsychology, I had accomplished nothing but a little trail blazing... tomorrow, I'll know what to expect from the trains.
Today was just one of those days when I had very little luck with me; on days like this, there's not much you can do. And I think that's why I felt off this morning. Still, I'd made a new set of friends; and I'd found a book on a topic I've had trouble finding anything on in the past, so that's something.
Tomorrow, I'm hoping to arrange for one more day here at the hotel, and then I'll try for Chikubu Shima again... hopefully with a little more luck this time, eh? Good night.

Onwards to August 4, 1999

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