Oniko's Travel Diary:
The Saigoku Pilgrimage

(July 20-August 16, 1999)

Return to Oniko Goes To Japan


August 4, 1999
Yesterday -wasn't- an air-ball day.
I got up and out at eight this morning, grabbed a bento -- box lunch -- at Kyoto station, and once again set out to Omi-Imatsu and Chikubu Shima. At Omi-Imatsu, about thirty people got off the train -- a very good sign -- and about half headed for the harbor -- an even better sign. At the harbor station there was a good crowd (about half european and speaking German), and the ticket office was open. Yes!
I bought my ticket ($24), and sat back to wait... I was just considering that the Japanese passengers would probably assume I was with the Europeans, and the Europeans probably wouldn't talk to me because I don't know much German. "Such is the fate of the road," I thought; and then the nice lady I met here yesterday, her son, and her dog arrived to go to the island also. So I got to have company on the trip.
On the short boat ride out to the island, I found out that she lived in Kyoto, and that she and her son had rode bikes about eleven hours over the past two days to get here (they stayed at a hotel last night, since they also missed the island yesterday). She had intended to ride all around Lake Biwako, but it was stressing out Kiki, her little terrier, so they were all headed back to Kyoto after today's visit to the island.
Chikubu Shima is a good place to end a trip; it's got to one of a kind in Japan, maybe the world. The boat docked briefly -- just long enough to let us all off, and to pick up a group returning -- and then we had about an hour to explore the small island. All there is to explore, really, is the Hogonji temple -- which I came here for -- and the even older shinto shrine associated with it. These take up about a fifth of the island's area, which is impressive... the entire island is basically a vertical tree covered rock, and a tremendous amount of work was needed even to claim what small part of the island is now inhabited.
From the dock, you walk to the shop area -- an unavoidable part of all well-traveled temples -- and then you head up -- yes, more stairs -- to the main hall of Hogonji... after you pay the entry fee to get from the shop area to the temple. Oy.
In any case, I headed up to the temple with the nice lady's young son, Jiro, as company; we visited the main hall and then I got my book stamped, and then I just followed him as he wandered around looking in every nook and cranny as well as I would have. In one of the side temples, there was a second image of the goddess Kannon, and another gift shop, this one with some 'temple comics' (comic books that tell about the legends around the temple you're at). I bought both -- one about Hogonji temple, and one about Kannon in general; they were price about $5 each over their cover price, but I likely won't see them again and I would have willingly paid more anyway, eh?
After we explored the Shinto shrine, which had a samurai armor on display, we headed back to the dock by way of a small bridge over some greenery... and Jiro accidently dropped the camera he'd been carrying. Unfortunatly, it was too tricky an area to reach, and we couldn't see where the camera landed anyway, so the nice lady just accepted the luck, bought a cheap disposable camera, and retook all the pictures she'd wanted (so me and Jiro both had to re-pose a few times). I'll send her copies of the pictures I took when I get home, so she'll have double the memories.
By this time, the boat was back... so we packed back on; and since it was only twelve thirty when we reached the station again, I decided to try for the hat trick; I was going to try to reach Matsunoo temple again. So, after one last picture, we went our separate ways; but I know I'll get a few letters from them. It's good to make friends.
At the station, I just missed the train headed the way I wanted; so I waited an hour for the next one... and it was only headed as far as Nagahara, the desolate hole I got stuck at yesterday. I opted to ride only as far a Minoko, one station short of Nagahara; it has more to look at, and a better shaded station pad, so it was just more comfortable to sit at. And sit I did... I had -another- hour to wait until the next train came.
When it came I got on; it was headed for Nagahama, well around the north end of Biwako, and, unlike yesterday, I STAYED ON as it passed through Nagahara. I knew this would take me up to one station away from Tsuruga, then turn off towards Nagahama. In theory, it would behave like the second train I'd caught yesterday: at Nagahama, it would turn back again, headed for Tsuruga. Of course, If I hopped off at the station just short of Tsuruga, it was possible that a different train would show up and get me to Tsuruga faster; but that was an -if-, and I wanted to be sure. So I just kept reading as the train turned and rolled on to Nagahama, ETA: 2:30.
At Nagahama, I knew I had about fifteen minutes before it would roll off again, so I stepped off to check and be sure it was headed to Tsuruga. It wasn't.
Now, the second train to Nagahama that I had caught yesterday, upon reaching this station, -did- then head to Tsuruga... but that was at 3:30, and that would get me to the temple I was headed to with no time to reach it on foot before it closed. I had hoped that this earlier train would behave the same, and get me to the temple area an hour earlier, but it just wasn't going to happen. No hat trick today.
Of course, all that left was the return trip to Kyoto, which I already knew I could do from here on one train with no change-overs; but first, as long as I was in Nagahama early enough to catch most of it's businesses open, I went window shopping.
I didn't see to much that was different in the stores, but as I explored the shopping streets to the left of the station, I found there were several big temples in this town (gernerally at the end of each of the shopping streets)... and one I'll go back to someday; it appeared to be a huge temple dedicated to some local fox spirits. Foxes have much the same reputation among the Japanese as coyotes have among Native Americans; they have supernatural abilities to create illusions, and ususally are big troublemakers. Occasionally, though, they're helpful to the locals, and this temple seemed to be dedicated to a pair of said foxes.
But for the time being, it was getting late; so I grabbed a sandwich and some drinks, hopped on the train back to Kyoto, and whiled away the hour or so brainstorming some story ideas for some comics I need to make... and considering my next problem.
I'm nearly tapped out on my Citibank account; I have more money, but that's in my Washington Mutual account (my paycheck was deposited there after I left for this trip). However, there's only one ATM in Japan that I know of that can give me an account balance and cash from the Washington Mutaual account, and that ATM is in... Tokyo. I need to take cash out of that account and deposit it into my Citibank account; and that means I need to go to Tokyo. Soon. As in -tomorrow-.
Thank goodness I activated the railpass. The trip around Biwako yesterday and today would have been about $30 per trip; and the return from Tsubosaka temple to Kyoto the other day would have been another $18. The Shinkazen train run from here to Tokyo and back would normally be about $150 each way. Believe me, if you're traveling in Japan much, a Rail Pass is an excellent deal.
And because I have a rail pass, I hatched the current cunning scheme (or stupid thought; it's a matter of opinion, really). Tomorrow, I'll head west early in the morning to try and get another temple that was going to be a pain in the rear -- Yoshimine -- because the buses are infrequent. After I get it, I hop back on the rail line to Kyoto, switch to the Shinkazen rail line, and fly off to Japan for a one night stay. I'll take care of the money thing and make arrangements for a place to stay for the weekend of the Comic Market Comic Convention, and then come back to the Kyoto area on the following day, with a stop off at another pain the rear temple -- Kegonji -- which is practically halfway to Tokyo anyway.
So I'll take care of money and convention stuff, and -- hopefully -- get two more temples done. Of course, I may just be insane. We'll see... night, night.

Onwards to August 5, 1999

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