Thursday, February 9, 2017
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
All thumbs and in Japanese - that's what I face when people offer me their hand-held devices to check my email. I have a few moments at a laptop now to update before speaking this evening at an English language tutorial for junior high school students.
I'm having a wintery great time. Things got a little hectic when I reached Sapporo - having a wonderful stay with some Franciscan sisters in the city - but had to fly out of the country in a snowstorm to Seoul, South Korea, and back again to renew my visa. I went out, had a great time and great food with fantastic people in Seoul, and came back with permission to stay another 90 days. Phew, that pesky administrative burden is done, and I'm back in the pilgrim rhythm.
Snowstorms have been frequent but short-lived, and the temperatures have been hovering just below freezing - nothing like the -40 degrees of the last few winters. I've been hoofing it as much on snowshoes as on crampons, staying mostly on small roads in valleys rather than cross-country. Towns have been where I need them, more or less, though pilgrim accommodations have been creative. A highlight I could expand on when time avails was in the town of Nakatonbetsu... sort of in the middle of nowhere, one could say... out of the snow, into the town offices... could someone help me please... I'm a pilgrim and need a place to stay tonight... any thoughts? People gathered, tea offered... heads put together, a few phone calls made... creative solution - the little town's little public bath and wee restaurant. I went into the veritable kitchen of the community. Half the town came that evening to have a hot bath, meet the stranger, have some food and conversation. What a gem I stumbled on...the beauty of the town is that most of the people I met were not born and raised there, but moved there - from Tokyo, Kagoshima, Osaka, other places from the south - because they wanted the clean country life. Wanting to be in a place gives so much vitality. So if anyone is ever in need of a hot bath or good meal or general fun time in the north of Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan, check out www.koganeyu-nakaton.com. The low table pushed aside, a futon brought out, a bed for a traveler is there.
Having rung the bell at Wakkanai - the northern-most church in the northern-most town in Japan - I'm now heading south along the Sea of Japan. I can't exactly see Russia, but it's there to the west. Every day south is a bit warmer, a bit longer. I try to convince people to send photos when I can... I'll update again when I find a computer again. Cheers!