Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Once-in-a-Lifetime-Encounter

There's a new word in my Japanese vocabulary today - Itchy-Goi, Itchy-Yay! meaning something like 'this has been a once-in-a-lifetime-encounter.'  Handy for me, I'll be able to use it everyday.  Pilgriming in Japan is fantastic.  The people I've met have been over and above hospitable.  I've also learned 'Ee-Pi' = enough! please, I can't eat anything else!
I've wandered though thickly forested mountains and along long sandy or rocky beaches.  I managed to send my snowshoes ahead to Tokyo with a Redemptorist priest, so they'll be waiting for me when I arrive there just before Christmas (insha'allah).  It's still so warm that I'm wearing only my first layers and am carrying all of my winter clothes, a heavy burden that will disappear in the coming weeks as I continue to head north.  Leaving Nagasaki, I've traveled through towns and villages perched on the edge of the South China Sea, and the breezes have been more balmy than fierce.  The fragrances of the mountain flowers are heady, and I'm delighted to step on mint growing wild along babbling streams - nothing like a handful of mint stuffed in the boots at night to keep the locker-room odors at bay.  I've heard and seen many wild pigs foraging for acorns, and fat black long-haired squirrels, and pods of dolphins surprisingly close to the shore, but the snow monkeys have eluded me so far in the wild.
The trees are just beginning to turn at the latitude I'm passing - about 34 degrees north - but they'll turn quickly as I've rounded the islands to face the open Pacific Ocean and island-hop toward Osaka.  I'm torn - do I prefer the mountains - rugged, exhausting and providing great views - or the coast - serpentine and bustling with fishing boats and ferries and interrupted with picturesque villages and tightly packed bedroom communities around the bigger cities?  Sorry I can't be in two places at once... one day, maybe I'll come back and do a second lap.
The architecture is mixed with ultra-modern clean-lined townhomes with gardens bursting with pumpkins, daikon radishes, lettuces and potatoes, and the ancient Samuri-style timberframe homes with layered tiled roofs and upturned cornices surrounding perfectly manicured cultivated gardens.  I've slept in quite a variety by now.  Buddhist shrines, monuments, and cemeteries are everywhere, sometimes in the most out-of-the way places, moss-covered and seemingly abandoned, and somehow tidy nonetheless.  I've caught the tail end of the rice harvest and often walk along the paddies and terraces where bundles of upturned stalks hang drying in long lines between stubbly remains. 
The only thing I've encountered that's a bit untoward has been the multitude of spiderwebs, as big as bicycle wheels with complex multidimensional guylines stablizing them in fabulous geometries - cotangential hyperbolic paraboloids... they'd make Euclid downright giddy.  While I see some high in trees and powerpoles, most seem to be right at my face level, invisible until I'm a victim.  Yet, the thoraxes of the spiders themselves, always present in the center of the web, are as big as almonds or dates, black and fluorescent yellow, with evil red markings, and long black and yellow striped legs... menacing indeed... are they poisonous? I keep getting caught up in their stickiness when I'm walking along a mossy mountain lane... if they were poisonous, surely they'd have been eradicated, right?  Maybe not... what would Buddha say?  I've asked and asked, but few people I've met have experience in the out-of-the-way places I walk and - well, what newbie to a language learns vocabulary words like 'poisonous' and 'spider'.  Ah well, so far, so good.  Itchy-Goi, Itchy-Yay!
[I don't get to computers often - the local libraries I've visited restrict use to news and database access.  I've tried four times in the 17 days I've been walking around the southern tip of Japan, and today is the first time for success to update this blog.  More soon.]  Really, I don't think there could be a happier pilgrim =D