Pilgrimage On Shikoku Island

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    walking the trail next month solo- questions

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    walking the trail next month solo- questions

    Post by Shikoku Henro Trail on Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:07 pm

    Originally posted by several members in March 2018.
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    mayagins

    « Thread started on: Mar 7th, 2018, 12:10pm »
    hello. just got an offer to walk the trail in short notice and very interested in doing it, but have a lot of worries and questions before...

    1, I am a woman traveling alone. is the trail safe? done the Camino before and felt perfectly safe all along the trail...
    2, I don't speak any japanize and obviously would not have any time to learn it, will it be extremely difficult for a lone traveler to get along?
    3, planning to bring a sleeping bag, pad, and tent with me (all very lightweight), will I have enough places to tent around? will I meet any other camping pilgrims?
    4, how do I manage with food? supermarkets? I'm not interested in carrying any cooking gear, will I find places to eat meals?
    5, would be grateful for help planning my trip. I have an unlimited time frame and a good budget for the experience
    6, any other places I should visit while I'm around?

    thank you so much for the kind help
    maya

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    cpetersky

    « Reply #1 on: Mar 7th, 2018, 1:23pm »
    1. As a woman traveling alone you will safe. I walked it with another woman and never felt threatened.
    2. Try to learn as much Japanese as you can before you go. In particular, try to learn the numbers in kanji, as older signs may be entirely in Chinese characters. If you know the numbers, you can tell which way they are pointing. Also, in places where trails may criss-cross, it's hard to tell. I remember coming down from #60, and there were dirt roads for electrical line maintenance and logging, as well as for the trail. Knowing the characters for "electricity" for example would help you stay on the right path.
    3. You may not need a tent - shelters are available along the trail.
    4. "Kombi", short for convenience stores, are every where, and have take-out meals that don't require cooking. In more rural areas you will need to plan more for food than in urban areas.

    Also, please check out the Facebook group for pilgrims: Ohenro San お遍路さん https://www.facebook.com/groups/30817087712/

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    tneva82

    « Reply #2 on: Mar 8th, 2018, 11:42pm »
    on Mar 7th, 2018, 12:10pm, mayagins wrote:
    1, I am a woman traveling alone. is the trail safe? done the Camino before and felt perfectly safe all along the trail...
    2, I don't speak any japanize and obviously would not have any time to learn it, will it be extremely difficult for a lone traveler to get along?
    3, planning to bring a sleeping bag, pad, and tent with me (all very lightweight), will I have enough places to tent around? will I meet any other camping pilgrims?
    4, how do I manage with food? supermarkets? I'm not interested in carrying any cooking gear, will I find places to eat meals?
    5, would be grateful for help planning my trip. I have an unlimited time frame and a good budget for the experience
    6, any other places I should visit while I'm around?



    Disclaimer: I'm a man so I have no 1st hand experience doing this as a women obviously so take this with grain of salt but:

    1) I have never read any physical assault of any gender during pilgrimage anywhere(and I have read tons of blogs etc in english and japanese along with books by the bucketload). I have read plenty of good experiences by lone women both foreigners and Japanese. David Turkington related story of how he ended up walking for a while with Japanese women on her own(she was asking directions at the temple, temple staff said to David he's walker too so they should walk to next temple together) and how he felt he couldn't leave her midway despite her urgings as she was lone women walking and coming from america that felt dangerous to him. Inn keeper hearing story as reason for being late told quoting loosely David's entry: "You are nuts".

    Japan as a whole is very safe country where I have never felt particularly worried leaving my belongings lying around. In many temples I left my backbag which had basically all my belongings(and plenty cash) lying around and didn't feel worried.

    Now I HAVE read couple cases where women has experienced some dirty talk which could be case of bad attempt of humour. For example one foreign pilgrim related how she stayed at Zenkonyado(free lodging) around Hiwasa(I think it's now closed) where host's talk made her feel bit uncomfortable(this included offer to wash her back at the bath) though IIRC she did note that otherwise he was very friendly host. How you deal with such talk I don't know.

    On good side this doesn't appear to be all that common. Think I have read of this kind of experiences like twice at most. Maybe just above. And again neither involved any kind of actual physical action and could be just been bad attempt at humour. Obviously not nice but at least in those cases no danger of rape.

    2) It's going to be bit of inconvenience since not many speak english. If you plan to use paid lodging THAT is going to be hardest part since those are done by phone calls generally. Some lodges will do it for you if you ask. On the facebook forum linked above there's file for pre-made letter that has in Japanese polite request to do this with blanks for lodging name, phone number etc. This allows you to request this favour(generally not a problem) even if host doesn't understand english. Some lodgings also have (crude, often grammatical errors etc for funny effects) english how-to letters for foreign quests to compensate for lack of host's english ability.

    Now if you have any time learn the kanji letters for numbers(1-10. Remember something like 68 can be written both as 6+8 as well as 6+10+Cool to help finding your way(also say keep somewhere printout of 番目. Number+that=indicates one of the temples). There's couple ways where "left one temple, right another" so you don't want to go to wrong way.

    Also katakana can be helpful if you can learn to read it in time. 52 letters. Some which are only small differences like へべぺ for he, be and pe. Why katakana? It's used for loanwords so in restaurants you can often find some familiar things just by reading katakana and listening how the word sounds! Instant japanese vocabulary cheesy Also for example toilets are often marked in katakana(トイレ, toile) so spotting that can be helpful.

    And of course anything you can learn in time, basic greetings etc, can be helpful if by nothing else than giving good impression. arigatoo gozaimasu for thank you, sumimasen for apologizing/thanking, konnichiwa for good day etc.

    So in short: Doable, just bit inconvenient. You'll also face extra loneliness as apart from odd foreign henro's you won't often have much to chat. Prepare for that.
    3) This I don't know much so I skip but camping is popular enough. If you want to bring a tent take free standing though. You don't often have soft ground to put tent spikes to. Might have to set up on asphalt.
    4) super markets and konbini's(smaller version of super market basically skipping mostly fresh ingredients) plus restaurants here and there. Generally not huge issues but sometimes you need to brace for more like climb to 12 and after foothills of temple 20 there's not tons of stores until you reach 22 so options are limited and some sections in Kochi can be 1 konbini in a day. Just keep eye on ahead areas in map and have some calory heavy stuff with you in case.

    Konbini's offer various foods you dont' need to heat to eat so those are good and also offer foods you need to heat AND microwave to heat them up(often they ask if you want it heated before you get to ask!) for lunch on the spot. While less nice than proper restaurant by neccessity those will be main source of food for many many pilgrims. Especially campers who dont' have breakfast and dinner of paid lodging!
    5) Any specific questions regarding this?
    6) In Shikoku awaodori hall at Tokushima can be fun. As a mountain lover Ishizuchi mountain near temple 60 would be also nice diversion.

    Outside Shikoku Kyoto is great(IMO better than Tokyo. Also Todaiji is also temple you could visit linking to this pilgrimage as it's one of 3 big temples related to Kukai), Nara is fun to walk alongside deers(well alongside as long as you have food for them. Greedy buggers won't have anything to do with you if you don't have something for them cheesy). Near Tokyo there's this small(as in 63000 people or so) Chichibu that I liked very much. It has it's own 34 temple pilgrimage you can do in 4-5 days along with tons of hiking paths in mountains.

    Tokyo is of course classic. Bit too crowded IMO but don't miss yoyogi park there. Hamarikyuu park is also nice.

    Oh and Mount Koya after pilgrimage obviously.

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    henrodon

    « Reply #3 on: Mar 8th, 2018, 11:48pm »
    Hi! You say you just got an offer to walk the trail but you also say you'll be a woman traveling alone. I'm confused.

    Anyway, the trail, like all of Japan is very safe compared with most of the U.S. and Europe, but not absolutely, completely safe. The women on this board and the FB group will no doubt give you the benefit of their experiences.

    A tent can be useful, especially if it's free-standing (meaning you can set it up without needing to drive any stakes into the ground. There are places you can be more comfortable (and drier) that way. Also, it will give you privacy in some places where you might want it. Both this website and the FB group can lead you to files and websites loaded with helpful tips for camping.

    There aren't a lot of parts of the pilgrimage where you will walk for four hours and not see some place where you can buy food to eat without cooking (anything from energy bars to meals, eat in or take away). I suggest that you learn to read katakana. Restaurant menus (and posted menu boards) often list foods that will be familiar to you using katakana rather than hiragana or kanji.

    Will you carry a connected smartphone? It will help with route-finding and translation, though you shouldn't count on it for all your needs. Some places are in the mountains where you won't get a signal and charging up your device will sometimes pose problems.

    The more Japanese you learn, the easier it is to do the pilgrimage. Also, remember that everyone in Japan under 50 has studied English in school. They may not be able to speak much (or any) but if you learn to simplify what you say and be prepared to write things on a piece of paper, in the dirt, or in the air, and use gestures, you'll do fine. When you're dressed as a pilgrim here, people will help you.

    Keep those questions coming!

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    tneva82

    « Reply #4 on: Mar 9th, 2018, 02:07am »
    on Mar 8th, 2018, 11:48pm, henrodon wrote:
    Hi! You say you just got an offer to walk the trail but you also say you'll be a woman traveling alone. I'm confused.


    I figured maybe she got offered chance to walk it like getting enough time from work.

    Quote:
    Will you carry a connected smartphone? It will help with route-finding and translation, though you shouldn't count on it for all your needs. Some places are in the mountains where you won't get a signal and charging up your device will sometimes pose problems.


    Plus on mountains paths aren't often in maps. Google map for example doesn't show walker path to 12 so according to it it's 25km walk rather than 12km...

    Good news though is that on mountain paths you don't NEED guidance. Not application, not map book. Nothing. Just walk the path and keep eye on route markers.

    As it is you don't often even need the map book itself except for lodging/store search...That's how well marked the path is.

    But phone helps in case you get totally lost in the city. In cities I found map book most helpful and guess that would be where applicaton would be easiest. Eeasier to get lost in a city with multiple roads than mountain path that's just one path to walk through!

    Off line maps like maps.me also works.

    Quote:
    The more Japanese you learn, the easier it is to do the pilgrimage. Also, remember that everyone in Japan under 50 has studied English in school. They may not be able to speak much (or any) but if you learn to simplify what you say and be prepared to write things on a piece of paper, in the dirt, or in the air, and use gestures, you'll do fine. When you're dressed as a pilgrim here, people will help you.

    Keep those questions coming!


    Yeah very simple can be made but remember just because you have studied in school is no quarantee of anything. Every Finn is required to study swedish. Good luck getting any help from me by just swedish! I would be totally lost so unless there's alternative mean to communicate...

    But good news is they will generally do their best to help even if they speak zero english. By literally dragging you by hand where you need to go if nothing else cheesy Happened to class mate.

    For directions btw helpful to have name of place you want to go somewhere written down. For temples obviously guide book is great help but for example if you book down for a lodging write name down to a paper etc. And if simply showing name isn't enough "kore wa doko deshou ka?" will help(means "where this might be?").

    Write that phrase down, point to name of place, point to the sentence(maybe take it down in japanese for extra help for the local to read. これはどこでしょうか?wink. That sorts out getting question understood. Understanding reply is bit harder but they will do their best to help you.

    https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-QdnUBu__bVY/WqA4s461oII/AAAAAAAABdE/vuJ8z_pumiEYPcdNLn27cuyPowAWs6WhQCEwYBhgL/s1600/DSC_0109.png

    These kind of markers are btw why learning numbers can be helpful. While sometimes like these you can probably figure out which way from map and general sense of direction especially if you have been lost and come across one it can be helpful. Here right points to 5th temple(五wink and left points to 6th(六wink.

    « Last Edit: Mar 9th, 2018, 06:06am by tneva82 »

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    mayagins

    « Reply #5 on: Mar 12th, 2018, 04:21am »
    thank you all for the kind and detailed reply!!...

    I'm starting to work on my Japanese than...
    takatana- 52 letters
    kanji- numbers

    do you recommend any specific website I can use to learn...?

    and also- very important question about timing... I have a slight delay and can only arrive shikoku at 20th of April. is it too late to start?? I'm a bit afraid of the rainy June... how bad is it to walk at the first 10 days of June?? I have a lot of hiking experience and can deal with rain, but it depends how bad it is...

    thanks again!
    maya

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    tneva82

    « Reply #6 on: Mar 12th, 2018, 1:26pm »
    on Mar 12th, 2018, 04:21am, mayagins wrote:
    and also- very important question about timing... I have a slight delay and can only arrive shikoku at 20th of April. is it too late to start?? I'm a bit afraid of the rainy June... how bad is it to walk at the first 10 days of June?? I have a lot of hiking experience and can deal with rain, but it depends how bad it is...

    thanks again!
    maya



    Not sure about june but think it's early rain weather so yeah you'll be in some serious rain there. You might have rather wet end. Good news is that should be on the Kagawa prefecture which isn't as rainy as say Kochi. Definitely do NOT start on Ehime prefecture which would make your last part going through Kochi!

    Rain can be quite heavy though even on april. Also temperatures are going to be bit of an issue.

    Another issue is if you plan to stay at paid lodgings at all you'll be going through golden week which is rather crowded. Good news is with tent etc you aren't screwed completely regarding lodging.

    Bit inconvenient timing but 10 days should be bearable. I faced week of almost non-stop rain. Albeit that was spring temperatures than june.

    edit:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVh07Qn0SAY

    Here's btw clip I took when I walked last spring in Kochi. Suddenly sky opened up and it felt like walking under waterfall. Not sure how well that is visible from video but I have never walked in such a rain. Can't imagine it being worse in june or I'm seriously underestimating it. You might have these days on higher frequency though. This was just once in the Kochi prefecture on the bit over week I was there.

    « Last Edit: Mar 13th, 2018, 01:00am by tneva82 »

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    Shikoku Henro Trail

    « Reply #7 on: Mar 13th, 2018, 3:06pm »
    I walked through the first two weeks of June to finish one walk. During the last week it rained almost every day, but not hard enough to make it unbearable or unenjoyable. I was still out and still walking on the henro trail so all was well. Just make sure you have good rain gear and think about buying a cheap 500 yen umbrella at a konbini once the daily rains start.

    Dave

    « Last Edit: Mar 13th, 2018, 3:08pm by Shikoku Henro Trail »

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    henrodon

    « Reply #8 on: Mar 13th, 2018, 6:31pm »
    The weather, being very weather-like, can be hot or mild, very wet, occasionally wet, or dry in early June. Be prepared for rain, certainly, but don't expect it to make you abandon your walk just because you're starting 10 days later than your original plan. Umbrellas, a rain suit or long cape, and a change of shoes will get you through.

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    tneva82

    « Reply #9 on: Mar 14th, 2018, 12:37am »
    on Mar 13th, 2018, 6:31pm, henrodon wrote:
    The weather, being very weather-like, can be hot or mild, very wet, occasionally wet, or dry in early June. Be prepared for rain, certainly, but don't expect it to make you abandon your walk just because you're starting 10 days later than your original plan. Umbrellas, a rain suit or long cape, and a change of shoes will get you through.



    Cape might be better than rain suit. Rain suits are not bad idea when it's cooler but even on spring it was hot and steamy inside. Especially when I was climbing mountain it made walk rather hard. No breathability whatsoever. And june temperatures are higher than on april so I guess issue would be worse. Thus more breathable cape is currently on my plan for the july part. That or simply say screw the rain and keep walking on my regular clothes. July temperatures should be high enough getting soaked shouldn't be issue. Especially as I would get soaked in sweat anyway.

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    Shikoku Henro Trail

    « Reply #10 on: Mar 14th, 2018, 6:07pm »
    While i can't do it, i have known several people who do not bother wearing a rain suit or a cape. They walk in high-tech trousers and shirts, so within a half hour of the rain stopping they are basically dry again. All they worry about is keeping their backpack dry and wearing a henro hat to keep their head dry.

    Dave

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    mayagins

    « Reply #11 on: Mar 15th, 2018, 05:26am »
    got it! rain gear..
    thank you all for the responses, it's very helpfull!

    maya

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