Ruth: I knew in advance that most of the 350 meter climb up to Temple 65 occurred in the last few steep kilometres. I taped my knees, loaded up on more sugary treats than normal, and started the day full of confidence. After stopping at a lovely henro hut for second breakfast with Gord, I headed for the temple. Although the route was marked and I had a backup record on my phone, I somehow missed the car route I was planning to take. Facing an intersection where I had to choose between a road on which I would lose much of my hard earned elevation, and a paved path marked as a henro route, I asked a local farmer and he gestured up the path. Not the best advice, given my bike and trailer. As I pushed my bike up the path it became narrower and so steep that I was sliding backwards. It was a challenge to even find a flat place to park the bike. After texting Gord to let him know of my predicament, I unhitched my bike, left the trailer and continued up the steep path with my bike. Even without the weight of the trailer I was still sliding down. After a slow and painful count of 90 steps I walked back to pull the trailer up to where I had left the bike. Sucking back the jello sweets I was given this morning as osettai I repeated the cycle again for another 90 steps. Fortunately I made it up to a road where I could continue my climb using my legs rather than my arms.
Everyday the kindness of the people we meet makes me feel much better about our species. After I finally made it up to Temple 65 a lady caught me on my slow decent down the steps with her osettai. “Just candy” she said as she passed me a lovely zippered pouch. Peeking in, I wondered why she had left a Kleenex inside with the candy. On closer inspection, I realized she had concealed a 1000 yen note (about $12) inside.
Gordon: I had my own mountain to climb at breakfast this morning. Unlike some foreign henro, Ruth and I enjoy most of the traditional Japanese food that we are offered, seldom leaving anything on our plates. A consistent exception is “natto”, a fermented bean dish frequently served at breakfast. It has an odd texture, with spiderweb like filaments trailing behind when chopsticks loaded with natto are raised to the mouth.
Challenged by a Japanese henro at breakfast this morning, I finally decided to try natto. It generally comes prepackaged with small portions of vinegar and mustard. These are poured into the moist beans and the whole mess stirred with chopsticks for a minute or two. And then the moment of truth, as I lifted some to my mouth … and liked it. Ruth tried a bit as well. It is slightly sweet, with a nice texture. The stickiness and filaments are still a bit off putting, but in the future I will be eating this part of breakfast when it is offered to us.