Gordon: Last night we spent the night at Minshuku Okada, located between Temples 65 and 66. The proprietor, Akira Okada, is in many respects a very interesting fellow. To begin with, he is 91 years old, though like many Japanese he looks much younger. He was constantly in motion in the garden and the house. Among other activities, he prepared an excellent dinner for six of us last night (with some assistance from a younger woman.) Mr. Okada was also quite adept with his smart phone, booking our accommodation for the next two nights at our request. He maintains an excellent garden full of bonsai and orchids. There is also a small pond in the garden with a pair of massive koi. He has had them for almost 60 years, since the two of them fit in his hand.
Koi that are older than Ruth
During dinner, conversation turned to the Second World War. Mr. Okada was born and raised in a city near here, but during the War he was studying in Hiroshima. On the morning of August 6, 1945, he was somewhere not far from Ground Zero when the atomic bomb detonated above him. A wall protected him from the worst of the blast, but he still sustained burns that kept him in hospital for three months. He told us of the difficulties he experienced in obtaining food and water in the days after the bombing. At 91 years of age he is apparently in remarkably good health, though he has had thyroid cancer.
The Japanese has recognized 650,000 people as “hibakusha” or atomic bomb survivors. Of this number, about 150,000 are still alive. They receive a monthly stipend from the government of Japan, and those with illnesses recognized as being related to the bombs also receive an additional amount for health costs.
A bit of a hush went over the dining room as we realized the horrors that our host had experienced. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to chat with one of the remaining hibakusha.
Yummy natto for breakfast again.
Ruth: On the climb up to the base of the ropeway to Temple 66 I passed some signs in Japanese about road work. Nearing the end of a steep climb the road was completely gone, with only a balance beam to get to the other side. These two road angels carried my bike and trailer across for me.
Gordon: At over 900 metres, Temple 66 is the highest point on the Shikoku pilgrimage. Like most mountain temples it is beautifully situated in a mature forest. It also has a collection of life-sized statues depicting the Buddha’s first 500 disciples.