A little hunger never hurt anyone. Or so I told myself when I reached my hotel in Hiwasa, severely hungry, to discover my longed for dinner needed to be reserved at 11 am. I was too late! I was immersed in a gorgeous seascape, but can anyone, apart from the saints, and I am not one, really live on scenery alone? The Bible notes we cannot live on bread alone, but this is only if you have bread somewhere on the horizon. In Hiwasa, walking through a closed up town, not a crumb. I feasted instead on the magnificent views at the hotel’s open air infinity pool sento. There were fishing boats bobbing close by but I was too hungry to care about being in my birthday suit.
Hiwasa is where Shikoku Henro-ites like me and other believers, stop off for Yakuō-ji Temple 23. Visitors might also come for Hiwasa’s sea turtles on its Ohama Coast. This is seasonal, so being there off season meant nothing much was open. But on the Shikoku Henro, pilgrims welcome suffering as strengthening preparation for the trip to Nirvana. I tried to learn fortitude and grace for the opportunity to welcome a new aesthetic, foodless me. Didn’t work.
Walking the streets to Yakuō-ji next morning offered no relief. It was now too early! I fed on incense smoke and tried to think of how thin I must have gotten overnight. The only café in sight opened at 11 am, so time for more prayers - for food - at Yakuō-ji. But I was not a good pilgrim in Hiwasa, despite the loads of God-given eye candy assailing me in the form of views of Hiwasa from the top of the temple. The rolling waves crashing onto a pristine sandy shore, and startling blue skies should have only inspired closeness to God, but I wanted food.
I did find food eventually at a small home-cooking restaurant, the sort where customers sit at the bar and yak with the owner- cook. On hearing my plight, a customer, after he had gotten over his state of shock at watching me tear into platefuls of the incredible stuffed chicken wings, revealed he had visited my country - where food is 24 hour on tap.
Hiwasa is a dream come true for walkers, seekers of scenic panoramas, soul solace. You get around by walking or taxi. The train station is the “capital”, the supermarket the seeming equivalent of office water cooler meetings. My hotel was fringed by the coast, and I could see walking trails cutting across the mountains.
I undertook the Henro eager for new experiences, avid for new learning, even the friendship of strangers. Apart from hunger pangs, I was also blessed with this in Hiwasa. I do feel sad I won’t go back. Funnily enough, what I remember now is not so much that I was hungry in Hiwasa, but Hiwasa’s eye candy.
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