Friday, 20 July 2018

Five Types of Rest Stop You'll Find Hiking In Shikoku

"Kyūkei shimashou" (休憩しましょう) is one of the first phrases I teach all my students, and it means "let's take a break".

Rest is every bit as important as activity - perhaps more important. In class, it helps you digest and absorb ideas.

And on a long-distance walk, rest stops (called kyūkeijo 休憩所 in Japanese) can be a good place to strike up a conversation.

Luckily for me, the bit of the Shikoku 88 pilgrimage trail I walked this spring had interesting and varied rest stops throughout. So what kind of places are used as kyūkeijo?

Friday, 13 July 2018

Walking the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage (Part 6) - Shouting at the French


"Sumimaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeen!"

I shouted.

("Excuse me!")

The couple turned round, but they didn't move.

They were both dressed in full pilgrim garb: long white clothes, their heads protected by conical hats.

"Otoshimono desu!" ("You dropped this!")

They stared at me blankly. I waved the little grey bag with its digital camera inside. "KAMERA!"

Friday, 6 July 2018

On walking, and creativity


There are two reasons I like to walk.

The first is that if something is bothering me, I usually find it impossible to be annoyed about it once I have been walking for about half an hour.

You might think that's just because the irritating person or thing is now half an hour away from me.

And that's true. But I think it's something deeper than that, too.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Walking the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage (Part 5) - Signs of Shikoku


"Gambatte kudasai" is sort of untranslatable but also extremely translatable. (The best kind of Japanese phrase!)

Gambatte kudasai means "do your best!" or "go for it!"

When I started learning Japanese at university in 2008, my classmates and I thought the phrase gambatte kudasai was quite funny for some reason. So when we had to write a short dialogue about a holiday and commit it to memory as part of a speaking test, my partner and I shoehorned in a bunch of "gambatte kudasai"s.

My partner showed our work to his (Japanese) mum, who sent it back covered in red corrections and with all our "gambatte kudasai"s crossed out. Apparently they didn't work in context.

The problem is, I knew that gambatte kudasai means "try your best", but I didn't know it sounds weird if you're talking about buying a plane ticket...

I heard lots of "gambatte kudasai" walking the first leg of the Shikoku 88 pilgrimage this spring. It was written everywhere too - in fact there were lots of interesting signs.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Walking the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage (Part 4) - How to Talk to Strangers in Japanese


A stranger, they say, is just a friend you haven't met yet.

And talking to strangers is a great way to speak lots of Japanese. I did lots of this while walking the first section of the Shikoku pilgrimage this spring.

But how do you start a conversation with a stranger? Here are some ideas to get you going, even if you're a beginner at Japanese.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Walking the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage (Part 3) - What To Wear


When I told my Japanese friends I was planning to walk the Shikoku Henro trail, several of them said the same thing. "Are you going to wear a hat?"

For many people, the image of a walker in a bamboo hat is the first thing that comes to mind when they think of the pilgrimage.

But what "should" you wear on the Shikoku 88, a Buddhist pilgrimage trail?

Some pilgrims don't wear any special gear at all - just normal walking clothes. That's fine. But some walkers choose to wear special clothes, many of which have symbolic significance.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Walking the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage (Part 2) - The Best First Day in Japan


Spoiler alert: this post isn't about the Shikoku pilgrimage, although it is about the same trip. It's about what I did with my spare first day in Nagoya: the lost day...

Arriving first thing in the morning on a long-haul flight is not ideal. You're tired, jet-lagged and yet you need to stay awake until a normal bedtime, so you can adjust your body clock.

I had almost 12 hours to kill on that first day, and was waiting for my friends to finish work.

So what do you do with a whole day to yourself? I like to plan, so I made a plan. It went pretty well.