Sometimes, to discern who tries to help or to cause us trouble is not that easy, as the following story illustrates. It happened right at the beginning of my pilgrimage around the Chita Peninsula (Btw, the inserted map of Japan was the one I hang on my wall to check the places I visited).

Shortly after eating the delicious “osetai” I mentioned in the previous post, I arrived to a crossroads with heavy traffic, railways, a gas station and mediocre buildings; an environment very “yin,” very negative. While waiting for the traffic light to get green for pedestrians, a man with sunglasses and bizarre aspect came up to me and asked if I spoke English. Wary, I pretended I didn’t understand and replied, “No English, me Spanish”. Blunder, he was a Brazilian!

After some conversation in which I informed him that I was a pilgrim, the character in question began to cry with gestures of great joy, “Viva o Rey!,” (Long life to the king!). Oblivious to my disapproval first and my indifference later, he continued to follow me, shouting in such an annoying way, ready to go with his “lord.” I decided to try something different, I told him I accepted his company if he returned to the first temple so his pilgrimage would be also complete.

The ploy seemed to work, and, as he walked back to where I told him the first temple was, I run away towards the second. I climbed up the stairs of a bridge crossing the railroad tracks, and once on the top, a man cut my way and asked, “Where are you going?” I explained him that I was a pilgrim in search of the next temple. He took my map and began to study it, taking such long time that I was afraid my “loyal squire” could return at any time. I needed my map and that “guardian” didn’t seem willing to give it back even though I politely tried.

The scene looked like a parody of a medieval jousting, such as that of a well known Spanish medieval knight, don Suero de Quiñones, who challenged anyone who tried to cross over an old bridge in a town called Hospital de Orbigo in the Way of St James, only that now, instead of an honorable battle, the episode ended in my disgraceful retreat, as it was too obvious that this character, for who knows what reason, did not want me to cross that bridge.

Retracing my steps and fearful to meet my “vassal,” I simply run away, thinking more to escape from that weird place than really trying to approach my destination. After much walking and disappointed at my disastrous starting of the pilgrimage, big surprise! I bumped to the temple number two. And I was convinced I was walking in the wrong direction!

That was just the first day of the pilgrimage. Who were those characters?

Happy new year of the Dragon!