It’s customary that the pilgrim seals his logbook in each of the visited temples, as well as contributing to their maintenance by donating one hundred yen (about one dollar).

One day in my apartment, I had a stingy thought: one hundred yen multiplied by eighty-eight temples, plus the subway and train tickets….

That weekend, when I left my apartment to resume my pilgrimage, I found on the ground a valid ticket for the subway, so I got a free-ride to the train station. The first train of that early morning bound to Chita Peninsula was already waiting at the platform. I sat in an empty car and waited for the conductor to pay the ticket. He came sharp on time (like everything in Japan), checked in his computer my seat number, and without charging me any money he left the car with a bow. On his computer that seat had to show as paid… The only occupied seat of the car was already paid!

I arrived, therefore, to the point where my pilgrimage restarted without spending a single yen.

In the first temple I visited, I was welcomed by a tiny and very old woman, bent and holding a trumpet on the ear like those I had only seen before drawn in the comics. The lady invited me to green tea with Japanese sweets (made from pinto beans). That conversation, relying on my poor Japanese and the curious amplifier that she held, had to be quite something to listen to.

Without really knowing why, the lady entered the temple and came out with a bag identical to those that in the tales of pirates contain gold doubloons, a type of bag closed with a rope slide, full of one-hundred-yen-coins, enough to pay the sealing fees of the entire pilgrimage!

I suspected the good woman was a bit senile, so I addressed a man who must be a relative to explain what had happened, but he just confirmed that it was “osetai,” a gift to a pilgrim.

That day I received a lesson I will never forget about the value of money.