Next morning I was up early again, around five a.m. I breakfasted on doughnuts and milk bought the night before then I headed out again. Temples -- gotta do them all. Well, not all of them but most of the more accessible ones. By accessible, I mean they weren't all the way up in the hills, but if you're temple touristing in Onomichi staircases are going to be a big part of the experience.
The first small temple I visited, it was just gone six a.m. and in Japan that means "radio exercises" (rajio taisō). The radio plays appropriate music while an announcer cajoles the listeners to perform gentle exercise. Temple grounds are popular places especially for elderly folk to meet up, natter, drink green tea and do the exercises communally, at least when the weather allows. I didn't join in, as I was planning to get lots of exercise during the rest of the day.
Saikokuji Temple is famous (in Japan) for its gate decorated with sandals. They come in all sizes... A source of drinking water is a common feature in a temple complex and in this case the basin was a spectacular piece of sculpture in its own right. The water tasted good too; as early as it was the promise of heat was in the air. There were other groups of statuary here and there, some of them with obvious connections to Hinduism and non-Japanese Buddhism.
Further up a series of stairways and past assorted grave markers is the Saikokuji temple itself, an impressive three-roofed pagoda visible from many vantage points around the city.
I spent most of the morning wandering around the area, all of it uphill or so it felt. The temples are mixed in with housing, shops and schools with carefully-tended wilderness and bamboo thickets filling in the gaps. Fire is an ever-present hazard especially in the summer and smoking is a common habit in Japan, hence the rather folk-artish admonition I encountered telling people to watch where they threw their butts.
Back down in the town things were a bit busier, it being a weekday although some places were still closed for the Obon holiday. I went back through the main shopping arcade, picking up a two-litre bottle of off-brand isotonic juisu at a 100yen store while resisting the imprecation of the oyaji ("old guy") in charge to buy some beer instead -- "Iie, mizu mizu mizu!" (No, water water, water!). Further along the arcade I fell into Hog Heaven, a large store selling second-hand manga. The next couple of hours were a blur.
After dropping off my booty (including a bundle of cheap laserdiscs) at the hotel and grazing at the convenience store I went back to the temples but it was getting hotter and the hills steeper so I eventually headed back down towards the waterfront to cool off for a bit while watching rush hour go by. I had spotted a couple of familiar city-centre landmarks, familiar that is from the anime series, Kamichu! that had originally sparked my interest in Onomichi. A bridge across the road and railway line gave me a vantage point that seemed very familiar for some reason... Other landmarks reminded me of Kamichu!, including the iconic school gate (in reality, not a middle school but an elementary school). I had actually spotted this school (complete with swimming pool) from the hilltop viewpoint I had visited the day before without realising what it was.
I spent more time wandering around the town, looking at stuff. I know a lot of fans coming to Japan spent their time in a more regimented manner, visiting the regular tourist places to a fixed timetable with hotels booked long in advance. I decided early on I wasn't going to do that, and for me (a single guy) it worked out. A couple of times I had problems finding a hotel room but I never had to sleep in a hedgerow or under a railway bridge.
One store selling medicines and health supplies made it clear that I wasn't at home when I suddenly realised what the anthropomorphic stuffed toy in the window was actually meant to be. Of course, when I did comprehend what it was, I wanted to buy it...
Dinner beckoned -- I tried out the Italian restaurant close to the hotel, just for the experience, but it was nothing special and not cheap. This was my last day in Onomichi -- tomorrow I'd be heading off to Hiroshima a couple of hours down the coast, for the history and internet access. I had never actually found an internet cafe anywhere in Onomichi, but i was sure the big city would fulfil my craving to get wired again. I was sure that I'd visit Onomichi again some day, though.