Hiking the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage Trail in 2018 - A Round-Up

Hiking the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage Trail in 2018 - A Round-Up

The week I spent last spring walking the first leg of the Shikoku 88 pilgrimage trail was peaceful, thought-provoking, and challenging - often all at once.

Here’s all my writing about that trip in one place.

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Walking the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage (Part 7) - 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 …

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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 …

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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.

There's something about …

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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 ...

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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.


1) the weather


Brits love to talk about the weather. Luckily, so do people in Japan. It's almost like a greeting.

Chuck one of these out and start the conversation:

暑いですね atsui desu ne! "Hot, isn't it?"
寒いですね samui desu ne! "Cold, isn't it?"

Very possibly, you'll get a そうですね   sou desu ne; "Isn't it just", in response, and you can start the conversation from there.


2) things you can see


You reach the top of a hill and sit on a bench. The person on the adjacent seat turns to greet you.

You can start a conversation easily by simply pointing and commenting on what you can see:

すごいですね Sugoi desu ne. "Amazing, isn't it?"
綺麗ですね Kirei desu ne. "Isn't it lovely?"
美しいですね。Utsukushii desu ne. Beautiful, isn't it?


3) ask simple questions

What about if you don't know what you're looking at? Just ask.

すみませんが、それはなんですか。 Sumimasen ga, sore wa nan desu ka.
"Excuse me, but what's that?"
これは日本語でなんと言いますか。 Kore wa nihongo de nan to iimasu ka. "What do you call this in Japanese?"

4) start in Japanese

If your Japanese is limited, and you speak English, it might be tempting to walk into a hotel or restaurant and start the conversation in English - or to ask if the person speaks Japanese.

Even if you're a beginner, try and start the conversation in Japanese, with a greeting:

こんにちは! konnichiwa! "hello"

こんばんは! kombanwa! "good evening"

おはようございます! ohayou gozaimasu! "good morning"

Remember, if you start the conversation in English (or another language), the chances of getting some Japanese practice are virtually zero. Try and at least start in Japanese.


5) smile


You might be nervous about speaking Japanese. But the absolute best way to get someone to speak with you is to smile while talking with them!

Hopefully, you can put them at ease that you're a friendly, wonderful person. Someone worth talking to. Which, of course, you are.

After all, you're just a friend they haven't met yet too.


Related posts:

Walking the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage (Part 1) - Plan, plan, plan!
Walking the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage (Part 2) - The Best First Day in Japan
Walking the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage (Part 3) - What To Wear


P.S.   If you liked this post on talking to strangers in simple Japanese, check out my new course Survival Japanese for Beginners - starts July 26th 2018, in central Brighton. It's ideal for anyone planning a trip to Japan soon!

5 Apps to Download Before Your Trip To Japan


If you just love missing your bus because you waited in the wrong place, overpaying for things because you can't remember the exchange rate, or wandering around for hours looking for a wi-fi spot in vain - stop reading now, because this one's not for you.

Today I'd like to share with you five super-useful apps to download before you travel to Japan!

Whatever you've got planned in Japan, these apps should get you well-prepared.

(Looking for language-learning apps? You should read my other post Five (and a Half) Apps to Get You Started Learning Japanese!)

1) HyperDia



Once you look past the sometimes awkward-sounding English (when Hyperdia tells you "TAKE TIME", it's not wishing you a leisurely trip, but telling you the duration of your journey), it's a solid tool for navigating Japan's wonderful rail system.

Hyperdia's app, just like the website, allows you to plan journeys and search timetables for (almost) all of Japan's train services. In English! It also benefits from the "Japan Rail Pass Search", which as you might guess allows you to search for routes you can take with the JR pass.

The app is free for 30 days, which should be enough for most trips.

Hyperdia: App Store | Google Play

2) Norikae Annai



Norikae Annai is Japan's most-downloaded travel app. It's easier to navigate than Hyperdia, much more nicely designed and more user-friendly...so long you can read Japanese.

If you can't, you'll be a bit stuck. You might want to stick with Hyperdia - or you could always get someone who can read Japanese to help you. Or download both and use Hyperdia in a pinch?

Norikae Annai: App Store | Google Play

3) Tokyo Metro



I LOVE the Tokyo Metro app, because as well as transfer information it also has a fully offline, pinch-and-zoom map of - you guessed it - Tokyo's metro system.

Good for getting to grips with (what often seems like) the world's most complex underground rail system!

Tokyo Subway Navigation for Tourists: App Store | Google Play

4) Japan Connected-Free Wi-Fi




Even if you don't want to be connected all the time, you'll probably want wifi at some point on your travels. Navitime is an app with an offline map showing free wifi spots, as is JapanTravel and its sister app Japan Connected-free Wi-fi.

The wifi app also has downloadable offline maps of all the major cities in Japan - and all for free!

(Or you could just do what I do on holiday and stand outside McDonalds pretending to wait for someone while actually using the free internet. That's cool too, right?)

Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi: App Store | Google Play

5) XE Currency



Not Japan-specific, but definitely useful.

Until the exchange rate hits a nice easy number like 100 yen to the pound, you'll probably want a currency converter so you can figure out how far your spending money's going to go. And the XE converter works offline, too.

XE Currency: App Store | Google Play

So that's what's in my "essential Japan travel apps" folder! What's in yours?

Planning a trip to Japan this year? Check out the Travel Japanese for Beginners course at Step Up Japanese starting April 12th!