Most people walking the henro are men. Most of them are middle aged or older. Since many japanese don´t get more than two weeks vacation each year, there is little time to walk the henro. If you´re young, you might rather spend a fun time with your friends than having to complain about what is hurting today on your body: the hip, the toes, the knee or the head.
I don´t know why there is not many women walking. Maybe walking is rather a male sport.
So many men walking here have already retired, are their own bosses or have come so far in their jobs that they can leave for a longer while. I met one who had his own company and took one of his managers to walk with him. “To make him a real man,” he explained.
Either way, it´s always nice to meet people on the way. With most of them communication – as usually on this trip – is difficult. My japanese comes from an offline japanese-english dictionary on my mobile phone. My last conversation with a young skinny guy, who didn´t look happy, was that: “Koshi? Sokonau?” “Hip? Hurt?” Yes, he said in english. “Tudzukeru?” I asked him. “Continue?” He nodded many times and said: “Hai, hai, hai!” “Yes, yes, yes.” I looked in my dictionary and said: “Tsuyoi.” “Strong.” He smiled and maybe there was even a little bit of shining in his eyes. I had the feeling his hip already hurt a little bit less. He took his backpack and his walking stick and walked off waving.
Talking about my mobile dictionary, I also have some handy phrases in there. They group in categories like „restaurant“, „emergency“, „greetings“. One of those categories is also „love“. It has 12 phrases in this order:
I love you – Girlfriend – You are very beautiful – Your eyes are beautiful – Would you sleep with me tonight? – Come to my room – To have sex – Condom – A date
And it finishes with „Would you like to marry me?“
That´s the whole package you need! And if he says no, I also have the category „bad words“. 😉