Shikoku <- September, 2000 <- Japan <- Home
I have a half day of work on Thursdays, thanks to the fact that I stay at work until an absurd hour everyday other than Thursday. So on this particular Thursday Kim and I were on the road by 1pm on our way to the Ferry Port in (the infamous city of) Beppu. Arriving at the port much earlier than expected, we killed some time looking for a konbini (convenience store) and taking a picture of a Fran billboard for my friend Jason (yes, my friends are as easily entertained as I). We then boarded the Ferry, which was supposed to be three hours but which actually took closer to four. It's amazing how many goofy photos you can take when you have four hours to kill.
We arrived in Hamatayama (or as I kept calling it, hamatayatahamatahaha) late in the the evening, and, pausing only for a ramen and gyoza meal at a roadside shop, headed to the hostel we had booked in Uwajima. I have always had a theory about HI Hostels, and that theory is that they are specifically placed in the most inconvenient place possible, so that only the die hard and fools like us who booked ahead will stay at them. I could expound on this theory for days, but I think you get the idea. Anyway, this place was scenically placed at the end of the most well hidden road in the entire city (and in Japan, that's going some way!) We actually followed a person who agreed to lead us there, and still almost got lost. And then, when all insult and injury seem to have passed, the place charged us quite nearly $40 for a bunk and communal bath. That's $40 per person. OK - I'm quite nearly done complaining now. And in the hostel's defense, it really was in quite a scenic area.
The next day, we hit the road early in order to see the coastline with plenty of light. The drive down was amazing, although when we started out it was raining rather heavily. Rather than avoid the water we headed for even more of it, close to the hostel were a series of waterfalls. The river was rather swollen after all the rain, so much so that at points the path was underwater fortunately for us there was a high road too. The rain brought all of the animals out from their hiding places and on the way up we saw a warthog and a very large toad. Nearer the top, there was a point where it appeared we could get a closer look at a waterfall by doubling back on the path. However, part of the path was washed out, and Kim attempted to climb over this spot, but instead managed only to scare me half to death and bruise herself quite impressively by falling into the (did I mention quite swollen) river. Despite this we continued onward and upward, finally arriving at the crown jewel of the falls, a massive waterfall with an impressive overspray which prevented me from getting a great photo of it, and drenched us further as we viewed it. After wringing our clothes out, we began the descent, returning to the car in time to meet a nice gentleman who told us the onsen down the road was quite nice. A change of shirts, and we were back on the road again, headed for Cape Ashizuri-Misaki. We made a quick stop at MosBurger (a place much tastier than its name might imply) for lunch, and then headed in the wrong direction for a while before getting on the right road for the cape.
As we were driving along, we happened on a weird building out in the middle of the ocean. We decided, since it was pictured in the guidebook, that we should stop and figure out what it was. It turned out to be an underwater observatory, with portals for viewing the fish under the water. We managed to see, among other things, an Angelfish and a Blowfish (Fugu, for those who watch the Simpson's).
We saw a lighthouse as we were driving along the coast, and although we were trying to make the sunset, we paused off long enough to take some photos and admire the rocky coast (from quite a height, along a skinny outcrop) and make a bathroom stop to admire the porn someone had left for visitors.
Finally arriving at the cape, we were somewhat disappointed to find a car park of buses and tourists making the 88 shrine tour of Shikoku. Despite the crowds, the views were quite nice, and we escaped to a nearby viewing area which was much less peopled.
We decided upon leaving that we should continue our journey onto Kochi, a large-ish city in the middle of Shikoku. On the way, we passed thru our home's namesake. After trying to find one of the ill-famed (but darned inexpensive) love hotels (with disturbingly little success, all things considered - it's hard to walk 50 metres without finding one anywhere else in Japan). So instead that evening we forewent the hostels in favor of a business hotel, which is what they call a hotel with rooms quite nearly big enough to hold the bed and a television, and the world's smallest bathroom.
The next day we woke bright and early to head on our nature trek, day two. We first headed to some underground caves in the hills outside of town. These were quite nice, although I wouldn't have wanted to be any taller or bigger around. It was tight! After the caverns we paused to take in the goofy museum (and a disturbing display of animal cruelty) and ran into a couple who were currently living in Shikoku but had come originally from Michigan. Small world. We took a moment to photograph the rice fields, which were nicely terraced and in full bloom, as it were (as well as having an ample supply of power lines).
From there, we headed towards the largest cedar tree in the world, or at least in Japan, which was located in a nice temple. We stopped first at a roadside cafe in the hills, which contained questionable food, the world's least talkative couple (not us) and some nice photos of Kochi Ken. The tree was, well, a really damned big tree. Old too - the signs said 3000 years or so. One side was partially (completely?) supported by bricks which had been placed where it had cracked. The temple was also quite nice, with wooden carvings of dragons.
Carrying on, we began passing through this amazing gorge which had not been developed at all. All the while we are passing through this amazing place (and stopping to take pictures), we are saying "Wow! If this is what the book describes as the 'not as good' valley, imagine what we're coming to!" Well, what we were coming to was a construction zone. The valley we came to was a tourist trap and undergoing serious construction. We paused long enough to take in the vine bridge and the nearby waterfall, and then we ran away, looking for a place to stay, preferably as close to Takamatsu as possible. On the way out, we found a neat little cable bridge over the river. On the far side was a scary hiking trail, which we didn't partake of. Instead we took some photos from the bridge, and then headed on. We paused to take a sunset photo of the flooding river as we passed over a bridge. We hit Takamatsu to find love hotels, grab some indian food, and do a print club. We also took a wander through the red light district, which has at least one English speaking (ish) "hostess".
What we finally found by way of lodging was the "Plus 1" love hotel, as convoluted a contraption as was ever invented for illicit sex between businessmen and their mistresses. Pulling in, you pull the cover closed on the parking space so noone can see your car. You then walk down a long covered tunnel to the entrance, where you take a key and go to the room. At this point, you have seen no people, and spoken to noone. In the room, there are assorted implements of destruction, as well as a free porn channel on the television, and a how to body rubbing mat in the bathroom. In short, these places are a hoot. They are also the cheapest places to stay by a long shot - 6000 Yen versus 8000 Yen anywhere else.
Sunday morning, we didn't really know what to see, so we headed to the Takamatsu train station for some tourist information. That didn't really help either, so we headed to the one thing we really wanted to see, the bridge between Shikoku and Honshu, and then planned to make the rest up as we went along. The bridge was just plain funny. There was a park commemorating the bridge, complete with fountains in the shape of the bridge and even a sky needle, from which I was able to take a photo of the bridge from above. It probably would have been much nicer had the surroundings been as pleasant as the park, but instead there was just a huge industrial complex.
On our drive to the next goofy site, we passed an amazing temple floating in the middle of the sea (OK - it was on a small island). Although we couldn't walk to it because the bridge was unfinished, we sat around admiring it from a distance for a little bit.
Finishing with park fun, we drove on to a place where, sometime around 1600 the villagers had made the impression of a giant coin in the earth. An interesting point of this was when I saw that directly across the bay was the city of Hiroshima, which meant if there were any tourists on that fateful day in 1945, they saw a most amazing sight directly behind the coin. Disturbing, to say the least. The coin was situated behind some shrines, which had some nice woodworking and a great example of the pilgrims who trek all the way around the island visiting all 88 shrines.
After the coin temple, we went to a money museum, where we both acquired some old Japanese money, and from there headed on to the highway. On the way back, we stopped by a rest area and acquired some gifts for the co-workers. While I was there, I snapped a photo to show that even the rest areas have amazing views in Shikoku. We then boarded the ferry and managed to get home (after some difficulty finding gas in Beppu) by 2am.
All the photos can be seen here
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Shikoku <- September, 2000 <- Japan <- Home