This blog is for family and friends, to share my feelings and photos with and for myself, to support my fading memory and improve my Japanese. I intend to do some writing in kanji, but am not getting very far without a Japanese computer. So for the moment I say "konnichi wa". Aisatsu dake - just saying hello.

Friday, 31 January 2020

Shikoku. A long long story

Often thought about this part of Japan, often talked about it and how we should visit. This winter we got our chance. On Christmas Eve we packed the beds, winter clothes, camera gear, our favourite snacks and Nori the cat in Billie the Bus and off we went. First to Oita. From Beppu on the ferry to Yawatahama and saw the huge orange.

Took in a bit of sunshine

Below a lady working in a tatami shop in Yawatahama. How many years has she been here, doing the same thing over and over again?

We then drove to Ozu castle.

The weather was a mixture of cloudy, rainy sometimes stormy but not too cold.
First night stop at Nijinomori Park in Matsuo...

...where we took a bath in the hot spring on the 2nd floor of the Matsumaru train station

Lots of pretty old houses... and stray cats. They seem to go together a lot.

Some famous writer's house; open to the public

Vending machines selling beer. Not many of those left!

The place to eat eel and some other things as on the pictures (zoom in)

The next  day we drove along the river towards the coast of Shimanto
Lots of low clouds, steam and even smoke creating a mysterious atmosphere.

Very narrow roads at times! We haven't owned Billie that long yet, but Jaap is getting used to it and doing very well!

Impressive sturdy bridges, in the middle of nowhere

Our 2nd night stop. At Sun Sun Park in Shimanto. Look at Billie, our Blue Bee camper Bus!

Needle pointing north. In case we forgot?

Next morning's view

Probably a popular place in summer, but desolate on this winter day.
The good part was the toilet building being just 5 steps away

Surf beach around the corner

In Shimanto city we stopped at one of the 88 temples of Shikoku, Iwamotoji, temple nr 37

There is this famous Buddhist pilgrimage, where people walk around the island of Shikoku to pay their respect at 88 designated temples. Some Pilgrims walk the whole way in white cotton robes, even in winter, when it's freezing, sometimes without proper shoes. We looked out for those and saw them, but they were dressed in colourful rain gear (It was pouring that day) and we could only tell them by their huge backpacks. Not the real hardship stuff, but still very very brave!

From there we drove to Iya Valley, tucked away in the centre of the island in an area with high mountains, steep ridges, deep deep valleys, super clear rivers and gorgeous gorges. People who live here cannot easily get out to go to a restaurant, see a movie or buy household goods, not even groceries. Consequently many people have left. 

Many villages are half or three quart empty. Many houses are neglected and in decay.
There was this lady who returned from the city and decided to give her village a bit more colour. She started to make life-sized dolls. These dolls, depicting real people who had lived here in the past, are set up all over the tiny town. The locals call them kakashi, which translates as scarecrows. However their purpose is not to protect the crops from birds. Not expecting anything like this, every display became a very pleasant and lively surprise!

Living in such an inaccessible mountain area people in the old days had to make things like bridges to cross the rivers with their own hands. Vine bridges used to be a common sight. Now just a couple are left and after some heavy reinforcement have become a tourist attraction.

Did somebody really ever ride this bicycle here?

Early start the next morning to see the sea of clouds over the Yoshino River. There were lots and lots of clouds. But no clear view above. Never mind. Many misty mysterious scenes to photograph. 

On the move again. From Iya to Kumakogen right through the middle of Shikoku, through more wild mountains and valleys, on a road - the only road - barely navigable with our bus.

(Had to get outside for this fairytale-like scene)

All those muddy trails, hidden potholes, deep puddles, steep drop offs and on-coming traffic encounters on top of heavy rain, poor visibility and many skipped heartbeats made this trip unforgettable, but it was very much worth it!

Our destination on day 6: Mimidodake in Kumakogen

No sunny sights, just more misty gloomy and spooky scenarios

Iwayaji, temple nr 45 (Yeah, we skipped a few) The year 2019 drew to an end and more people had taken the time to go somewhere. Like these 2 pilgrims, who came from one of the big cities on Honshu. They were doing their pilgrimage in parts, visiting a few temples at the time. Travelling by car, as most of them do now. We all hiked the easy path up hill.

Apart from a bus load of Chinese visitors in Iya at the first Kazura Bashi (vine bridge) we had not seen any tourist. But then we got to Matsuyama...

Waiting to get into the famous Dogo Hot Spring's bath house

Hotels supply yukata wear for their guests. So easy for taxi drivers when they need to find their way back after a few hot sake's in town.

After a glimpse (literally!) of the castle and a stroll through the crowded roads at Dogo Hot Spring town...

 ...we left for the next town north Imabari. Here another castle, temples etc but less crowded. 
But first a good night at a michi no eki (Kazahaya no sato in Oura) and a breath full of sea air to cure withdrawal symptoms. Once a sailor...

Imabari Castle

An exhibit of carved bamboo at the castle's inner yard

It was New Years Eve and we celebrated it with our own hot, hot bath (as seemed to be the custom) before heading to our 7th night stop, at the top of Shikoku island, where we had a view of the first of the 7 bridges across the Setonaikai. (Inland Sea)

The first sunshine of the year 2020!

Billie meeting a smaller brother, owners having a chat

So, on January 1st we crossed the 7 bridges to Honshu, stopped for a brief visit at a friend's place in Hiroshima and an equally short stop in Iwakuni, where we found out that the beautiful Kintai Bridge was wrapped up in sheets and being repaired :-(

We will have to come here again one day.

 Greetings from Nori, who slept most of the time and all the best from the rest of "us"

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