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Shikoku Day 1


First, this is Shikoku (The island with the big red cross-hair on it). From now I will be explaining where we went using Yahoo maps. Each map will have a big red cross-hair showing either the city I am talking about, or the road we followed. In case you are not familiar with Yahoo maps, or you can't read Japanese, or you're my mom, clicking on the links above the map with a 1/xxxx will give you either a zoomed in or zoomed out view of the map, depending on what you click.

Now, Day 1.

After arguing with Tomoe for a couple days about when to leave Tokyo, we finally decided to take the earliest Shinkansen train on Thursday (Apr 29) morning. Seeing as how the plan was to ride around Shikoku as far as possible, I begged and pleaded to take the last train on the 30th, camp overnight and start riding early in the morning. Instead, we arrived at Shinomichi station at just past noon, set up the bikes, and began to ride.

Now, you may have noticed that this is not actually on Shikoku. Shikoku is a hard place to get to, and in the interest of money and time, and also because the islands in the Seito inland sea look really cool, we decided to ride across them from Honshyu (the main island). Our goal the first day was to make it to Matsuyama. It would have been possible if we had started riding early in the morning as I had wanted to, but as it was, we only made it to a village, on Oshima.

In retrospect, I'm glad we stayed there. seeing the sunset from the islands was nice, and waking up early in Oshima, riding from dawn was nice too... but we were way off schedule.

The islands were great. Tomoe's manager actually grew up on Oshima, and after seeing it, neither of us could imagine what it would be like to grow up there. Now there is a nice bike path following the high-way across the bridges from Honsyu to Shikoku, but at that time there may only have been ferries. Although now I would love to live in such an isolated place, I can only really say that because I have had the opportunity to live in hell-holes like Tokyo. It's ironic that kids growing up there probably dream of moving to the big city, when they have no idea how good they have it there.

Anyway, back to the story. So, we got off at Shinomichi and stopped at the grocery store to stock up on supplies. In our previous trips, the one thing we have learned is that no matter how many 7-11s there are in Japan, there is never one around when you really need it. It's a tough decision though, deciding what to stock up on. If we don't get enough, we may go hungry when we stop for the night in a little town only to find that there are no 24 hour convenience stores, and all the restraints are closed. If we buy too much, we either end up forgoing some great opportunities we come across along the way, such as the many mikan (orange) stands throughout the islands, or we feast on the mikans and throw away the rotting supplies we purchased before starting. This time, we bought water (always need that) chips, and cucumbers. I ended up loosing the cucumbers off the back of my bike somewhere on day three.

The sky was clear, it was not too hot, not too cold, and Shinomichi was smaller and quainter than Tokyo. I was in heaven. Unfortunately, because of the late start, I didn't take my camera out much. I could have spent the entire day in that city alone just walking and taking pictures, not to mention the other islands.

Although there is a nice bike-path that takes us from Honshyu to Shikoku, we happened to pass the 150 yen ferry to Mukaishima. Originally, I had planned to ride around each Island as we made our way south. I think I underestimated their size, or else I overestimated our speed. We pretty much followed the highway bke-path, and by sunset we were only at Hakatashima.

We decided to look for a bath and place to eat on Oshima. (un?)fortunatly, it is not a big tourist attraction, so the best we could do for a bath was to convince the owner of a little hotel to let us use the shower in an open room. Of course we ate dinner at his restaurant, and paid a couple hundred yen for the shower, but it was worth it. That dinner was one of the best of the trip. There is nothing like an ordinary meal and ordinary beer after a day of physical strain. It's really a great feeling to finally kick back, look at the map, and drink that first glass.

It really puts a lot into perspective. Here, most of the people I know, including Tomoe and myself, are working in "knowledge" jobs. We spend our days behind a desk solving "problems", which are only really problems because we perceive them as such, writing code, figuring out how to legally cheat on taxes, etc... yet when it comes down to it, almost no one I know, including myself and Tomoe are providing any real value to the world. Not that riding a bike around some islands provides and value, but I can't help but think that perhaps the reason my normal dinner never tastes so good, is that I never do any real work. I never really move my body, I never tire myself out. I simply sit behind a desk and write some silly programs. I wonder what it would be like if I was actually out there working the land, providing something that people need... how great would my dinner taste then, after a day filled with satisfaction!

Anyway, to top it off, the people at the next table were life-long residents of the island, and we had a little chat about what it is like to live there. In return for their stories, I played the role of strange foreigner for their kids who I would imagine don't have much opportunity to see the likes of me.




After dinner and a shower, we walked along the waterfront looking for a place to pitch tent that is inconspicuous enough to protect us from the ax-murderers known to frequent the area. We found a place near some garbage. It was a dream come true.

Thus ended day 1.

Don't miss the next episode where we wake up and ride some more!

Comments

Wow, what a great seriesof photos. I especially like the one of the woman working the land.

Awesome.

Everyone I've met who grew up in Shikoku has told me they hated it there because there was nothing to do. A lot of people from the countryside here in Japan seem to say that. I guess I'm like you, I love the quiet and isolation of the countryside. When I lived in Shizuoka I'd come to Tokyo about once every two months or so. After one hour walking around all I could think of was getting back on the train and heading home.

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