Thanks to people who sent me their ideas of what I should put in the photo exhibit. It's really interesting to see what other people thought was the best. In many cases, they were photos that I almost didn't even put on the site because I didn't particularly care for them, such as this. Likewise, some of the photos that I thought were my best didn't even get mentioned by anyone.
I still haven't decided all the photos I will show. I guess it depends on how good the prints look. I had a real scare when I went to the local print shop and had some of my photos printed in small size, just to see how they look. They were total crap. I know the Lumix only has 2 megapixles, but I thought that at least that small size should look ok. I began to worry if I would even have anything to show, but a trip to Yodobashi camera today gave me some comfort. I made some even larger prints of a few and they looked much better. I guess I shouldn't expect much from the local shop where I had to go in back, take control of the mouse, and actually show the guy how to resize the photo so it would all fit on the paper.
Andrew Beveridge at asbCreative/ has pulled some strings and has gotten me an opportunity to show some of my photos in cafe/bar/club here in Tokyo. This will be the first time for me to see framed prints of my own photos, so I'm not quite sure how they will turn out, or which photos may have looked good to me on the web, but aren't really exhibition material. I have my own list of my favorites, but wanted to get some other opinions. If you have been looking at my site over the past year or so, since I started posting the photos, and remember a few that you think would are better than the rest, or would be good to display, what are they?
Of course, if you're relatively new to my site, you are welcome to go through either the gallery, or, maybe quicker, to look through all my monthly archives for the past year (it has been exactly one year since I got that Lumix camera and got hooked on photography). Of course, unless you are on a broadband connection, it may take you a couple weeks to view all the archive pages.
As you can see by the photos in yesterday's post, Day 6 was rainy.
We had to be in Takamatsu in the afternoon to catch a ferry to Kobe. From there we would ride the Shinkansen back home to Tokyo. Along the way, I hoped to stop by at the apartment of a friend who lives in the nearby Marugame. Only thing is, we didn't expect to make it here, and I didn't have her contact info on me. No problem, I thought. I know what their apartment looks like, and since it is one of the few tall buildings in the area, I'll just ride toward it and knock on their door.
As we got closer however, I realized that the development company who made their apartment complex must have gone on a building spree. We stopped at four buildings that look just like hers, but just weren't. The rain was getting harder, and my stomach was asking me to stop. And stop we did, at a spa to take our last hot bath of the trip before packing up the bikes and heading to Takamatsu.
From there the trip is totally uneventful. We sat in Takamastu for a while waiting for the ferry. We were lucky enough to be at the shuttle-bus stop when the only bus to the ferry came and left 5 minutes ahead of schedule. If we had been on-time, we would never have known that the bus had left already, and I think we would still be waiting there.
The ferry from Kobe is an overnighter where everyone just sleeps on mats spread out over the floor. I usually sleep well when I am surrounded by hundreds of strangers and my camera, wallet, and tent are just lying there on the ground next to me, but somehow, this time I didn't get much rest.
Thinking back, I would have loved for the trip to last another week, but somehow the rain and stomach ache had me ready to get home where Awii and Klee were anxiously awaiting a chance to spread their wings, having been locked up the entire time. Although James from consumptive came by sometimes to feed them as he was walking his dog, his dog wanted to eat them, so they didn't get much air time then.
Some photos from Shikoku Day 6 and some personal updates-
In the past I wrote about going to Sweden, wondering if I should do it or not. In case I haven't mentioned it, I am going for sure. I have been acceped to my first choice, and I will be spending next year in Karlskrona, in the south of Sweden. As far as I can figure, the area very much resembles Disneyland.
Tomoe will be leaving Tokyo as well, being sent to USA by her company for six months. She still doesn't know where in the US, but she does know that she will need a driving liscense. She is busy now with work, her training courses, and her $3000 driving-school courses.
Since we will both be leaving, we have to get rid of a lot of stuff. The birds and a few other large items will go to her parents house for storage, but some things have to go. We still have the table, the washing machine, the refridgerator, and the massage chair if anyone wants them. We also have a ton of books I will list on the site if I have time.
I've been pretty busy lately with work stuff, trying to get my last big project done early so I can go to Sweden early and look for an apartment. I applied for one of the student housing facilities, but found there is a 300 day waiting list, so I guess I'll head over there early with my tent and live with the moose until I find an apartment.
I haven't "officially" mentioned it yet, but I cracked and bought the new Nikon D70 DSLR camera. I'm still not used to it, and it takes more work than my fully automatic Lumix. Of course the D-70 also has automatic mode, but I am making a real effort not to use it. At first I wasn't really pleased with the results, but several people seem to think my pictures are getting better, despite the fact that I never told them I had a new camera, so it looks like it may have been worth it. Last week I had beers with James from consumptive.org, who apparently knows more about photography than I even knew existed to be known. I learned a lot, and have already started incorporating some of what I learned into my latest photos, which, considering the backlog, should be on the site in oh... three of four months.
It's was day 5 and my stomach ache was only getting worse. We woke up at the golf club-house, packed our bikes, and rode on to Kochi where, realizing there was no way we could ride across the mountains in time, we wanted to catch an early train up to Kotohira.
Before we do that though, we had to fulfill Tomoe's dream of eating katsuo tataki (semi-raw tuna), which Kochi is famous for. We spent an hour wandering around the shopping area never buying the fish because with it's tourist attraction status, the prices were just way to high. We finally wound up buying some from a supermarket and sitting in the park to eat it.
We had asked the tourist information center were we should go to eat it, and he directed us to the area where we searched for an hour. After we had finished however, we rode our bikes a couple blocks away and came across a great, cheap, lively market selling tuna, and anything else you could imagine. Of course, after eating two pieces of the tuna I could barely walk, so I wasn't in the mood to eat more in the market, but far be it for me to allow my stomach ache to get in the way of Tomoe's dreams. We wound up eating a couple more little goodies, and finally catching an afternoon train to Kotohira.
Kotohira is famous for Konpira-san, which has a temple on top, reachable by climbing 1,200 or so steps. As I used to live in Kagawa-ken, I have had the opportunity to climb to the top several times - every time a new Japanese friend wanted to show my Japanese culture. Yes, mom, that is also where I took you when you came over.
It's a nice climb, despite the crowds, and it is a good way to kill time. Since we planned to set up tent in Kotohira, and we had several hours of daylight with no where to bike to. In fact, we had way too much time. We made it to the top and back, wandered around town a bit, found a nice place to set up the tent when it gets dark, waited and waited and waited until we were hungry.
While we were waiting we decided to take a bath in one of the many baths in the town. That plan dried up when we discovered that all onsen in the town close at 4 pm. As we were walking around, we realized that while there are hundreds of noodle shops (the area is home of the famous Sanuki udon), all the shops also close when the tourist mountain closed. There were only two places left open for dinner in the whole city. By the time we decided we were hungry enough, they were both packed, and the good, local-ish restaurant had a one-hour wait. The other place, a cheap chain izakaya had an open table, but they were so packed, with only one waitress that we still ended up waiting for about an hour for the food.
We try not to dwell on the negatives though.
It rained that night, but we had found a nice park with a semi-covered area, so we were for the most part protected. My stomach wasn't hurting so much anymore, so for good measure I scarfed down a bag of peanuts before going to bed.
I haven't found time to write a daily commentary for the remaining days of my trip, and it's quite old and faded from my memory anyway. Plus, I was pretty sick, so nothing really hapened other than climbing a bunch of steps, getting sicker, and coming home.
Maybe I'll go into detail later, but for now, just look at the photos (as I got sicker, I took less photos, and lost my motivation to look for good shots...)
Dave Pollard at "How to Save the World" is thinking out loud about his next career choice.
I left my employer of 27 years, five months ago, because I could no longer stand the stupidity, the greed, the politics, the suffocating hierarchy, the imaginative poverty, and being a part of the problem instead of part of the solution.
But after the initial exhilaration, I've been caught in analysis paralysis. The things I would be best at doing, the Meeting of Minds opportunities that immediately dropped into my lap, are not that dissimilar from what I was already doing, and though they'd pay well, they're not what I want to do. The things I'd really like to do, the things on my How to Save the World Roadmap, the things that would make a difference, are either way outside my competencies, or would (probably) be strictly volunteer work, and I'm not independently wealthy enough, even though we have reduced our footprint significantly in the past year, to work for free. Or, perhaps more honestly, I'm not courageous enough to work for free, and just see what happens.
Although I am younger and have much less invested in my current career path, presumably making me more flexible, as you know, I am a little hesitant myself about taking even a year to go to school and learn about environmental sustainability, something that has absolutely nothing to do with anything I have done up until now. I don't even know if there is any way for me to make a living with the knowledge I gain.
It's frightening to think that despite having more than we need, and being relatively certain that we will never really be hungry (if you are reading this blog, you have a computer, or access to one... chances are you have no realistic chance to fall below the poverty level), we are all so afraid to follow our beliefs and our hearts. It's frightening to see what a hold society's idea of "success" and "enough" have upon us.
Below is one scenario I constructed to help myself make my choice, and to try to encourage a friend who currently spends 10-12 hours each day using her extraordinary mind helping a company with a dubious environmental and social track record amass more wealth and power. Granted, she is learning ALOT. She justifies the conflict between her companies values and her own by telling me that she thinking perhaps it would be better for her to develop her skills at these companies, to amass some wealth, so that later she can use these skills and wealth to do good.
While I am sure she may truly believe this on some level, I believe it is a bullshit cop-out based on bad logic. She is fooling herself.
Now, when Jenny graduates, she has some choices. One one hand, she has her beliefs and her morals. On the other hand, she is an over-achiever, and although she is far from materialistic, and can't even find was to use the money she has now, the thought of watching her bank-account numbers grow with each months salary is very appealing to her. As smart as she is, she, like all of us, is still influenced by society's view of what constitutes success, namely, money.
Jenny is being actively recruited by X Corp, and several other companies which many of her friends are applying for and not even getting called back. Jenny's advisers are helping her compare the benefits of each of them, trying to help her choose. Organization Y of course would also love to have Jenny join their team, but they just don't have the resources to actively recruit her, and the name never comes up in conversation with her friends and advisers. While she knows a lot about Organization Y, and shares their goals and values, faced with the salary, prestige, and training that comes with X Corp, Organization Y is all but forgotten.
Jenny is not insensitive to the conflicting interests of X Corp and her own values, but faced with everything else, she justifies her decision to join X Corp by creatively revising her goals.
This all makes sense right? It must, I hear it so often from so many people.
But something just doesn't add up (boy am I glad I read that Introduction to Accounting textbook a few years ago). Let's take a close look.
Jenny spends 10 hours a day, 5 days a week working to further the goals of X Corp. That is roughly 2,600 hours per year. Now certainly not everything X Corp does is evil, and Jenny never does anything that directly goes against her beliefs, so to be fair (and to make the math easier), we will even reduce that to 2000 hours per year.
The main reason X Corp wanted Jenny, is because she is smart, and efficient, and can do almost anything she puts her mind to. Let's assume that for each hour she works at X Corp, she is contributing (or her future value) to their profits at least x% more than her own salary. Of course I don't know the actual return expected out of each employee, but I do know that X Corp spends much more than her salary just to train her.
You know what, let's just forget all the math... let's just do this with some good old common sense.
So, throwing the numbers out the window, we can still see that for each hour Jenny works at X Corp, she is increasing their productivity (or she would be out on her ass). After one year, her efforts has not only caused them to profit, but X Corp now invests the profits Jenny has helped with into, among other things, the dubious environmental and social practices they are known for, and recruiting other stars like herself. The more stars they can hire, the stronger they grow, the more damage they can do, and the more stars they can hire... it's a cycle. I think you get the picture.
Organization Y on the other hand, while still growing, does not have the human capitol of X Corp. They get fewer people of Jenny's caliber, and as a result, grow slower.
Fifteen years have passed now. Jenny has spent the first five at X Corp, then looking for a new challenge, and new skills to add to her arsenal (to be used sometime in the future in her fight for good), she has changed companies three more times. Each time was a step up in terms of career path. Each time her job entailed more and more responsibility, and her contributions were of a higher magnitude. Every place she went she helped the company to prosper and became a role-model for other young hopefuls who follow in her footsteps.
Finally she feels she has the skills, knowledge, and resources to turn the tables. Now she can work to further her beliefs and values. Certainly it will be a step down on the career ladder to join Organization Y, but that just goes to show how selfless and altruistic she is. It really is admirable isn't it?
She starts putting those skills to work, and she works hard. It's tough though, and the problems have grown steadily worse in the past fifteen years as X Corp and other companies like it have grown stronger, and their influence has spread. Sure, the skills and knowledge she has acquired over the years help, but not as much as they did at X Corp. One reason is that Organization Y just isn't as efficient as X Corp was, it doesn't know how to use her skills to their fullest potential. She is frustrated, wondering why no one implemented the policies and changes in Organization Y that she spent the last 15 years implementing in other companies. Another reason is that while the people are smart and passionate about what they are doing, there are fewer "great" people here than there were in her other offices. What's more, they have not received training to help them use their abilities to their fullest. She is frustrated, wondering why they don't make more of an effort to recruit, train, and retain more people like herself.
Now, Jenny is in a situation where she is exposed to bad news about the state of The Cause, news that was ignored or spun into a positive light at X Corp, making her feel that what she was doing was actually a "good" thing. The news isn't good. She realizes that the problem has progressed to a point where just to get back to the same situation of 15 years ago will take more time and money then Jenny even has to give. X Corp has an even stronger foothold in the human resource market, and with every new graduate they are able to entice, they grow stronger and Organization Y is left choosing only from those stars with extraordinary courage and conviction -a rare thing in a society where salary and job-title is more highly valued.
Of course, the moral is that by using her skills to help X Corrp grow, while she certainly honed those skills and gained some knowledge, everything she did to benefit X Corp in those years was compounded, creating even more benefit and momentum in the future.
If she had, however, chosen to go to Organization Y in the beginning, she might not have developed the same skills as she did at X Corp, but she would have developed other skills (that's what people like her do), and what is more important, her mass and momentum would have been added to Organization Y, making Organization Y more efficient, acting as a role model to help increase ORganization Y's human capitol.
Of course Jenny alone would not have caused Organization Y to grow stronger than X Corp, but the situation can best be described as a couple of snowballs rolling down a hill. With only a limited number of flakes (people) and flakes of different sizes and mass (people with more natural skills), it is easy to see what would happen of the smaller, snowball (Organization Y and a society of people fighting to make a positive difference) attracts more and larger snowflakes than the currently larger snowball (X Corp, and a society of people focused on their own wants). Not only does the good snowball gain more mass and speed, which we all know causes a snowball to grow faster, but the bad snowball doesn't gain that mass.
Once the good snowball gets closer to the bad snowball in speed and mass, it will be so much easier for those (most people I think) who currently feel trapped in the bad snowball to bail out, joining the good snowball which is more in line with their own values. And once the bad snowball is smaller than the good snowball it is no longer profitable for the selfish few to remain without the human resources. Eventually they will bail as well, or be left in our wake. They only have their momentum because we give it to them.
But, for this to happen, we have to not only donate money to help causes they care about, not only make minor changes in our lifestyles, but also STOP using the majority of our waking hours and skills to promote and grow the lifestyle that is causing the problems we hope to fix with donations in the first place.
We have to take a close look about the issues we care about, wether it is something we donate money to, volunteer for, or situations we just plain feel sick and sleepless about. Next, take a look at who benefits most from what we spend the majority of our time on, and who benefits form the way we spend the majority of our money? What does the company or client stand for, and do we have enough time and money left-over to donate just to make up for our supporting the root cause of the problems we hope to fix?
It doesn't seem to be brain science.
We made it a point to wake up early on Day 4. Looking at the distances on the map, we looked to be way off schedule, and being out in the middle of nowhere, there was really no train to get us back on schedule. Tomoe had to be back to work in a few days, and we wanted to make it up to the Sanuki area where I used to live in '95. We left the onsen in the middle of the mountains with a goal to make it as far as
To our joy and surprise, the entire ride was downhill. Looking at the map, we knew that most of it was, but it also looked like we had one big mountain to cross. If it was anything like yesterday, we would really have to haul-butt to make it to our destination.
Within two hours we had made it further than any other two hour span on the trip, so we began to relax and have fun, stopping more frequently to take in the sights. We were riding along a highway, so it wasn't as beautiful as the ride on Day 3, but the highway does have it's advantages too. We came across a rest area where the local farmer women were selling their veggies and homemade pickled goods. This is where I had the most amazing pickle in my life. A pickled loaf of tofu, bright red and steeped in shiso flavor. I ate three, and went back for three more.
Three oh-so-delectably sour tofus, three freshly made manjyus (sticky hammered rice with sweet beans in the middle -- these too were the best I have ever tasted) and going back for more. Maybe this was he beginning of the end for me. From the next morning until the day after I arrived back in Tokyo I had an endless stomach ache that hurt with each step I took.
Anyway, you can hear more about that on day 5, 6, and 7. For now, we are cruising down a mountain speeding toward our goal, actually arriving around noon, instead of the 6 p.m. we had anticipated. In fact, we arrived so early we now had a new dilemma. We didn't really want to spend the night in Kochi, a big city, so we had to find something else to do for the rest of the night without riding. We weren't really all that hungry, because riding downhill doesn't do much to build an appetite, but what else is there to do than eat?
We decided to ride toward Kochi, stopping at a small onsen we saw on the map just outside the city. Even riding slowly and stopping often, sometimes to take pictures, sometimes to let some rain blow over, we arrived way too early to take a bath. It just so happened however, that there was a little run-down driving range a couple hundred meters from the onsen. Tomoe, who is quickly being transformed into a corporate goon by her job, has recently begun to have an interest in golf, despite the many environmental problems with transforming biodiverse lands into chemical ridden playgrounds.
It was Tomoe's first time to hit a golf ball, so the first 500 worth of balls just kind of rolled far enough into the field that we couldn't retrieve it to try again, but by the end of the hour she was hitting quite nicely. I was in prime form (I used to be a caddy back in Michigan, so I have golfed three or four times in my life before I just got too sick of the monotony of it all... if only I had a camera back then, maybe golf would have been fun)
If you can't tell, I'm dragging this story out because not much else happened. We went to take a bath, ate some oden, had a few beers, and then it came time to find a place to camp. This onsen was more of a local bath than a tourist/traveler bath, so the surrounding area was very quiet. I asked the onsen lady if we could put up tent in her parking-lot, to which she replied, "No way, it's too dangerous with all the snakes!".
Now, Japanese (as well as Americans I guess) have a real problem with overreacting to small dangers. I imagined some garden snakes, and was sure that they cant get in my tent anyway, so we began to look for someplace to stay off of the onsen property. This led us back to the driving range, and the old man we had befriended earlier was just closing up, so I asked him if we could stay in his parking lot, under the roof in case it rains.
He refused, but insisted that we stay in the club house so long as we are out by 9 when they open. As he was moving the furniture to make room for our sleeping bags and preparing a midnight snack for us, he told us about the extremely dangerous snakes that live in the area. One bite and we could be dead within a few hours without medical attention.
As the rain outside gently lulled me to sleep, I noticed a huge gap at the bottom of the clubhouse door... I was about to say something to Tomoe about stuffing a blanket in there, but I was just too tired.
Just a few more photos of Day 3 which I just found in the Day 4 folder...
When we last left our heros, they where sleeping soundly in a tent down by the river as packs of wild dogs surrounded their tent.
Then, on day 3, we woke up and headed back to the Dogo onsen for a morning bath. The previous night we had taken a bath at Dogo II, which is a second onsen they build to capitalize on the popularity of the original one which was way too packed at night to get into. The morning was relatively empty.
It should be noted that this onsen is quite famous due to a novel by Natsume Soseki. For a couple of blocks around the onsen there is nothing but hotels and junk-shops. The main reason everyone comes there of course is to take a bath in the famous onsen, so it gets pretty crowded. At night the streets are also packed with people wandering around in their yukatas (Japanese pajamas).
So, getting back to the adventure, we took a bath and hit the road west. Our goal was to make it to someplace mid-way between Matsuyama and Kochi. Although we had no idea if there was anyplace to stay along the way, we were thinking we should try to get to Yanadani. This would leave us enough time to get to Kochi the next day. I don't know if you're paying attention, but the area between Matsuyama and Kochi is further than the distance we have travelled in the past two days, but this time it is over an entire mountain range. Still, for some reason I thought we could do it if we left early enough.
It wasn't until around noon that we turned south to start heading over the mountains. We decided against the easy route, which would have taken us along a busy high-way, and instead chose a small winding farm road over one of the higher mountains. Our success hinged on our hopes that once we got over that mountain, we would be able to go pretty much downhill untill we reached Yanadani.
The uphill ride/walk took about two hours longer than we expected, but it was the greatest leg of any trip we have taken so far. Along the way we were passed by a handful of cars, and the view all the way up was amazing. It was warm, partly sunny, and the road was flanked by farms and rice fields on each side for the first three hours until we hit the undeveloped forest near the top. Stopping for a lunch break to take it in, we looked at the map and hopeful of the great downhill ride we would have on the other side, we figured that it may still be possible to meet our goal.
The road went through a short tunnel near the top, taking us from the north face to the south face. As soon as we exited the tunnel, helmets on, packs secured, brakes tuned, ready for the wind in our hair... the road became a pothole filled dirt and gravel road with rocks and tree branches strewn all across the path.
Now, if it wasn't for the heavy packs we had on the back of our bikes, this would have been great fun, cruising down the off-roadish trail at high speeds, catching some hang-time jumping off of especially tasty rocks and potholes. but the fact is we did have the heavy packs, and we were looking forward to a smooth cruise down a winding mountain road.
The going was slow, and about five minutes down, it got even slower. As a matter of fact, it stopped when I noticed I no longer had any air in my back tire. Now, I don't know how smart you think we are, but I bet we're not even that smart. Although we had some patches in the bag in case of a flat, we didn't have an extra tube, nor did we have an air-pump for one of my tires, which was English make. Tomoe's tires, and one of mine are French make, and Tomoe has a portable pump for that, but if that English tire blows at the top of a deserted mountain, we would really be screwed.
Lucky for us, the French tire was the flat one. Now we just have to hope that old cheap patches we had would work. Just after I got the wheel off, a truck came driving by (the only vehicle we saw on that side of the mountain that day). He just drove on by...
Patch number one failed, probably because it was so dang old, and now we were down to three left, and there were three holes in the tube. about fifteen minutes later the man in the truck came back. Apparently he was out looking for a river for water to brush his teeth and felt a little guilty having passed us by. He hung out until we got the tire fixed, making sure that we were OK to start riding down the mountain again, which was a load off our minds, and we were back on the road again... this time going even slower than before.
About halfway down we ran into paved road again, and all was beautiful, just as we had imagined, until we ran into a tiny village which was better than we imagined. It is almost as if the area around these mountains are the forgotten Edens of Japan. It would make sense too that if such a place exists, it would be on Shikoku. Unless you live there, there is literally no reason to even be passing through the farthest corner of the smallest island of Japan. Even any tourists would probably be on the highway or taking the coastal road around the mountains. I am now torn between buying a house here, or back on Oshima.
As the sun began to set, we were nowhere near our goal, but we did happen to reach a great public onsen in the middle of the valley where we stuffed ourselves, took a nice bath, and set up tent under the stars in the middle of the mountains of the eden of Japan.
The show is about the sate of the Oceans, based on the findings of a comission charged with developing recomendations for a new comprehensive national ocean policy.
Polution, uncontrolled coastal development, habitat destruction, over fishing... it's got it all. Listen to it if you aren't afraid to take responsibility for youreslf and your consumption habits.
It's really amazing to me how nobody I know would argue with findings such as those related to plastic particles in the ocean, seeming to indicate that it is pretty much common sense that what we are doing is just not good for the earth. I'm not just talking about paper vs. plastic at the checkout counter mind you, I'm talking *everything* we consume that is wrapped in or made of plastic right down to those annoying little plastic caps that came on the ends of the cables I encouraged when I bought my mac. It's my fault too... (in retrospect, if I had it to do over, I would not have purchased the new computer. Not just because of that of course, but because the whole thing is just not worth the environmental costs)
I just can't figure out why so much attention in the blogosphere is given to the war in Iraq, as worthy as it is of our attention, but the bigger threat to *all* of humanity and all other life on this planet repeatedly goes unmentioned. I would guess it has something to do with the fact that with the war in Iraq, we can all just blame good old Bush, crying and stomping our feet about how he is only representing his own interests, not ours... with the exception of one day in November, we feel pretty much free from responsibility.
Reducing our use of plastics on the other hand... that's a daily responsibility. There is no one to blame for failure but ourselves really. I guess it's just a lot easier to spend so much time complaining than it is to spend just a little time changing our own habits.
We woke up late on day 2 (about 9am), crawled out of our tent behind the garbage can, and took a breath of fresh sea air. Packed up the tent and rode through a little village similar to those which we had, for the most part, missed the day before because we were so pressed for time to make it to the main island of Shikoku.
Right in the village where we had stayed, we found a great house for sale. It was dilapidated and the yard filled with junk, offering a great opportunity to take on a fixer-upper project. I was ready to buy it on the spot. Unfortunately, Tomoe's company doesn't have an office on Oshima. I took a photo of the phone-number though, and I'm keeping it in the back of my mind... It really would be a great place to live. The yard was big enough to fulfill all our fruit and veggie needs, there are no high-rise apartments around blocking the sun, and, it is walking distance from the coast where I could kayak around the Seito Inland Sea every day.
Anyway, we made it around Oshima, planning to ride across the bridge to the mainland, but for some reason decided to take a ferry which dropped us off right in the middle of Imabari, over an hour out of our way in the wrong direction. While there, we ran into an old man who really wanted to tell us about the ship-propeller industry there. That threw us another hour off schedule. Finally, we got lost on the way out of the city, so ended up taking the long way back to our planed route. While we were supposed to be camping in the mountains tonight between Matsuyama and Kochi, we had to change our plan, making Matsuyama our goal for the day.
The ride to Matsuyama was nice, but required following a highway, breathing in the toxic fumes of vacationers in their cars and trucks. I can't call it the greatest day of the trip, but it beats sitting behind a computer.
We arrived in Matsuyama quite early. The only thing there really is to do there is take a bath in the famous Dogo onsen, but it was too early for that, so we parked our bikes and took the trolly train around the city for a couple hours waiting to get hungry enough to really enjoy a good dinner.
Dinner tasted great. I wish I could remember the name of the shop we ate at. Not to recommend it though, to warn you not to go there. From the minute we walked in, they made it their goal to rip us off. As we were looking at the selection of fresh fish, trying to decide, the cook offered to just cook us up some of his favorites if we told him our budget. That sounded good, but we still wanted to order some of our own choices separately, so we told him 3000 yen for both of us. He agreed, and we later found that he tried to fake misunderstanding, planning to charge us 3000 yen each. Luckily, we caught him before he could complete his little plot. When we got the bill later however, he had only charged us 3000 yen instead of 6000, but it was still outrageously high. They didn't give us a receipt, so I asked for it, and he gave me a piece of paper with some scribbles. I asked him to go through it itemized, and he said "See, 100 yen, 500 yen, 350 yen" etc... without telling me what the actual food was. After some pressing, I found some items we had not ordered, and am sure there were still some others, but having gotten the bill a little closer to what it should have been, we decided to call it quits. The food was really good after all.
It was getting late, so we head back to the onsen which was quite a disappointment. One point of advice about Japan. If something is famous, skip it. Such places can exist on their fame alone, luring hordes of clientele who care less about quality than about saying they visited a famous onsen. It was crowded, small, no soap (standard in most baths), no beer in the rest area, no cold bath. In it's defense, it was cheap, and the water was hot.
After the bath, we hit the streets of Matsuyama looking for a place to pitch our tent. We met an old man who gave us the run down. Basically the park where had planned to stay was not a good idea. A couple years ago there was a violent incident. Apparently it is still unsafe. Instead he directed us to the river, telling us to beware of the wild dogs.
All in all, it was a great day. Tomorrow we head over the mountains toward Kochi.
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!
So we're back home from the trip. All in all it was a good trip, bright and sunny the first day, partly cloudy on day two and three, then day four, five and six brought steadily worsening weather. The rain is nice for a while, riding through forests and pine trees, where it creates magnificent mists and the comfortable rainy-forest smell, but rain in the city is nothing fun. We ended up taking a train for part of the trip toward the end, and actually cutting it a bit short, opting to spend half of one day in a hot-bath spa rather than ride through the rain.
I'll be adding a bit of a day-by-day account later, for now I'll just post some of the photos I took. I am utterly disappointed in my photos from this trip. While some of the things we saw, especially on day two and three, were some of the most magnificent I have seen since in Japan, in the interest of making progress, I didn't stop as often as I would have liked to take pictures. The result of this restraint are less than 300 photos from the whole week, most of which are boring landscapes. Still, I think it is worth showing just to give an idea of what Shikoku looks like.
There are only two restaurants in Kotohira. The service SUCKS at this one.
We took the train to Kotohira.
We asked the driving range owner if we can put our tent in his parking lot. Instead he insisted we stay in the clubhouse.
Made it much further than expected. Can reach Kochi in 2 hours if we try.
The other side is gravel.
4 hours up. Now we get to go down. The goal was to reach Kochi by tomorrow night. I think we may have to change that.