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Takamatsu August 4, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Shikoku, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Takamatsu” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-dc

Takamatsu is considered to be the largest city in Shikoku, at least for its city core.  It is also the head of the Shikoku government offices and the heart of business in Shikoku.  Upon entering the city, you will realize how different it is from other parts of Shikoku.  It is a vibrant city that relies a lot on business to keep it running.  Being part of the Kagawa region of the island also means it is the home of the best udon in Japan.  While the city is fairly large, it isn’t what most tourists would call, interesting, unlike Matsuyama.

There are only two things to really see in Takamatsu, Ritsurin Koen and the Tamamo Breakwater.  Ritsurin Koen is a Japanese style park that is also national treasure.  It is located about two kilometres from Takamatsu station.  The park itself is fairly large.  It can be a little difficult to find your way and to see everything quickly.  There is an old small tea house located near a red cliff.  This tea house is only for viewing as it is no longer in use.  The red cliff is probably the most famous image of the park.  While it is called a cliff, it isn’t that large, and follows the edge of the park.  It is modeled after a similar, albeit much larger, cliff in China.  There is also a large tea house located in the centre of the park.  This tea house is very nice and located next to a calm pond.  Unfortunately, like most tea houses in Japan, it was very expensive.  Walking around the park, you can find yourself lining up to climb a bunch of steps to the top of a mound of earth.  This mound is called Mt. Fuji.  It is said to look similar to the real Mt. Fuji at different times.  Unfortunately, I didn’t see it that way, but it is a great place to take panoramic photos of the park.  Lastly, you can also visit the gift shop area where you can buy very expensive bonsai trees, or wood carvings.  If you have ever been to Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo, this park will not be that impressive.  It is still a very nice park overall.

Behind the station, you can head straight to the pier where you’ll be able to enjoy a nice walk out to the breakwater.  The Tamamo Breakwater is a pleasant walk and the lighthouse is an amazing sight at night.  Unlike most traditional lighthouses, where only the top shines, the entire lighthouse glows red.  There is also a small park located between the pier and the station buildings.  Within the park, if you arrive at the right season, you can visit a very beautiful rose garden with dozens of rose bushes.  It makes for a very beautiful and relaxing stroll.  If you have the energy, you can also walk over to the Takamatsu-jo and enjoy the beautiful gardens as well.  Unfortunately, the castle was destroyed many years ago, but is scheduled to be rebuilt starting in 2010.  If you can wait a few years, you might be able to enjoy this castle someday.

If you aren’t so interested in sightseeing, Takamatsu is a very bicycle friendly city.  There are several shotengai with various shops in each one.  Takamatsu claims to have the longest shotengai in Japan. If you consider a shotengai to be just one street, then this is not true. If you combine them, and the fact that they are all connected, then this is true. Each shotengai street seems to have its own theme.  I would recommend renting a bicycle at the station before exploring the shotengai.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know about bicycle rentals and went everywhere on foot.  Being in the area of Kagawa, Sanuki Udon is very famous.  You will be able to find udon in almost every corner of the city.  Going to an expensive restaurant is nice, but you can easily find cheap varieties on almost every street. Most of the time, you just order what you want, grab some side dishes, such as tempura, and grab a seat.  You can easily eat for under 500 yen.  When you have nothing better to do, I would recommend heading to one of the udon shops, grab a quick bowl of udon, and chow down.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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Ozu to Matsuyama July 7, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Shikoku, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Ozu to Matsuyama” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-cI

Ozu is a short ride from the coast of Shikoku.  From route 56, I would recommend heading up route 24 in Ozu to reach the coast.  It is a very nice flowing road that generally follows the river.  Upon reaching the coast, I had two options; head west to a peninsula that runs along the Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean, or head east towards Matsuyama.  I had a full day ahead of me, so I decided to head west.  Going west along route 378 and then route 197 will take you into the city of Ikata and then the port town of Misaki.  Route 197 is a “Melody Line” that winds its way along the peninsula, cutting through the mountains.  There are a couple of highway stations that offer very nice views of the Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean.  Other than that, there is nothing very special about this road.  Looking at the coast, there is an interesting road that winds its way around the mountains instead of cutting through them.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to enjoy this.  The main thing to see is a major wind farm.  It is very hard to miss all the large windmills that generate a lot of power for the region.  It does offer a couple of photo opportunities if you are interested.  Once you reach the town of Misaki, you will realize how little there is to do.  It is a fishing town that is used mainly to ferry people from Shikoku to Kyushu.  On clear days, you can easily see Kyushu.  If you have the time, you can also venture a little further to the tip of the peninsula, which has a large lighthouse.  I didn’t bother to go, but I doubt it is very interesting.

Upon returning, I would highly recommend the drive up the coast.  To do this, you head the same way you started.  You will see many small towns dotting the coast as you drive towards Matsuyama.  There are various places to stop, let the children out, and play in a playground.  However, it isn’t until you get to Futami, that there is anything to do.  Futami has a famous beach where people from Matsuyama can enjoy as a daytrip.  It is a very small beach artificial beach, but it is still beautiful.  Unfortunately, it is lined with tetrapods to protect the sand from being washed out.  This beach has a lot of things to see and do.  The first thing you will notice is a large structure located in the middle of the beach.  There is also a wedding arch that is usually standing.  They try to promote beach weddings in Japan.  Unfortunately, when I arrived, the wind knocked down the arch leaving a small mess.  The buildings at the beach offer the usual souvenirs, but they also offer a couple works of art.  The first is the Moai, mini replica statues of the Moai men from Easter Island.  It is a very small piece of art that is easily missed.  Most people tend to look out towards the beach and the Inland Sea, rather than the buildings.  The other main piece of art is a replica of Stonehenge.  This is located on the roof of the building, and very few people head up there.  It is a very strange piece of art, but worth a quick look.  The main thing to do is to just relax and enjoy the beach as much as you can.  Bring a lunch, or wait in line for some of the barbequed food and your afternoon will be set.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Route 55 (Tokushima to Kochi, via Muroto) June 16, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Shikoku, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Route 55 (Tokushima to Kochi, via Muroto)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-c1

For the first full day of my motorcycle adventure, I travelled down from Tokushima to Kochi.  It was over 200kms for my first day of riding.  The first part was very boring.  When you drive in Japan, the cities are places you want to skip.  There isn’t anything to really see.  You just go from light to light seeing nothing new.  It took about an hour to get outside of Tokushima and its surrounding suburbs.  Once out of the city, things got smaller, yet more scenic.  Things didn’t become interesting until I reached the small town of Hiwasa.  This is a very small town located about two hours along route 55.  It is so small that you will be in and out of this town in less than 10 minutes.  There are only a few things to do in this town.  The main point of interest is to visit Yakuouji Temple.  This is built right next to the highway, and up a mountain.  There are many steep steps to reach the temple.  I found it to be an interesting temple for its location and how it was built, but the art and basic design wasn’t any different than any other temple in Japan.  There is also a small castle in this town and a few beaches where you can relax and enjoy yourself.  It is a good place to stretch your legs a bit if you are travelling this way.

From Hiwasa, I would recommend leaving route 55 and heading down route 147.  This is a very small road, and the entrance is very easy to miss.  It is just past the temple, which can’t be missed.  This road follows the coastline more than route 55.  There are several mountains along this part of the coast making road construction difficult.  Route 55 heads to the north side of these mountains making it easier to drive.  However, the views from route 147 are wonderful and you’ll be graced with various types of corners.  This is more for drivers to enjoy.  There are also several different lookouts, but after one or two, they tend to look the same.  Heading further along route 55, there isn’t much to see.  However, there are many beaches, dams, and other things to see.  If you are travelling along anywhere in Japan, there is one easy way to know if there is something interesting to see.  The government tries to help local communities attract more tourists by promoting local attractions.  On the road, you will see a large white sign with blue lettering.  This is almost always something of interest.  Unfortunately, it isn’t always really interesting, so if you are driving around in Japan, beware that some sites may be worth a pass.

The main tourist attraction along route 55 is Muroto.  It is the southern most point of the highway.  Shikoku has two capes in the south.  Muroto is the western one.  It is very easy to drive in and out of Muroto.  There isn’t much to this cape.  However, it is a great place to stop and spend at least an hour.  There are a few places to take pictures, and the seawater is extremely clear.  The first thing you will see, coming from Tokushima, is a giant statue of a Buddhist monk.  Once you pass this large Buddhist monk, you will soon reach the tip of the cape.  There are a few places to park, but once you park, it’s a short two minute hike to the waterfront.  The waterfront if full of rocks that can make it difficult to walk around.  However, because of the remoteness of the cape, it is extremely peaceful.  There are only a handful of people around at any time.  I would highly recommend a dip in the water, but beware that you’ll need your bathing suit at the cape.  There are too many people around to go skinny dipping.  If you have time, you can also head up the mountain at the cape and take a look at the lighthouse.  It is the largest lighthouse in Japan and it can be seen from over 50kms away.  The views from the lighthouse must also be very nice.

After passing the cape, there isn’t too much to see.  The road follows the entire coastline up to Kochi.  The coast is very beautiful and worth the drive, however, there isn’t too much to do along this part of the road.  If you have a chance to rent a car and travel down this way, I highly recommend that you should do it.  You will have a wonderful day trip.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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