Published: August 17th 2008July 7th 2008
From the train
I love the bright green color of the rice fields.
Ehime is the most populated prefecture on Shikoku. Kagawa (the one I live in), Ehime, Tokushima and Kochi divide the tiny island into four (unequal) parts. Five months into my stay in Japan and I never visited the other three prefectures. >_<
One afternoon at work in early July my manager asked me to go to the Niihama School’s since that school had suddenly lost its teacher. I agreed and caught a train early to Iyo Saijo in Ehime that Sunday completely clueless as to what exactly I was doing when I got there. The ride took a little over an hour and I saw some more of the Shikoku countryside. At the station I was greeted by very friendly co-workers and students. Everyone piled into cars and drove through the quaint town up into the mountains. The BBQ site was at the base of Mt. Ishizuchi, which is tallest mountain on Shikoku. The food was great, the people nice and the view splendid. I went wading after lunch and I found the entire group wading after me when I reached the other side. We played in the river for awhile skipping stones and splashing around.
After the BBQ
ended I hitched a ride with Sarah and Maria to Matsuyama. It is nice to be in a car. I love trains, but vehicles really give you more freedom of movement. We stopped at a temple near Iyo-Saijo and it turned out the temple was one of the 88 temples that are famous on the Island. All year long you can see pilgrims traveling clockwise around the island to see all 88 in order. At the gates of this temple they had some unusual guardians. Traditionally these two guardians look more like Oni (demons). This particular pair looked more cartoonish and had angel wings. The rest of the ride to Matsuyama was pretty quiet, Sarah slept and I watched the mountain scenery and tried to keep Maria awake while driving. (She fell asleep for a second and scared the heck out of me.) In Matsuyama I found an amazing hostel to stay in just outside the Castle. After cooling off in the room for a bit I met Sarah for sushi and Baskin Robbins. We ended up sitting outside the ice cream shop until 1am talking. The next morning I got up and headed straight for the castle ropeway across
the street. Imagine chairlifts and that is how you make it up the steep mountain to the castle. It looks rather shady as far as safety goes, but is secure enough and really fun. At the top of the ropeway there is a place where you can borrow a paper parasol for free shade while you tour the castle grounds. Matsuyama Castle is one of 12 original Castles in Japan. The building is very well preserved and graceful. After riding the chairs back down I caught a trolley to Dogo. Dogo is an old tourist town that boosts the oldest Onsen (hot spring spa) in Japan and became a very popular destination after the novel “Botchan” was set there. Outside the station the Botchan train was resting and I got a good look at it before I headed across the street to a square with a clock. Just as I was crossing the clock struck one and came to life. It was a massive mechanical clock. After the 5 minute show the clock put on, it shrunk back down to its normal size and I soaked my feet in the complimentary hot spring fountain next to it. Then I headed
down the touristy shopping arcade to Dogo Onsen. At the onsen I paid for an hour in the onsen and headed inside much to the amusement of the workers there. Going to an onsen in Japan is an interesting experience. Almost every one is split into female and male sections with a locker room and onsen room. Some onsens have only indoor baths and some have both indoor and outdoor facilities. There is a specific ritual involved and you have to go through all the steps of showering and soaking. Onsens are not for the shy; basically you strip down naked and walk around in your birthday suit in front of complete strangers who are not at all awkward about staring at you or sitting down next to you and starting up a friendly conversation. When I had finished relaxing in Dogo Maria met me to give me my parasol that I left in her car back and drove me to the station.
There are more photos below