Friday, 11 January 2013

Day 18: First steps on Shikoku

Day 18 (23 Dec): Shikoku, the island we were headed for, is the smallest of Japan's four main islands and home to four prefectures. We were going to stay in Ehime prefecture, home of citrus...everything. The island also forms part of the 'Inland Sea', the Settonaikai, a spectacular waterway filled with may more islands and a prominent fishing region. To get across to the island meant traversing the enormous bridge which was opened several years ago, making access to Shikoku just that much easier.

The view from the bunk(er)
at 6.12am. 
But at 6.12am, we were still on the overnight sleeper. I woke up in my curtained cubicle. Interesting shelf-style bunks, and felt like a chook roosting waiting for sunrise. We were still an hour or so from our arrival at the station where we were due to change trains for Matsuyama, and another couple of hours travel, though sitting upright at least...

All sorts of trinkets at 6.12pm
We arrived at Jinko's friend's house (let's call her Ehime-san, her nickname from university days) who was very keen to show us around. As I was to learn, the central feature of Matsuyama is the Dogo Onsen, a large public hot spring bathing house, and each of our four days was going to be centred on going there each day. Planning your day out around getting back to the public bathhouse was going to be interesting.

By 6.12pm, we were in one of the many shops which line the streets of 'onsen' towns, trying to entice tourists with all sorts of souvenirs, ranging from a few yen to many hundreds of thousands of yen--who has those sorts of pockets full of money on the way to the bath?

One of the initial sites we saw was 'Bansuiso', a majestic and historic residence built in 1922 and based on French villas of the era. Owned by a then member of the Japanese aristocracy, it is used these days as a function centre. It is set in a marvellous Japanese garden.

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