The last islands of Japan
A handy knife
Okonomiyaki on a stick!
Leaving the Kansai region, I followed the nearby coast to cross into Shikoku, one of the main islands of Japan. It was the first time I was leaving Honshu since Hokkaido up north, and this time for good. There are a few massive bridges that cross onto the island, although they are mostly no-go for cyclists. On the way, I stopped in Himeji to see it’s famous castle, but it was all covered and locked down due to a multi-year renovation effort. The work being done there is quite impressive, but I’ll have to come back in the future… ah, yet another reason. I stopped on the smaller island of Shodoshima, Japan’s olives capital, before another ferry brought me to Shikoku.
And how to say, it has to be the best I’ve rode in Japan. Really quiet mountain passes, magical looking forest, tight valleys, hill-side perched village and more. The locals, while still thick in Japanese politeness, were even more friendly then usual. Anyway I just had a good time, seeing stuff I had waited to see in Japan for a long time now.
From Tokushima, I made it to the Iya Valley with it’s beautiful gorges and delicious hard tofu, through the pass at Tsuguri-san and then over a few more to the sea. Had a funny encounter with some other touring cyclists, a rare sight, enjoyed some last flower blossoms in the mountains and even got offered some fish, a great gift which proved to be quite a camping cooking challenge. I managed a few days of surfing, probably the only opportunity this year, and rode the coast to Kochi for a little break. The road there is filled with ‘ohenro’, pilgrims that are walking around the island to complete a circuit of 88 temples, usually walked in around 3 months. With their cone-shaped bamboo hat and white blouse, they are quite easy to spot! It’s also spring in the fields, so cheap sweet vegetables were everywhere on the roadside, another thing I didn’t saw much in Japan.
The road west was mostly another set of pretty mountain passes and valleys, with special mention to the alpine road at the Tengu Plateau, where Japan pretends to be New-Zealand for a moment. From there, to the coast, and a last ferry brought me to Kyushuu, the final island of Japan for me. Fighting some rain and a building knee pain, I only did a short trip there. I wished to see more, but I was eager to move on to Korea. After enjoying some onsen time in the hot spring city of Beppu, I climbed up to Aso, a town and mountain region located inside a massive crater. Quite impressive, even if most of it was drowned in a thick cloud and fog cover. It’s a pretty volcanic region and onsen villages are scattered all over the place. Kurosawa being one pretty example, although most of the accommodation there is ‘honeymoon-priced’ I would say.
Finally, the road took me to Fukuoka, the big coastal city from where the ferry to Korea departs. After booking my tickets, I spent two days trying to enjoy what I though I would miss about Japan. Not an easy task really.
And that’s it. After more then 7 months in Japan, I boarded the ship, the custom official clearly remembering me that it would invalidate the rest of my visa, and sailed away. Japan had been an incredible experience, but now it was time for a change.
Alright, gimmie my kimchi!