Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Shikoku Golden Week

This year the wonderful holiday period known as Golden Week ゴールデンウィーク will actually run for an entire week! On May 3rd, 4th, and 5th Japan celebrates three consecutive national holidays (Constitution Day, National Holiday, and Children's Day). Two years ago we had a Golden Weekend. May 3rd was a Saturday, May 4th a Sunday, and only May 5th was off :( This year we will take two days of paid leave (May 2nd and 6th) and combine it with another national holiday, Green Day (April 29th), and have an incredible ten days off! For these magical ten days we're planning our longest Japanese road trip ever; to the island of Shikoku.

Our plans are pretty much to see, eat, drink, bathe, and hike as much of Shikoku as we can. Hope we don't wear Krista Glen (Eden's friend) out (she's visiting for 2 weeks). Next Friday, April 29th, Eden, Krista, and I will pile into our little Suzuki 650 c.c. kei-car and drive to the east coast of Kyushu and the lovely? port of Saganoseki 佐賀関 to board our ferry for Misaki 三崎, Shikoku. This was the quickest and cheapest ferry between Kyushu and Shikoku, which I believe makes it the best option. From Misaki we plan on driving up to Uchiko 内子 and visit the local candle-stick merchants. Uchiko is famous for having one preserved old street, which I'll have to see how long it takes before we see a vending machine. After Uchiko we'll head to Matsuyama 松山 and the Dogo-onsen youth hostel. Dogo-onsen 道後温泉 has a history of 3,000 years and is the oldest hotspring resort in Japan so I look forward to seeing if it measures up to the waters in Kumamoto and Oita.

After doing our thing in Matsuyama we'll be driving to the famed Iya Valley祖谷which boasts deep gorges, vine suspension bridges, and roads to nowhere. I'm hoping to walk across some of the less visited vine bridges and have picked up a hiking map of the area which appears to have them labeled. After our first day of wandering around, eating soba noodles, and relaxing in onsens we'll camp at one of the excellent 500 yen sites along the river. The following day, May 1st we'll be staying at Chiiori, the 300-year old thatched roof farm house owned by Alex Kerr (author of Dogs and Demons, and Lost Japan {I've read both b.t.w.}) and Florence Mason (of Lonely Planet fame). The house/project is a non-profit organization that aims to "revive and preserve Japan's vanishing culture, arts, traditional lifestyle and natural environment, while promoting responsible and sustainable moderization." It seems like a cool place to stay and is quite well known in the JET community.

After our day at Chiiori we will start our three day hike. The first day we'll climb up Tsurugi-san剣山 and camp near the summit. The following day we'll make our way to Miune-san 三嶺山, described as the most beautiful mountain in the area, and camp around there. The third day we'll hike down to the road and then catch a bus to our car. That day we'll drive to either Tokushima or Takamatsu and spend our last night with Krista before we send her off to Kyoto, where she'll spend two days before heading back to Toronto.

From May 5th - 8th Eden and I don't have any solid plans. One route is to follow the inland sea back to Misaki (it's supposed to be lovely), and the other route is to head down to the Pacific coast and Kochi prefecture and do some beach camping and then going to the Shimanto-gawa 四万十川 and camp along it. It is famous for being the last/longest undamned river in Japan but at 196km it isn't *that* long. Particularly interesting are the 22 bridges along the river which don't have any side rails and are designed to submerge when the river swells!

So it looks like this will be our last major trip in Japan, which is a bit sad, but we're also looking forward to it and am sure we'll have a great time.

Currently listening to: Pearl Jam - Ten
Eden is reading: Devices and Desires - P.D. James
Josh is reading: Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks (I'm a slow reader)


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