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Devi's Japan Travels Part 4: First Time Shikoku

Welcome back to my travel blog! This is the first time I have been to Shikoku, it's a dream come true for me. So I was very excited to finally go there! Driving through Shikoku after arriving by ferry from Kyushu, we had the most scenic routes. It was already worth it.

So this is the route we took, we started in Oita, drove up to the port, took the ferry, arrived in Shikoku and drove a long, long time. We booked the Sunriver Oboke hotel because it has an onsen, and we wanted relaxing onsen times in the mountains.

The mountain tops were still white from the snow

Finally after hours of driving, we reached our hotel in the dark. As it was in the middle of nowhere, it was pitch black outside! So we could not see where we even were. That made for a nice surprise the next morning as we were surrounded by mountains! The receptionist at the hotel spoke English, the first one up until now. So we just communicated in English because finally my husband could communicate as well. Our hotel was really old, as if nothing had changed since the 80's. We had a Japanese-style room with futons.

Don't mind the mess!

The hotel was made of two different buildings, one in which most of the guest rooms were, and one with the onsen and dining hall. The women's onsen were at the 6th floor and the men's were at the 5th floor. We went into the onsen after settling in our rooms, and enjoyed the cool fresh air in the dark. 

The entrance to the men's onsen, it reads the hiragana character 'yu' which means hot water (the sign on the bottom-right kind of gave that away)

The shower area, where you first wash yourself before going into the onsen

 Husband managed to sneak some pics from the onsen, as cameras aren't allowed for obvious reasons

 Luckily there were no people

The onsen wasn't thát great to me to be honest. But the hot water always feels good especially in combination with the cold. 

Day 1: exploring Shikoku's vine bridges, waterfalls, and the Iya Valley

After that we went to our rooms and slept like logs. The next morning we woke up to this:

I have to be honest with you, the weather was pretty bad: cold, rainy, and just I-want-to-cuddle-up-in-bed type of weather. Sometimes you could see the sun trying to get through the clouds but usually it failed. I mean back home in the Netherlands it was even warmer than here! This is not what I signed up for, I don't really like the cold. This is one of the reasons I left home for Singapore. So I wasn't too happy with the cold weather. But it did create amazing sceneries with cloudy mountains, more on that later. First up, breakfast! It was a pretty decent buffet, there were Western options as well but mostly Japanese style breakfast. The buffet started at 7 and ended at 9, after a long ride and onsen at night (and I am not a morning person) this was just too early.

After breakfast it was time to explore the area. We were staying at the Oboke Sunriver Hotel, named after the Oboke gorge. The Oboke and Koboke gorges are located in the mountainous area of Tokushima prefecture, with steep ravines along the Yoshino River.

Around this period, the end of March, the river's color is beautiful: a very deep turquoise. 

Koinobori, or carp streamers, near the hotel

The mountainous area along the Yoshino River

Very steep little roads, we had some crazy roads in Shikoku. The lack of sakura pains me

Because of the cold weather, I was feeling a bit off. Fearing that I might get a cold, it was time for one of my favourite pick-me-up drinks: CC lemon! This premium version has a lot of (sugar) vitamin C in it. Also some other vitamins. But I mainly drink it for the vitamin C whenever I feel a bit under the weather.

Before we left the hotel we got a tourist map with things to do around the area, so we were driving around looking at the (very unrealistic) map. Luckily there were map-codes, these are codes you can directly input into the navigation to locate your destination. You could also use phone numbers, but we found that doesn't always work correctly. Map-codes are ideal. So our first destination is Kazurabashi of Iya. It's a vine bridge in the Iya valley.

View from the main road bridge to the vine bridge

It was pretty high, but the view was quite nice, I wasn't as scared as I thought I would be though it moved A LOT! 

View of the mountains, very nice foggy/cloudy mountains

Near the vine bridge, there was a waterfall called Biwa waterfall. We love waterfalls so we expected it to be quite amazing, as the waterfalls we had seen in Kyushu during a previous road-trip had been very impressive. On the tourist map it looked like it was a really big deal. Reality was a bit disappointing though.

Biwa waterfall. It was still ok, but not really impressive

Going down the river from Biwa waterfall, underneath the vine bridge, we saw some amazing views. This was definitely worth coming out here in the cold and rain. The colors of the waters are so impressive, there was brown, green, blue, grey, all kinds of colors. The water was extremely clear too, you could see the rocks clearly.

The next stop was further into the Iya Valley, the Hi-no-Ji shaped valley. It's a valley shaped in the Japanese hiragana character of 'hi'. 

It's really shaped in the character of 'hi'! I was quite surprised and fascinated with this place

A bit further down the line there was Japan's very own 'Manneken Pis', a statue of a peeing boy called 'Shoben Kozo'. The boy appears to be peeing off the ledge of the valley. In Brussels Belgium there is the more famous version of the peeing boy, peeing into the fountain.

Shoben Kozo, according to local folklore people peed from up here to show how brave they were

As I tried to get the best shot of that peeing little fella, I hit my knee really hard on the wooden bar, so please appreciate the above picture, it literally was a pain to get it! After my knee swelled up I was kind of done and wanted to go back, hoping I would be able to walk. But as soon as I saw the beautiful landscapes again, I got my camera out again and stumbled towards the ledge to get a good shot.
We drove on the smallest, most tortuous roads. At one point husband even got nauseous because of it! So be sure to eat well before you drive through Iya valley. After the statue of the peeing boy we decided it was time to go home, the weather had turned pretty bad and rainy. But the views were extremely magnificent so we couldn't get enough of them. We even saw some monkeys on the way!

Monkey business in Japan, they were quite shy and got away as we tried to take a picture

 Beautiful Turquoise and emerald colors of the river, extremely clear waters

We would love to go rafting here, if the weather wasn't so cold

After another visit to the seven eleven, it was time to head back to the hotel. When we arrived at the hotel the receptionist asked us if we wanted dinner, for the millionth time, and we declined every time. Every time we dropped off the key or got it back they would ask us this. But this time they offered us dinner at the hotel for half price. We were quite curious about it as normally we would find the price of 4300 per person a bit too high, so we asked about the kind of dishes and they said it was a surprise. Half the price was ok for us, we were tired anyway and my knee hurt pretty badly so we decided to do it. We reserved for 7 p.m. and after hitting the onsen we went for dinner. We were definitely in for a surprise, we had a 23 course Japanese traditional dinner! It was such a feast! We didn't even know where to start or how to go about it, I tried to sneak a peak at the neighbours to see if we went about it right but we were hungry so we thought never mind, just eat.

 We had some mini shabu shabu (hotpot, in the pink in the middle), some konnyaku (not my favorite), a very nice alcoholic drink which was similar to Umeshu (plum wine), but made from apricots and more delicate in its flavor. It was really great a new favourite maybe even!

 Some nimono (boiled veggies), grilled salted fish (mackerel)

The full table, it was so luxurious, from tempura to sashimi, from soba to shabu shabu

 Soba noodles, salmon sashimi, shrimp in the back

Dessert, 'sakura' pudding, it was so delicious! It tasted like sakuraseason (as if I'd know what that tastes like but it did), even with a little sakura shaped little bowl and sakura print on the paper

I must say, food in Japan never really disappoints me is usually good. After a satisfying meal we went to the onsen around 9, there was nobody to be seen! So quiet, even on a saturday night. I guess the afternoon/late afternoon would be the peak hours. We went to bed early to get rest for another day of adventures. We drove around a lot and saw some amazing views, and the next days did not disappoint either. So catch me in the next blog, where I will continue the Shikoku Chronicles (lol).

~Written by Devi~

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