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Devi's Japan Travels Part 5: More Shikoku, More Mountains

Welcome to the continuation of the Shikoku Chronicles. The next day we got up early (again, ugh) and had breakfast again at the hotel. We decided to do some sightseeing and go higher up the mountains. There were some old houses we wanted to visit: the Kimura-ke (Kimura house) and Chiiori. Chiiori, "house of the flute", is a 300-year old thatched-roof which was bought by Alex Kerr, an American Japanologist. You could also stay there to get the old house experience. For those interested, please see here for more information:

Day 2: steep roads, old family houses, mountains, mountains & mountains
So we set out first to Kimura-ke and put in the map code into our navigation. We went to the Seven Eleven again and got some drinks and food (well, snacks..). I got some Mitsuda Cider, this drink tastes exactly like Uludag gazoz for the Turkish people among us.
Time to go up the mountains to find the old traditional farmhouses. I must say these roads are not only steep but also dangerous. I stared at the ledge of the road and it was not nice I must say. Also the roads were so narrow that only one car could pass at a time. So I was praying for no countering cars. Unfortunately there were from time to time cars, and the locals here drive SO fast around this area. I can not even fathom it! We were turtles on the road basically, so I guess we pissed off some locals who also couldn't overtake because of the narrow roads. I prefer being yelled at than end up in the deep end of the below picture.


 Very narrow!

Even the navigation was like, ehhh, guys? Where are you going? Please turn back?

Anyway, arriving at Kimura-ke, the view was quite stunning, from the house as well as of the house. But man, no safety rails nothing! So scary! So we arrived at the house, the thatched roofed style was really authentic. So a little background on the Kimura-ke: it prospered during the Edo period and is about 300 years old. 

After going in the house and sitting down, for the price of 700 yen we could get into the house and order something small. We had some matcha and dango (a sweet round dumpling) which really went well with the cold weather: it was about 8 degrees and luckily we were sitting on electrically heated floor mats. According to the owner, a 70 year old man, this house hadn't changed since the Meiji era, so about a 100 years. He was burning a fire so the smoke was really getting into our eyes which was not that nice but somehow the smokiness was really going well with the weather.

 Burning a fire in a sunken fireplace, old house style with tatami floors

Nice hot Matcha tea (traditionally made so it was really good, not lumpy), one dango (I think it was matcha flavored maybe and had an azuki, or sweet red bean, filling), and of course a warm o-shibori (wet towel), all in all a good combination for the cold weather.

Stunning view from the inside, beautiful old house with Japanese sliding doors.

Not my video but gives you a good impression

As soon as the old man found out I spoke Japanese he immediately asked if we were American. When I said we were Dutch he immediately talked about the 'terrible' situation of Dutch politics (which is not that bad honestly). He then continued on about how the world is changing and every country is getting more inwards instead of uniting to become whole as a world. And that we should learn from our history. Gloomy little man, but I agreed with him. I do wonder how the conversation would have been if we said we were American, oh boy. Glad we didn't get into that!
The smoke got the better of us so we decided to leave after a long conversation with the owner. We got some hand made souvenirs for cheap to support the local tourism and decided to drive to Chiiori, it started to rain and it was cold, especially up in the mountains. The old man gave us the directions to Chiiori, he said just drive up 700 meters. Well, it was definitely more than that because we were going and going, eventually we found it. It was really high up in the mountains! And at one point some of the hardened roads stop and you kind of just have dirt or stones roads. We couldn't reach it by car so we had to walk a bit. When we arrived unfortunately it was closed, so we couldn't get in. We took a picture from afar and because it was raining we decided to go back quickly. 

Chiiori, the 300 year old thatched roofed house

Walking back to the car we encountered some older people. I told them it was closed and they were disappointed. They were really nice folks from Shikoku, we talked a bit and then waved them goodbye. On our way we had the most memorable views of the mountains.
I just can't get enough of these misty mountains, they look so mysterious.

We had gotten hungry so we decided to go to this lunch place which was recommended by the hotel receptionist earlier. It was called Iyabijin, a very authentic feeling place with traditional Japanese music playing where you can enjoy soba, udon and other things. I had a nice tendon (tempura rice bowl) and I got a little bowl of soba to go with it. I usually eat gluten-free but it was hard, especially in these regions, to find a gluten-free meal. Lactose-free on the other hand, is quite easy.

Tired and done with the cold and rain (but not the beautiful misty mountains) and also the narrow curvy roads which take a toll on you, we decided to head back. Back at the hotel we just had some relaxing time, we did our laundry and played some pingpong. We watched some Japanese television, there was a traveling show about the Naruto bridge and the whirlpools which seemed really interesting and not far from us. We also enjoyed some Japanese chocolates we got at the Seven Eleven, but we both agreed we Europeans do chocolate better hehe.

Strawberry chocolate, it was pretty ok

Well if you sit on the ground, might as well have some back support!

Sick in bed
The next day I was sick and wanted to stay in bed. Because futons aren't really great for that we were able to transfer to a Western style room. The room was smelly though (also throughout the hotel), it was probably a smoking room. The hotels up until now were all so old and outdated. Yet still expensive. Opening a window meant that it would get really cold inside so we just endured the smell. I wouldn't recommend this place for a longer time but for a couple of nights it's fine. We traveled so intensely that I just needed a rest, also it was so cold and we didn't really count on that. Hello! Spring in Japan?? Nowhere to be found. So I watched some Dragon Ball Super in bed. It was a bit cringy to me, they really butchered Goku's character. I get that he's carefree but this is overkill. No wonder he is seen as a villain, but I am sure he will win and save the universe or something lame. 

We played a bit of pingpong again, as we had a lot of fun the day before. But we were both tired and gave up after a while. We both suck at the game anyway but hey, it's about having fun! I skyped with my best friend and my dad, I won't be in my home country for a while but technology is nice so we can still keep in touch. When I studied in Fukuoka 10 years ago we didn't have that. It was all about the phones, which makes me a bit nostalgic thinking about it. I even still had a landline phone in my room back then, lol.

Lots of bridges and whirlpools
Our last day in Shikoku, we checked out early because we had a really long drive up ahead. So first stop, Naruto! No, not the anime. If someone invents a portal to travel to anime land that would be interesting (and scary). It was a long drive to Naruto, and really not on our way at all to our next destination in Tsuyama where we would check in that day. Arriving there, the weather was amazing! Perfect to take pictures of the area. And also: not cold and rainy so we were happy! Well, we didn't arrive exactly at first... We accidentally drove a bit too far, Navigation failed us this time! But Navidevi got us on the right track again. This did mean that we got on the bridge and went all the way almost to Kobe! The tollbooth mister was really kind to let us go back for a reduced price! Tolls already cost an arm and a leg in Japan, yigh.

Only on highways each city had its own 'logo', it's great and very cute (ergo very Japanese) I made a compilation of all the logos I could photograph.

 Woops, drove a bit too far...

 Hello Kobe on the other side.

After getting back we were on the right route to the whirlpool watching place. We only went to the observatory, it's also possible to go on a boat and see the whirlpools up close but we didn't do that because of our tight schedule. Entrance to the observatory was 510 yen, and parking was 500 yen (so expensive for just parking for a little while). Before we went into the observatory, we climbed up to the lookout to snap some nice pics of the bridge. The weather was really nice that day.

The Onaruto bridge

Going into the observatory it was quite a long walk before actually getting there. But the views kept on being amazing so I did not mind one bit!

 You could see that the observatory is located underneath the bridge
The combination of tides/depth of water etc. create these whirlpools, this picture shows the difference in depth and a boat with tourists trying to catch some whirlpools in action.

Beautiful colors

The best moments to catch these whirlpools were in the morning, and in the afternoon around 1.30 pm so we got there by 1.00 pm. And then waited. We didn't really see anything. At one point I heard some Chinese tourists yelling 'you da de'! With the bit of Mandarin that I understand I went to them and asked if they saw a big one as they yelled. And he said just wait a minute and then you will see. So I crouched next to him with my camera in my hands. We waited and waited and thennnn... YES! 'You da de!' we yelled together! We saw some big whirlpools.

 This is a smaller one I was able to photograph, but it's quite clear

After seeing the whirlpools we drove onwards to Tsuyama. So our route was basically this:

It took way longer than 5 hours let me tell you that, because we stopped at Takamatsu (above the name Kagawa in the above picture). We wanted to eat something, so we went into the city. Checking the internet I saw that there was a good sushiplace, but when we finally found it it was closed. So hungry, getting hangry even, we saw a Turkish restaurant! You can always count on the Turks to be everywhere hah! We went in, ordered some kebab, and I talked to the Turkish owner. His wife is Japanese and she spoke some Turkish too! I was quite impressed.

After having a nice meal we went on our way to our final stop: the airbnb artist house called Ujitei. On the way we passed the other bridge, 2 wonderful bridges in 1 day with wonderful views. We were so lucky that the weather was great too.

 Beautiful sunset and view of the islands from the Seto bridge

Welcome to Okayama prefecture! Another cute highway logo

Afterwards we had a really, really long drive. Really looking forward to the airbnb in the middle of nowhere, just to get some rest. We will stay there one week so lots of resting time and enjoying the countryside! When we arrived quite late, the host's mother saw us drive in the street because we were looking for the house. It was quite hidden so we were going back and forth a bit (like what the hell did we get ourselves into), in the pitch dark of the countryside. No street lighting nothing, just dirt roads and darkness. Luckily she came out and waved at us. We met her and Yuka, her daughter whom is the host on airbnb. These people and this house are so memorable and so amazing, I will write all about that in my next blog! So stay tuned..

Shikoku spring conclusion
All in all, we saw no sakura (as was the intention of this trip starting the end of march). So I would definitely recommend this area, but not in march. Maybe april would be better, a bit warmer also to go rafting. The Sunriver Hotel was ok, not spectacular, and quite old. We have also seen some other hotels in the neighborhood, like the Kazurabashi hotel near the vine bridge, this one looks so much better from the pictures. Going in the onsen with a mountain view is amazing. Also, I think that in the fall you would have even better views to watch the changing colors of the leafs, called 'momiji'. Our original plan was to go to Shiundeyama, which is a mountain full of sakura blossoms. But since it was so cold and no sakura in sight in Shikoku we decided not to waste our time, so this one is still on our bucket list! I would definitely recommend to go to Naruto and see the whirlpools, check online about the best seasons and best times to visit, because you don't want to miss those whirlpools! As you know we drove a looong way to catch them lah! Stay tuned for more adventures, still to come: artist house airbnb, Himeji, Tottori, Kyoto and more!
artist house airbnb, Himeji, Tottori, Kyoto and more!

~Written by Devi~

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2 comments to ''Devi's Japan Travels Part 5: More Shikoku, More Mountains"

  1. Wow! What a difference a bit of a drive makes. Misty mountains to clear blue whirlpools. What a beautiful country.

    1. Thank you for your message! Yes, it makes a really big difference to be honest. I also did a Japan tour with the JR-pass with which I traveled through Japan by public transportation for a couple of weeks but places like this, views like this, were not easily accessible. In my next blog I will write about how I went from sand-dunes at the beach to snowy mountains in the middle of the country in one day, that was the biggest adventure and also shock that I had. I love this country, it is truly beautiful!