Inside Shikoku

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Out of the rural valley and on our way to the major city of Kochi on the South shore of Shikoku.

We stop at a sit made famous by a National Geographic special, a vine bridge.  The local people perfected the art of harvesting, drying, braiding and binding hemp to form it into large solid ropes to make a bridge over a gorge for foot traffic.  Today, the government has taken over the protection and preservation of this art form and made it safe for the many tourists who come to walk across its reach.  I am reminded of somewhat similar bridges, with smaller ropes and definitely not protected by any government safety concerns, in Bhutan.  This one felt much more substantial although looking down the gaps into the roaring water below is not for those with fear of heights.

I had no problem with the height or shakiness and was the first across

Traveling down South, we make a visit to the Oboke gorge formed by the Yoshino River, lined with an unusual configuration of massive slabs of conglomerate schist slanted at a 45 degree angle.  We get into a small passenger boat (and this time we are required to wear life preservers around our waists).  The water was calm except for the occasional small whirlpool and the ride down the straits and back is smooth, with the rock cliffs on either side. 

Returning to the dock, flying overhead are strings of brightly colored Japanese carp fish flags, remaining from the annual Children’s Day (formerly Boy’s Day!) Which was celebrated yesterday.

We arrive into the main city of Kochi, a city on the Pacific Ocean, known for its feudal castle and for its seafood.  We sample both.  It is a small castle set in a park. We walk up to its gates and then inside to climb up its many tiers to the top where there are views of the modern city and the mountains behind.  Bill sleeps in the van, Paula rests partway down below, and the other four of us enjoy the visual ambience with photos and models of the castle.  It is a human size castle, compact and more closely resembling a watch tower than a place to guard.

Once at our hotel in town, the Sansuien, some of us take walk into town, find the main commercial street, very very quiet for a city in late afternoon, and eventually wind our way back through temple grounds to a park by the river which flows to the nearby sea.  We are fortunate that tonight we are to have dinner at a local Food Court, the Hiromi, with a generous budget per person.  We read that this is one of the social scenes in town, with people sharing tables and meeting new drinking friends for the evening.  We walk through a covered arcade and find a crowded buzzing place and stake out a table for the 6 of us.  We then walk around and discover a large array of foods for sale and we each settle on our favorites.  Kochi is known for its famous seared Bonito and that is lavishly available as well as every other kind of raw fish, eel, gyoza, tempura, and even an Indian restaurant where we happily order a spinach and an okra dish as we are starved for vegetables.  Most people have various forms of fish, eel, and gyoza, with melon for dessert, and we stuff ourselves and are not close to our budget.  I am afraid we were so engrossed in the activity that all of us failed to take any photos of us or the market!

Bill and I accidentally end up near the river while walking home from the market place.  It is totally deserted and dark.  We both think that no where else in the world would we feel completely safe under these conditions, in a strange town, at night, two older people with cell phones and money on deserted streets with low lighting.

Another Onsen hot bath at night, not as luxurious as the Iya Onsen but relaxing before bed. I am getting used to the protocol:  wear yukata and slippers to bath area, take off slippers and put in locker at entrance to “spa”, put bag with towel and washcloth into cubby inside women’s section, undress completely and, if you are Japanese or trying to blend in, perhaps cover your front with the small towel when you walk into the hot onsen room, sit down on a low stool (need some flexibility) and reach for either the bowl to fill with water and pour over yourself or use spray nozzle to do same, wash thoroughly with soap and then rinse off  (maybe you are intended to always use the bowl to get wet and the spray only for washing off soap).  Only then can you stand up and walk down the few steps into the hot bath.  Aaah . . . 

I am getting up at 5 am every day no matter what time I go to bed so, unless I stay up late to write and send out these posts, I am in bed by 9:30 pm.