Over Golden Week, a series of public holidays in early May, I had the chance to explore places outside of the Kyoto area. Sadly, the Japan Rail Pass for whole Japan that proved very helpful many times is not available to residents. However, I made ample use of the JR Kansai Wide Area Pass, which any foreign passport holder can use.
Over three days I explored various destinations across Kansai, including Kurashiki and Kinosaki Onsen and even made it to Shikoku.
While I quickly decided on the destinations for the previous two days, I was thinking a lot about where to go on the final day off. Tottori in the North with its sand banks which looks like a desert did not make it in the end. Neither did the Kii peninsula in the South where you can hike and visit many temples.
And since I still possessed the JR pass that allowed me to use the westbound Shinkansen, I wanted to make use of it and travel as far as possible. Then the decision was left between Onomichi between Hiroshima and Okayama and Takamatsu on Shikoku island. Both had a lot of appeal to me, but eventually I decided to travel to Shikoku for the first time, since it has been a white spot on my Japan map for way too long.
On the last holiday, kodomo ni hi, I traveled all the way to Shikoku, hopped on a ferry to see the islands of the Setouchi inland sea and watched the sunset from a beautiful viewpoint.
One thing I lacked recently was sleep but that did not stop me from leaving Kyoto at 8 am to make it to Takamatsu before lunch. First I went to Okayama via Osaka with the Shinkansen like on the other day and then transferred to the Marine Liner train to Takamatsu. The train passes the Seto Ohashi bridge, one of the three big bridges connecting Shikoku with Honshu.
Takamatsu is the capital of Kagawa prefecture, the smallest prefecture of Japan by area. On the North side of Shikoku. Kagawa is famous for udon noodles, so I wanted to try them here.
You may laugh but the first thing I did after arriving in Shikoku was queuing for a bowl of udon. I went to the famous restaurant udon baka ichidai, which is famous for their particular take on udon, called kama butter udon. Even though I arrived early around 10:30, there was already a insanely long queue. This did not discourage me and while waiting I planned the rest of the day.
After 90 minutes I could enter and ordered the signature dish. The udon came without broth and were topped with spring onions and tempura flakes, butter, as well as an egg. Mixing it all together resulted in a dish that reminds of carbonara – and it was delicious. You can read more about the restaurant over at Asienspiegel.
With energy for the day I returned to the station. Next to it lies the ferry port from which you can explore all the small and big islands in the Setouchi area. The Setouchi art Triennale takes place again this year and it would have been very interesting to visit it, but I lacked the time to do so. Guides recommend a day per island or a week in total. I just had a few hours at my disposal so I went to the small island Megijima close by.
This island can be reached in 20 minutes by ferry from Takamatsu, the ferry also connects to Ogijima. About 200 people live on the small island according to Japan-Guide and the main attraction is the hill in the center of the island (there are actually two). The top can be climbed in about 40 minutes, alternatively there is a bus that is timed with the ferry and costs 500 yen.
From the top I had a panoramic view over the Setouchi islands. You can also find many oni statures on the island and a cave where the fairytale demons should have lived/come from. According to a tale, the oni came from this island.
I barely made it back on time for the return ferry I needed to catch to have time for the later plans. I did arrive before the ferry did, however the capacity of the ferry was reached 10 people before me. I did not expect such an outcome and worried how I should spend the next two hours until the next ferry would come.
Strangely enough, the people in the queue did not leave so I stuck around for a bit to see what would happen. Surely enough, about 20 minutes later another ferry showed up that was not on the timetable and took us back to Takamatsu. I can only assume that it came from Takamatsu to pick us remaining customers up. Great service.
Thanks to that I could still make it to the next destination on time. I left Shikoku by train and after crossing the Seto Ohashi bridge alighted at Kojima station. This town close to Kurashiki also proudly proclaims they are the town of denim. However, I did not come for that but to visit Washuzan.
There is a view point from where you have a good view over the Setouchi sea, Shikoku and the bridge. Especially during sunset it must be beautiful, so I went there as my last destination of the day.
From the station departs a bus headed for Washuzan once an hour with the last bus leaving around 17:30. Unfortunately this means that there is no return bus to the station after the sunset, but I was prepared to walk back in about an hour.
A few minutes from the bus stops, respectively the car parking lot, there is a rest house and vending machines, so you can refresh yourself after enjoying the view. The view was as good as promised. The weather was perfect and you could see quite far. I also made some panoramic photos to capture the atmosphere.
You can further continue a path in the direction of the bridge to enjoy a even better view without any buildings obstructing the view. There is another view point on top of a hill from there I watched the sun set. It was beautiful.
After enjoying the spectacle I realized I needed to make my way back home, since I was 3.5 hours away from Kyoto. I should have done that in advance but then realized that the next train came in less than an hour and the one after significantly later. I hurried down the slope to try to make it for the earlier train. First it did not look I could make it, so I looked out for a taxi, but of course there were none. Then, suddenly I saw a parked taxi with a “free” sign. I stopped, looked inside and at that exact moment the driver who was sleeping rose up in his seat like Frankenstein. Once we both recovered from the perplex situation he told me he did not take passengers at this moment. I declined to wait for another taxi (he offered to call one) and continued to the station.
I made it in the end with a few spare minutes and traveled back via Okayama and Osaka as in the morning. The Shinkansen was again very crowded because it was the evening of the last holiday, so everyone was returning from their vacation.
Tired I fell into my bed and dreamed about the fun vacation I had over Golden Week.